Interrupted Journey – North Queensland – 2022 – Part 4

Jumbo Jets & Old Machines

Note: A video link appears at the bottom of this blog post.

Reception & Tours Areas at the Qantas Founders Museum

Over our many years of caravan travel we have passed through and stayed at Longreach many times. We have learned that if arriving from the East the first thing you will now see is the roof that shelters the aircraft at Qantas Founders Museum. The roof has not always been there. For the previous few years, the first sight was the tail of the Boeing 747. Prior to that it was probably the water tower at the roundabout, adjacent to the Longreach CBD.

Starboard Fuselage and Wing compared to humans demonstrates the size of the aircraft. The engine seen under the fuselage is a spare allowing replacement engines to be transported.
Jumbo nose wheel with DC3 and Boeing 707. Plus air conditioning to keep the display aircraft cool.
The orange items are the aircraft “black box”.
The door mounted raft/slide is an Australian invention.
Boeing 707 with boarding stairs in place.

Thursday 28th September was Qantas day. We had booked the Museum Tour for Ruth and I and the Aircraft Tour for me. All those steps! Then we were both booked to return in the evening for the Light Show. That left time for a nap in the afternoon.

Boeing 747 City of Bunbury.

The museum tour is confined to the original museum building and is all at ground level. It includes a Catalina Flying Boat in the grounds, a wide range of aircraft and vehicle models inside and the old workshop buildings that were the original Qantas Longreach hanger. Basically, it tells the story of the founding of Qantas and of its growth until 1934.

Visitors clustered around the doorway of the DC3.

The story from 1934 to the era of the Jumbo Jet is told in the aircraft display, now housed under a huge canopy, a sort of hanger without walls. The Boeing 747 is so large that some of the other craft are under its wings. Three of them are accessed by permanent stairs to their side and rear doorways. The Douglas DC3 is small enough to be examined from the ground.

Super Constellation with boarding stairs in place.

There are three tours of the aircraft museum. The one that I did takes visitors through the aircraft, with a very informative guide to explain what you are looking at and relate to you the history. The next is more expensive. It is for smaller groups and includes the opportunity to climb onto spaces normally only accessed by the crew and allows you to sit in the pilot’s chair and stand out on the wing for a photo. Then there is an evening sound and light show, where the Qantas story is projected onto the mostly white fuselages of the three larger aircraft.

Boeing 747 instrument paned on the earlier three crew Boeing 747s.
Catalina Flying Boat is located at the museum building.
In the early days of the Boeing 747 having your photo taken standing in the engine cowl was quite the thing to do.
The orange items are the aircraft “black box”.

On display is the Douglas DC3, the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, The Boeing 707 and the Boeing 747 Jumbo.

Cockpit on the Lockheed Super Constellation
Cockpit of Boeing 747
Cut away section to expose the frame of the aircraft.
The Lockheed DC3 was an Early Workhorse of the Airline.

The Boeing 707 is an interesting exhibit. It was purchased by Qantas and joined the international fleet. When it was retired at the end of its passenger carrying life it was acquired by a business that converted it into a five star flying hotel suite. It later became a luxury charter aircraft used on one occasion by Micheal Jackson, during a tour. It was finally retired to an open field in the south of England.

Dining table in the converted aircraft
Table for a meeting in flight. Perhaps as board room?
The luxury extends to cockpit seating.

Someone connected with the museum heard about this aircraft and recognised its historical significance. It was purchased and restored to flying order by a team of volunteers who travelled to England for several months to complete the task. It then flew to Longreach to join the fledgling museum fleet. I remember when it arrived.

The light show is particularly well done. Visitors sit or stand on a concrete area between the aircraft. Seating is on high stools. Just grab one if you get tired of standing. As the program is projected onto the sides of three aircraft it is necessary to be a bit mobile.

Rolls Royce Jet Engine for a 747.
Inside the Catalina Flying boat.
DC3 with seating removed for freight.

On the morning aircraft tour, one of the tour members was a retired Qantas Boeing 747 captain, who was able to add to the information provided by the guide from his personal experience.

Stone pitching for water control
An example of Stone Pitching at the site south of Ilfracombe.

On Friday morning, five days after leaving home, we made an early start to head back to Ilfracombe where we turned south to Isisford. About 20 km south of Ilfracombe, at a rest stop, we drove a few hundred extra metres to an area where stone pitching had been used to retain and divert water into a dam. The work is over one hundred years old and may have been carried out by Chinese workers, although the skills were probably brought from England.

Roadside flowers. “Pitilotus nobilis”

Stone pitching is building structures from natural stone without mortar to hold the stones in place. So, each stone is held in place by those around it. The structure is particularly useful in sandy soil where running water quickly washes earthen structures away.

More roadside flowers.

When we were in this area back in caravanning days, we spent a couple of nights in the riverside camp at Isisford, on the Barcoo River. There was an excellent museum there with a display of the ancient forebears of the Crocodile. It had an excellent cafe /coffee shop for such a small and remote place. The cafe is in the museum building, which partly explains why it exists in such a small and remote community.

On that occasion we had morning coffee at the van before going into town. We said that it would be nice to go back. And so, we did. Sadly, some of the fossils that were on display have been moved elsewhere. Probably to another museum where more people visit.

Natural History Museum at Isisford.
Whitman Café at the Natural History Museum.
Barcoo River at Isisford

Roadside flowers were in abundance, particularly towards Isisford. The grass is a brilliant green. The Barcoo has been in minor flood three times this year, so there is a lot of water, on its way to Lake Eyre. The Barcoo and Thompson Rivers join near Windorah to form Cooper Creek which feeds the lake, if there is enough water to travel that far.

The Wellshot Centre at Ilfracombe.

We returned to Ilfracombe and visited the Wellshot Centre. The building was the police station in the town but was converted to a museum to display items from nearby (we passed it on the way to Isisford) Wellshot Station. Wellshot Station was one of the first stations in the area. It was developed with Scottish money and Australian know how.

Southern Cross Water Boring Machine
A well kept Ferguson Tractor.
Tracked Earth Moving Tractor

Ilfracombe has a “Mile of Machinery” as a memorial to the pioneers. It stretches along the north side of the highway for most of the length of the main street. I took a walk along most of it. Included is an example of the ubiquitous Ferguson 35 tractor. I learned to drive on one.

A line of road graders.
A bullock cart that probably was used for transporting wool.
A full stop of Bougainvillea at the end of the machinery queue.
Plumed Whistling Ducks

We returned to Longreach for a pie and coffee before returning to our unit for a nap. Late afternoon we went out looking for a sunset but tonight it was rather ordinary. The sunset the previous evening looked to be a beauty, but we were occupied at the Qantas sound and light show.

In the waning afternoon light, I found some Plumed Whistling Ducks at a waterhole at the north of town. I was trying to get closer for a better shot when they took off. Above the ducks, on the power lines, some Crested Pigeons were sunning themselves and looking a bit surprised. But they just sat and didn’t move.

The ducks after take off.
Crested Pigeon in the afternoon light.

We returned to the cabin for our final night at Longreach. Tomorrow we are off hunting Dinosaurs.

Interrupted Journey – North Queensland 2022 – Part 3

Heading for Dinosaur Country

Note: Two video links appears at the bottom of this blog post.

Please note the video link at the foot of this post to the Carnival of Flowers.

We set off on the morning of Monday 26th September to complete our Covid interrupted tour. Instead of going back to Townsville to start where we left off, we travelled inland via Toowoomba and took the opportunity to visit the Carnival of Flowers as we passed through, spending our first night at Chinchilla.

The flowers at Toowoomba were up to the normal high standard. As our visit was late in the carnival, most of the additional activities had finished. The flowers and a few food vans parked down the back was all that remained of the festive area. But we were there to see the flowers and were well satisfied with the offerings on display. The greatest challenge was to take a photo of a flower bed without an Asian tourist in the foreground having their photo taken.

A thin sheet of water over the face of Chinchilla Weir as the water flows towards the Murray River.

We drove on to Dalby for lunch having skipped morning coffee. In planning I had identified some likely bird locations to try before reaching our overnight stop at Chinchilla. I had no luck until Chinchilla Weir where we found greatly improved camping conditions from those we remembered from our previous visit. And we found a flock of Apostle Birds. I believe these birds are so named because of their practice of flocking in groups of about a dozen. Water was cascading over the weir.

A thin sheet of water over the face of Chinchilla Weir as the water flows towards the Murray River.
Recently germinated crops line the roadside in this part of the Darling Downs.
Boonagara, reached just before Chinchilla, built a public hall to commemorate success in using a grub to defeat cactus infestation.
Gil Weir is located just west of the Leichardt Highway, south of Miles

Friday saw us headed for Morven, a very small town where the Landsborough Highway branches from the Warrego Highway. It leads to Longreach as the major town in that direction. This piece of road is also known as the Matilda Way, but that is more for promotional purposes that accurate geography.

We checked for birds at Gill Weir, south of Miles and Judd’s Lagoon, south of the highway, closer to Roma. All that we found in both places was overflowing weirs and long term bush campers, most of which were in their highly equipped caravans. Rising water levels inundate water bird feeding grounds and I imagine, causes the birds paddle harder to stay in the same place. The birds are not silly. Thy go somewhere else.

Memorial to fettlers wives near Dulacca
The informative plaque that is part of the memorial.

Roadside, just before Dulacca out towards Roma, we came upon a memorial to the railway fettlers and the women who supported them while building the western railway line from Miles to Dulacca in 1978-79. In those days families had to travel with their breadwinners if they wanted to see them. No FIFO in those days.

Australian Darter, drying off following a fishing session.

After morning coffee at Roma’s Big Rig, we had a look at Roma Bush Gardens, located just off the highway past the town centre. Walking around the lake was restricted by flooding but I did see some Mallards and an Australian Darter, drying its wings in the morning sunshine after fishing excursion.

Neil Turner Weir on the Maranoa River at Mitchell was overflowing. We have not seen this in several visits.

We took our lunch break at Neil Turner Weir, a water storage on the Maranoa River near Mitchell. Mitchell is probably best known for its therapeutic artesian spars. We have used the camping area at the weir on several occasions but had not seen the dam overflowing before. It reminded us that so much of our travel through Australia’s outback occurred during the drought years.

The Pick-a-Box Motel at Morven
A Royal Flying Doctor Promotional Van Parked Outside The Motel.

The Pick-a-Box Motel was our resting place for the night. The motel is a small group of newish iron-clad cabins near to and managed by the Morven Hotel, recently rebuilt following a fire. The only excitement in town was a Royal Flying Doctor Service caravan in the shape of an aircraft fuselage, parked in the street outside.

So, from Morven on Wednesday morning, we turned north-west on the Landsborough Highway. First stop was a call at the first town, Augathella, a distance of about 90 km. The town is quite old and has been supporting the local agricultural community since its founding in 1883. Like many outback towns, it has upgraded its visitor facilities for grey nomads. Artists have painted pictures on its water tower, art silo fashion.

The Ellangawan Hotel bears Augathella’s original name.
The list of local water birds at Tambo. Most on the list were conspicuous by their absence.

Next, about the same distance further north-west, we arrived at Tambo, another pioneering town (1868) with good visitor facilities. We paused for morning coffee beside the small dam at the entrance of the tow. By the lake there is an information sign providing details of the many water birds to be found in the area. There were very few on display for us, although small birds such as Noisy Miners were busy in the tree.

Continuing, we crossed the Barcoo River and arrived at Blackall, which was built on the banks of that stream. Major Thomas Mitchell explored this part of Australia in 1846. The town developed in the 1860s as an agricultural service centre. Again, it has good tourist facilities. It is surrounded by vast expanses of open naturally grassed pasture, as is much of this area. We had been driving through it all morning.

The Barcoo River at the Landsborough Highway crossing.
An Eastern Great Egret perched in a tree over the Barcoo River.
Blackall main street is the highway.
Part of the billabong and camping area at Lara Wetlands

The next town along this highway is Barcaldine, but about 45 km before that we turned off to the left and drove the 16 km of dirt station road to look at Lara Wetlands. This is a camping area that almost surrounds a large waterhole filled with dead trees, so is probably the result of a dam. Lara Station is an operating cattle station. They run the camping ground in conjunction with the station. There are reported to be 164 species of birds identified in the area. But there is no power and only one cabin. Interesting spot, all the same.

A Brolga by the road as we drove into Lara Wetlands.

As we drove into the Lara Station, Ruth saw a large grey bird at the edge of the trees. I stopped and got some good photos of a Brolga. It was wandering up and down and seemed quite settled but as I turned back to the car, I heard the whoomp whoomp whoomp of large wings as the Brolga took to flight. I turned just in time to snap it disappearing behind some brush. Not a very good photo, sadly.

The Brolga landing in the brush by the roadside.

We refuelled at Barcaldine, paying for the first time just over $2 per litre for unleaded petrol. At Barcaldine the highway turns left and west through Ilfracombe to Longreach. Scattered cloud meant that the western sun was not too much of a problem. We had travelled quite a distance in pursuit of the setting sun since leaving Brisbane, so the days were ending quite a bit later.

The deck at the Woolshed Restaurant at Longreach.

We were able to get a booking at the Woolshed Restaurant at Longreach Tourist Park, where we had a cabin. Last time we were here they were booked out. They were again but we had booked in time. An excellent meal even if the entertainment was a bit loud.

While at Longreach we returned to Ilfracombe and also drove south to Isisford. That drive is covered in the next blog post.

West, Centre and Flinders – Days 12 to 17 – Traveling West

Ducks around a roadside pond as we left Rockhampton

Ducks around a roadside pond as we left Rockhampton

According to Google Maps, by the time we turn south at Boulia, we will be 1,288 kilometres by road from the coast at Yeppoon.  This will have taken about eight days, so you can see that we are not in a hurry. But we will have covered about 200 extra kilometres by turning south at Barcaldine, then travelling west to Isisford and then back to the Capricorn Highway at Ilfracombe, before turning west again to Longreach.

The coastal area is relatively flat and there is no real sensation of gaining elevation as we travel towards the Central Highlands until quite some distance west of Rockhampton. At a couple of places the climb is steep but generally the country undulates with each up grade taking us higher than the last.


Inscription from the Mitchell plaque

A commemorative plaque to Major Sir Thomas Mitchell who explored this area

After Dingo, the road flattens and points like an arrow or wavers slightly toward the ever moving horizon which may be a distant arc where sky meets the plain or the variable outline of a range of hills. We are surprised to find that we are just 20 kilometres east of Alpha, or 460 kilometres from our starting point at the coast, before we reach the summit of the Great Dividing Range. The whole 444 metres of it! We are then in the Lake Eyre catchment. We feel as though we are getting somewhere.

Our first night was spent at Duaringa, in a council sponsored camping area, which we shared with about 40 other vans and motor homes. Late in the afternoon we were visited by a representative of the local Lions Club, with a notice that they will be serving breakfast the following morning. Egg and bacon muffins were our choice, with fruit juice.

Mobile worker accommodation at Alpha

Mobile worker accommodation at Alpha

A new shopping centre has been built on the eastern fringe of Emerald, where we stopped to buy some required items. We had intended another roadside stop that night but nothing took our fancy, so we continued to the Alpha caravan park. Alpha is near to the location of the proposed coal mine that is causing some controversy at the moment. Project type accommodation units in the park suggest that some of the development team have been accommodated here.

Next we passed through Jericho, where a road side sign proclaimed that Jericho is the only town in Australia that has crystal trumpeters. Well they would, wouldn’t they?

Part of the long main street of Barcaldine

Part of the long main street of Barcaldine

Since we left Rockhampton we have met an endless parade of caravans and motor homes. You name a brand and we have probably seen it. Strangely, there has been very little traffic, caravan or otherwise, going in our direction. When on country highways we cruise at about 80 kph. Most vans and almost all other vehicles, road trains included, travel much faster than we do, particularly when the speed limit is 110 kph. Perhaps it was because we were travelling on Saturday and Sunday. I think the lack of caravans going our way has to do with the direction in which southerners do their loops through NSW and Queensland. The majority seem to travel north inland and return home via the coast.

Inside the Tree of Knowledge memorial

Inside the Tree of Knowledge memorial

Barcaldine is reached next. It has historical fame as the birth place of the Australian Labor Party. Shearers famously went on strike here in the late nineteenth century. By the look of the main street on Sunday, when we passed through, no one much has gone back to work. Caravans and motor homes lined both sides of the long main street but barely a shop was open to serve them. Is this the dead hand of unionism or high Sunday penalty rates? Or perhaps trading laws?

Set up among the trees at Barcaldine South

Set up among the trees at Barcaldine South

Barcaldine marked the temporary ending of our westward passage as we turned there to go south to Blackall. A convenient roadside rest area about 30 kilometres south provided a suitable over night stopping place. And with a bonus! Some kind soul had left a small pile of firewood right where we parked the van for the night.  So we had dinner under the stars by firelight. Adding to our carbon footprint, of course! We thank the kind prior occupant.

Our one and only camp fire for the trip so far

Our one and only camp fire for the trip so far

The Barcoo River at Blackall

The Barcoo River at Blackall

The following day we continued south to Blackall. This substantial town is on the Landsborough Highway and on the Barcoo River. After refueling we turned wast to travel across the rich flood plains of the Barcoo River system. Like many rivers in this area it is not a single stream but a series of channels and water holes that only flow when there is significant rainfall.

Yellow daises adorn the Barcoo flood plains

Yellow daises adorn the Barcoo flood plains

The recent rains have done their work and what was barren drought afflicted earth is now brilliantly green, with grazing stock and expanses of wild flowers. We think the flowers are daises, some white but mostly yellow. It was a very pleasant drive along a good sealed road that was almost normal double carriage way width most of the way.

Weir on the Barcoo at Isisford

Weir on the Barcoo at Isisford

At Isisford we set up the van for the night in a council supplied area beside the weir that retains some of the water in the Barcoo. We slept to the gentle rumble of water cascading over the spillway as the recent rains make their way down stream to join with the Thompson River near Jundah to become the famous Cooper Creek.

Set up on the river bank as Isisford

Set up on the river bank as Isisford

Inside the crocodile museum at Isisford

Inside the crocodile museum at Isisford

During the afternoon we took a walk through the small town. We were surprised to see a modern coffee shop with alfresco tables. On closer scrutiny, we realised that it was part of museum for the display of fossils of a prehistoric crocodile found in the area some years ago. The Isisford croc, scientifically known as Isisfordia Duncania (the last part for the discoverer whose surname was Duncan). The Isisford croc is believed to be the ancestor of the 20 plus species of crocodile and alligator known today.

The road between Isisford and Ilfracombe is not as wide as that traveled the previous day

The road between Isisford and Ilfracombe is not as wide as that traveled the previous day

A jumbo jet at the Qantas Founders Museum

A jumbo jet at the Qantas Founders Museum

The Thompson is the river at Longreach. We arrived here yesterday. We have visited and blogged about Longreach before and have previously visited its main attractions. The Qantas museum is obvious as you drive into town. A jumbo jet parked by the road in a country town can hardly be missed. The Stockman’s Hall of Fame is almost directly opposite on the other side of the highway.

The Stockmans Hall of Fame

The Stockmans Hall of Fame

En suit units at the caravan park. A row of what?

En suit units at the caravan park. A row of what?

We are at the Longreach Tourist Park and have declared a lay day. That means that we have delayed moving on for a day. It was time for a breather after five days on the move.