THE MACDONNELL RANGES
OUR INHERITANCE IN THE
THE NEED OF RAILWAY
(By One Who Knows the Country.)
However much may have been writt in the press, and however much may ha been uttered in and out of Parliament,
either fully-fledged or aspiring politicians, to the importance of pushing on with c northern railway system as far as the cenl of the continent-the MacDonnell Ranges and however many sound reasons in fa\ of this important undertaking may ha been enunciated by each section of polifci< power, one and all have apparently ovi looked, or made light of, the most urge reason of the lot, viz., that if the prese system be not extended thus far all enan of the Transcontinental railway foUowi the route of the overland telegraph line w be lost for ever. To explain. Sooner later the South Australian Government the day, be it Conservative, Liberal,
Labor, will grow weary of.paymg off t annually increasing deficit of the Northe Territory, and will welcome eagerly t prospect of escaping the burden by bandi; over the control of the country to the Fee ral Government. When this does ta place the Transcontinental railway of t future will be one which will abandon o present system-terminating, as it does,
Oodnadatta- in the desert, and will co nect Pine Creek with the farthest-out poi: of the Queensland system, and so on to Sy ney, neglecting the MacDonnell Ranges i together. Therefore, the advocates of pies ing the continent of Australia from norl to south-the proper rouie for a true trau continental raüwav-along the overlai telegraph line, had better bestir themselv without further loss of time, and ensu that route being maintained by getting ti present system extended to the MacDonni Ranges. They can then afford to rest fro their labors and have no qualms as to ti subsequent continuation of the line direc for once arrived at the MacDonnell Range no log-rolling or .other form of political m ncenvring could prevent the next extensic being along the overland telegraph lin connecting, as originally intended, wil
As to ways and means of carrying out th first extension forthwith, even the greata enthusiast cannot point out any direi means of making such an undertaking ps from the outset, but the writer trusts tha by enlarging upon some of the possibilité of the vast areas which would be benefite by such a railway he may show several n direct benefits to both railway and Stat and much direct benefit to individuals.
A Boomed District.
It has been the misfortune of the Mai Donnell Ranges district-in area some 3( miles in length, east and west, by some ¡ miles in depth, north and south-to suff< from several pulverising forms of advertís ment. It has been a case of "save me froi my friends," Prior to 1888 this counti had been very little before the public, sav aa a fine healthy stock-raising céntr capable of producing a magnificent type t horseflesh, and as a district well populate with natives of täte finest physique to I met with among aboriginals in the who of Australia. But in 1888 it came very mac before the public, and attracted worldwic celebrity as the home of the no-calle "ruby." This gem was sufficiently attrai tive to enlist the most determined and in to-date invincible opposition of the tradi and nothing but mismanagement'of the ou put lost this district one of its greater chances. Following rapidly thereon cam the discoveries of alluvial gold, the workin of the reefs at Arltunga, and the erect» of the Government battery and cyanid works. At the same time huge deposits c mica were located, but again the innuenct of the "inner ring'' controlling that mark« blocked proceedingä. In 1893, certai wealthy pastoral lessees abandoned ¿ thei
horse and cattle stations in these latitude! and gave the district another kick froi which -it- did, not recover immediately. T what extent their pecuniary losses had bee the result of mismanagement or of unprV cedented low prices the writer need not her discuss. Then three years ago came the oui break of Winnecke's, and again theHMat Donnell Ranges district loomed large in th public eye. To dwell on the failure of Ihi last theatrical display would take up to much space. The opportunity of having th district systematically exploited was kule< by "booming," and the part played therei: «by Stock Exchange manipulators was n< more creditable to them than the wild state ments of self-deceiving enthusiasts. Th< moral to be deduced from the above failure (reputed only) is that any region which cai in the short space of 20 years have evolvei such a variety of "booms" must be one o no mean merit, and when one consider. that the foundations of all such "hysterics' are still there to be genuinely exploited oni cannot help but appreciate the present-daj survival of such a multitude of adherenti and such a variety of possibilities. Thf possibilities awaiting development by thii railway can best be treated under separat« headings-pastoral, mineral, agricultural
The country to be bridged betweer Oodnadatta and the MacDonnell Ranges i¡ essentially pastoral, though enthusiasts have waxed eloquent about gold, silver, and opa discoveries awaiting development! Gold has certainly been obtained in the Alge- buckina Creek, near Warrina, and in a pe- culiar formation on some table-topped ridges, contiguous thereto, but these finds can only be summed up as "indicatoins." At Oodnadatta, amid vast stony table lands, there is an artesian bore; \ some mües further on at Wire Creek is another; and yet again at Blood's Creek a third all permanent and plentiful supplies created where most needed by an enterprising Go- vernment, who have followed a wise policy of opening up a good stock route and bridging the previous long, dry stages, AH along the Stevenson, Macumba, and Alberga are numbers of fine water-holesj ranging from a six months' to an eighteen months' capacity. On the Dalhousie sta- tion are some of the finest natural springs in the interior, and on these stony table lands have been produced some of the finest horses that ever came to Adelaide to perform on the metropolitan racecourses. Through the Aringa country now produc- ing a grand stamp of horse-eagerly sought after by'Indian and army remount buyers -good water supplies are established, and evidence of greater supplies obtainable is abundant right up to Charlotte Waters, all tending to make the proper improvement of the country, which this railway must bisect, a far easier undertaking that ever faced the early sheep-farmens who ex- ploited country lying to the west and north-flrest of Port Augusta. It may be claimed that the improvement of such country means extensive capital. Nobody denies that, nor wishes to deny it, but the signs are not wanting that improved tenure, the gradual extension of vermin-proof fenc- ing, and a vast increase in prices for wool and stock, are enabling the occupation by sheep of country which hae hitherto sup- ported little else but cattle "and rabbits, The rabbit may yet prove a blessing in dis- guise, if he but make the closer settlement of country such/as this antecedent to hi3 own destruction-sound, healthy country, capable of carrying 50 sheep to the square, mile in all seasons, and better taken in hand and systematically, developed for thal purpose than overrun with rabbits and mildly stocked with cattle and horses. Of subterranean water supplies^ there is ap- parently no limit, and those oceans of salt water which were the curse of the pioneer elsewhere seem lacking. One remarkable instance to be quoted in confirmation is the Willow Well, sunk by the Government on the old Macumba station, which has a proved permanent supply of over 20,000 gal- lons per diem, seeing that in the drought of 1892 and 1S93 it carried upwards of 2,000 head of mixed grown cattle thereon.
At Charlotte Waters, authorities like Mr. Simpson Newland consider that the eountiy changes for the better. The rain- fall may be heavier, but a plethora of sand- hills detracts from greater prospects than carrying cattle, which the large supplies of water in the Goyder, Finke, and Hugh would otherwise justify. And co on, through fair cattle country to Owen Springs and within sight of the Macdonnell Ranges. As these ranges loom in sight it is easy to observe an all-round inpTovement in the landscape. No six-inch rainfall country this; nearer twelve inches, and this impress sion the Alice Springs records confirm. Through one of the few of Dame Nature's clefts in the range through which the Todd emerges, the traveller, following the main telegraph road, enters the promised land, of which the Alice Springs Telegraph Sta- tion form* an aE-important centre. East and west broken rugged country, with fine intervening plaina and valleys-in al] an area of 1,500 square miles, rich alluvial flats, well grassed and well supplied with, edible bush appeal to any lover of stock raising, be his hobby sheep, cattle, or horse. A great horse-raising centra, and
an ideal experimental ground for those huge
army remount depots which, m years to | come, the Imperial Government will be compelled to establish in Australia. Abso- lutely unimproved, this country has capa- bilities of obtaining water. storage by merely blocking up the gorges, in comparison with which few coun- tries can boast such inexpensive facilities. What can it carry? Anything. What does it carry? A few head of cattle and a few clinking good horses, with little else but a few camels. The rea- sons are want of enterprise and distance from market. 0ne owner has done some fencing. All have built a few yards and huts; of water improvements 'here is none: no effort has been made to help an all-generous nature. Place the same district within two hundred miles of Ade- laide and throw it open for closer settle- ment, and the rush to obtain a block would be «reater than the scramble for Yongala or Burnside. But peeing that this veritable Land of Goschen lies 400 miles beyond Oodnadatta, there it is, and there it will remain, utterly undeveloped and most inadequately settled, until the promised railway happens along.
Mineral Capabilities. i A district that can survive such shocks as that dealt to it by the boom of 1903, must have much to commend it. Undeter- red, the fittest who have survived the malign influences of that time are plugging away with admirable perseverance. Two very strong factors at the back of the mining industry here are that Geology Brown" has ever been partial thereto, and that the biggest and wealthiest London mining corporation, the Consolidated Gold- fields of South Africa, ivas prepared to test with a six-months' option .the much-dis- cussed reefs of the White Rangey-the stumbling-block between the principals, owner, and corporation being a hetero- geneous collection of mining agents, who surpassed all known records in loading and reloading prices from one to another. Thus was another genuine effort at exploiting this mineral district and attracting unlimit- ed capital lost for ever. At Winnecke's Ballarat experience has won the day to the extent of raising sufficient funds to treat the thousands of tons of scone available, and with this mill going here, and the old Government plant in full swing at Arl- tunga, the local battlers show a disposition to dispense with outside assistance, and "make a spoon or spoil a horn" for them- selves. Of reefs their name is legion-small and great, rich and poor, running away east along the Hale and beyond Star Creek to the full extent of these rugged ranges. The White Range alone forms an interest- ing problem, so interesting that the repre- sentative of the above wealthy corporation passed the opinion that not only was the formation most unique, but that the appear- ance of the stone itself was equally so, his best results by assay being obtained where he anticipated his worst and vice versa. The Government battery records gave the lie to the numerous inexperienced experts who followed the fashionable craze of condemning what they could not see and seeing what even the experienced local authorities condemned. "Frogs without feathers" became a counter-blast expression to" the "mountain of gold" theory! And the local claimholders were much relieved ,a_t the departure south of the .representa-
tives of foreign capital, _ especially as so many of them wanted a six-months' option for a deposit of £1 sterling, and that, too, bv a cheque on Adelaide or "Melbourne. Meanwhile the local mining man is work- ing out his own destiny, having tired of waiting for the railway to bring along his machinery and generally make the burden of life easier.
1 Agricultural Prospects.
AH that p. rich soil, an even rain- fall of 12 in., and irrigation can pro- duce belongs here. The soil is better and the rainfall better than one sees among the most favored slopes of the Flinders Ranges, and there is an almost unlimited and easily procurable supply of fresh water in the sandy river beds. Samples of the possible can be seen on the banks of the Toad, in the Chinese market garden, and the telegraph station garden, and "away miles farther to the west, on the banks of the Finke, m the gardens of the mission station. Samples only, and small at that; but there is no reason why all the slopes of the ranges and the valley of the Hale and every other valley and flat should not be producing every crop, every fruit, and every vegetable, and even every flower, that grows in profusion < on the plains beyond Adelaide. Yes; there are two reasons-the want of population and the want of a rail-
But little needs">!io be said on this, and that little much-perfection. The writer, who has travelled* much, considers thal there is only one climate to equal it-that of Herberton, in North Queensland-and none to surpass it. A fine, clear, healthy, invigorating atmosphere/ hot during the summer days, but cool at night;-a crisp, cold, bracing winter, which makes existence a delight, and man or woman to feel as fit as the proverbial fiddle-one feels at such altitudes that one could walk au dav, and
if a bushman ever feels that he can walk at all he must be much above himself. But the true test of any climate in any part of the world is its effect upon children, and here the local product is a walking adver- tisement. Tlie scenery is some of the best
in South Australia-bold, rugged, _ pic- turesque gorges and rough, mountainous country. The highest peaks lie to the west. We have nothing like them to at- tract visitors in any other part of this State, and a glimpse of them will be debarred as sight-seeing can only be hurriedly under- taken in this age of get-rich-quick-until the railway bridges the gulf.
Some may attempt to figure out the imme- diate revenue available from a regular trans- port of cattle and horses to the southern markets. This might be a consideration, but for this class of traffic alone no railway was ever worth building. It must look to something better-for settlement to follow the line, for population of an agricultural and mining character to establish itself in the country which it tape. The writer claims that all this will follow, and can be accomplished by connecting thatv 1,500 square miles with the present railway sys- tem. The railway must not be again pull'pd up at an angle-pole of the overland telegraph system, finishing a» now nowhere-but be brought right on to Alice Springs. Further, it is claimed that if this connection is not established soon the op- portunity will be lost for ever, not of that connection only, but of the more important one-the proper Transcontinental railway.