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Aramac, QLD

Small rural service centre in outback Queensland

Aramac is one of those tiny rural settlements in central Queensland which has outlived its original purpose as a vibrant service centre for the surrounding properties. It now stands on the vast western plains of Queensland supporting the surrounding pastoral industries and sustaining the few people who continue to live in this hot, dry and unforgiving environment.

Location

Aramac is located 1138 km north-west from Brisbane, 646 km west of Rockhampton and 67 km north of Barcaldine.

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Origin of Name

The town's name is almost a joke. An early explorer, William Landsborough, passed through the area in 1859 and gave the name Aramac Creek to a nearby watercourse. He later explained: 'The Aramac, as many wrong reasons for the name have been given, I may say here I named, in honour of the late Sir R. R. Mackenzie, 'Ar-Ar-Mac', who was so well known in Queensland, and who had acted in a very friendly way to me'. 

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Things to See and Do

Aramac Tramway Museum
One of the town's few tourist attractions, the Aramac Tramway Museum, is a display of rolling stock located in the tramway's Goods Shed on the southern side of town. It is open for inspection from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. each day and, in the unlikely event of it being locked, a key is obtainable from the Shire Council Offices.
The building is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register which notes that: "The principal elements of the Tramway Museum are the goods shed, six other buildings, other structures and relics of the Tramway, rolling stock, the local history collection housed in the goods shed, and machinery and vehicles in the open air.
"The most substantial relic of the tramway is the goods shed, built at the time the line opened in 1913, and used for the entire period it operated. The goods shed is rectangular in plan, about 30 metres long and 10 metres wide. It is timber-framed with a corrugated iron roof, and clad with chamferboards externally. The roof is unlined, and there is an air gap of about 20 centimetres between the roof and the tops of the side walls. The interior walls have been lined with opened-out wool bales, displaying the station brands of the Aramac district that once travelled on the tramway ... On the railway side of the goods shed, a concrete platform four metres wide runs the entire length of the building, and extends 10 metres further at the southern end.
"The interior of the goods shed is dominated by the railmotor 'Aunt Emma', which is positioned in a cage of steel pipe and wire mesh running down the central axis of the building. As the cage is about three metres wide and 24 metres long, it leaves little space inside the building. Around the railmotor cage is a corridor a little more than a metre wide, fenced on both sides. Historical material is displayed between the fenced corridor and the walls of the goods shed.
"At the northern end of the goods shed, an area three metres wide running the width of the building has been set up as the Tramway Office, with a safe, desks and cupboards, some from the goods shed and some removed from the demolished railway station. Most of the collection in this area is directly relevant to the tramway: there are original tickets, waybills, reports. rubber stamps, and some important memorabilia preserved from the tramway closure, including a handwritten feltpen notice advising: "Due to the closure of this tramway all goods and parcels will have to be collected from goods shed, office and railway wagons before 4.00 pm Wednesday 31-12-75". On the wall is a photocopy of the cheque from the Australian Sugar Producers Association for £262,400, dated 10 June 1976. There are some historic photographs of the tramway on display, and two interpretation signs, one about the closure and one about 'Aunt Emma'. There are also rate assessment books and other Council documents on display in this area." For more details check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601172.

War Memorial
Located in Lodge Street, the Aramac War Memorial dates from 1924 and is, according to the Queensland Heritage Register "extravagant in scale and design in comparison to the size of the town. It is a dominant landmark in the area and is an uncommon example of a memorial still situated in its original and intact setting." It was designed and built by F M Allen, a monumental masonry firm, and cost £700 which was mostly raised by local young women. "The stone memorial honours the 132 local men who served in the First World War, including fifteen dead and eleven wounded." There is an excellent detailed analysis of the importance of the monument at https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600008.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Lake Galilee
Lake Galilee is located 93 km north-east of the town. Lake Galilee is a saltwater lake which covers about 15,000 ha and is 40 km long. It is the only wetlands area in central Queensland and consequently is a wildlife sanctuary which is the home of a large waterfowl population. There is a useful brochure which can be downloaded at http://www.barcaldinerc.qld.gov.au/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=589df06e-4c19-4e13-baa9-559674f73325&groupId=311418.

Lake Dunn
Located 68 km north east of Aramac is Lake Dunn, known to the locals as 'The Lake'. It is a freshwater lake which is is 3.21 km long and 1.6 km wide. It was named after James Dunn, who was a head stockman at Mt Cornish Station, who discovered it when he was looking for a mob of cattle. The lake is popular with locals who use it for swimming, water-skiing, windsurfing, sailing, camping and for picnics. Lake Dunn is home to over 80 different species of birds. It is also an excellent fishing spot for Golden Perch (yellow belly) and Black Bream. The facilities include waterfront holiday huts, tennis courts, an airstrip, and a camping ground with power, toilets and hot and cold showers. The foreshores have good stands of red river gums and coolibahs. For Cabin hire, tel: (07) 4651 0565. 

Remembering Harry Redford and the White Bull
In Queensland in the 1870s bushcraft, courage and delivering a bloody nose to the owners (“toffs”) of the new, and huge, cattle stations was seen as an heroic and noble endeavour worthy of admiration, not censure. 
Harry Redford who, less than a decade after Burke and Wills had so comprehensively lost their way in western Queensland, stole 100 bullocks, 100 cows, 100 heifers, 100 steers and one white bull from Bowen Downs Station and drove them down the Cooper Creek and into South Australia. 
It was an extraordinary achievement which Rolf Boldrewood later used as the basis for his novel Robbery Under Arms and the main character Captain Starlight. In old age people used to refer to Redford as “Captain Starlight”.
The only problem with the achievement was that none of the cattle belonged to Redford. While working on Bowen Downs this enterprising son of a convict (he was born near the Hawkesbury River in 1842 and was a huge man who stood over two metres tall) realised that Bowen Downs, which was running around 70,000 head on 1.75 million acres, really wouldn't miss 401 cattle. 
His only mistake was the white bull. He needed it as the leader but it was very distinctive and easily identifiable. 
Redford drove the cattle 1300 km through marginal desert country down the Cooper Creek to the Blanche Water station in northern South Australia where he sold them for £5000. 
However the disappearance of the white bull was noted and in February 1871 Redford was arrested and brought back to Roma to be tried. 
From the outset the trial was more entertainment than serious investigation. Locals, captivated by Redford's consummate bushcraft and daring, packed the courtroom. The white bull stood in a yard outside the courthouse. Forty-one of the forty-eight people called as possible jurors were dismissed because they were prejudiced. The white bull took part in a bovine line up with twenty other bulls and was immediately identified by its owner. 
The evidence against Redford was overwhelming. The defence offered no witnesses and complained that Redford had been gaoled without trial. The jury retired for an hour and then delivered their verdict. 
The court transcript reads: 
Judge: What is your verdict? 
Foreman of the Jury: We find the prisoner 'Not Guilty'. 
Judge: What? 
Foreman of the Jury: Not guilty. 
Judge: I thank God, gentlemen, that the verdict is yours, not mine! 
After his acquittal Redford headed into northern Australia where, by the 1880s, he was managing the famous Brunette Downs station.
As for Roma, well the verdict so outraged the legal establishment that it is effectively banned the town from holding "trials by jury" because it was felt that the locals could not be trusted to punish criminals they admired. 
On 5 April, 1873 the governor of Queensland ordered that "the criminal jurisdiction of the District Court at Roma be withdrawn for two years". 
A sculpture of the famous White Bull now stands on Gordon Street; the local sports centre is now named the Harry Redford Community and Sporting Centre; and each year the Harry Redford Cattle Drive starts in Aramac and makes its way down into South Australia.

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History

* Little is known about the area's original inhabitants although they were probably members of the Iningai language group.

* The area was first explored by Europeans and settled in the 1850s. 

* The town was named after Robert Ramsay Mackenzie who travelled through the area in the 1850s.

* William Landsborough explored the flat plains in 1859.

* The area was settled in the 1860s and the town, which seems to have had the alternative name of 'Marathon' for a short time, acquired a pub and a general store.

* Bowen Downs station was established in 1862.

* Aramac Station was established a year later in 1863.

* A general store was opened on Aramac Creek in 1867.

* It is known that there was a massacre of more than 25 local Aborigines at Mailman's Gorge in the 1860s. 

* Aramac was declared a town, and the town reserve established, in 1869. The first policeman arrived that year.

* In 1870 Harry Redford stole 400 head of cattle from Bowen Downs station and overlanded them down the Cooper Creek to South Australia.

* Aramac Post Office opened in 1874.

* The town was surveyed in 1875 but by that time the wide streets (apparently one of the locals had been impressed by the streets in Melbourne and had decided to copy them) were established and the surveyor confirmed the design.

* The Queensland National Bank opened its door in 1875. 

* Aramac State School was opened in 1878 with an enrolment of 12 students.

* In 1879 the local hospital was opened.

* In 1880 the Aramac Divisional Board was established.

* The Bank of New South Wales opened its doors in 1898.

* In 1909 Aramac Shire Council, still isolated from the surrounding area, borrowed £66 500 and built a tramway connecting the town to the main railway line at Barcaldine. That year a new hospital was built.

* The railway between Barcaldine and Aramac was opened in 1913.

* In 1914 thermal baths were developed in the town.

* The town's Memorial Park was opened in 1949.

* In 1952 the swimming pool was opened. 

* The Aramac tramway ceased operating in 1975. It was the last privately owned rail line in Queensland.

* The Tramway Museum was opened in 1994.

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Visitor Information

Barcaldine Regional Council, 35 Gordon Street, tel: (07) 4652 9999, Open Monday to Friday, 8.00 am - 4.30 pm.

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Accommodation

Aramac Hotel, Gordon Street, tel: (07) 4651 3262

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Eating

Aramac Hotel, Gordon Street, tel: (07) 4651 3262

BP Fuel and Cafe, Lodge Street, tel: (07) 4651 3256

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Useful Websites

There is a useful and downloadable brochure which can be accessed at http://www.barcaldinerc.qld.gov.au/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=54d4d0c3-2608-43c4-b7b8-f65435f6fbd6&groupId=311418. Also check http://www.barcaldinerc.qld.gov.au/tourismaramac.

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1 suggestion so far
  • There were three pubs in Aramac when I was there in the late 50s. One two-storey pub opposite a ground level pub and one around near the Tramway platform. I don’t remember their names.
    I worked on Clare station out past Lake Dunn but the boss was a cranky old bastard so I headed back to Longreach for work.
    On the way back I stopped into Leichhardt station and after about two or three days I slipped on the dry Blue Mitchell grass whilst drafting sheep in temporary yards. One of the bolts on the temporary yard ‘hurdles’, as we called them, gouged a track across my leg that had me in stitches in the Aramac hospital.
    After that little episode, I carried on to the ‘reach and found work easy.

    Peter (James) Rake