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”
Four kilometres north of the highway, hidden by low scrub in a region with less than 260 mm of rain a year, is an earth tank capable of holding nearly 50 million litres of water.
In a meeting of man and nature, water falling on nearby granite outcrops is directed by stone walls into a metal aqueduct from where it flows into the tank.
It is believed that Charles Hunt was responsible for the construction of a well and a dam at the base of Karalee Rocks in the 1860s. With the discovery of gold this became a regular stopping place and was officially gazetted as a water reserve in 1888. At some stage a second well was sunk.
By 1895 some 600 teams and 4000 horses were regularly making the 4½ day trip between Southern Cross and Coolgardie. Most of them stopped here for water. At the same time construction of the railway was underway. One of the wells was deepened to accommodate both the teamsters and the railway construction workers but it was not enough.
Karalee Rocks offered an ideal water catchment area of some 71 hectares. A stone wall was erected around the base of the rocks, directing the run-off into an inlet channel. From there a steel aqueduct, or flume, carried the water to the tank. The sight of the massive aqueduct, seemingly so out of context in this environment, never fails to impress.
The railway did not follow the line of the old Southern Cross to Coolgardie road past Karalee Rocks but ran some 3.6 km to the south. Water therefore had to be pumped from the tank through a 3½ inch (88.9 mm) diameter pipe into the 25 000 gallon (113 450 litre) overhead tank located alongside the railway line. A caretaker and pumper, responsible for operating the steam pump, lived on site.
A small settlement, comprising of at least two hotels, a bakery and a store, grew up around the well and tank adjacent to the main road and telegraph line. It was later displaced by a new settlement which developed around the railway station to the south. In addition to the station there was an assortment of houses and barracks for the railway workers and, more importantly, a hotel. The last resident died in 1973. The station master’s house in which he had lived was demolished and the hotel, which had closed some years previously, burned down in 1975. The extent of the settlement can still be made out from the railway formations, including the platform, and the concrete pads and twisted corrugated iron of former buildings.
Click on any map section or place below to discover The Golden Pipeline.