Motoring history - day three
The Victorian township of Barnawartha
The gold-rush town of Chiltern
Carriers Arms Hotel, Springhurst
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Wangaratta
Bushranger Ned Kelly guards Glenrowan
Winton Motor Raceway, Winton
Regional Art Gallery, Benalla
Baddaginnie bypassed by Hume Freeway
Cheery welcome to Violet Town
Kelly Gang held up the bank at Euroa
White Hart Hotel, Longwood
Locksley was once known as Burnt Creek
Historic Harvest Home Hotel, Avenel
Bustling township of Seymour
Preserved Mechanics Institute, Tallarook
Broadford sits on the old Hume Highway
Old Post Office, Kilmore
Melbourne satellite town of Wallan
Ned Kelly's birthplace, Beveridge
The finish: GPO, Melbourne
Albury-Wodonga to Melbourne
Distance: 306 kilometres (Old Hume Highway and Hume Freeway)
Time: 4 hours 5 minutes including photo shoots
When Thomson and Holmes passed through Barnawartha it would have looked similar to today, but look beyond this bypassed town’s main street comprising a post office, hotel, general store, hall and community centre, and you will find the town is home to dozens of families who have escaped the city life. Many people work in Albury-Wodonga, at the nearby logic centre, Northern Victoria Livestock Exchange, or at the surrounding wineries. The town has a public school and a few historic buildings.
Also bypassed is Chiltern, a former gold-rush town whose many shops and public buildings are classified by the National Trust. Several movies have been shot using the town’s well-preserved Victorian-era streetscapes, including Walt Disney's 'Ride a Wild Pony', while town notables include authors Ethel (Henry Handel) Richardson and Mary Gaunt, 18th Australian Prime Minister John McEwen, and political journalist Barrie Cassidy. Thomson and Holmes would not feel out of place there today.
A general store/post office, public school, old butter factory, the long-closed Carriers Arms Hotel, a railway station, grain silos and a dozen or so houses is all that remains of this once proud little village that sat on the old Hume Highway. Like the towns before it, the freeway killed it off.
When Thomson and Holmes overnighted at Wangaratta, it would have been a far different place than it is today. Known as ‘the cathedral city’ (it was proclaimed a city in 1959), its notable buildings include Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral and its Cathedral Close, St Patrick’s Catholic Church, and its art deco courthouse. The city sits at the junction of the Ovens and King Rivers and is a tourist gateway to the Victorian Alps, Milawa Gourmet Region and the King Valley Wine Region. Wangaratta offers a variety of retail, education, professional services and accommodation options, while things to do include cycling, major events, arts and culture and food, wine and craft beer experiences.
It is hard to imagine that just 20 years before Thomson and Holmes trundled through Glenrowan in their ‘car’, bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang were involved in a shootout with police, resulting in Kelly being captured and his gang killed. The town thrives on this piece of Australian history where you can visit the siege site and visit various tourist attractions, including a large statue of Kelly in his armour.
Like Bathurst, where Thomson and Holmes began their overland trek to Melbourne, it is ironical that Winton also plays a major role in Australian motorsport, with Winton Motor Raceway hosting a round of the Supercars as well as several other national and state titles and a very successful annual historic race meeting. Apart from some farm houses, a primary school and a dilapidated roadhouse, there is not much else at Winton.
Located at the junction of the Hume Freeway and Midland Highway, the Rural City of Benalla is home to a renowned art gallery, street art, silo art, a gliding centre, cafes, bakeries and fine eateries. It is the northern gateway to Mount Buller and is the birthplace of notables, surgeon Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop, fashion designer Prue Acton, and Michael Savage, a New Zealand Prime Minister. Thomson and Holmes overnighted in the then small town.
In 1900 Baddaginnie boasted a hotel, a butter factory, a railway station, a state school, sawmill, a general store and a church. Today, almost nothing thanks to it being bypassed. The hall and a CFA station are the only public buildings in the village.
Located on Honeysuckle Creek and with streets named after flowers, Violet Town is the first inland surveyed town in Victoria. It was bypassed in 1980 but the town thrives thanks to its strong community and a well-patronised market held on the second Saturday of each month. It is well-known as the site of the Southern Aurora train crash in 1969 that killed nine people.
Bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang came to Euroa in 1878 and robbed its National Bank before scampering back to their hideout in the rugged Strathbogie Ranges which lie to the town’s south. Euroa, which sits on the banks of the Seven Creeks, is half-way between Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga and is a major retail, education and commercial hub for surrounding towns and villages.
The town was bypassed in 1992 but had little effect. It is located on the main North-East railway and its railway station is served daily by V/Line passenger services. Euroa is the only town in the Commonwealth to have three citizens granted the Victoria Cross. The town's VC Memorial Park includes bronze statues of the recipients - Leslie Maygar, Fred Tubb, and Alex Burton.
There are two Longwoods, old Longwood and new Longwood, each being sited either side of the Hume Freeway. There is not much in either village, but Thomson and Holmes overnighted in the new town and most likely stayed at the White Hart Hotel which operates to this day. Longwood is the birthplace of Victoria Cross recipient, Major Frederick Tubb, who died at Ypres, Belgium, in World War 1.
When Thomson and Holmes motored through where the village of Locksley is today it was known as Burnt Creek. There are only a few buildings in the town, with the railway station and school having closed in the 1970s, followed by the village's only hotel. The town takes its name from Tennyson's Poem 'Locksley Hall'.
Thomson and Holmes passed through Avenel at 10.12am, hoping to reach Melbourne by nightfall, but that was not to be. Had they at least stopped they would have learnt that the town was established 40 years earlier and that one Ned Kelly saved a boy from drowning in a local creek. Although bypassed, the town is popular with those taking a break on their drive north or south on the freeway. The town has some fine old buildings, a railway station and a popular horse trials course.
Another small village on the old Hume Highway, Mangalore is home to a handful of houses, a closed hotel, and not much else. Close by is Mangalore Airport which was established in 1939 for training Royal Australian Air Force pilots. On October 31, 1954, the first Vickers Viscount aircraft delivered to Australia crashed on take-off on a training flight only days after its arrival in the country, killing three of the seven people on board.
No matter that the historic railway town of Seymour was also bypassed (in 1982) as it remains a busy and vibrant centre servicing major agricultural industries as well as the nearby military base of Puckapunyal. It remains an important rail hub for the Goulburn Valley and Melbourne-Sydney railway and boasts a railway heritage centre, Army museums and Army training and logistic centres, a Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk and an Australian Lighthorse Memorial Park. The town hosts the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo and Tastes of the Goulburn food and wine festival.
Another bypassed town, Tallarook is the start of the Great Victorian Rail Trail which follows a disused branch line from Tallarook to Mansfield. The town holds a farmers’ market on the first Sunday of the month and the Tallarook State Forest is the perfect spot for those wanting to enjoy many outdoor recreational activities. The town has a number of well-preserved buildings and a busy general store/post office.
Being just 73-kilometres north of Melbourne, Broadford has become a satellite of the state capital, with many workers calling the town home but commuting to the city or its outer north eastern suburbs by car or train for work. The town, which sits on the old Hume Highway, dates to 1852 and these days it is home to a paper mill, and the Victorian State Motorcycle Complex. Its vibrant shopping centre is a hive of activity on any given day. Holmes said in his diary that Broadford 'had a splendid stretch of metalled roads', suggesting that even back then it was a 'moneyed town'. Broadford is also home to the Allen's Confectionery factory.
Had Thomson and Holmes broken down in Kilmore today as they did in 1900, they would have no trouble in finding help as the busy town boasts many new and used car yards, service stations and mechanical repair businesses. Kilmore, which is the oldest inland town in Victoria, sits at the junction of the old Hume and Northern Highways and many of its fine old buildings are made of bluestone. These include the hospital, old courthouse, former post office, gaol, and some of its churches.
At night from atop Pretty Sally hill which rises above Wallan, you can clearly see the lights of Melbourne. The city’s outer north eastern suburbs have slowly crept towards the town which many families moved to escape the sprawl. It is now an easy commute to the city by car or train. The town’s services now include a plaza, supermarkets, bakeries, eateries, and fine education, sporting and professional services.
Forty-five years before Thomson and Holmes came a calling, one Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly, murderous bushranger, was born a few streets from the Hunters Tryst Inn where they more than likely overnighted, given there is not much more in the town to this day. The Kelly house has been restored as apart from being Ned's birthplace, historians have found the house is significant because its construction is similar to a traditional Irish cottage, while other elements, such as bush poles, roof detailing, shingles, guttering and a lack of eaves make it unique. From atop Mount Fraser, an extinct volcano overlooking the town, explorers Hume and Hovell sighted Port Phillip on their overland journey south from Lake George in New South Wales in 1824.
It took Thomson and Holmes two-and-a-half-hours to travel from Beveridge to Coburg, the trip today being under half that – on a good traffic day. Coburg in 1900 was an outer north-eastern Melbourne suburb but today the suburbs have almost reached Beveridge.
After 56 hours and 36 minutes actual riding time, Thomson and Holmes arrived at Melbourne GPO at 12.23pm on May 9.
We also finished our journey at the GPO on the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets but our trip from Coburg took three-quarters of an hour owing to snarling city traffic.
The intrepid duo did not have traffic lights, the number of trams, or 40km/h speed restrictions on part of Sydney Road through Coburg and Brunswick as there are today.
It took us four hours and five minutes to complete our journey using both the Hume Freeway and those parts of the Old Hume Highway that are still navigable.
Using just the Hume Freeway, and on a good day, the trip can be done non-stop in three hours and 20-minutes.
We did, however, stop in every village, town and city for photographs. Thomson and Holmes were greeted at the Brunswick tram terminus by directors of the Thomson Steam Car syndicate and a number of friends, some of whom followed the pair to the GPO.
We, on the other hand, were greeted by no-one after pulling up at the traffic lights outside the Melbourne GPO.