Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Some thoughts on the death of towns


We spotted this couple of old girls on the way to the small town of Peel.

JM and Diane have made a comments recently about the high number of dead towns I am finding.  I have been thinking about that too. One reason is that all this area was gold mining country and they were gold rush towns. Some had thousands of residents during their brief history but the homes were usually of canvas that was packed up and moved when news of a better field spread. Some continued or revived when reef mining followed but that too dwindled. The more substantial settlements transitioned to supporting the local rural industry.

Another factor is that some of the towns were staging posts and inns during the horse and buggy days. These were quite close together, much closer than we need today. The car killed them. And some still struggling died when the highway bypassed them or the bitumen road never reached them.

Others sprung to life as railway towns when the railway came their way, again quite close together to facilitate taking on water and coal for the steam engines.  And if the railway didn't come to your town because of terrain or whatever that meant likely death because it could not establish itself as a hub for transporting rural produce.  And when the railway shut down the town began to shut down too.

Add to this consolidation of smaller rural properties into larger properties, mechanisation requiring fewer rural workers and no industrial base all leading to the drift from the country to the coastal cities where work could be found.  The older folk left behind die and the town dies with them.

And there is nothing much left because most of the buildings were of timber, not stone. This meant they could be easily transported, burnt down, or eaten by termites.  So unlike South Australia where you find stone ghost towns you don't find that here.

Drought, depopulation of youth due to the wars, and changes in fortune for particular rural produce such as wool would all have played their part.  And that is all I can think of right now.


You can visit Peel over at 100 Towns.

14 comments:

  1. I'm sure your heart must have missed a beat when you spotted these two beauties .... A wonderful dose of rust.
    Enjoyed the read about dead towns and realised the reason SA doesn't have a lot of ghost towns is because we didn't have people flocking here in search of gold .

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  2. The gold rush build and kill a lot of towns, along with all the other reasons you listed. The only thing I can think of these days that can revive dying towns in Central NSW is (more) mining, viticulture and tourism. Mudgee is an example, although I suppose tourism has its drawbacks too.

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  3. Many ghost towns I've seen are due to railway closures, an appalling lack of foresight by a government hell bent on saving money with one hand and spending wildly with the other. Just think of all the road repairs and accidents that could have been avoided by keeping much freight off the roads, and the welfare that wouldn't have needed to be paid out by keeping towns open and people off benefits.

    Thanx for including my Royals - call me childish, but I LOVE seeing my name up in lights (so to speak)!!!

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    1. I think the power of the NRMA has to be included here. The railways were under threat because the motorists associations targetted politicians to convince them that road transport was the means of the future.

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  4. An extensive list of reasons Joan. Another reason over the last few decades is the move to regional centres like Tamworth, Dubbo etc for health, shopping and education opportunities. It really is a cycle of 'death' as the more that move from places like Werris Creek or Dunedoo more services are relocated to the larger regional centres.
    Excellent post.

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    1. It is interesting to speculate what the rise and rise of internet shopping portends for the existence of small towns. Will people be more inclined to live in a small town of just a few hundred people if they can order over the www. Then I suppose to boils down to how to get your goodies delivered.

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    2. Now this is one I had not thought of. Delivery should not be a problem, Australia post goes just about everywhere. And the limited shopping in country towns can be a draw back. I know my Mum used to feel bad about the limited range she had to select from for buying gifts.

      But truly, none of the towns I am visiting at the moment are at all remote .. they are only 50-60Kms from a large centre.

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    3. You are right Mark, the loss of banks and government facilities has been a major factor. If you have to go to a bigger town to do business then you will do your shopping there too.

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  5. Well they sure are good reasons for the dead towns. The travelling distance between towns has obviously extended to the petrol capacity of the car engine now days.It is a shame that we are such an urbanised nation clustered along the coast, but it is good to see that some country towns are expanding.

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  6. Love the old girls put out to pasture.

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  7. These trucks should be in a museum, they are fantastic!

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  8. Beautiful shot of these truck skeletal remains...

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  9. I came because of the photo, but I really enjoyed reading your commentary on the demise of small towns. It's amazing to me how transient human settlements can be, even had to be.

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  10. I've enjoyed reading your discussion and also the comments on this subject. It's a sad hard fact of life isn't it, the closure of small towns for all of the above reasons.

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