This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
Any additional information, via Comments, is welcomed.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Planes, Trains and Fuel Tanks

The Wimmera Branch of the National Trust is organising a special bus tour as part of the Australian Heritage Festival.
Serviceton Railway Station
Visit and tour the historic Serviceton Railway Station, the Nhill Airfield and Wolseley Fuel Tanks by coach from Horsham.
The Wimmera Branch will host a special coach trip leaving the Horsham Library car park to travel to Nhill, Wolseley, Mundulla and Serviceton. Representatives from each stop-over will meet and greet the visitors.

At the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre. The Centre has a Avro Anson, Link Trainer and Tiger Moth, and is fundraising for a Wirraway. See the current restoration projects while partaking of a refreshing morning tea.

Water tower, Sericeton
Crossing the border into South Australia, view the Wolseley Fuel Tanks which were camouflaged as farm buildings. In WWII fuel storage depots were erected at various inland sites considered secure from attack by sea-borne aircraft. At Wolseley two standard 120,000 gallon storage tanks and one 40,000 gallon ethyl mixing tank were erected & camouflaged to look like farm buildings with broom bush and straw.

Take in lunch at the historic 1884 Mundulla Hotel for their seasonal menu (at additional cost), or BYO picnic hamper in the park opposite the hotel.

Back in Victoria, tour the once-grand 1887 Serviceton Railway Station. Built on the border between Victoria and South Australia, Serviceton served as both the changeover point for the different railway gauges and Customs Control between states until Federation in 1901.

Serivceton Railway Station Yards, T. Payne
Serviceton, close to the Victoria-South Australia border, was the changeover point for locomotives and crews on the broad-gauge system until through-running was introduced between Melbourne and Adelaide. Thus a variety of motive-power and rolling stock from both state-systems could be expected there at any one time. In more recent years this line has been converted to standard-gauge; most of the facilities seen in this photograph are but a memory and trains no longer stop there.  Taken on 2 December 1967 by Ted Payne (from “Closed station - Lost Locations Victoria part 2” Train Hobby Publications).

This amazing photograph shows the station at a time of transformation - steam is still going strong, but there’s a rail-motor backed up to the water tower which has since been dismantled, and a diesel locomotive. Curious items are the 2 M.A.S.H.-looking ambulances and the caravan parked beside the grain shed. Things that have disappeared are, the water tower on the left, the All Saints Anglican Church and the cattle loading yards, and all the siding track.

Refreshment Room, Serviceton

Enjoy afternoon tea in the Station Refreshment Room before returning home.

This is a rare opportunity to see some special locations and learn from their stories.

Details: The tour is on Sunday 6th May, 2018. Parking available in Library Carpark, where the bus departs from.

Arrive at the Library 8:15 for a 8:30am departure. The toilet-equipped bus will be returning at approximately 6:00pm.

Cost is $75:00 per person. Pre-booking is required, contact or by phoning 03 5382 0681.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Uniquely Horsham cuisine

Was stopped in the street today by a woman with an accent, possibly Canadian, and asked to explain this sign. 
It wasn't the word 'Yabby', it was 'Flories'.
The Florie (sometimes with a double r or y – florry) is a steak topped with a slice of ham and cheese, crumbed and fried then served in a sandwich with salad or coleslaw. Horsham is recognised as the birthplace of this delicacy, which was invented by Pasquale (Pat) Neri. 
Photo from Lost Horsham's Facebook page
Pat & Rosaria Neri migrated to Horsham from Italy (actually an island off Sicily) in 1956, and ran firstly the Niagara Café in Firebrace Street (now the Wimmera Foot Clinic building) and later La Fontana Restaurant (now the Horsham Sports & Community Club) in Baillie Street. Pat died in 2015.
La Fontana advert, with possibly Chef Robert Pitt (Lost Horsham)
So to an actual florie ...
A steak florie

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Find the story, not just the person

Now we no longer have to think what the letters A.I.G.S. stand for. The Australian Institute for Genealogical Studies has changed its name to 'Family History Connections...tracing ancestors in Australia and beyond' and launched a new look website,
 with a great tag-line "Find the story, not just the person"
Their Press release states: "We are still the same organisation with the same objectives and deep commitment to assist members and the wider community in their search for their ancestors in Australia and overseas".
Their extensive library is still located at Unit 1 / 41 Railway Road, Blackburn in Melbourne, where library volunteers can assist members & visitors with their family history research.

Interest Groups (see the list of groups below) have been established to enable members who are researching their families in a particular area, to assist each other with their research and to share their mutual successes and difficulties. 

You can also follow them on their Facebook page which utilises the old logo that everyone is familar with, and details all sorts of news items.
So you can access their website from home, or if in Melbourne check them out in Blackburn, they may have that difficult to find item you've been searching for. 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

From Dimb to Basalt Knob

A retired railway carriage from Dimboola has ended up in the mountains of the Victorian High Country.
The T 101 icewagon railway carriage hut aka Basalt Knob Hut, was built in 1894 at the Pinder & Kelly Newport workshops for the Victorian Railways and de-registered in 1978. In the early 1980s a Dargo timber mill purchased the rolling stock from the Dimboola line for forestry workers accommodation and trucked them to Dargo. 
The carriage was in a Dargo mill when it was bought by Ken Scott from David Coates, who sold it to David Eddy from Deeandal & Sons logging company. 
A logging road was constructed, and a loggers' camp erected at Basalt Knob in 1982. The T 101 icewagon was carted it up to its location up above Talbotville near Blue Rag. When the logging finished all the other carriages forming the logging camp were removed by the mill, but they never got around to removing the T 101 carriage, so T 101 now ‘The Basalt Knob Hut’ is still there offering emergency shelter in the Victorian High Country, at Basalt Knob near the junction of Brewery Creek Track & Ritchie Rd which can be accessed via the Dargo High Plains Rd.
Story and photos from the Victorian High Country Huts Association Facebook page

  Hauled by steam diesel powered locomotives, the ‘T’ insulated ice van carriages had an ice bunker running along the middle of the ceiling that was filled with ice from hatches in the roof. They were used to transport refrigerated meat carcasses or other goods that required a cool temperature. Their walls were between 4 and 6 inches thick for insulation. The vertical channel at the end was a drain for the ice bunker. All T's in this number group had lever type handbrakes. This series of T vans had a 12 ton capacity. Truly a relic from a bygone age they lasted to the late 70's in "refrigerated" service. (from Victorian Railways Net site) 
An update: a photo of T 101 while still on the rails in 1978, possibly in Dimboola, from rail-fan Geoff Winkler who took photos in the Wimmera in the 70s.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Hamilton descendants

Via its Facebook page 'Pioneering Days Western Victoria', the call has gone out to all the Hamilton descendants of J.C. Hamilton and his brother Tom Hamilton. The invitation is extended to all residents of the Western District, including the Bringalbert and Ozenkadnook sites. 
Lake Bringalbert
There will be a reprint of J.C. Hamilton's book ("Pioneering days of Western Victoria"), with added feature of Tom's association with the Aboriginal Cricket Team of 1868 including his inclusion into the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame.
J.C. (Joseph Charles) Hamilton was born in Ormiston in Scotland on 11th April 1836. He and his family arrived in Melbourne in 1841, and with J.C.'s uncle Thomas Gibson established Bringalbert and Ozenkadnook pastoral properties. J.C. died at Apsley in 1927, not long after publication of his manuscript "Pioneering days in Western Victoria : a narrative of early station life".
The Group is looking for any direct descendants of J.C.'s younger brother - Thomas Gibson Hamilton was born at Kilmore in May 1844, and died in 1875. His headstone in the Melbourne Central Cemetery reads. "Late of the Bringalbert Station near Apsley who died on the 2nd April 1875. Aged 30 years. His death certificate states he died from Peritonitis after suffering a fever for 3 weeks. He had a son Thomas Gibson Hamilton II was born posthumously in August 1875 and died in 1953. Tom Jnr's mother was Mary Grace Cross (1855-1934).
An earlier series of posts  'Overland' detail Thomas Gibson Hamilton's overland trek to Darwin as told by his nephew.
The flat practice ground in front of the Bringalbert woolshed
The book launch will take place in Edenhope on the shores of Lake Wallace where Tom bought his Aboriginal team from Bringalbert Station to practice with the Edenhope Cricket Club in 1865/1866.

Monday, 11 December 2017

What's old is new again

Sir Robert Menzies was known for his 'The Forgotten People" speeches, credited with helping the Liberals return to power.
The speech rapidly acquired the fame for which it continues to be remembered and invoked. Shortly after it was delivered, it was printed and circulated as a pamphlet by Robertson & Mullens of Melbourne. The next year, Angus & Robertson published a selection of the addresses under the title The Forgotten People and Other Studies in Democracy.
Now, 75 years after the event, it has been reprinted complete with the old style cover.
"The forgotten people : and other studies in democracy" is a collection of essays broadcast weekly by Menzies in 1942. Some of them deal with matters of permanent interest while others are dated by passing events. They have represent a political philosophy which emerged in the changing currents of war.
'From the standpoint of a true patriot and in the spirit of man to man, Mr Menzies examines, in The Forgotten People, many of the problems arising from our present state of war. With moving frankness and sincerity he stresses both the rights and the duties of the people and of Parliament. He states clearly what our position is, what our aims are, and the part that every citizen must play if the war is to be won. He looks toward the future, the post-war world, and shows how we must work and plan to-day to combat the dangers that will inevitably beset to-morrow. He examines the meaning and achievements of democracy; he analyses the implications of President Roosevelt's four freedoms; and he upholds the dignity and the rights of the 'forgotten people', the middle classes, the 'backbone of this country.' This valuable series of talks clarifies our problems and their solution and, while not attempting to lessen the gravity of our present position, glows with confidence that the democratic principle shall prevail.'
Robert Gordon Menzies was born to James and Kate Menzies on 20 December 1894 in Jeparit. His birth was in a room at the back of his father's general store where the family lived.
The land around Jeparit was gradually being cleared of virgin scrub for wheat growing, and money was scarce. James Menzies carted supplies with a horse and wagon to the outlying farms, but it was difficult to make the business pay in such a small pioneering community and many farmers were given food on credit until their next harvest came in.
 Family photo taken on the bank of the Wimmera River - James Menzies with (from left) sons Les, Frank & Robert, wife Kate and daughter Isobel. Miss Annie Drendel is seated at left - from the Jeparit & District Historical Society
In 1899 at the age of four and a half, Robert commenced school at Jeparit. The Menzies children began their education at the first Jeparit school - No. 2988 - in a small timber room that had been shifted to the township from Dimboola North School No. 1875 (formerly Woolshed) in 1894.Robert and sister Isobelle left Jeparit in 1905 to join brothers, Les and Frank, living with their grandmother in Ballarat. They attended Humffray Street State School in 1906.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Victorian artefacts

Victorian Collections is a central portal to the cultural treasures held by museums and galleries distributed across Victoria. Culture Victoria is its sister site.
It is also a free collections management system for Victoria’s cultural organisations and a tool for students, researchers and curious minds.
It has photo entries you can browse, if you hover over an image you get the text description. And we aren’t necessarily talking about promoting your entire collection, you could have some of your most interesting, unique items, enough to tantalise a browser to enquire further and contact you.
a sample page - St Arnaud

Calico flour bag from Bruntons Flour Mill, Rupanyup
Victorian Collections is free for collecting organisations within Victoria. It is designed for Public Organisations not Private Collections, and is a complete, industry-standard cataloguing tool for organisations of all shapes and sizes.

Organisations can bulk-load onto the VC database, and VC do not impose file size limits, and can support most file types, be they audio oral histories, videos or image files. 

Files are provided under Creative Commons licence for non-commercial use. The filea can also be harvested by Trove.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Reviving the Mechanics'

Victoria once had more than one thousand Mechanics' Institutes scattered across the state. In many cases Institute halls were the first public building in a town, and today they are often the last.
Great Western
To obtain a complete picture of the heritage these organisations provided, the Mechanics' Institutes of Victoria Incorporated has been digitising the local records held by halls & institutes.
Records are sometimes held by the halls themselves, or with the local council, historical society, or museum, even with private individuals and trustees.
The digitisation process is funded from both philanthropic and government grant money.

After MIVic have made digital copies, the originals are returned to the records owner or provider along with a digital CD of the records. Copyright remains with the records owner.
Locally, records which have already been digitised are:  Apsley, Corack, Donald, Edenhope, Laen, Langkoop, Poolaijelo, Rich Avon West, St Arnaud, and Stuart Mill.

If you have Mechanics Institute records just waiting for the opportunity to be digitised, contact the Scanning Project Coordinator Judith Dwyer at

Monday, 20 November 2017

Wimmera...Way Back When milestone

This blog reached a milestone overnight, when it ticked over one hundred thousand visits.
From rather humble beginnings back in January 2011, there has now been 100,097 pageviews.
For a blog devoted to the history of the Wimmera, as expected most pageviews come from Australia (54,768), but hopefully the 2,297 Ukrainian, 926 Chinese and 505 Turkish visitors also got something from the posts too.
The most popular themes continue to be railways.
So thanks to you all.