Home » Towns » Queensland » Capricorn Coast » Mount Morgan, QLD
Print

Mount Morgan, QLD

Impressive and historic mining town.

Mount Morgan is one of a handful of genuinely fascinating mining towns. It is a true gem. A remarkably well preserved historic town full of remarkable timber buildings. There is something wonderfully quirky and original about the town. The unique combination of huge timber pubs; remnants of mining equipment in the median strips; elegant buildings slowly fading as their relevance and use stretch further into the past; and images of a time when the town was genuinely rich and prosperous; all combine to make it a town held in aspic. It is genuinely very friendly and has the feeling of a country town from the distant past. Many of the residents are retirees from Rockhampton who enjoy the country town lifestyle.

Location

Mount Morgan is located 636 km north of Brisbane, 40 km south west of Rockhampton and 240 m above sea-level.

^ TOP

Origin of Name

The town was named after Frederick, Edwin (Ned) and Thomas Morgan who, on 22 July 1882, pegged out a gold mining lease on Ironstone Mountain which was later renamed Mount Morgan.

^ TOP

Things to See and Do

Mount Morgan Mud Map
There is an easy way to explore the town. Go to the Visitor Information Centre in the old Railway Station and get a copy of the Mount Morgan Mud Map. It lists a total of thirty places of interest which can be visited either by a very vigorous walk or by a combination of driving and walking.

The details provided here are for the most interesting and important buildings in town.

1. The Mount Morgan Railway Museum
The Mount Morgan railway station (1898) is a charming timber building with an elegant porch which operates as the visitors' centre and is the departure point for guided tours of the town.
The railway from Rockhampton had to traverse a gradient of 1:16.5 at the Razorback outside the town and consequently a special ABT rack locomotive (the first in Australia) was purchased and a toothed rack rail was built between the rails so that the trains could achieve extra traction going up and down the hill. A portion of this toothed line is displayed on the median strip in front of the museum in Morgan Street.
The Mount Morgan Railway Museum features an impressive audio-visual display and 3D presentations which allow the visitor to experience, albeit vicariously, early travel aboard the old rack rail. The Museum also includes an extensive range of rail memorabilia including past equipment, steam train, rolling stock, goods sheds and water tanks for steam engines. The Museum and Visitor Centre are open from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm daily, tel: (07) 4938 2312.

2. Private Victor Stanley Jones Suspension Bridge
Located at the bottom of East Street, the Private Victor Stanley Jones Suspension Bridge is a memorial bridge (there were once a series of swing bridges across the Dee River) which celebrates the nation's first military casualty. Private Jones was the first Australian soldier to die in Imperial Service (he was a member of the 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry) on foreign soil. He died at Sunnyside in South Africa during the Boer War on 1 January, 1900. The bridge was built as a joint project by the Engineers of the Army and Mt Morgan Shire Council in 2001 for the centenary of federation. In the 1890s six swing bridges were built across the Dee River to ensure easy access between the town and mine site, particularly during times of flood. Sadly no originals remain today. This is a replica.

3. Mount Morgan Big Dam and Picnic Area
Further downstream on the Dee River is Number 7 Dam (otherwise known as the Big Dam) which was constructed in the early 1900s to provide reliable water for the mine. Today this Dam is the town’s main water supply and the lake behind the dam wall is excellent for watery recreational activities.

5. Mount Morgan State High School
Located at 4 Central Street (on the way into town from Rockhampton on the Burnett Highway) this elegant brick building was opened in 1908. It was originally a technical college which drew its student population from those employed by the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co. In 1912 it became a state high school - the first of its kind in Queensland. In 1919 it was used as a temporary isolation hospital when the Spanish 'flu epidemic hit the town.

8. Mafeking Bell
Located in Dee Street just beyond East Street, the Mafeking Bell was cast at the Mount Morgan Mine in 1900. It is a symbol of the patriotism of the time. Made from copper pennies donated by the local school children, the bell was cast to celebrate the relief of Mafeking which had been held under siege during the Boer War. In 1962 the bell, which weighs 570 kg, was presented to the local Boy Scouts. The gong is made from melted watch cases.

9. Mount Morgan Historical Museum
Located at 87 Morgan Street, the Mount Morgan Historical Museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts from the town's history including (obviously) mining equipment, historic household and business objects, and an extensive photographic display. The Museum also has a fine collection of horse-drawn buggies and wagons, along with the first motor hearse in Mount Morgan (a 1921 Buick) and a 1942 International Fire Engine. The collection relating to the local Aborigines is also impressive with a range of artifacts, interpretation panels, stories, photographs and artworks curated by members of the Mount Morgan indigenous community. It is open from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Tel: (07) 4938 2122 or check out http://www.mountmorgan.org.au/museums-and-tours#b.

The Mine Hooter
Located on the median strip between the Mount Morgan Historical Museum and the Leichhardt Hotel is the town's mine hooter. It was made in 1919 and used by the Mount Morgan Mine to alert miners in the town. On a typical day, it blew at 6.30 am (three blasts), 7.30 am (two blasts), 8.00 am, 10.00 am, 10.10 am, 12.00 noon, 12.30 pm, 4.00 pm, 4.30 pm, 7.30 pm, 11.00 pm (two blasts) 12.00 midnight and 3.30 am. It recorded all occasions. It was blown to signal the shifts and meal breaks, a lost miner, serious accidents and fires. It was also blown on Remembrance and Armistice Days and to herald in the New Year.

13. Running of the Cutter Statue
At the centre of the town, at the corner of the Burnett Highway and Morgan Street, is a simple statue titled 'Running the Cutter' which recalls the interesting custom of buying beer in billy cans which was commonplace at the mine between 1900 and 1918. The billy can was known as the “cutter”. It was a local custom that a miner, when he finished his shift, would get a local boy to run to an hotel with his billycan, have it filled with beer, and have it brought back to him as he came off shift.

16. The Mount Morgan School of Arts
Located in Morgan Street this huge timber building, the Mount Morgan School of Arts Hall, was built in 1924. The first School of Arts was built in the 1890s but destroyed by fire in 1923. The second School of Arts Hall was opened with a Grand Ball on August 20, 1924. Like so many halls in country towns it lies at the heart of the town's social life having seen films, wedding receptions, concerts, dances, school formals and award presentations. The first School of Arts Building saw Dame Nellie Melba perform in 1911 and the current Hall was used as an accommodation and recreation base for American soldiers during World War II.

17. Queensland National Hotel
The most distinctive and impressive building on Morgan Street is the beautiful Queensland National Hotel which was built in 1899, one of Mount Morgan’s 27 hotels. This two storey structure is heritage listed. The tower was used as a lookout to spot enemy planes during World War II.

18. Anzac Park
Just below the Queensland National Hotel in Morgan Street is Anzac Park which includes the Coronation Light erected in 1902 to commemorate the Coronation of King Edward VII; a mine plaque which displays the contour of the original Ironstone Mountain (now hollowed out by the open cut mine); and a record of the years of mining operation from 1882-1990.

19. The Masonic Hall
Standing as a solitary grand building in Gordon Street is the Masonic Hall of Mount Morgan (1903), a handsome two storey structure, made of red face brick, which was designed by Rockhampton based architects Eaton and Bates. The Temple was erected for £1500 by Newman Brothers of Rockhampton.

20. St Mary's Anglican Church
Located in Gordon Street, the Saint Mary’s Church of England was built of local bricks in 1889. It was a gift to the Anglican community from the hugely wealthy James Wesley Hall, who had been the first General Manager of the Mount Morgan Mine and the first Mayor of Mount Morgan.

23. Police Station / Court House
Located at 30 Hall Street (and now the local police station) the impressive Mount Morgan Court House (built in the 1890s) is an example of the formal Classical Revival style which was fashionable at the time. Over the years the building has served as a court house, a police station, a lockup, the local magistrate's office and a District and Supreme Court. Until 1990 it also operated as a Mining Wardens Court. It officially closed its doors as a Court House in 1991.

25. Frank Golding Lookout
At the top of East Street is the Frank Golding Lookout which is the highest lookout point in the town and provides a panoramic view of Mount Morgan.

^ TOP

Other Attractions in the Area

26. Cemetery
Located on the Burnett Highway 2 km south of the town, the Mount Morgan cemetery is a reminder of the hardships endured by a mining community. Of particular interest are the Linda Memorial which was erected in 1909 in memory of the 26 men who were killed in the tunneling stage of the Mount Morgan Mine; and a Chinese ceremonial burner, known as a Heung Lew which was built in 1890. It was used by Mount Morgan’s early Chinese community for burning papers and offerings.

27. Mount Morgan Gold Mine
The mine site is heritage listed and only accessible to organised tours. It has a number of important buidlings including the brick chimney known as the Big Stack which was built to disperse fumes caused by the copper production. The assay chimney, the manager's house, the treatment plant and the mine offices are all extant and of historical significance. On the northern boundary of the mine lease lie some manmade caverns which were excavated by the early miners for fireclay which was used to line the furnaces used for smelting. Inside the caverns early Jurassic dinosaur footprint tracks have been found.

31. Arthur Timms Lookout
Located at the top of Pattison Street and named after a former Chairman of the Mount Morgan Council, the Arthur Timms Lookout is the town's most impressive lookout with views across to the mine as well as an angle which allows the visitor to appreciate how the town is actually nestled into the Dee River valley. From the Arthur Timms lookout it is possible to see the remaining part of Ironstone Mountain, as a cut off hill behind the Big Stack. Beneath this cut off hill is the Open Cut Pit, which was once the deepest man made pit in the Southern Hemisphere.

^ TOP

History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the district was home to the Gangulu Aboriginal people.

* The first Europeans in the area were the Leith Hay family who arrived at Rannes in 1853.

* By 1855 the Archer brothers had settled at Gracemere near Rockhampton.

* By the late 1850s Hugh Robinson had selected the Calliungal Cattle Station.

* By 1865 prospectors were fossicking for gold in the district.

* Around 1870 a local stockman on Calliungal Cattle Station, William Mackinlay, discovered that Ironstone Mountain was gold-bearing. He kept his discovery secret, hoping to sell his knowledge.

* Mining began at Mount Morgan in 1882. On 22 July, 1882 Frederick, Edwin (Ned) and Thomas Morgan pegged out a gold mining lease on Ironstone Mountain.

* Needing extra capital to develop the mine, Frederick wrote to Thomas Skarrat Hall (a Rockhampton bank manager) offering half shares in the mine to anyone who would invest £1200 in the venture. Hall, William Knox D'Arcy (solicitor) and William Pattison (grazier) raised £2000 and became partners with the Morgans.

* One of the partners was Thomas Skarrat Hall, whose brother's widow donated some of the Mount Morgan fortune to a fund which established the famous Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne.

* Another partner was William Knox D'Arcy, who, having made £6 million from his share in the mine by 1889, went to London and made another fortune when he financed oil drilling in what was then Persia (now Iran). The venture led to the formation of the BP (British Petroleum) Company.

* The Morgans sold all their shares in the mine in 1884.

* A government school opened in the town in 1884.

* The Post Office was opened in 1885.

* The Mount Morgan syndicate lasted until 1886 when the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited was formed.

* A Primitive Methodist church was consecrated in 1887.

* The town was officially proclaimed in 1890.

* In 1898 the railway reached the town from Rockhampton.

* In 1899 the town's name was changed from South Calliungal to Mount Morgan.

* By 1902 gold, silver and copper were being mined.

* In 1908 12 lives were lost in mining accidents.

* A High School was built in 1912.

* Production peaked before World War I but declined after the war.

* In 1927 Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company went into liquidation. By then nearly 140,000 tonnes of copper and 1.66 million grams of gold had been extracted from the mine.

* The newly-formed Mount Morgan Ltd bought the mine for £70,000 in 1929 and started open-cut excavations.

* Jacaranda trees were planted down the main street in 1939.

* In 1954 water bores were dug. They provided the town with regular water.

* In 1962 a new railway line was built.

* The mining company Peko Wallsend purchased the mine in 1968.

* By the 1970s, the mine's production of copper was second only to that of Mount Isa.

* In 1974 the Mount Morgan Railway Station was classified by the National Trust.

* Rail service from Rockhampton ceased in 1978.

* Peko Wallsend closed the mine in 1981. It had produced 225,000 kg of gold, 50,000 kg of silver and 360,000 tonnes of copper in a 99 year period.

* A Carbon-in-Pulp Cyanide plant started in September 1982 and continued until 1990. The plant produced 13,979 kg of gold and 4,535 kg of silver.

* The Flash Smelter continued to operate until 1984.

* Today what was once a large mountain is now one of the largest artificial holes on earth. It is over 2.5 km long and over 300 m deep.

^ TOP

Visitor Information

Mount Morgan Railway Museum and Tourist Information Centre, 1 Railway Parade, Mount Morgan, tel: (07) 4938 2312. Open 9.00 am - 4.00 pm.

^ TOP

Useful Websites

There is an excellent, detailed local website. Check out http://www.mountmorgan.org.au.

^ TOP
Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

1 suggestion so far
  • Current population?

    This site doesn’t do populations because they change with every new census. Check out the Bureau of Census for details.

    Monica Murfet