Wirrabara's Claim for a Railway

The Register Wednesday 21 August 1901 p.3 
[By our Special Reporter.]

Booleroo Centre has marked down its right to railway facilities and Wirrabara has replied. A big range divides these two important districts, and a railway to either will not serve both. Whilst the resources of the Booleroo Centre district are being widely and cleverly boomed by its in habitants let us have a look at the other side of the range, where in a whole day's travel one cannot leave behind land which comprises some of the richest in South Australia. All the people within a bie radius are talking railway, and there its a great rivalry concerning routes which somebody will have to settle. A wag in the forest wants the line to tap Mick Lynch's beehives, then slide along handy to some adjacent lucerne paddocks, call in at everybody's apple orchard, pick up wheat en route to the localities of the fat lambs, fill up with local beer and butter, and travel away to Adelaide via Goyder's line of rain fall or the tropic of Capricorn—whichever presents the least engineering difficulties. Most other people are talking more sensibly and seriously, and the excitement which the railway proposals have produced is visibly undermining their constitutions.

By the way, Wirrabara is existing under a name which has been distorted by the Government land surveyors who placed it on the map. The real name is Wirrabirra, meaning much timber. Mr. J. Curnow, well posted in nomenclature, is the authority. The people of Wirrabirra, Melrose, and Wilmington invited a large party of legislators to inspect their wonderful district at the end of last week so that they should not have to vote in the dark on the rival railway schemes. Shortly stated, the difference between the two districts is that in Wirrabirra it never rains but it pours, and in Booleroo it never rains but it pauses. The notice given to the aforesaid legislators was much too short, and only three put in an appearance. However, the committee reckoned that the pressmen were a host in themselves, and the inspection of the district was carried out. Mr. G. Cameron, one of the longest settled and most success ful and hospitable farmers in Murraytown, and his sons drove us to Melrose. jammed as close to Mount Remarkable as it possibly can be. This is a land of early sunset, because Old Sol goes away behind the lofty peak, which was recently snow-capped for four days, and which makes the township at its base appear so insignificant.

All around we passed through country picturesque in the extreme, producing sheep and wool on Wirrabara run and wheat and fruit on farmers' and blockers' selections. Two, miles from Mclroseis White Well, where the Wirrabirra people want the railway to go. At this spot five roads meet, running to Boolero Centre, Willowie Plains, Wilmington, Port Germain, and Wirrabina. Perhaps the most interesting industry in Melrose is the old-established : brewery of Messrs. Jacka Brothers, who would be big customers of the railway. The firm removed from Auburn 25 years ago, and the well-known, brew from a 30-hogshead plant finds its way all over the lower and upper north. Mr. Will Jacka drives a fresh team to Wilmington, and the party is treated to a terrific and almost terrifying thunder storm. Dark clouds curl down the steep slopes of Mount Remarkable, the thunder cracks, and the water rushes out of the Flinders Ranges in torrents, and forms in lagoons on the road before numerous creeks carry it away. But no thunderstorm can blind the gaze to several melancholy failures that are encountered on the way from Melrose to Wilmington, between which Willowie Station on one side and the Flinders Range on the other provide some charming scenery.

These failures include the Mount Remarkable village settlement, the deserted cottages on which are being sold at £9 apiece for the bricks they contain. Then there are the ancient Stony Creek smelting works and the remains of the Wilmington waterworks, which burst one night, as everybody knows. Mr. E. P. Dignan is one of the leading men in Wilmington, and he is busy breaking up his extensive establishment prior to clearing out to Melbourne, because his pushful and energetic spirit rebels against the serious disadvantages under which Wilmington labours through the absence of railway facilities. So we cross over to Messrs. C. H. Tuckwell and Son's three-year-old Beau Val Butter Factory, which has given a tremendous impetus to the dairy industry in the district. The farmers are increasing their dairy stocks, and are just beginning to realize the value of feeding. A railway would bring the factory 30 miles nearer. to Adelaide, and would save 16 miles road cartage to Hammond.

During 1900 the factory took in 101,937 gallons of milk, which made 73,219 pounds of butter, of which 13 tons was exported, whilst another 36,000 1b. was made from the cream purchased-a total of 109,219 lb. In the same year the proprietors paid £2,249 for milk, £1,150 for cream, and £172 in railway rates on the butter sent to the produce depot and auction. Mr. J. A. Lauterbach, who had previous experience at the Onkaparinga factory, is the manager, and he and Mr. Tuckwell acknowledge the assist- ance which has been received from Mr. Thompson, the Government Daily Expert. Beau Val butter took second prize at the Government export contest open to all factories in the state. The firm also owns the Hammond creamery, which has not been worked for five years, owing to the bad seasons in that locality.

Now we come to the fruit growing industry of Wirrabirra, before which there are such immense possibilities. Nobody who has not visited the district can realise the suitability of the land for orchard and horticultural purposes, and the Adelaide visitors had an eye-opener in their inspection. Along the Wirrabirra main road are the gar- dens of Messrs. H. and H. W. Copas, father and son, whose ancestors as far back as can be traced have been engaged in the horticultural and fruit growing calling. Mr. Copas, sen., is the pioneer fruit grower of the north. The father has 10½ acres and the son 12½ acres, and be tween them they have sent away from their pirdens since the beginning of January last £900 worth of fruit, whilst Mr. Copas, jun., has sold since June last £361 worth of fruit-trees. The latter now has in his garden 6,000 standard tosps; for which Melbourne has been one of his best markets. Off of a quarter of an acre he took £240 in roses alone. Could anything speak more eloquently reparding the fertility of the district, where there is 15,000 acres capable of intense cultivation? Mr. Copas wants more land but cannot get it. lie offered the owner of Wirrabara ran £3 an acre rent per annum for 13 acres for 10 years, but Mr. Murray would not permit this encroachment upon his lucerne paddocks. The orchards are planted with the best sorts cf apple, pear, apricot, peach, plum, and quince trees, and table vines, the apples being chiefly of the export variety.

The Rocky River runs through these properties, and a well gives 120 gallons of water a minute, so that there is an abundance of water. The Copases are thorough orchardists, and there are no cleaner gardens in the state. Codlin moth is absolutely unknown here. Other growers in the vicinity are Messrs. R. Passow, who has 26 acres all planted, and who carted 2,000 cases of fruit to Port Pirie last season; C. Hinks, who can make a comfortable living off' 4 or 5 acres; H. E. Woodlands, 12 acres; and J. Allington, 10 acres. To show what traffic would pass over a railway through Wirrabarra, the Copases alone carted 2,597 cases of fruit to the Laura Railway Station last season, to say nothing of what was sold in Port Germein, Port Pirie, and Wilmington, and to the farmers. The 620 apple trees of Mr. Copas, jun., averaged 6 bushels of fruit per tree, and his father's pear trees averaged 12 bushels.

On Saturday afternoon the visitors were driven through the range which divides Booleroo Centre and Wirrabirra. The nearest point of the Booleroo Raijway to Wirrabirra would be Lawson's Siding, a matter of six miles from the township. The road is exceedingly steep and rough, and one could well un- derstand the assertion of tlie Wirrabirra growers that not a case of fruit will pass over the range to the proposed Booleroo railway when Laura lies downhill only 11 miles away. The extra railway freight incurred, by the growers patronising Lawson's biding and the steep gradient of the range are ample reasons why support for the Booleroo railway cannot be expected from the Wirrabirra orchardists.
On Sunday the visitors were given a further opportunity of inspecting this fertile district.. They were 'driven to the grand Wirrabirra Forest full of that black rich soil which had been met everywhere in the district. Here orchardists have abundantly proved that the district is meant for fruit production. Mr. J. Lomman is the biggest grower in the district, and he paid £700 for his property.

Oranges do just as well an the stone and other fruits. The garden is about the oldest, in tlie district, and was planted by Mr. Copas, sen. Forester F. Melville accompanied the party through the magnificent property in which he has laboured for many years with such success. This is the place for rain—an average of 25 inches a year, 36.301 inches in the wettest and 12.377 in the driest, for which the records are complete. Originally this crack force of South Australia was 42,000 acres in area, but resumptions for cultivation pur poses have reduced it to 35,000 acres, between 3,000 and 4.000 acres of which is under plantation. Mr. Melville pointed out the natural regeneration which is taking place, and exhibited some specimen fruit cases and drying trays made from pine grown in the forest.

Some beautiful orangeries were also inspected. That of Mr C. Williams, who has 300 trees, is five years old, and is bearing splendidly. The owner, boasts that he came to Wirrabara £8 in debt, but it is evident that he has made pretty healthy recovery. Hawkers take all his fruit. An older and more productive orangery is that of Mr. A. B. C Curtis further in the forest. He holds 188 acres of leasehold, and the garden covers 14 acres. It was planted by Mr. Copas, sen. Mr. Curtis's orange trees are bending almost to breaking point under the weight of fruit, which is of the finest quality, and the garden at the present time, is a picture. It is decidedly one of that show places of the forest. One of the most interesting spots is the nursery, in charge of Mr. J. Curnow, whose service of 26 years gives to him the distinction of being the oldest servant in the Forests Department. Here seedlings for free public distribution and planting in the forest are raised in large quantities.

A visit to Mr. Curnow's house is even more diverting, for here is on view an extensive and valuable collection of flora and fauna won from the forest. The fern and flower houses contain some particularly choice plants. In one Mr. Curnow has created a bank of ferns by binding the soil with wire netting— an idea of his own, and one which was carried out only after much trouble. The party drove all over the northern end of the forest, and were delighted with the entrancing scenery which was met at every turn, particularly in the Whyte Park plantation, where a great triumph has been gained in the cultivation of pines. Wirrabara run again broke in upon the vision—you meet it in all directions of the district.

The locality of the sleeper-cutting was also passed. A contract for 12,000 is now in hand. Nobody can drive for three days through the Wirrabirra district without being inspired by the wonderful resourcefulness of the soil and the prosperity of the people. The greatest trouble of the growers is that they cannot increase their holdings nor look for neighbours in the immediate future. To resume such a magnificent forest would be almost a desecration, and the Commissioner of Crown Lands stated at the public meeting on Saturday night that although the Government would be glad to buy Wirrabara run it was not likely to be offered during Mr. Murray's lifetime.

However, it has been abundantly proved that the district will grow fruit equal to any that can be produced in South Australia. The people are going to make another effort to take a large contingent of legislators over the district. In the mean time everybody who calls at Mr. Gilbert's hotel talks railway, and the Laura paper has developed railway poetry.

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