Interrupted Journey – North Queensland – 2022 – Part 4

Jumbo Jets & Old Machines

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.

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.