TRANSPORT TO THE OUTBACK


The first "commercial traffic" in the Murchison comprised small groups of Aborigines on foot. For thousands of years they mined blood-red ochre from deposits at Wilgie Mia, forty miles north-west of Cue.

An aboriginal legend says in the dream-time a mighty hunter speared a giant kangaroo at Wilgie Mia and its blood gushed out over the rocks to form the ochre deposits. Modern geologists say the ochre is an oxide derived from iron ore in the Weld Range.

The first fossickers in the Murchison used a string of packhorses. Police and wardens came to the new goldfield in their own buggies. The pastoralists brought wagons pulled by camels, horses or donkeys.

By 1894 there were 400 teams carting from Mullewa to Murchison centres. They were mainly horses, with some donkeys and a few bullocks. Horse teams brought in the first mining machinery. The first camels plodded in about mid-1892, reducing freight rates to $60 a ton from Geraldton to Nannine.

Cobb & Co. coaches started in July 1892 from Geraldton to Nannine, and in May 1895 Jules Gascard obtained the twice weekly mail contract between Mullewa and Cue, via Mount Magnet, at $10,000 a year. Then came the train and the bicycle.

The Midland-Geraldton railway was completed in November 1894. By April 1897 it was at Cue. It reached Meekatharra in August 1910. Construction of the Geraldton-Nannine telegraph line was supervised by a contractor on the Murchison's first bicycle.

At times he pedalled more than 120 miles a day—supervising construction proceeding from both ends. His pneumatic tyres were often punctured by double-gee.

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