A Light From The Past

Saturday 2nd of September

Tamworth to Coonabarabran

Linda and I were packed and leaving our tourist park at Tamworth at around 10.30am, and headed into the town to visit the Power House Museum on the edge of the Tamworth CBD. The museum is only open on the weekend, so this was our only chance of seeing it. It is an electrical engineering museum, mainly devoted to electric lighting for reasons I will give in a moment. As a Professional Electrical Engineer myself, I was naturally very interested in visiting this museum. We found the museum easily enough and parked the ute nearby.

Background: Tamworth was the first ever Australian city to install electric street lighting in November 1888, using mainly the crude carbon filament lamps of that era, plus a few carbon arc-lamps at major areas within the town. The museum concentrates on this history of Tamworth having restored the two d.c. generators used to illuminate the town, including the two steam boilers and engines that ran the generators. They run the system on special occasions, though no longer lighting the streets of the town.

Since the place is an Electrical Engineering Museum, it also has a huge collection of preserved electrical apparatus from that era to the near present: The largest collection of electric lights in the world dating from 1888 to the present, domestic appliances, measuring equipment, radios and televisions, and other equipment of the electrical industry. They also have a small teaching laboratory where school kids are shown the basics of electrical energy and with a hands-on approach to teaching. It was an excellent museum run by volunteers and is well worth a visit if one is passing through Tamworth.

I could have spent more time there looking at things familiar to one of that profession, but we had to move on as we were travelling to Coonabarabran, 200 Km to the west. The countryside to the west of Tamworth is rolling plains supporting pastures, sheep, and some cattle. The green and gold of huge paddocks of canola could also be seen around the area as we travelled. At around 1pm we came to the next big(ish) town on the route, Gunnedah. Here we stopped for about 20 minutes for a coffee and a bite of lunch before Linda took over driving.

The Liverpool Plains Near Gunnedah

From Gunnedah onward the county becomes quite hilly as we left the Liverpool Plains and entered the foothills of the Warrumbungle Ranges. Luckily though, the road through these hills was basically straight, so we could maintain full highway speed all the way to Coonabarabran. As we left the plains and headed into the hills, the paddocks of the plains gave way to wooded hills, and for much of the way we were in light Australian Cyprus forests. The Australian native Cyprus tree is a member of the Cyprus Pine family and is one of the Australian trees that is resistant to attack by white ants. For this reason it makes an excellent building material where termites are a problem. The resin in the Cyprus pine wood is very fragrant and pleasant to smell. When sawing the wood the most beautiful perfume will assail your sense of smell. When burnt, the wood smoke is also highly and pleasantly scented.

The Cyprus Pine Forests

At around 2pm Linda and I finally arrived at Coonabarabran, and soon found our tourist park for the next two nights. We checked in and found a nice grassy site where we set up camp. Our friends from Caloundra, Keith and Jean, with whom we stayed over a week ago were expected in Coonabarabran tonight also on their way south, and we had arranged to meet them for dinner tonight. At around 4pm we had a message from Keith and Jean informing us of their arrival at a motel in town. I consequently phoned Keith and got the address of their motel, so Linda and I called in to see them for a while before returning to camp.

At 6pm we met Keith and Jean at a local pub where we had dinner together before us all returning to our respective abodes. We will not see Keith and Jean again until November when Keith, Linda, and I will be all riding together in a scheduled cycling event down in South Gippsland.