Bacchus Marsh Train Turntable

The review of certain heritage sites by Officers of the Moorabool Shire has raised a number of timely questions. Specifically, their current status and use. The historical train turntable (Circa 1887) situated northeast of the main Railway Station building is a good example.

The Bacchus Marsh railway yards boasted an 1887 operational turntable. Restored steam locomotives visited the town and used it to turn the engines around for the return visit. Photograph courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh Heritage Guide, Entry 49, Page 66.

Improvements to the Melbourne-Ballarat rail line and a significant upgrade to the Bacchus Marsh Railway Station placed a number of rail heritage structures at risk. These being the Station building, wooden clad signal box, railway warehouse and train turntable.

Turntable Survives the Upgrade

All seem to have survived – but for how long? Does the turntable still work? In years past, restored steam locomotives made day trips from Melbourne to Bacchus Marsh. To return they used the turntable to realign the engine.

Train Turntable at Bacchus Marsh Railway Station, February 2021. Maddingley Park in background.

Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc.

The good news is that it appears that lines have been laid to align with the old turntable and special gates installed for the walkways.

Train lines on Melbourne side, leading into Turntable at Bacchus Marsh Railway Station, February 2021. Railway Warehouse in background right.

Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc.

Train Turntable at Bacchus Marsh Railway Station looking in Melbourne direction, February 2021. Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc.
What stories do you know about the turntable?

That begs the question – do steam locomotives still use the turntable? Does anyone know? Do you have any photos or stories about it being used? If so we would like to hear from you on our Facebook page. Help us rediscover and celebrate our local heritage.

80th Anniversary – Darley Military Camp

On this day in 1945 the Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley announced to the nation that the Imperial Japanese had unconditionally surrendered which marked the end of World War II.  

As Australians join other nations across the world to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II and honour those who served, today we also remember the 80th Anniversary of the construction of the Darley Military Camp.

Darley Military Camp
Aerial view of the completed Darley Military Camp looking eastly towards Melbourne – Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection

It was one of three WWII military training centres established in Victoria.   Construction commenced in July 1940, on 160 hectares at Cameron’s Road, (Camp Road) Darley about 8km from Bacchus Marsh and although not completed by September, the first of 4,000 troops from the 4th Infantry Training Corps had arrived.

The camp was without electricity, or canteens, and was a quagmire after 75mm of rain had fallen.   Work was accelerated with the help of the arriving troops and construction was completed for the arrival of many more military service men and women.

Construction Workers - Darley Military Camp 1940
Construction workers building the Darley Military Camp in 1940 – Courtesy of the John Hannah Collection

Catering was large scale for the construction workforce with daily consumption of 3 sheep and beef, 500 hen eggs, 15 to 20 gallons of milk and other staples such as bread, butter and vegetables.

It was reported that during construction there were nearly two kms of hardwood, 1.6km of flooring, 220 tonnes of corrugated iron and 30 tonnes of nails used.   On completion of the camp, there were over 360 buildings including recreation huts, a Post Office and a 68 bed hospital.

Between 1940 and 1946, the time the Darley Camp was in operation, the mainly agricultural township of Bacchus Marsh with a population of approx. 1,500 was totally transformed.  

Darley Military Camp
Part of the completed Darley Military Camp looking westerly towards Bald Hill – Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection

Eighty years on our Vice-President Cathy Pevitt has documented the stories from an array of townspeople who, although just kids or teenagers at the time, have shared their memories and memorabilia with us.

The Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society would like to sincerely thank all those individuals who have taken the time to tell their story and also Cathy for making the time to document their memories.

These amazing stories along with accompanying photos will be shared periodically on our Facebook page over the next few weeks. Now is the time to follow our Facebook page and discover what life was like in Bacchus Marsh during WWII.

Hill View Cottage – 14 Graham St, Bacchus Marsh

Source: Bacchus Marsh Heritage Guide, p 53, Pub. 2003
Source: Bacchus Marsh Heritage Guide, p 53, Pub. 2003

This small brick and stone cottage was initially erected by Joseph F. Taylor Snr. without a verandah in approximately 1875 for George and Susan Marshall on land that was originally offered for sale as a township allotment at the Border Inn on 22 February 1870.

Source: The Express, 5 February 1870, TROVE
Source: The Express, 5 February 1870, TROVE

George established a blacksmith’s shop in Graham street and he and Susan raised seven children in the small cottage until it was sold to Mary Ann Taylor in 1893, following Susan’s death in 31 May 1891.

Bacchus Marsh Heritage Study 1995

In the Bacchus Marsh Heritage Study 1995, the authors, Richard Peterson and Daniel Catrice, noted that it was one of only sixteen early houses surviving in the former Bacchus Marsh Shire (now part of the Moorabool Shire). The following description of the building was recorded in that study:

‘Red brick (tuckpointed at the front), double-fronted symmetrical early house with a gabled roof across, terminating at a chimney at each end of the ridge. There are decorative scalloped bargeboards. It has a stone quoins at the corners and, a low, concave hip timber verandah with a cast-iron lace valance and brackets. There is a diamond shaped quarry tile pavement to the verandah and threshold and cills are stone. The four-panel door and knob survive. The verandah retains its end decorative valance, to the right. There is a skillion addition at the rear. There is a gabble-roofed timber outbuilding (the former kitchen?) with two substantial chimneys.’

Remains of Historical Iron Church

It went on to state that the cottage had local historical significance being built in 1870 and was a ‘representative embodiment of the way of life in early Bacchus Marsh’. It assessed the Cottage’s condition as ‘Good’, noting that the walls had been painted. In the citation it also noted, in detail, how the remnants of the original prefabricated Iron Church that was erected for the Church of England in 1855 on Gisborne Road was also located on the property behind the cottage, where it was used as a shed. The only known surviving prefabricated iron church in Victoria and the earliest surviving church in Bacchus Marsh.

Source: National Trust Database, File Number B4016, Classified: 1 Oct 1987
Source: National Trust Database, File Number B4016, Classified: 1 Oct 1987

It went on to state:

‘The former “Iron Church” is of state historical significance as an extraordinary and pioneering embodiment of a way of life in its religious practice in the earliest years of the Colony and of the settlement at Bacchus Marsh. It is of state architectural significance as a rare survival of this building type and technology. It also offers evidence of changing attitudes to conservation practice’.

The remnants of the “Iron Church” was assessed as in poor condition.

Fast forward to 2020 (quarter of a century later) and a picture does tell a thousand words.

Source: Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc.
Source: Bacchus Marsh & District Historical Society Inc.
Source: Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc.

With such a significant assessment of this unique local heritage site, is this really what the community wants? How does this reflect on our community’s collective identity – especially with respect to our early European settlement heritage? Clearly, the assessment of its condition can no longer be considered as GOOD. The state of disrepair to these two rare and unique heritage buildings is significant. The neglect is not only visibly measurable, but it serves as a sobering reminder of what precious few historical buildings remain within the district.