Remains in the gold rush town of Gwalia. Picture: Tourism Western Australia
Remains in the gold rush town of Gwalia. Picture: Tourism Western Australia

Remote Australian ghost town comes back to life

AN AUSTRALIAN ghost town came back from the dead on Saturday, 55 years after it was abandoned in a hurry one afternoon.

Gwalia, in Western Australia's Goldfields region east of Perth, was a busy mining town from the 1890s until December 1963.

One hot afternoon after the whistle blew to signal the end of the working day at the Sons of Gwalia gold mine, the mine owners announced the mine's closure.

Hundreds of families packed what they could carry and left, abandoning their homes and most of their belongings, leaving tables set for dinner and eggs in the nests in the chookyards.

By the next morning, almost everyone had fled for Kalgoorlie 236km south, to try to be first there to get a new job.

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate more than $3 million in state, federal* and private funding to preserve the town, ensuring* its future as a time capsule of the Western Australian Gold Rush for visitors from around the world.

Terry Demasson was a teenager who worked as an apprentice* at the time. He told ABC Goldfields he remembers the day it became a ghost town.

"The next day when we came for work, there was no-one in Gwalia," he said.

At its peak, the population was more than 1100. Since it was deserted, Gwalia has had a population of around 40.

The grand State Hotel, Gwalia, from a time when more than 1100 people lived in the former goldmining town. Picture: Tourism Western Australia
The grand State Hotel, Gwalia, from a time when more than 1100 people lived in the former goldmining town. Picture: Tourism Western Australia

In the 1970s, a few hardworking locals tried to preserve as much of the town's history as they could, creating a museum and keeping buildings from falling down. One of the best preserved buildings is called Hoover House, the former mine manager's residence, designed by the future US President Herbert Hoover. It is now a B&B.

Hoover House, Gwalia, designed by former US President Herbert Hoover. Picture: supplied
Hoover House, Gwalia, designed by former US President Herbert Hoover. Picture: supplied

MORE AUSTRALIAN GHOST TOWNS

JOADJA, NSW

This mining town in the Southern Highlands thrived from 1870-1911 with 1200 residents, mostly immigrants from Scotland. When the local mine closed, the town declined*. There's been a story told for years that at least two ghosts haunt the area.

COOK, South Australia

This railway town was built in the middle of nowhere on the Nullarbor in 1917 as a stop on the Trans-Australian Railway. Its residents worked to maintain the train tracks. There was once 50 people here but now there are four.

SILVERTON, New South Wales

This was a thriving* silver mining town of 3000 people in far west NSW, 30km from Broken Hill. Many miners left in the 1890s to work in the Broken Hill mines and took their houses with them. Fewer than 50 people live there now, though many tourists visit and the remaining buildings and surrounds have featured in many movies.

The Silverton Hotel near Broken Hill has been home base for more than 200 movies which have been filmed in the area. Picture: supplied
The Silverton Hotel near Broken Hill has been home base for more than 200 movies which have been filmed in the area. Picture: supplied

FARINA, South Australia

At its peak 600 people lived in this farming and railway town that once serviced the Ghan Railway. In 1909, a 1143kg iron meteorite was discovered in the area. The mine nearby closed in 1927 and the railway line was moved away. The town was deserted. It is now being restored by the South Australian government.

PORT ESSINGTON, Northern Territory

All that remains of this early attempt at a British settlement is a series of ruins that are very difficult to reach. Disease, poor living conditions and a cyclone (in 1830) hit the area hard and it was deserted from 1849.

A sketch from 1846 of Port Essington, also called New Victoria, published in an old French atlas called Pittoresque.
A sketch from 1846 of Port Essington, also called New Victoria, published in an old French atlas called Pittoresque.

WALHALLA, Victoria

Once upon a time, 2500 people called the mountainous mining town of Walhalla home. Today, it's frozen in time and has less than 20 permanent residents, though its tourism industry is solid due to the many holiday homes in the area and interesting heritage buildings.

Aerial view of Walhalla, a remote former mining town. Picture: Destination Gippsland
Aerial view of Walhalla, a remote former mining town. Picture: Destination Gippsland

MARY KATHLEEN, Queensland

Though it was first established in the 1860s, the town boomed when a uranium mine was opened in the 1950s. When the mine was shut in 1982 most of the homes of Mary Kathleen's former residents (which amounted to nearly 1000 by 1961) were sold or removed.


The Vikings know how to make the most of winter fashion

The Vikings know how to make the most of winter fashion

There's not much time to indulge in some winter fashion in Lismore

Here's to the next 25 years of light and friendship

Here's to the next 25 years of light and friendship

Lismore attracts thousands to its lantern and friendship festival

25th Lantern Parade is show of pride for city of Lismore

25th Lantern Parade is show of pride for city of Lismore

Lantern Parade is bigger and better than ever