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Published January 23rd 2022
Central Goldfields Historic Site
It's not the most picturesque spot for a family picnic but photographers and history buffs visiting central Victoria will not want to miss stopping off at Porcupine Flat with its derelict gold dredge and drag-line.
The Porcupine Flat bucket dredge is a relatively small version of these machines but one of only a hand full remaining in Australia. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Located on the outskirts of Maldon Porcupine Flat was one of several flourishing diggings in the district during the Victorian gold rush but the dredge and drag-line weren't brought here until the 1950s.
Bucket dredges were an advance in technology that made it profitable for miners to rework areas that had been abandoned after the initial rushes of the 1850s.
Steam-driven bucket dredges were developed in New Zealand and introduced into Australia in the 1890s. Electric powered versions were introduced in the 1930s.
The dredges were large floating barges that incorporated a bucket line used to excavate sand and gravel from a river bed and separate the finer, possibly gold-bearing material, setting it aside for further inspection while the rest was dumped out the back of the dredge to form large tailing piles.
Originally from the Yallourn Coal Mine the drag-line didn't live up to expectations and was abandoned after only a short time on the job. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The Porcupine Flat dredging operation was commenced in 1958 by George Heywood and Eric Baumann who, despite the dredge not being fully operational until about 1973, worked the area for the next 26-years enjoying some moderate success until its closure in 1984.
Originally working to the north of its present location the dredge was relocated when the Porcupine Flat Gold Treatment Works and the existing dam were built on the site of the original diggings.
The Porcupine Flat bucket dredge is a relatively small version but one of very few remaining in the country. Some of the electric-powered dredges were massive, requiring teams of up to 60 men to operate them but the dredging process was very destructive and took a huge toll on the environment.
Steam driven bucket dredges were developed in New Zealand in the late 19th-Century .....
..... but this one didn't arrive at Porcupine Flat until 1958. Photo's: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The drag-line was brought up from the Yallourn Coal Mine to assist in the construction of the dam but wasn't up to the job and was abandoned very early in the project.
Porcupine Flat with its gold dredge and drag-line is another example of the huge amount of memorabilia that visitors to the Victorian goldfields can enjoy and learn from.
Getting There ….. Porcupine Flat is 7-Kilometres northeast of Maldon, about a 5-minute drive via the C283 Bendigo to Maldon Road.