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Acheron to Wangaratta visiting Marysville, Lake Eildon and Yea.

Twin Rivers, Eildon, Marysville and Yea.

Our first evening in the Breakaway Twin Rivers Holiday Park was so peaceful after Dandenong. Only the lowing of the cattle across the river broke the silence. We went for a stroll to explore the immediate vicinity. The Goulburn River was full and was flowing so rapidly that the ducks couldn't make any headway no matter how fast they paddled. We watched an adventurous couple launch a canoe and though their paddles were flailing the water wildly, like the ducks the best the could do was remain stationary. They couldn't maintain that level of exertion for long so they wisely pointed their canoe back to the bank and called it a day.


Paddling like crazy and going nowhere.

The following day we set off to visit a town called Alexandra. The Tourist Information Bureau there said Open outside, but it wasn't. Pam was keen to visit nearby Lake Eildon (pronounced Eel-dun) so I had a word with Alice, our good old GPS navigator, and she obliged. The town of Eildon was only small - population about 650 - and had come into existence when workers swarmed to the area to build a dam across the Goulburn River. We went to the Tourist Information Bureau in Eildon; it too was closed. However we found our way to Lake Eildon with no trouble at all.

Houseboats on Lake Eildon

Houseboats on Lake Eildon

The GPS took us to a boat ramp where we found a cove crammed with houseboats. This was the week before Easter so I imagine the scene will be very different in a few days with half the Melbourne population occupying the boats which will be scattered all over this very large lake.

Pam had packed a picnic so we drove around until we found a lovely spot near the dam wall to have lunch.

Lake Eildon from the Dam

Part of Lake Eildon from the end of the dam wall.

The lake was formed by damming the Goulburn River. This was done in stages over the years, each new development increasing the water storage. So why was the dam built? For a hydro-electric power station? No, but there is a power station there that utilises the water release. For drinking water? No, though recently Melbourne tapped into it under a Labor State Government scheme that cost $750M for a pipeline ... then Labor was voted out and the Liberal Government closed it down!

The dam's prime purpose is to release water in a controlled manner down the Goulburn to supply down-stream irrigators. Anything left when the irrigators have satisfied their needs flows into the Murray River near Echuca.

The headwaters of the Goulburn River are up in the Victorian Alps. The river's flow used to vary greatly, flooding when the snow melted and reducing to a trickle during drought. Thanks to Lake Eildon the flood water is now captured and the river tamed. Growers in the lower Goulburn food bowl are guaranteed a year-round water supply.

I mentioned that the caravan park is called the Breakaway Twin Rivers Holiday Park. I wrongly assumed that Breakaway referred to a break away from city life for Melbournians. Not so. The original course of the Goulburn River flowed in a convoluted manner well away from the caravan park, then the river burst its banks and took a short cut. The new course became the main flow and is known as the Breakaway. It flows right past the caravan park. The old water course is now completely dry - we crossed it several times.

Why Twin Rivers? A short way down stream from the caravan park the Acheron River (pronounced Akron) joins the Goulburn, hence Twin Rivers.

But back to our day in Eildon. After lunch we drove across the dam wall and, taking a different way back, came across an old cemetery in the middle of nowhere. We can't resist stopping at cemeteries and strolling around the headstones. Why do we feel so sad when the plot is tiny and obviously that of a young child or baby? Is it more sad than when a family loses a father or mother? When the 'resident' died at a good old age we think, Oh well, had a good innings, and move on to the next headstone.

Leaving the graves we set off for home - it was, after all, approaching Happy Hour. On the way we saw a road sign worthy of a picture ...

Road Sign

The road becomes slippery when frosty. Thank God they told us!


Twin Rivers isn't very far from the picturesque little hamlet of Marysville so the next day saw us heading there past the Cathedral Ranges and through open farmland. Marysville previously had a population of around 500 people but the town was devastated by a terrible bushfire on 7 February 2009, a day that has become known as Black Saturday. The official death toll was 45. Around 90% of the town's buildings were destroyed including the police station, school and most of the houses. The remains of the town were declared a 'crime scene' and closed while bodies were removed and police investigated.

Of course it wasn't just Marysville that burned on Black Saturday; there were many separate fires. The majority were ignited by fallen or clashing power lines, some were deliberately lit, others caused by lightning strikes, cigarette butts, and sparks from a power tool. Victoria had just experienced a record hot spell and everything was tinder dry. In total there were 173 deaths and over 2,030 houses destroyed.

In Marysville today (March 2013) you wouldn't know there had ever been a fire. The more observant might wonder at the number of fresh new buildings and the amount of construction work in progress. It's a really beautiful little town with a creek flowing through it, parks and gardens and a backdrop of mountains.

Creek in Marysville

Maryville today is fresh and new with an optomistic future.

Registration plate

The registration plate pictured (right) seemed to typify the attitude in Marysville. 'The past is past, we can't change it. Now we have an opportunity to rebuild our community better than ever'.

Pam was very keen to visit 'Bruno's Sculpture Garden' which she had read about. There are dozens of excellent sculptures placed along meandering paths through beautiful shrubbery and water features. Tragically, most of the sculptures that existed before February 2009 were destroyed but Bruno must have worked his fingers to the bone to replace them and replant the garden. He's made a magnificent job of it; the garden is once again fabulous.

Admission was $5 per adult and was based on an honour system; nobody checked that you paid. We decided afterwards that it was $10 well spent.


Above and below: Just a small sample of Bruno Torfs' work in his Sculpture Garden.




A Most Interesting Clock

Marysville has a new shopping centre and above the entrance is a clock. Inside the entrance, just to the right of the doors, is a glass case containing the mechanism for that clock. It is regulated by a huge lead weight on a pendulum and the clock is powered by another large weight hanging from the ceiling of the entrance hall, suspended from a pulley by a rope.

The clock hands above the entrance are connected to the mechanism in the glass case via a brass rod which rises up through the glass case and all the way to a small gearbox near the ceiling. Here the rotation is transferred from the vertical shaft to a horizontal shaft which transmits the movement to the clock minute hand and thence via 12:1 reduction gearing to the hour hand. Fascinating.


Left: The clock as seen from outside Marysville Central. It reads 2:27 p.m.
Centre: The regulating mechanism showing the heavy pendulum and the drive shaft rising vertically.
Right: On this picture you can see the slowly descending weight and the clock face from inside the building.

On the way home from Marysville we stopped at Crystal Garden, one of those little roadside businesses that you find in the country. Pam was interested in the crystal but I'd spotted some old machinery on display round the back. Investigating I found two giant logging trucks that had been caught in the Black Saturday fires.

Burned Out Logging Truck

All that remained of the tyres was bundles of rusty steel wire hoops that had been the reinforcing.

To counter those symbols of disaster, close by was a wooden 'dunny' ...


Across the entrance was written Country Comfort and six stars. On the roof was a satellite dish.

The Little town of Yea.

The next day the Tour Director decreed that we would visit the little town of Yea near which there was a historic railway tunnel. And so, of course, we went.

Within the town was a 'heritage listed' railway station, the surroundings of which have been turned into a community recreation area. A market is held there once a month. A large under-cover barbecue area has been provided with a drinking water fountain and we were delighted to find two gleaming stainless steel gas barbecues which were free. Not that we used them but it is just so pleasant to find the sort of pride which had gone into developing a spotlessly clean communal area like this. There was virtually no graffiti and no litter. A childrens swing park was close by. The toilets, too, were spotless and a chart on the wall told when they were last cleaned. There was a phone number to call if you found any problem.

Yea Railway Station

Yea Railway Station. Passenger services ceased in May 1977. Will the next train to Yea please bring your own track.

As in other places, when the railway closed and the track and sleepers had been removed, the course of the old railway was converted into a walking and cycling track and the one you can see here, running past the platform, spans 121 kilometres. It is called the Goulborn River High Country Rail Trail.
The Cheviot Tunnel.

Due to accidents, floods and strikes the tunnel took two years to complete at a cost of three lives. It has an inverted horseshoe section and was built using 675,000 bricks, handmade from local clay. It opened to passenger traffic in November 1889 and later also carried freight - mostly timber for Melbourne's construction industry.

The tunnel, still in remarkably good condition, is now part of the Goulborn River High Country Rail Trail. We met a cyclist coming through the tunnel and he stopped to chat. He was one of a party of three but had left his companions behind. Some way behind - they still hadn't arrived when we left.

Cheviot Tunnel Mouth

The only tunnel on the line, the Cheviot Tunnel is 201 metres long and 14.7 metres high.

Steam Loco

December 1965. Photo from an information board. Original photographer Keith Atkinson.

Pam's Silhouette in Tunnel

A portrait of She Who Must Be Obeyed in the Cheviot Tunnel.

We walked through the tunnel and back. The tunnel floor is flat bitumen. It soon becomes clear that people ride horses through the tunnel and perhaps the horses are scared by the dark. It would be nice if the horse riders occasionally brought a bucket and shovel with them. However, keeping to the sides of the tunnel keeps you reasonably safe.

Cyclist in Tunnel

Flash photo: Pam chatting to the cyclist in the tunnel. The 'doorway' is one of several
shallow refuges so rail workers could move out of the path of approaching trains.

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