As mentioned in previous posts, Western Australia (WA) is a state littered with mines. Gold, nickel, lithium, iron ore, coal. You name it, they mine it, in that enormous state that makes up one third of Australia. Many are still operational and in very remote settings. Others are near well established towns (Kalgoorlie/Boulder is a good example). While yet more are long since closed but their mark remains in the form of the old town that was left behind (Read about Coolgardie here for example). Often referred to as ghost-towns, there are quite a few examples not too far from Kalgoorlie.
Once a thriving gold mining town of up to 10,000 people Menzies now has a population of around 100. It is located 133 kilometres (83 mi) north-northwest of Kalgoorlie. It still has many well preserved buildings. There are plenty of old and working mines between Kal and Menzies as well as other mineral mines just off the Goldfields Highway. The Paddington gold mine being the most prominent. Right beside the town itself is the oddly named Robinson Crusoe mine – long since closed.
Gold was discovered in the area in 1894 by Leslie Robert Menzies, a Canadian-born prospector. It was a rich gold find, and in 1895 the town was established named in Menzies’ honour. By 1896 it had become a municipality. A railway line was constructed from Kalgoorlie to Menzies and opened on 22 March 1898. By 1900, Menzies had a population of approximately 10,000 with thirteen hotels and two breweries.
The town hall was completed in 1901. The hall tower remained without a clock for over 100 years. The original clock was lost in the wreck of the RMS Orizaba off Garden Island in 1905. The clock you can see in the photo was only installed fairly recently to celebrate the new millennium in 2000.
The gold rush lasted for about 10 years and by 1905 most of the miners had left town to try their luck elsewhere. By 1910 the population of the town had declined to less than 1,000. But gold mining continues in and around Menzies to the present day.
Here we go again folks. Another old pioneer cemetery. This one is located north east of the town and apparently is one of the largest of the ‘goldrush’ cemeteries, Many of the graves are of typhoid victims.
Some graves in all of these places appear to have had a lot more money spent on them than others. Some are just the most basic of headstones (if even that) while there are plenty of examples of separately fenced memorials. Then I noticed these two examples of the latter…
For me it immediately brings to mind that well used old phrase about money: You can’t take it with you. But more than that these two examples say to me that it actually doesn’t matter how much money you have when you are alive. None of it matters. I guess the only thing that really matters is keeping out of these places for as long as possible. Eventually your grave will be in complete disrepair no matter how much money you have. It’s just a case of when. And nobody will be around to care. Apart, perhaps, from the occasional, philosophical old dad like me, who just happens to be passing through…
The Goldfields Highway (aka route 49 ) passes right through the middle of Menzies. The railway still passes through the Menzies station. these are working trains however not passenger services. We actually witnessed quite a lot of railway activity even in this remote setting.
Broad Arrow and Ora Banda
Broad Arrow is a ghost town. It literally has a single pub (the Broad Arrow Tavern) surrounding by remnants of a once-thriving gold mining community. The one building is the Broad Arrow Tavern which was built in 1896 and is considered an authentic outback pub.
The pub is famous for all the names written on the walls, doors and even the side of the bar. Basically any space available has been signed but visitors. You get the feeling that if you stayed long enough you would recognise some of the names.
Unfortunately we were not able to add our names to the thousands already written. The owners no longer allow you to scribble your name and message. There simply is no space left. The pub put a stop to the practice in 2020 due to people putting inappropriate things as well as writing over existing signatures. People just can’t behave eh? But that does not stop you enjoying a refreshing cold beer and sampling the famous Broady burger.
Ora Banda is a 20 minutes drive west of Broad Arrow and is another similarly deserted ghost town.
In 1895 the Weston brothers (who had been tea planters in Ceylon) established the Ora Banda mine after which the town is named. By 1910 there were over 2,000 miners in the area which resulted in the construction of a town hall, a post office, a police station, stores, butchers shops and boarding houses. Many of the town’s buildings were constructed of timber and consequently they have either rotted away or been removed. The only intact buildings left were the Ora Banda Historical Inn and the Government Battery. Originally known simply as the Ora Banda Historical Inn the old brick pub was constructed in 1911. It was closed in 1958. Then between 1958 and 1981 it was vandalised but it was revitalised in 1981. It closed again in 2000 but reopened in 2002. For years it was a popular spot for a day out with a few beers and pub meal. Then most recently a fire has virtually destroyed this once proud building. Will it be rebuilt? I hope so.
Did someone ask ‘Just How Big is WA’?
Incidentally, here are some interesting comparisons between the UK, Spain and WA. Using our trusty old friend the mapfight website here are the comparisons…