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23 August 1872 Beltana

 23 August 1872 Beltana

On 23 August 1872 two men sat in a tin hut amid the saltbush at Beltana waiting for a sound. Just after 1 pm they were rewarded by the chattering of the telegraph and the Beltana Telegraph and Repeater Station, part of the new Overland line was open. The first person to travel this area was Edward John Eyre who was not impressed with what he saw, but later the pastoralists came and it was Thomas Elder who held the Beltana run. With the coming of the Overland Telegraph line Beltana station, which had been a resting place for travellers of all kinds, became the centre for Charles Todd’s crew and later the site of a repeater station. In 1873 the town was surveyed and people began to move there. The railway reached the town in 1881. Between 1875 and 1920 Beltana was a thriving little town of up to 500 people but with the closure of mining ventures in the area, the drought of the 1920s and the depression in the 1930s, it began to decline. The final blows came in 1956 when the standard gauge railway was built to the west and much later, in 1983, when the new bitumen road was also sited to the west, leaving the town virtually isolated. It came to life for a day when, as part of Australia’s Bi-centennial celebrations, a race day followed by ‘Opera in the Outback’ with Dame Kiri te Kanawa was held on 3 September 1988 and some 10,000 people came to the ‘ghost’ town.

Graham Aird and Nic Klaassen, Beltana The Town That Will Not Die, 1984, pp.7-17.

Tags: Beltana, Overland Telegraph