Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
Published June 7th 2021
Australia's first hydro-electric scheme in Thargomindah
I was prepared to travel far west on my recent holiday to Thargomindah, a town with an interesting heritage. Thargomindah, or Thargo as it is favourably shortened to by the locals, is a rural town and administrative centre in the Shire of Bulloo. The town is located on Adventure Way, which is approximately 1,000 kilometres west of Brisbane and 200 kilometres west of Cunnamulla.
The Visitors Centre was my first stop driving into the town from the east and where you can purchase a Swipe Card Ticket for $12.50 per person to visit the automated Old Goal, Old Hospital and Thargomindah's Hydro Power Station. Along with your Swipe Card, you will be handed a map showing where these places of interest are and the best sequence to take when visiting them because, at the Old Goal, you need to return your card by placing it into a box as the conclusion to your tour.
Framed Literature Hangs on The Walls of the Hydro-Electric Museum (Author's Photo)
Although the power was not working at the Hydro Power Station on the day of my visit and consequently the video that usually shows the history of the Great Artesian Basin and the Artesian Bore in Thargomindah was not operational, I was in awe at the ingenuity of the townsfolk back in 1891, when drilling first commenced on a bore to provide the town's water. In the 21st Century, we think technology is providing so much opportunity but imagine how the people from the 19th Century felt when in 1893 another supply 808 metres underground was found. To top that off, the water was 84 degrees Celsius!
Thargomindah's Hydro-Electric Scheme & Museum (Author's Photo)
Thargomindah was the first town to have reticulated Artesian Bore water, which was the source of energy for Australia's first hydro-electric scheme. The streets in this small rural town were lit by means of a generator coupled to a water turbine driven by the bore's natural water pressure. This put Australia on the map as Thargomindah was the third in the World to Paris and London to have street lighting generated by Hydro Power. The scheme operated until 1951, but the bore still provides the town's water supply today.
Old Machinery Once Used - Thargomindah Hydro-Electric Museum (Author's Photo)
There are plenty of posters and photographs around the wall of the Hydro Museum along with equipment that would have been used in the day. Outside you can walk around the verandah to view the water supply. Also situated outside is an old pump with water coming out in the basin below. I can confirm the water flow was warm.
The Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management explains the Great Artesian Basin is an area that encompasses 1.7 million square kilometres and is the only reliable water for human activity and water-dependent ecosystems covering Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Northern Territory. The average bore goes down to approximately 500 metres but there are some to a depth of 2,000 m. It is incredible when ponding upon its existence.
Old Hospital, Thargomindah (Author's Photo)
Next was a visit to the Old Thargomindah Hospital, which was opened in 1888 and built of mud bricks made from the black soil on the banks of the Bulloo River. Mud Brick homes have been popular again with those wishing to live an easy eco-friendly lifestyle and use what nature provides.
Inside Old Hospital Museum (Author's Photo)
The hospital resides inside a fenced block of land with the main building showcasing memorabilia from a time when medical supplies and implements were a far cry from the technical expertise of today's world. You can spend plenty of time in the Old Hospital looking through the books, photo albums, reading literature and museum's artefacts. Outside there is a small building full of glass bottles and containers displaying the items used for mixing medicines and herbs for healing.
Old Gaol Police Cells, Thargomindah (Author's Photo)
From television shows, we see that prison cells are not supposed to be comfortable, but it is hard to imagine a few prisoners stuck together in the cells of the Old Goal in Thargomindah. You certainly would not want to dislike small dark places, especially with the heat in the Outback pushing through the walls of the confines. Constructed in 1930 out of cypress pine, the cells have a galvanised iron roof, heavy hardwood doors five plus centimetres thick, large iron bolts and are lined with hardwood. No one would be escaping out of those!
Old Police Cells & Museum, Thargomindah (Author's Photo)
The Thargomindah Post Office opened in 1870 and again originally built out of mud bricks, however, a storm in 1877 destroyed it and it was rebuilt as a solid construction. I popped in there to purchase a stamp but found a lovely arrangement of Thargomindah gift lines plus postcards. It is rare that we see postcards on the coast these days, however, the Post Office had plenty and I was able to purchase a couple to send back home.
Leaving Thargomindah, Cobb & Co Crossing (Authors Photo)
There are so many things to see in this town that an overnight stay is definitely one to consider with a motel, caravan parks and station stays available. To find out more about accommodation options and what there is to do and see in Thargomindah, contact the Visitors Centre by calling 07 4621 8095 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org The centre is complete with a gift shop for purchasing mementos to take home and will be able to give you advice on road conditions, maps of the area, best places to eat in town and much more.
With memories steadfast in my mind and other points of interest not seen on my day of visiting, I will return for another great trip in the Outback.