A project from the National Trust of WA
A self-guided drive trail between the Perth Hills and Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields. Go with the Flow. Follow the water to discover more about the audacious goldfields water supply scheme and Engineer CY O’Connor.
“Future generations, I am quite certain will think of us and bless us for our far seeing patriotism, and it will be said of us, as Isaiah said of old, ‘They made a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert”
A short drive east of Doodlakine on Great Eastern Highway you may see a sign for Baandee, a town that no longer exists. On a Heritage Trail that is predicated on the need to supply water from the coast to WA’s arid interior, it might seem ironic that this town was frequently flooded.
Baandee, founded in 1912, grew to have its own railway siding, agricultural hall, post office and farmer’s co-operative store. It was such an important small town in the Wheatbelt at the time that the first of the Country Women’s Association’s Rest Rooms (now known as CWA centres) was built here in 1928.
But Baandee was on the edge of a series of large salt water lakes in a low lying area and when they flooded the town could be cut off. In the 1953 floods the CWA’S Baandee branch was flooded out of its home for several months, the piano sitting up on 44 gallon oil drums.
By the 1970s, the town had been abandoned. Baandee’s decline started in the 1960s as motor vehicles made the larger rural centres of Kellerberrin and Merredin more accessible. As for the first Western Australian CWA restroom, it was relocated from Baandee to the site of the first Western Australian CWA Branch, at Mangowine, in Nungarin. Mangowine is a National Trust property and is worth a visit. You can follow a walk trail to learn about its role in the Gold Rush and the Adams family who lived there.
Depending on the time of year when you drive past and how much rain has fallen, the lakes may be full of water or nothing more than a layer of salt but this expansive network of salt lakes presented a problem to the engineers laying the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme pipeline.
Elsewhere the pipes were laid below ground but this was not possible in the corrosive environment of a salt lake. So they laid the pipes on a platform of wooden trestles. The pipes were then covered with corrugated iron fixed to a wooden frame, with the space inside packed with sawdust. Later when the pipeline was laid above ground, the wooden trestles were replaced by concrete and the covers removed. The original concrete supports rapidly decomposed and the pipe was relaid with stronger, more suitable concrete supports.
You can still see remains of the trestles and concrete supports in the lake bed on the opposite side of the road to the sign for the townsite i.e. on the same side of Great Eastern Highway as today’s above ground pipeline.
Click on any map section or place below to discover The Golden Pipeline.