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Ghost Towns of Tasmania

Dotted across Australia's island state are the ruins and relics of lost towns and communities. Barely noticeable today, some are victims of boom-and-bust mining days, when town fortunes rested on the mines they served, others housed the builders of infrastructure, or the people charged with maintaining that infrastructure. A few have survived intact, while others are crumbling ruins or have totally disappeared.

East Pillinger (Tas)
The town of East Pillinger, on the south eastern side of Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast of Tasmania, came into being in 1897 as the port for the shipment of ore from James Crotty's North Mount Lyell mine. Trains on the North Mount Lyell Railway took ore to the smelters at Crotty and on to Pillinger. East Pillinger was a company town, and West Pillinger was the neighbouring government town. East Pillinger had three wharves, a sawmill, brickworks and ore crusher.

West Pillinger had stores, hotels and a police station. When the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company took over the North Mount Lyell operations, Strahan was chosen over East Pillinger as the preferred port. Some people remained at East Pillinger harvesting timber and servicing the ships and trains that called in from time to time. The company gradually dismantled and removed most of the buildings and railway infrastructure.

Trains continued to operate until 1925, mainly transporting firewood and mining timber to the mines. The following year, the track was removed from the stretch of line between Kelly Basin and Darwin. Following the cessation of rail services, only one shop and one hotel stayed open. Only two families remained. The last of these - the Crossans - left in 1943. Originally known as Macquarie, the town owed its name to Alfred Pillinger, Minister for Lands and Works in 1898.
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  • Gormanston (TAS)
    High on the slopes of Mount Owen, above the town of Queenstown is the remnants of the mining town of Gormanston. It was the original mining settlement in the area, being established in 1881 by miners and growing rapidly with the discovery of Iron Blow. It was built as the company town for the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company operations at the Iron Blow open cut copper mine and later also became the terminus of the North Mount Lyell Railway before it closed.

    Gormanston was at its peak in 1901, when it had a population of 1,760 and had a local government authority based in its town. It was the nearest community to the 1912 North Mount Lyell Disaster and was used as a base by company officials attending to this disaster. Today there are only a handful of families still living in this historic mining town. Considerable numbers of buildings have been removed to other locations, and the local government authority was absorbed into the West Coast Council and the adjacent Mount Lyell workings have been closed down.
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    • Linda (Tas)
      Close to Gormanston was Linda, once a prosperous mining town, now a ghost town. It is located 8 km from Queenstown and is well worth a visit by people interested in seeing how towns, once they have outlived their usefulness, simply die. Linda was the town supporting the North Mount Lyell mine and the terminus of the North Mount Lyell Railway when it was in operation. Ore was taken from the mine to smelters at Crotty (now under the waters of Lake Burbury) then the refined metal taken to a port at Pillinger on the shores of Macquarie Harbour at Kelly Basin.

      When North Mount Lyell was taken over by Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company in 1903, Linda was quickly reduced in significance and eventually most residents moved to Gormanston, the nearby Mount Lyell town. Linda was the site of a serious underground mining disaster in 1912 when 42 miners were killed by a fire deep within the mountain. The remains of the townsite of Linda are at the northern side of the Linda Valley, to the north or 'down the hill' from the equally abandoned community of Gormanston, and adjacent to the Lyell Highway east of Queenstown.
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      • Waddamana (TAS)
        Now a ghost town, the village of Waddamana is a former hydro-town at the foot of the southern side of the Central Plateau of Tasmania. It stands next to the two decommissioned Waddamana power stations. The town flourished with a population of over 100 in the early 1900s when the power plant situated there was being built. Waddamana Post Office opened on 18 August 1913 and closed in 1971.Its current permanent population stands at four or five. Schools often take their students to Waddamana for camps. It has gained a reputation for its harsh weather - it often snows and icing was a problem when the hydro plants were still in use. The Tasmanian Aboriginal name waddamana means 'noisy water'.

        Waddamana Power Station Museum offers a rare chance to see one of Tasmania's iconic hydro-electric power stations at close range. It makes an interesting stopover for travellers on the Lakes Highway. Waddamana is the site of Hydro Tasmania's first hydropower station. After a hard life of generating renewable energy, the station was put into retirement. The Waddamana power station now has a new life as a museum filled with original equipment and other displays. A private company started construction on Waddamana in 1910, but the project struck financial trouble. In 1914 the Tasmanian Government bought the partly built works and formed the Hydro-Electric Department to take over. In 1916 power generation began.

        Over the ensuing years power demand in Tasmania grew and Waddamana also grew to match this demand. Shannon Power station was built to use the water from Great Lake before it ran onto Penstock Lagoon and Waddamana. A second power station was built at Waddamana - Waddamana B. All three power stations continued to operate until 1964, when Waddamana A and Shannon were decommissioned. Waddamana B continued to operate until 1994. Poatina power station was built to the north of Great Lake to replaced Waddamana.
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        • Balfour (TAS)
          Balfour is an isolated former mining town deep in the heart of the forests of north western Tasmania. The Balfour mining field was the scene of the greatest activity in the western zone from 1901 when copper was discovered. Prospecting and Mining was one of the biggest drawcards to the region for early settlers, with tin mining set up at Balfour, Gold at Corinna, and Tin at Waratah also. Prospectors  often searched the rivers in years between 1850 and 1950 quite unsuccessfully. Current historical areas include; Balfour, Magnet (ghost mining town), Corinna (former gold mining boom town), and Waratah.
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          • Corinna (TAS)
            The tiny mining settlement of Corinna was first settled in 1881, and has a colourful history. It was a rip-roaring gold mining town with a population of 2,500 spread over an 8 kilometre area. The largest nugget of gold ever found in Tasmania weighed 243 ounces and was found in the nearby Rocky River in 1883. Today, the Corinna Wilderness Experience provides an escape from mass tourism, to one of the most remote and beautiful parts of the world, where guests are at home in the wilderness.
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            • Dundas (TAS)
              Dundas was a historical mining locality, mineral field and railway location on the western foothills of the West Coast Range in Western Tasmania. It is now part of the locality of Zeehan. Mount Dundas Post Office opened in November 1890, was renamed Dundas in 1892 and closed in 1930. The North East Dundas Tram branched off the Emu Bay Railway approximately 3 kilometres north east of the Dundas railway connection.
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              • Lake Margaret Village (TAS)
                The Lake Margaret Power Station, on the state's west coast, is the third oldest hydro-electric power plant in Tasmania. Lake Margaret dam was constructed in 1918 by the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company for the purpose of generating hydro-electric power via the Lake Margaret Power Station, which is located below the dam wall. The village houses had been prefabricated and moved into position in 1914. The stone work for the dam was done by a large contingent of 200 Maltese stonemasons from the island of Gozo. Not one stayed on to live on Tasmania's west coast but the tent village that housed them was known as Gozo, after their homeland. The last resident of Lake Margaret left in 2009, after living there alone for 18 years.

                Hydro Tasmania acquired the site in 1985 and operated the power station until it was closed in 2007 for safety reasons. Tours of Lake Margaret Power Station and village attract a thousand visitors each year from Tasmania, interstate and overseas, giving them a sense of life during the time of hydro industrialisation. The station and village are both also listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register. The township records the highest annual rainfall of any town in Tasmania.
                • Lake Margaret Tramway
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                • Mathinna (TAS)
                  Somewhat of a ghost town today, Mathinna was once the scene of an important gold strike in Tasmania’s north-east goldfields. After gold was discovered at Mangana, Mathinna was for a time was the third largest town in Tasmania. The Mathinna goldfield started, like many others, with the discovery of alluvial gold in Black Horse Gully. The area contains one of Tasmania's largest gold mines, the New Golden Gate, which had a total (historical) production of over 260,000 ounces (8 tonnes) of gold. The area is riddled with abandoned mines, prospects and old workings, and is mostly crown land, meaning fairly easy access. Unlike other areas in Tasmania, the bush is fairly open and easy to walk through, though the grades of the hills are steep.
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                  • Pioneer (TAS)
                    There is little evidence in the sleepy village of Pioneer in north-east Tasmania that it was once one of the most prosperous tin mining towns in both Tasmania and Australia. The big producer, the Pioneer Company mine, closed in 1930. The hole in the ground that the mine left behind  Pioneer Lake  has been flooded and is today stocked with trout and used for water sports. Abandoned houses and mine workings a short distance away mark the site of Garibaldi, a tin mining town that had many Chinese workers. Pioneer is 119 km north east of Launceston and 8 km from the Tasman Highway.
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                    • Lottah (TAS)
                      The area around Pyengana in Tasmania's north-east had several tin mines such as the Anchor Tin Mine and Battery situated in the Pyengana Pass. Fifteen kilometres beyond Pyengana are the remnants of the mining village of Lottah where massive anchor stampers stand silently. These rusted tin crushing machines were driven by a waterwheel. At its height Lottah had 40 homes, but when the mine closed in the 1950s, the township was abandoned and all that remained was something resembling a moonscape. The site has since been reclaimed by Mother Nature.
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                      • Poimena (TAS)
                        Tasmania’s vast Blue Tier Plateau, in the state’s north-east, once held several bustling towns including Poimena. Tin miners began moving to Poimena in about the late 1870s, and by the 1880s it had a school, shops and a prominent hotel. Among the residents were Chinese tin miners, almost a thousand of whom lived and worked in the region at the time. Today, an open field lies where their houses once stood, but you can still see the foxgloves planted by Chinese miners more than a century ago, and signs point to where the town’s main landmarks were located.
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                        • Adamsfield (TAS)
                          Adamsfield was a mining town established around 1925, and is where osmiridium was mined by various methods up until the 1960s. There is very little left of the town now as most of it has been reclaimed by the bush or burnt down in bush fires. Osmiridium, or 'black gold', is a natural alloy that was seven times as valuable as gold at the time it was discovered here. Hundreds of miners were drawn to Adamsfield, but life was tough – just reaching the town required a steep 35km trek. Most of the 800 miners lived in tents, and lived on damper, tea, bacon and tinned meat.

                          The town experienced a rapid population decline with the outbreak of World War II. The last permanent resident left Adamsfield in 1960. Today, little is left of the town, but it can be reached by a two-hour walk from Clear Hill Road in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area around Strathgordon, or with a 4WD vehicle and a permit.

                          Williamsford (Western Tas)
                          To the south of Rosebery, and on the western lower reaches of Mount Read, is remains of the former mining community of Williamsford. It was formerly reached by the North East Dundas Tramway a line which operated between 1896 and 1929. Williamsford was the location of the Hercules Haulage - a 2-foot gauge haulage line on the western slope of Mount Read, and the later Rosebery - Williamsford Aerial Ropeway. The Hercules Haulage was self acting (loaded wagons travelling downhill pulled the empty wagons uphill, via cable and gravity) and was one mile long and 1,642 feet high with a maximum gradient of 1 in 5. It was claimed to be the largest and steepest self-acting tramway of its kind.

                          Hercules Haulage. Photo: Tasmanian Transport Museum

                          A town of 100, Williamsford was regarded as charming for its rugged and wild scenery, but isolated. The Hercules Mine closed in 1986 and the area has been deserted since then, but the ruins of the haulage system remain. A plaque, which tells the story of the township and the Hercules Mine stands on the site of the town's general store.

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