Friday, 28 July 2017

Heyday and Changing Fortunes

Beltana was surveyed and gazetted as a town in 1873, but early development was slow.   The coming of the railway in 1881 boosted interest and activity. The school, Police Station, Railway Station, businesses and a number of small houses appeared in the town around this time.   Blacksmiths, butchers, bakers, shopkeepers, saddlers, all found customers, while men working on the nearby Beltana Run often had small houses in Beltana to come home to on evenings or weekends.  

In 1881 there were 70 occupied dwellings and a population of almost 400.   The next twenty five years saw Beltana at its busiest.   During these years mining activity was at its height. The town supported a brewery, two hotels, post and telegraph office, school, police station, doctor, court-house, church, baker, butcher, blacksmith, hospital, railway station, cricket team, race meetings, a saddle maker, carriage maker, mining exchange, several shops and, at times, as many as 500 people.

During and between the two World Wars, the population dropped to about half of that at the turn of the century.   There was still sufficient station work, mining activity and transport related interests to supply enough work for the town to remain viable, but only just.

Just as mining and railways had been largely responsible for the growth of Beltana, these two areas also featured in its demise.   The discovery of Leigh Creek coal, its exploration and the development of a town to service the mine and mining families, put on Beltana's doorstep a much bigger town needing police, hospital, school and business activities.   It also meant that a better, stronger and faster rail link to Pt Augusta was needed.   In the 1950s and 60s Beltana lost its railway, its hospital, its Police Officer, school and businesses.  

Chimneys
All that remains of a number of the original houses in the town are the stone chimneys