Drive to a Railway Town with Cinematic History – Binnaway

Binnaway

Journey time to Binnaway is approximately 43min / distance 57km, one way.

 

Start on your journey to Binnaway by heading north from town on the Black Stump Way.  As you are leaving town, just opposite the fuel station is a sign indicating that the Jimmy and Joe Governor passed here on the night of Sunday 5 August 1900, just prior to robbing P R Schiemers Hut at Mt. Angle and then trekking over Pandora Pass.

Continue on the Black Stump Way and you will cross Queensborough Creek.  Queensborough Creek is 24 km long and runs into Botheroe Creek towards the west.   It is also the name of a hill, trig station, parish and a park in Coolah as well as a large property that was initially part of the huge holding of Butheroe owned by James Vincent in the early 1800s.

A few kilometres further on, on your left, you may see the property Baladonga.  This property has a handsome stone homestead built about 1880.

Next, cross Black Stump Creek, and on the right will be the Black Stump Rest Area, complete with a replica black stump.    Coolah lays claim to the saying “Beyond the Black Stump” as this was the approximate location of the Black Stump Run and the Black Stump Wine Saloon – a staging post on the old Sydney stock route before entering rough country.   In 1829, one of the limits of location or settlement was along the Black Stump Run.  Settlers did not strictly adhere to this boundary and often let their stock graze “beyond” and vaguely described them as “beyond the black stump”.   The Black Stump Wine Saloon was established in the 1860s and was destroyed by fire in 1908.   The Black Stump Cemetery, located on private property has two known graves dating from 1873 and 1874.

The Black Stump Rest Area

Continue on the Black Stump Way and then turn left on to the Warrumbungles Way.  There are a number of large farms, some of which are hidden behind the scrub that lines the road.   Eventually you will come to the locality of Weetalibah, first grazed by William Lawson in 1829.   In 1839 the Weetalibah runs totalled 48000 acres and carried 7000 sheep with six people living there.  Bushrangers made an appearance here around 1850 – three Chinese bushrangers had killed a settler and were seen at Weetalibah before being caught.    The first wheat sown in the district was believed to have been at Weetalibah in 1880.

Further along you will see Ulinda to the right. Although you can’t see it from the road, the property Ulinda has a homestead dating from about 1885 with twenty two rooms.  In 1910 the house was set in 1 and ¼ acres of garden and the property comprised 40,000 acres and contained 20,000 sheep and 200 cattle.   The woolshed is made or iron with twenty stands and in its heyday about 1000 bales of wool a year was shorn within its walls.

Just before you reach Binnaway you will see the Castlereagh River on your left.   This River is 566km long and was named in 1818 by Oxley after Lord Castlereagh, Secretary of State for the Colonies.   The River rises 20km west of Coonabarabran and flows eventually into the Macquarie River, 65km from Walgett.

As you enter Binnaway you will see the large domed Silos (circular concrete silo type A191) on your left.  This more unusual style of silo (although a similar one exists in Gulgong), it has a capacity of 19100 tonnes and was built in 1955.

Binnaway Silos

Binnaway appears a sleepy little town to the passer by, but behind the scenes it is populated by an energetic community and is definitely worth a stop to investigate more.

The name Binnaway is believed to have come from either the aboriginal word “binniaway” meaning peppermint tree or from an early run situated nearby called Benneway.  Whilst pastoralists held runs in the district in the early years (William Lawson was one of the first), after the Robertson Land Act in 1861 selectors came searching for their 40-320 acre lots of crown land that they purchased at 1 pound per acre (a quarter of the price paid up front and the balance, plus interest, paid “at the selector’s convenience”).  Charles Naseby was the first settler in 1869 buying 50 acres, later extended to 100 acres (this land forms part of the southern end of the current town) and the “private” village was laid out on his land in 1876.

The access to the town has thankfully been improved with modern roads – in 1886 the only way into the town was through a ‘black sticky bog of considerable depth’ or ‘down and up dangerous, precipitous tracks’.

During the 1920s Binnaway was a bustling railway town acting as a vital transport link ferrying timber, grain and iron ore from rural NSW to coastal markets.   At its peak, over 20 steam locomotives would come through the town.  When diesel overtook steam in the 1960s much of the steam infrastructure was not needed and by 1975 passenger services ceased.   Binnaway is now a terminus of the branch line and has limited use. A railway signal tribute has been erected in the main street to celebrate the town’s association with the railway.

Binnaway’s claims to fame are: it was the location for much of the film ‘The Shiralee’ made in 1956 starring Peter Finch; local boy Jack Renshaw became NSW Premier (1964-5) (the main street is named after him) ;  and was home to Frank Bourke’s famous White Rose Orchestra.

The Royal Hotel on the corner of the main street (Renshaw Street) was built in 1918.   This hotel appeared in the movie The Shiralee with Peter Finch and has a small “hall of fame” open to the public (free of charge) that features movie memorabilia related to the film and is well worth a visit for the movie buff.   Open Wednesday to Sunday it has a café with ‘real’ coffee and light meals available throughout the day, a small boutique with vintage clothes, collectibles and artisan items.    Keep an eye out for the handmade tables throughout the hotel that have been made from old wood and furniture from the hotel and original art by one of the owners, making an eclectic collection.  The hotel also has an outside area where you can sit in the sunshine or under cover while the children play.   The bar area is original and has an excellent range of tap beers, cider and spirits.  The locals are treated “royally” and the hotel is very well patronised by locals and visitors.

The Railway Heritage group is very active and plans are underway for a Rail Museum.   The Binnaway Railway Barracks (the original 1925 railway accommodation for railway workers) offers budget accommodation – twin rooms with share bathroom, communal kitchen, dining and BBQ area as well as a self contained flat that sleeps 2-4.  If you are interested in a stay here see their facebook page “Binnaway Rail Heritage Barracks”.

Another favourite place for travellers is the Pumphouse Camping Ground on the Castlereagh River on the north end of the town.  You can see the old pump house that used to supply the township with water from the Castlereagh River.

The Peppermint Tree Craft Shop has souvenirs, craft items, local honey, a book exchange and more.  Manned by friendly volunteers from the Binnaway Progress Association they are more than happy to direct you to places of interest around town.

The town also has the Exchange Hotel – a traditional country pub offering meals and accommodation, located in the town’s original commercial centre.   In the main street are two more cafes, a newsagency/gift store, chemist, small supermarket, laundromat, stock & station agency, rural supplies, hair salon and service station.

Off the main street in Cisco Street, but well worth the short drive, is the original slab “Binnaway Inn” an ironbark coach house/inn built in 1870 that traded into the 1880s (now a private residence).

More history on Binnaway can be found in the book “Binnaway on the Castlereagh” by Robyn Bull, available to purchase from the Peppermint Tree Craft Shop in Binnaway.

To download this in PDF format, please click here: http://coolahnsw.com.au/BINNAWAY%20DRIVE.pdf

A Drive Down the Coolah Valley to Leadville

Leadville

 

Journey time is approximately 27min / distance 32km, one way.

 

 

Drive to the small hamlet of Leadville by continuing down the main street in a southerly direction.   On the outskirts of town on your right and well off the road, can be seen large sheds that comprised the Coolah Sawmill, which closed when the Warung State Forest was turned into a National Park.   On the left, you can see some concrete remnants of the pump station where the steam rail engines were refilled with water.  Just before you exit town, on your right is the impressive sandstone Coolahville property.

A few kilometres out of town is the Three Rivers Recreation Ground on your right that hosts many sporting events, particularly horse sports as well as the local music festival.

On this drive down the Coolah Valley, you will pass through fertile farming land.  An option now is to turn left on Orana Road towards the Coolaburragundy River Crossing.  Note that Orana Road is an unsealed road.  Do NOT attempt this crossing in times of flood.   Follow the road as it passes farming flats, once the site of a subdivision intended to support a government butter factory, until it joins Moorefield Road where you turn right, cross the disused railway line and rejoin the main road heading south.   Turn left.

If you decide not to take the Orana Road turnoff you will come to Narangarie Road.  Here you can turn right and approximately 3km in, on the right, is the Narangerie Leaf Fossil Bed where you can fossick for fossils.   When you’re done, retrace your steps back to the main road and turn right.

Shortly after the Narangarie Road turnoff, is the location of Hannah’s Bridge on your left.  A settlement was formed in this area as it was close to water and one of the few areas not taken up by William Lawson.   First called “Benana Plains”, its name continued to change, being “Coolah Road”, “Coolah Bridge” and in the 1920s “Hannah’s Bridge”, named after the Hannah family who had lived in the area from the 1860s.  Hannah’s Bridge had some claim to fame through their football team, known as the Greens.  Often made up of cousins, the team won 95% of their matches and played as far afield as Sydney.

“Broombee” front paddock (Leadville Road) after the Sir Ivan fire in 2017

Continuing down the Dunedoo Road, you will come to the hamlet of Leadville.   The town was a private village that began in 1891 to support the local mining industry.   In 1887 Tommy Governor (father of the bushranger Jimmy Governor), found some silver ore that he took to nearby Pine Ridge Station and the Mt Stewart Silver Mining Company was formed in 1888.   In the first 14 months the mine yielded around 300,000 ounces of silver and over 1500 tons of lead, employing hundreds of men. Its relatively remote location and dropping returns meant the mine closed in 1893.   There have been a few attempts at further mining, the last being in the 1950s.   In 1966 the government stated that the area was practically worked out although exploration licences are still held in the area.

A sleepy hamlet now, Leadville did once have a post office, telegraph office, police station, general store, two churches, two hotels and a hall.  The hall is still used for local functions and events.  The current hall was built in 1935 by the community, replacing the original hall that was built in 1910.

Journey time is approximately 27min / distance 32km, one way.

A few kilometres further on is the location of Denison Town which was once a busy community although nothing remains apart from the Pioneer Cemetery which contains over 50 burials from 1858 to 1911.

More history on Hannah’s Bridge, Leadville and Denison Town can be found in the book “Around the Black Stump” by Roy Cameron, a copy is available to view in the Coolah Library.

To download this drive in PDF format, please click here: http://coolahnsw.com.au/LEADVILLE%20DRIVE.pdf

Countryside Drive to Uarbry

Uarbry

 

Journey time is approx. 43 minutes / distance 46 km one way.

 

Drive to the small village of Uarbry by exiting town via Campbell Street/Cassilis Road.  Approximately 18km from Coolah turn right into Tongy Lane.

Of note on Tongy Lane are the location of a number of old stories – John Jones, the owner of the Turee Station in 1837 was attacked by an employee Edward Tufts, with a pair of shears – wounded in the thigh and groin he died a few days later and was buried on the property.   Mary Ellliot, whose husband William Elliott held New Turee in the 1860s, died at Turee in 1864.   Her above ground sandstone vault stands in a paddock about a kilometre off the Lane near the grave of John Jones.   Mary often wore a red dress and old timers claimed that on many occasions at night an apparition in a red dress was sighted near her vault.     The nearby Croppy Creek also features a headless rider scaring late night travellers.    Also along the Lane was the place where two troopers and their horses were killed and buried and there were old reports of a bobbing light seen in the area at night.

The last property on Tongy Lane is Tongy Station whose sandstone homestead was destroyed by the Sir Ivan fires in 2017, however the historic woolshed can still be seen on the right hand side of the the Lane.  Tongy Station was initially owned by Robert Fitzgerald, an ex-convict who through hard work and charm increased his fortune.   In 1838 he had 41 assigned convicts on Tongy mostly engaged in clearing the land.    Tongy came into the Bailleau family in 1923 and is still held by a family member.

Continue down the Lane to the T-junction, and turn right on the Golden Hwy.  A few km further and the village of Uarbry is on your right (although this is the second village, an earlier village being located to the left on the plains but prone to flooding in its first few years, causing the move to higher ground and its present position).   Mentioned as early as 1833 by the Surveyor Robert Dixon  “Arrived at Uarbry and obtained for Captain Piper a native guide”.   Always a small village, it nevertheless was full of community spirit holding horse races and having a tennis and cricket club and of course a pub,all in the late 1800s.   The Mudgee Guardian of 30 July 1900 reported that Joe and Jimmy Governor  “called at Robinson’s, Uarbry … asking for George Cohen and France Piper, and wanted to know if they were home or not…” – this was during the time of the Governor’s rampage (made famous by the film The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith).

Uarbry Church before 2017

 

The remains of Uarbry Chruch after Sir Ivan Fire 2017.

 

Uarbry was almost completely destroyed by the Sir Ivan fire in February 2017, losing its charming little church, community built hall and all but two residences, and fire damage is still very evident around the town as it slowly recovers.  The cemetery at the rear of the town (on a short but unsealed road) has mostly survived and contains some touching family stories, most notably that of the Hobbins family.

Settling near Leadville (over the hill to the west of Uarbry) at Old Castle (now Dhu Robin) in the 1850s,  Martin Hobbins left his family at Christmas 1876 to go droving, not returning until May 1877.  During this time his eldest daughter Catherine died, followed 2 weeks later by Teressa aged 9, twelve days later Ambrose age 6 died, all from diptheria.   On April 26th Martin’s wife Catherine died while giving birth to twins and a month later Mary, aged 18 also succumbed to the disease.   Martin arrived home soon after.   He is said to have cut, shaped and inscribed all the headstones with his own hands whilst mourning, then carrying them by horse and dray to the cemetery at Uarbry.  Martin died 13 years later and is also buried there.

More history on Uarbry, Tongy and Turee Stations can be found in the book “Around the Black Stump” by Roy Cameron, a copy is available to view in the Coolah Library.

To download this drive in PDF format, please click here: http://coolahnsw.com.au/UARBRY%20DRIVE.pdf