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Wham! Bam! Slick tourist operations churn caravans into cash, shop attendants near the end of their three month stint talk easily with locals and tourists alike. Just out of town lies some of Australia’s most fascinating architectural heritage and one of Australia’s great multicultural stories. Crucially located at the pivot point between the Oodnadatta and Birdsville tracks Marree’s recent history is determined by ground water, is rail dominated and was the break-of-gauge station (junction of the narrow and standard gauge railway) for The Ghan for almost 100 years. However long before this, Marree was a pivotal point for the Arabunna people, the permanent springs being crucial to the north-south trade route through the channel country.
Rail infrastructure resourced, recycled and re-used improving function and amenity. Mapped into ‘Rail Estate’, what does architecture made of bits from a place look like?
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A walking tour of Marree's "Rail-estate", delve into how the town has re-built from it's history. CLICK ON THE IMAGE to get a closer look at our exhibition.
• Traditional owners = Arabunna people
• Stony Plains biogeographic region
• Mean annual temps; H - 28.8 L - 13.3
• Mean annual rainfall; 127mm
• Population; 101
• Elevation 49 m
• The first mosque in Australia was built here in 1884 by the ‘afghan' cameleers
• Afghan cameleers would take 6 weeks to walk from the rail head at Marree to deliver beer to birdsville!
• The rail line through Marree used to physically segregate the town between black/afghan/chinese on the north and white on the south
At the junction of the Birdsville and Oodnadatta tracks, the town has long been a watering point even before European settlement. Perhaps it is this abundance of water that makes the soil more brown than red…
We saw plenty of these mighty birds on our ride. Most humourously they would be walking along the road, we would come up to them, absolute chaos ensued whilst they panicked and ran! However they would run straight down the road, where after they had calmed down we would inevitably catch up with them and the process would start again.
A Dogspike is the common name for the fixings that hold together a railroad. They come in a variety of shapes but this one is the most outlandish and pleasing.
The memory of the Ghan railway is everywhere in Marree. Seen here as a seat near the sports oval.
This shed has been re-purposed from the old sheds used by the railroad whilst transferring supplies from the standard gauge to narrow gauge.
Even the old flat bed carriages are used as a pedestrian bridge.
Not sure the effectiveness of this as pavers but the history of the railway is literally at your feet.
With contemporary tensions in Australia around Muslim populations it is worth noting that Australia’s first mosque was built in Marree in 1884. The pool you can see is used for washing before prayer. The afghan cameleers who used built and used this mosque were crucial in opening up the inland of Australia to colonisation. The Muslim history in Australia is built on sweat, thirst and hard work.
We had one brave lady come on our walking tour of Marree…oh and Owen’s Dad who declined to be in the photo. Sometimes exhibitions are not a roaring success.
These cottages made for railway repair workers are dotted along the old Ghan line. It is said that it was hard, lonely work but often a great job to take up if you were trying to law low for a while.
There is something magical about a ruinous window with a view
There are amazing pieces of infrastructure left scattering the countryside. A perfect gradient for a north south bike/walking track perhaps?