Gladstone Gaol, Bartagunyah and Booleroo Steam and Traction Museum

After visiting Martindale Hall, we continued northwards stopping to visit the Gladstone Goal museum.   This was the largest gaol in South Australia, was built between 1879 and 1881 and had a very attractive website, so it looked like it could be an interesting place to visit. However once we arrived we soon realised that this was a rather weird museum.   It was a more like a combination of museum, theme park and budget accommodation, but was doing neither very well.

From the perspective of a museum it had rather limited information and because it was also set-up for ghost tours, and offered the chance to sleep in a prison cell, one was never quite sure what was original vs. what was set-up.   It was also occasionally used by some organisation that held medieval banquets, so there was also a scattering of weird costumes, swords and paraphernalia of various styles going back to Roman times.

The gaol was completed in 1881 and was used as a prison until world war 2 when it served as an interment camp, military detention barracks, then once again as a prison until 1975.

gladstone gaol sign

Laundry and 1970’s style cell.

brian brown film
The Gladstone Goal was used as a film set for the 1979 film “Stir” starring a young Bryan Brown
Ghost in gladstone gaol
As mentioned above, ghost tours are available and Gladstone Gaol is reputed to be haunted.   Some rather interesting group of paranormal pundits managed to scare themselves (link) and I even managed to get this photo as a ghost floated by in one of the cell blocks.

Anyway, it was an impressive building for its age and ghosts aside, it certainly left us with the feeling that we needed to be cheered up, so a nice locally made ice-cream in the nearby town on Laura was in order, before proceeding to our overnight spot – up on a hilltop on a sheep-station cross wine farm called Bartagunyah just south of Melrose.

The views from our camp spot at Bartagunyah – the southern Willochra plains to the east and grape vines to the north.

Bartagunyah camp site

We were briefly joined by this very energetic and friendly goat on our walk the following morning until it suddenly decided it was bored with us and bounded off.

After a leisurely morning at Bartagunyah we visited the Steam and Traction Preservation Society Museum at the curiously named town of Booleroo Centre.    This is a historic collection of mostly tractors, old steam powered vehicles as well as some other farming equipment like windmills, ploughs and wheat cropping machines.   The collection is owned and maintained by a group of enthusiasts, some living as far afield as Melbourne.  Basically if you like restoring old machines, this gives you a place to house your stuff, a workshop and place to meet like minded people.   It’s scale was impressive being housed in two large sheds.    As a museum it is open by appointment and we were shown around by a local volunteer.

Booleroo Steam and Traction Preservation Society collection.

An Australian made “Cardwell Vale” truck dating back to 1911.

The Fordson “widow maker” tractor.  Notorious for rearing up and flipping over when the towed implement caught on a rock or stump.

Old tractor seats

LHS above: Ship tank lids – an early version of the container.  The 4 foot cube box could be loaded with stuff then sealed with the lid and a cork bung that went in the middle hole.   RHS:  an odd looking elephant ear wind vane design – I’m not sure what it aimed to achieve, but based on how many one see’s in the countryside, I guess the patent owner never became a billionaire.

1876 steam engine and steve Booleroo museum
An 1870s farm steam engine.  Although it had powered wheels, it was normally used as a stationary engine at one end of the field and pulled implements with the cable drum in the centre.


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