When the blue cloudless skies and sunshine, of the Northern Territory and northern South Australia, greet you every morning it is difficult to accept the dramatic weather change we are now experiencing. When we stopped at Terowie, South Australia, it was the first night we were not able to have our evening meal outside and under the stars. As the wind hustled we hunkered down, donning winter woollies and socks to cosy up in bed. This is an overnight stop and a crossroads in our road trip. It is where we pass from perpetually sunny days into the reality of winter as we head first south, then east and finally north towards home. The temperatures at home will be like those we are experiencing.
Terowie Railway Station
The first glance around the little ghost town I thought it quaint and the history plaques tell of a time it was a thriving community. However, the reality is quite different. From a busy town it has become a hazardous environment for the few who choose to remain here.
Terowie Railway Siding next to which we camped
The district surrounding Terowie is an extensive pastoral region but it hasn’t always been this way. The town was settled in the late 19th century as a transport hub for the pastoral settlement and the broad- gauge railway line from the south terminated in the town. When a narrow-gauge line was built between Terowie and Peterborough, Terowie became, in 1898, a town that hosted a busy break-of-gauge town with a population between 800 – 900, most of whom worked on the railway. During World War II it was an important staging camp, due to the break-of-gauge for the busy railway traffic heading north to Alice Springs. (For those like me who are wondering what break-of-gauge means: it is the point where two railway tracks of different sizes meet and whatever it was the trains were transporting were ‘transhipped’ from one train to the next to continue).
Grand old buildings, such as The Institute of Terowie, stand alongside shops that have long been closed and the main street is a reminder of the once thriving town with its blacksmith, newspaper office, hardware stores.
The town has been littered with broken asbestos pieces and has even been referred to as an ‘asbestos wasteland’. The South Australian government owns the land where significant quantities of asbestos have been dumped on the ground, open to the air with no signage fences or other warnings to stop people going near, nor stopping children playing in and around the extremely hazardous material.
The town also has a significant problem with water that contains “unacceptable levels of lead” in the tap water along with water tests commonly showing high levels of e-coli. The water, that is unfit for consumption, costs the locals four times more than the uncontaminated water in Adelaide. The water in Terowie is pumped through asbestos pipes from a local dam. (Wikipedia).
Farewell Terowie and thank you for the stopover at your railway siding. We carry our own water and we didn’t venture off the beaten track so we weren’t aware of the hidden history.