Blackall

Wednesday, 22nd May 2013
The rain continued through the night. Continued in the morning. We wanted to check out a couple of sites in Blackall: The Black Stump and the Blackall Woolscour. We ventured out around 10:00am, contemplating which way was best to leave the campsite. The ground was still soggy and we chose a path with the least incline. We got out without any hassles. Back to the shop where we bought the router, this time for a replacement fluorescent tube to replace the one in the light that didn’t work anymore. We also bought a stick blender mainly for preparing soups. We had bought a ham bone in Quilpie to go into a Pea and Ham soup – but we did need something to blend the pea and ham.

Next stop was the Black Stump. The Black Stump only had symbolic meaning to me. It is a place way out in the outback. I never realised there actually was a stump that had geographical meaning. Wikipedia even refers to the Black Stump as ‘the name for an imaginary point beyond which the country is considered remote or uncivilised’. But here we are in Blackall giving the Black Stump a physical presence, even having created a monument as well as a stump representing the location of the black stump.
(Lesley’s Photo)

Reputedly the area around here was surveyed from this stump, a theodolite having been placed on top of the stump for stability.
(Lesley’s Photo)

From the Black Stump’s point of view there was
(Lesley’s Photo)

and there was
(Lesley’s Photo)

‘Beyond the black stump’ is such an Australian expression, a general term that refers to anything outside of the known civilisation, it was a bit of a disappointment to find it reduced to a geographical location. But here we are, the black stump suddenly having a real stump with a real explanation why it has significance.

We drove out the the Blackall Woolscour to join the 11:00am tour. Leaving the car we immediately noticed the smell – the sulphur in the air reminded us of the Pilliga bore baths. Here the smell also comes from a bore.

The bore water flows into this pool at 58°. Steam rising shows how hot this is.

The water comes from the Great Artesian Basin and is pushed up by its own pressure. In Blackall it is pure drinking water and supplies all the water needs of the town. If you are interested in this basin, a read of the Wikipedia article can explain it much better than I can.

Wool scouring means washing of the wool and for that purpose the hot water was ideal. We learned this and so much more from the DVD “The Golden Age of Wool” we viewed at the start of our tour. Farming, especially sheep and wool production, was the backbone of the country in the early days. Such a shame that farming has become marginally viable to unviable in so much of the country, giving way to the mining industry. In the old days, Australia was said to ride on the sheep’s back.

Most of the wool was produced for export purposes. Transport cost had to be kept low and by scouring the wool, the weight of the wool could be reduced as all the dirt and grease was removed and left behind. 320lbs is the average weight of a wool bale and once the wool was washed the wool of two dirty bales could fit into one.

After the movie we met our guide who would show us around the buildings. He was the only one dressed for the weather in his drizabone as it just started to rain in earnest.

The water that rushes into the pool, leaves it to flow along trenches to irrigate fields. These trenches are many kilometres long. At first the water is hot, but it cools down as it travels further.

Apart from hot water the mechanical washing of the wool also required power to drive the machinery. This used to be produced from a wood fired furnace which produced steam to drive a steam engine.

These wooden logs are a sample of the wood used to heat the furnace.

An old photograph showing the wood piles needed to keep the furnace going 24×7.

Today the steam is produced by a diesel furnace. The old steam engine still is working the way it used to, only difference is the source of the steam.

The power is then distributed throughout the building by means of belts and pulleys to all the machinery used to wash, dry and bale the wool.

Here you can see the rakes that agitate the wool in the troughs of hot water.

This blower is used to blow hot air through the wool dryer.

This is where the wool is baled.

Some of the stencils used to identify the bales.

I also enjoyed some of the machinery and other items from yesteryear that are displayed throughout the grounds.
In the shed

In the grounds

In the cookhouse.

Overall a very interesting place and I think the entry fee of $14.00 for seniors is well worth the experience.

We filled up with diesel at a little service station for a very good price per litre. The lady attendant insisted that I should retreat under cover and she would attend to filling up the LandCruiser under her umbrella. We had quite a chat. She mentioned that the Wool Scouring tourist site was struggling to keep going. She thought that it was, in part, the hard times that everybody was encountering. She also mentioned that in Longreach, the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame was also struggling to keep open.

I am sure in part this is due to the entrance fees being charged. Many of the tourists we encounter are living on a tight budget. Spending $25.00 pp (Concession) on entry fee to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame is just too much for many of the pensioners/gray nomads that travel this country.

Looking at the Waltzing Matilda tourist attraction in Windorah – I am not sure I am willing to spend the amount of money they charge to visit this centre. And I think many people feel the same.

I am not sure what the solution is. I think it is important that the history of Australia is brought to the travelling public. I am also aware of all the work that has gone into restoring sites such as the Blackall Woolscour factory. In part this was done by volunteers, the Queensland government financed the restoration as well. For example the floor boards are Jarrah from Western Australia and many of them needed to be replaced when restoring the factory. Quite an expense that was covered by the Queensland Government. But these places need continuing subsidies from somebody. It is important that the history of Australia is kept alive and made accessible to the travelling public.

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One Response to Blackall

  1. Jill Joicey says:

    How much did they want for the caravan? Did I tell you in my youth while on the farm I had to help in the shearing shed !!!one of my jobs was to put our stencil on the bales of wool !
    Loving your blog photos are just wonderful.Keep safe .

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