Tag Archive | Charleville

Outback History

Western Queensland Road Trip #7 Charleville

The small town of Charleville, established when the first hotel was built in 1865, now has a population of around 3,500 people. Despite its isolated location in outback Queensland, Charleville has a rich history full of intriguing personalities and interesting places.

The building now known as the Charleville Historic House Museum has stood on Alfred Street since 1887. Originally the town’s first bank, it was also a boarding house before being purchased by the local Historical Society in the 1970s.

In the main room, the vault once used by the bank to store money now holds precious documents and records. The museum is full to the brim with dozens of items once used in everyday life, while outside is a collection of vehicles and machines from bygone times.

Two more relics of the past stand proudly at the Graham Andrews Parklands on the Mitchell Highway.

The Steiger Vortex Guns are two of six built in 1902 in Brisbane on the orders of the Government Meteorologist Clement Wragge. He’d heard about the guns being used in Austria to prevent hailstorms in wine growing areas. By firing ammunition into clouds, storms were dispersed. Vibrations in the clouds also caused rain to fall and Clement hoped similar guns might be used to break a long running drought in outback Queensland. He brought his guns to Charleville and, on 26 September 1902, ten shots from each cannon were fired into the sky. Sadly the experiment was a failure – no rain fell in Charleville that day.

The Charleville base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service is located further along the Mitchell Highway at the airport. Founded by the Reverend John Flynn, the Royal Flying Doctor Service has provided medical care to those living in outback Australia since 1928.

At the Visitor Centre, videos explain the history of the service and dramatic recordings bring to life the first hand experiences of patients and their families. Displays of historic medical equipment and radio technology are compared with 21st century methods of health care in the outback.

The hangar used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service dates from 1943. It was built as part of the occupation of Charleville Airport by the United States 45th Air Base Group, 43rd Bombardment Group, 63rd and 65th Bomb Squadrons and the 8th Material Squadron during the Second World War. From 1942 to 1943 more than 3,500 US servicemen lived at the top secret site, which was used to store and maintain American B-17 Bombers. Most of the structures built to cater for the servicemen are long gone, but the foundations of mess halls and shower blocks remain as evidence of the war time activities in this remote posting.

Many of those American servicemen would have enjoyed themselves at the Saturday night dances at the Hotel Corones. Built by Greek migrant Harry Corones in the 1920s, the hotel was famous for its luxurious interiors – marble floors, beautiful furniture and a grand staircase leading to the first floor where the accommodation included ensuite bathrooms, a rare luxury otherwise not seen outside of Brisbane.

An afternoon tour of the hotel tells the story of Harry’s rise from penniless immigrant to successful business man and visionary. Visitors can order a drink at the bar, once the biggest in the southern hemisphere, and climb the silky oak staircase to the rooms where dignitaries including Princess Alexandra, performer Gracie Fields and Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam have stayed. The tour ends in the dining room with an afternoon tea of scones, jam and cream.

A stroll along the Wadyanana Pathway on the banks of the Warrego River soon works off that delicious afternoon tea. Charleville is located on traditional Bidjara lands and the pathway, designed by local Bidjara residents, tells the story of Mundagudda, the Rainbow Serpent.

It’s also a timely reminder that this land was occupied long before that first hotel was built in 1865.

Join Jo for Monday Walks

Staring Into Space

Western Queensland Road Trip #6 Charleville

Have you ever stared into the night sky and wondered what’s out there, or imagined what life would be like as an astronaut? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more at the Charleville Cosmos Centre and Observatory.

Charleville is more than 750 km from the coast and, with a population of less than 3,500 and very little light pollution, it’s the perfect site for a space observatory. Appropriately located on Milky Way Road, the Cosmos Centre comprises an indoor exhibition and cafĂ© and an outdoor observatory, where telescopes operate during the day and at night.

Enter the Cosmos shuttle and you are instantly transported to the world of an astronaut, where eating, drinking and even using the bathroom are challenges in a weightless environment. Videos show footage of astronauts working in space, from the first moon landing to recent residents of the International Space Station.

During an astronomy talk, a Cosmos guide passes round pieces of a billion year old meteorite and explains how space junk falls back to Earth after passing through its atmosphere.

Quirky facts make the idea of living in outer space seem very attractive.

At the outdoor observatory a daytime visit starts with a talk about the sun, detailing fascinating facts about its small stature compared with more distant stars, its composition and life span.

The sliding roof of the observatory is pushed back just enough to give the solar telescope a clear view of the sun. It appears in the telescope’s eyepiece as a huge red ball, and what look like fine red hairs sticking out from the edge are massive solar flares. A tiny black dot in the middle is a sunspot ten times larger than Earth.

For more amazing celestial views, return to the Cosmos Centre after dark for an evening presentation. Guides with a passion for astronomy lead you on a journey through the Milky Way and beyond, using large Meade telescopes to see distant diamond star clusters and planets. Any constellations visible above the horizon are identified and described.

While the thought of stars being many light years distant is hard to comprehend, our nearest neighbour the Moon seems relatively close. Viewed through one of the powerful telescopes, the detail on the Moon’s surface is so clear you can almost imagine yourself as one of those astronauts you’ve learned about earlier in the day.

After spending a few hours at the Cosmos Centre, a visit to the International Space Station might well be added to your bucket list.