A road trip across the Pleurisy Plains

A few weeks ago I went on a road trip across the Pleurisy Plains of Western Victoria, following the main Melbourne-Adelaide railway along the back roads from Geelong to Ararat.

Sun goes down on Green Hill Lake

Trains

It isn’t a road trip if I wasn’t trying to photograph trains!

We’d been driving for a few hours before we passed out first one – a loaded grain train bound for Geelong.

BL27 leads 8161 on an up PN grain at Mininera

A few hours later we found an empty grain train headed back west for another load.

XR558 leads BL33 and G523 on a down PN grain at Langi Logan

Shortly followed by a load of containers headed the other way for Melbourne.

NR52 leads NR91 on 4PM6 up PN intermodal at Langi Logan

And then on our way home, a load of steel beams and plate.

NR57 leads NR111 on 4PM4 up steel train at Inverleigh

Abandoned stations

The only passenger service along the line is twice weekly The Overland, which runs through without stopping.

Inverleigh is just a timber shed.

Fencing and station sign added to the platform mound

As is Pura Pura.

Station building still hanging on for now

At least Westmere still has grain silos.

Westmere now a CTC signalled crossing loop

And Maroona has a disused platform.

Station building and platform still in place at Maroona

And abandoned towns

The Pleurisy Plains are grain and grazing country, and the townships that did exist have been emptying out.

There was nothing much to see at Nerrin Nerrin.

House and shearing shed at Nerrin Nerrin

Mininera Primary School is long gone.

Mininera Primary School now abandoned

Westmere once had a general store, but it’s for sale.

Westmere General Store now up for sale

And Streatham – it’s still got an Infant Welfare Centre, but only open two mornings each month.

Streatham Infant Welfare Centre still open, for two mornings per month

Wind farms

Windy plains are good for one thing – wind farms.

80 turbines at the Dundonnell Wind Farm north of Mortlake.

Looking south from Pura Pura towards the Dundonnell Wind Farm

75 turbines at the Ararat Wind Farm.

Looking over Green Hill Lake towards the Ararat Wind Farm

Just two at the Maroona Wind Farm.

Twin turbines at the Maroona Wind Farm

And 43 turbines at the Berrybank Wind Farm, with another 26 being added.

Massive crane at work erecting a wind turbine tower at the Berrybank Wind Farm

Power lines

The power generated by wind farms has to go somewhere, so high voltage transmission lines cross the otherwise empty plains.

The big one is the 500 kV twin circuit Moorabool – Portland line, constructed in the 1980s to transmit electricity generated from burning brown coal to Alcoa’s aluminium smelter at Portland.

500 kV twin circuit Moorabool - Portland transmission line at Berrybank, Victoria

The oldest is the single circuit Ballarat to Terang 220 kV line.

Traditional pylons support the single circuit Ballarat to Terang 220 kV line outside Lismore, Victoria

But they’ve recently been joined by the 132 kV line that links the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm to the Haunted Gully Terminal Station.

Monopoles support the 132 kV transmission line from the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm to the Haunted Gully Terminal Station outside Lismore, Victoria

Which passes beneath the older 220 kV line via a tangle of pylons outside Lismore.

Single circuit Ballarat to Terang 220 kV line crosses over the oddball 132 kV line from the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm to the Haunted Gully Terminal Station at Lismore, Victoria

Telephone exchanges

In the days before mobile phones, copper wires were the only communication link to the outside world.

Maroona has a telephone exchange not much larger than the outdoor dunny beside it.

Tin shed country telephone exchange at Maroona, Victoria

As does Nerrin Nerrin.

Tin shed country telephone exchange at Nerrin Nerrin, Victoria

Berrybank has a shed a little larger.

Tin shed country telephone exchange at Berrybank, Victoria

Streatham’s exchange is bigger again, but it serves an actual town.

Tin shed country telephone exchange at Streatham, Victoria

But Pura Pura – there is nothing around for miles!

Tin shed country telephone exchange at Pura Pura, Victoria

CFA stations

Even with the population leaving the plains, the risk of bushfire is still there.

The CFA station at Nerrin Nerrin is just a little tin shed.

Tin shed CFA station at Nerrin Nerrin, Victoria

The station at Mininera is far more modern.

Modern CFA station at Mininera, Victoria

As is the one at Langi Logan.

Modern CFA station at Langi Logan, Victoria

Which replaced the tin shed around the corner.

Decommissioned tin shed CFA station at Langi Logan, Victoria

And finally – Mount Elephant

Every time I’ve gone for a trip on The Overland I’ve pointed out Mount Elephant – a 380-metre-high conical breached scoria cone formed by a dormant volcano, located 1 km from the town of Derrinallum. So since I was in the area, I paid a visit.

Looking over to Mount Elephant from the east

Turns out it’s only open for a few hours each Sunday, but I was lucky – they were just about to open!

Gates locked at Mount Elephant - only open for a few hours every Sunday

The visitors centre is located at the base of the mountain.

Visitors centre at the base of Mount Elephant

The access track follows the alignment of a dismantled railway siding.

Driveway to the Mount Elephant visitors centre follows the dismantled railway siding to the quarry

Which served a ballast quarry, now used as a car park.

Visitors Centre car park located in the former railway ballast quarry

The walk to the edge of the crater takes 30 minutes, with the walk around the edge adding an extra hour.

Following the path towards the top of Mount Elephant

But since it was a stinking hot day, we only made it halfway up.

Following the path towards the top of Mount Elephant

So we’ll have to visit again!

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5 Responses to “A road trip across the Pleurisy Plains”

  1. Trish Hale says:

    Great photos Marcus and lots of updates on forgotten town, railways etc.
    Trish Hale

  2. Andrew says:

    Funny, our late friend lived in Derrinallum and about twenty five years ago referred to the area as Pleurisy Plains when he first moved there. We visited a number of times. Mount Elephant was so interesting yet we never climbed the mount. It was stripped of vegetation but ten or so years ago was being revegetated.

    Interesting to see all the infrastructure, but I am not fond of the western flatlands. Way too many rocks for my liking.

  3. […] The massive pylons and quad bundle conductors look just like those on the 500 kV twin circuit Moorabool-Portland transmission line I wrote about the other month. […]

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