During times of adversity, human ingenuity comes to the fore; exploration for resources is undertaken and when found company towns spring up in isolated locations to cater for the required workforce. Factories are built, roads, shops, houses and schools are established luring people with the promise of making their fortune.
They become thriving towns of two or three thousand people to man the factories or mines. Railroads are sometimes built to transport the product and water is piped from dams tens or hundreds of kilometres to supply the population.
With the company being the primary employer of the town, most only survive for the life of the mine or factory. Some towns fail due to poor management, some close due to depletion of resources and some fail due to the government policy of the time, effectively closing the industry and the town.
Glen Davis is one such town in the Central West of New South Wales. Located in the Capertee Valley about 3 hours from Sydney, it lays in the largest canyon in the southern hemisphere. The town was built by National Oil Propriety limited on the promise of supplying petroleum for the country by extracting oil and its by-products from shale; it grew and become a major employer for the area from 1939 until 1955 when it was officially shut down.
Remnants of the town and factory still exist in the valley. Surrounded by sandstone cliffs, remains of the main road lead you past the gatekeepers hut and rusting holding tanks. Skeletal remains of factory buildings tower over empty concrete floors and crumbling brick walls show the site of a giant powerhouse that gave life to the plant and town.
Scorch marks on the furnace indicate the high temperatures reached in the refining process and extra ventilation holes can be seen cut into the brickwork as modifications to help prevent explosions. Relics of cars and trucks, park on fragmented lanes while ghosts gaze out the windscreens waiting for their next delivery.
Scattered in the encroaching undergrowth pieces of machinery lay rusting, waiting for someone to recognize what it is and maybe picked up to be restored. All useful items have been scavenged when the site was closed. Parts of the factory and mine show evidence they were damaged so as not to be used again. Concrete structures would need to be completely rebuilt if they were to be reemployed in any fashion.
The scenery lends itself to photographic opportunities and it is understandable that in 1980, it was the backdrop for an Australian movie – Chain reaction and '90s for a music video by Wildland.
In the town, only a handful of buildings remain. An ancient petrol bowser stands stripped of its shell in front of an old service station.
The Mobile logo etched on the brick wall from countless years of the hot summer sun. Artefacts of the town are displayed in shopfronts of the disused corner store. The streets are now silent, a far cry from the vibrancy of their heyday with kids playing cricket in the street and cars being attended to in the service station. A walk through the town and surrounds show evidence of the country club with its tennis courts and tell-tale signs of a golf course are found in an overgrown paddock. It must have been a prosperous town in its time.
Across the dry riverbed, chimneys stand scattered between boulders looking like headstones. Aptly known as "Bag Town", miners and workers housed their families in hessian humpies with chimneys built for warmth in the cold winters. No cut roads were visible nor a structured format for the placement of the humpies indicating they were built wherever it was suitable using the rock formations as wind breaks.
Artefacts of daily life can still be found in the grass around the makeshift houses. A piece of a bottle, crockery, a fork or a spoon declares itself through the soil and grass. There are many places like this scattered around the country. Just by their nature as company towns, some thrived, some were abandoned long ago and some abandoned in recent times. They are all worth investigating.