CHRISTMAS is coming and there's no better time to spend it in Townsville's great outdoors, albeit hot and humid. The Hervey Range area has much history to offer that's not too far off the beaten track. The aboriginal paintings at Turtle Rock, the old highway up the range (the graveyard & archaeological materials), and the old Greenvale Line (old drain pipes and train tunnels) forge an interesting place to explore. Other than Fred's Peak and Hervey Marbles, there are also a few other cliffs out this way that would make for some good climbs.
Here's an interactive map of the area:
Greenvale Railway Line
Construction of the Greenvale Railway Line started in the 1970s with the main purpose of transporting nickel from a mine at Greenvale to a smelter near Townsville. The mine ran out of ore in 1993 and the line was closed. Before the track was lifted, there was an attempt to have the section through the Hervey Range remain intact as a tourist line but that fell through and the rails were removed.
In August 2015, one of the tunnels collapsed due to landslide and the tunnels were closed due to safety reasons. Now no entry & falling rock hazard signs are at the entrance of the tunnels and the Hervey Range Quad Bike Tours have stopped operating in the area. It's not recommended to go through the train tunnels these days.
It's a perfect place to ride your mountain bike in the afternoon to sunset, shaded mountains. The best way to explore the tunnels was on a mountain bike; it was fast and efficient. The Townsville Rockwheelers use to ride these undulation single tracks through the deserted tunnels but no longer due to the safety concerns.
If you do find yourself tempted, take a torch to light your way through the tunnels.
The view is magical from on top of the train track and even better from the old drain pipes underneath in one place.
The old Hervey Range Road, now known as Page Road, is one of the few surviving examples of a roadway dating from early European settlement in the region and was the initial route inland from the port of Townsville to the hinterland areas.
Back in those early days, it took up to four days for a bullock team and wagon to travel from Townsville to the foot of the Hervey Range. They first crossed the Bohle and Alice Rivers, sleeping at Range Inn before ascending the bullock trail through to Thornton's Gap. Currently the journey from Townsville to Hervey Range takes around 20-30 minutes on the new highway.
If you go down the old road, have a look at some of the old stone pipes that go under it. There are now 1000 KVA powerlines that run down the range and part of the old highway is maintained by Ergon.
Since traveling up the range took several days, accommodation was needed by the travelers. At the bottom of the range was Range Inn and at the top was Eureka Hotel.
Eureka Hotel is a heritage-listed and was built at the summit of Thorntons Gap in 1865 and is now known as the Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms. Range Hotel is a heritage-listed archaeological site at old Hervey Range Road (now known as Page Road). The hotel was built in 1865 to 1866. Range Hotel closed in 1884 and its precise location is now a matter of speculation, although a bottle dump, thought to have been associated with the hotel has been located.
Archaeological surveys of the section of the old Hervey Range Road have the potential to reveal important information about early road construction techniques.
"During the construction of the Greenvale Railway Line in the 1970s, the camping reserve was used as a camp site for Thiess Brothers workers employed on the line." Range Hotel, Burial Ground and Camping Reserve - Queensland Government
The Range Hotel has the oldest head stone in Townsville region dating back to 1866. It's a testament to how hard to early pioneer life was. The graveyard is located near the bottom of the range about 150 metres south of the old pub and toll gate. The burial ground provided a resting place for travelers and livestock using the road between 1864 and the 1970s.
The graves are overgrown with lantana, guinea grass and spear grass. There are three ornate sandstone headstones of a type often found in North Queensland burials dating before 1880. The lettering on the headstones has weathered and one is lying horizontal on the ground. Each grave is encircled by white-painted stones.
The grave of Francis John Earl, a squatter who died of a fever, aged 25 on 12th March 1866 at the Range Hotel, is the oldest extant headstone in the region. The earliest headstone at Townsville's West End Cemetery dates to 1868, although burials occurred there before that date.
"A dense concentration of archaeological material is located south of the former Hervey Range Road and the power transmission lines on the high bank of a creek. Some material is eroding into the creek bed. The surface artefacts are visible in a 20m2 area, although low visibility due to vegetation cover obscures the full extent of the site. Artefacts include glass bottle fragments and patterned ceramic fragments datable to the 19th century. This may be associated with a potential second hotel situated at the site. An old softwood tree (possibly Terminalia sp.) situated in the middle of this area bears a rectangular-shaped blaze on its trunk, measuring 60 cm x 30 cm." Range Hotel, Burial Ground and Camping Reserve - Queensland Government
Native and introduced vegetation dominates the area, with Moreton Bay ash (Corymbia tesselaris), Poplar gum (Eucalyptus alba), Blue gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) and narrow leaved ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra) being the most common species. There is a thick cover of grasses in the woodland understorey, comprising Black spear grass (Heteropogon sp.) and kangaroo grass (Themeda spp.). Cocky apple (Planchonia careya) and native Gardenia (Kailarsenia ochreata) are common woodland species in the area. Introduced species include Lantana sp., mango trees (Mangifera sp.) and Agave sp.
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