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Stories from the Hamilton Highway

7. Infrastructure

Communities along the highway could not survive without government infrastructure to support them.

Some of this can be seen as you drive along the highway. Some are more obvious than others.

Railway. As the western plains became more developed the unpaved road could
no longer handle the demand for supplies, especially during winter. In 1910 a rail
line was laid from Geelong, following and crossing the highway 4 times until
Derrinallum then heading to Ararat. The quarry on the north face of Mount
Elephant at Derrinallum supplied enough ballast to continue west. The steam
locomotive in the park at Lismore spent its life on this line. All the small communities were supplied by train. Diesels replaced steam in the 1960s.

In 1993 the line was operated by National Rail who ran freight trains as far as Perth, and the daily Overland passenger train to Adelaide. In 1997 the line was relaid with concrete sleepers to the narrower standard gauge suitable for the longer heavier
trains. Now the only stops they make is in strategic loops where they may pass each other.

Highway users may see up to 20 trains per day, each up to 65 wagons long.

Penshurst Railway Station circa 1910

Power: Another line which crosses the highway is the 500kv power line which takes power from Hazelwood to the aluminium smelter at Portland and on the South Australia. The new gas fired powerstation at Mortlake also feeds into it during peak demand, along with some proposed wind farms along the highway. This line was erected in the 1980s. It crosses the highway between Cressy and Berrybank, and again to the west of Mortlake.

Another 220kv powerline supplies power from the hydro scheme to a terminal station at Terang which provides local power to the district. This crosses the highway to the east of Lismore.

Each town has a water supply. Inverleigh is supplied by Barwon Water. Water restrictions are common. Cressy, Lismore, Derrinallum and Darlington water is piped by Wannon Water from a limestone aquifer feeding the Gellibrand River 60 km to the south. Hexham gets water from a dam in the town.
Caramut, Penshurst and Mortlake are supplied by Wannon Water from local bores into nearby volcanic aquifers. There are seldom water use restrictions on these aquifers.

Phone: Mobile phone service is effectively provided by a network of Telstra and Optus towers along the highway. These are visible in the towns and nearby hills. Another series of NBN towers are starting to supply fixed wireless broadband across the area. Users of the highway can rely on good voice and data connections if they use Telstra, Optus or Virgin. Others are less certain.

Author: © Chris Lang 2015


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