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Traralgon, VIC

Major industrial city and service centre in the Latrobe Valley

Traralgon is an important service centre located in the historically important and coal-rich Latrobe Valley. It is the largest city in Gippsland providing services for the surrounding area and being an ideal starting point to explore the coal mining history of the district.


Traralgon is located 164 km south-east of Melbourne via the Princes Highway and 38 metres above sea level.


Origin of Name

There is a popular story that the first European settler in the area, Edward Hobson, thought he was creating the word "traralgon" from two GurnaiKurnai words meaning "river of little fish". 


Things to See and Do

Traralgon Town Walk
There is a pleasant walk - it takes around 90 minutes - which starts at the Visitor Information Centre (they have a brochure with a map of the route) and goes down to Victory Park, across to the Star Hotel, along Grey Street and then through the centre of town (on Franklin Street and Church Street) and back to the Visitor Centre. It has thirty places of interest of which the following are worth pausing at - there is more information here than is provided on the brochure:

4. Victory Park
Victory Park is a charming park located on the Princes Highway which offers entry to the Traralgon Creek. The park has a band rotunda which is a replica of the beautiful rotunda at Walhalla and there is the Lars Compitalis marble sculpture as well as a Lone Pine Tree and the only Azarole Hawthorn Tree in Victoria.

5. The Lars Compitalis Sculpture
The Lars Compitalis sculpture was a gift to the people of the shire of Latrobe from Loy Yang Power. It was made from Chillagoe marble, Gosford sandstone and steel and completed in 1999. Lars Compitalis translates as "the carers of the crossroads and the city" and, according to Clive Murray-White who created the work, the sculpture composition is "based on two large carved marble heads that look as if they have been discovered by archaeologists in Loy Yang Power's huge brown coal mine."
There is a fascinating account of the genesis of the Lars Compitalis Sculpture, written by Clive Murray-White, the sculptor, at http://murray-white.blogspot.com.au/2015_10_01_archive.html. It is well worth reading. An insight into corporate sponsorship.

6. Azarole Hawthorne Tree
Located in the Victory Park this unusual tree, which was planted in 1920 and moved to the park in 2008, is a hybrid (Craetagus Azarobus) and the only example of the tree in Victoria. It has been listed on the Victorian Heritage Database which notes: "The tree is a native of W. Asia, N. Africa and S. Europe and is recorded in the Horticultural Flora of South-Eastern Australia ... The tree is a large specimen with a trunk circumference at ground level of 2.2 m, height 10.5 m and canopy spread 12 m, and features attractive white flowers in spring, large 2 cm diameter yellow - orange fruits, and attractive red and yellow leaf colour in late autumn." For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/55874.

10. Band Rotunda
A recent addition to Victory Park, the Band Rotunda was built in 1986 and modelled after the Band Rotunda in the Gippsland mining town of Walhalla which was built in 1896 to accommodate Walhalla's many bands.

12. Star Hotel
Located at 2 George Street, The Star Hotel was built in 1875 for F G Hickox. The original weatherboard building with shingle roof contained six guest rooms. It is the oldest surviving wooden building in Traralgon. The Victorian Heritage Database notes that : "With the advent of the railway line, the bias of the town shifted westwards and the Sale road was diverted to the opposite bank of the creek. This effectively removed the hotel trade and the licence was transferred in 1882 to new premises elsewhere. The original building then became a boarding house and later a private house.
The original form of the hotel is largely intact, although the general land level having been raised around the building, the floor is vulnerable to dampness. Original sapling studs still exist in partitions and wooden shingles survive beneath the later corrugated iron roof." Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/68755 for more details.

15. Ryan's Hotel
The two-storey, Victorian-style Traralgon Hotel (now known as Ryan's Hotel) at 171 Franklin Street is a brick structure classified by the National Trust. Erected in 1914 to replace the original 1858 building it is notable for its iron lace balconies, ornate iron balustrades and hipped iron roof. The National Trust notes of the building: "Traralgon Hotel was erected in 1914 for Mrs M Hoare to replace an 1858 structure. The two storey hotel is located on a corner site and has a double storey verandah over both footpaths. Construction is in face brickwork with hipped corrugated iron roofs. The bull-nose verandah has decorative iron balustrades, brackets and a segmental gable at the angled corner. Segmental brick arches and the chimneys are features.
Traralgon Hotel, has historical associations and is architecturally notable as almost, if not the very last, example of the typical nineteenth century hotel built, complete with verandahs. Whilst essentially Victorian in form, the hotel exhibits details of its period, loosely derived from the English Queen Anne style. Examples are the segmental window arches, roof forms, chimneys and their arrangement." 

16. War Memorial
Located opposite the Post Office on the corner of Kay and Franklin Streets, the War Memorial was erected on 25 February, 1923. At the time the Gippsland Times reported that "On Sunday a memorial that has been erected in memory of the fallen soldiers of the district was unveiled. The ceremony was performed by Mr G. H.Wise, and addresses were delivered by Mr W West, M.LA. the president of the shire and local clergymen. The memorial, which cost £700, and contains 54 names of young men who made the supreme sacrifice is a lifesized figure of an Australian soldier and is made white Italian marble." Since then names of other soldiers, who have fought in subsequent wars, have been added. Check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/conflict/multiple/display/33770-traralgon-war-memorial/ for more details.

17. Traralgon Post Office and Court House
Located at 161-169 Frankin Street, this hugely impressive building was designed by John Thomas Kelleher and J. R. Brown of the Department of Public Works and built in 1886 as a combined Court House, Post Office and Sub-treasury complex. The Department of Environment report on the building points out "Traralgon Post Office remains an uncommon example of a composite public service building with a range of original functions including an integrated court house.  While the separate building components are conceived as distinct units, they are also unified by the common use of overall building form and detail, frontal loggias and integrated planning.  Stylistically, the Traralgon Post Office complex is a large scale and flamboyant transitional design combining rich Victorian detailing fused with the freer language of Federation Queen Anne and Romanesque styles." For more information check out http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=106141.

21. St Andrews Presbyterian Church
Located on the corner of Kay Street and Church Street, and now part of a collection of cafes and restaurants, St Andrews was built in 1914 and ceased church services in the mid-1990s. 

22. St Michael's Church
Located on the corner of Kay Street and Church Street, St Michael's was originally built in 1883 but rebuilt in 1936 and enlarged in 1978. Of particular interest are the impressive stained glass windows. There is an extensive explanation of each window at https://www.smpt.org.au/history which notes: "Not just pretty pictures; first used, mainly in Northern Europe, to educate the people, who were often illiterate. Same way that frescoes and mosaics were used in Greece, Italy and Sicily. Each colour – and plant – often had great symbolic significance in the portrayal of Scriptural themes. Red, for instance, is the colour of love, and therefore also the colour of the Holy Spirit : tongues of fire in the Penecost window. The red wrist band of John the Baptist; Jesus’ red garment; the Cross; Green, the colour of Creativity: the hand of God the Father in the Trinity window; Angel Gabriel’s wings. Blue: the Living Water, Jesus, in the same panel; also Mary’s colour, as the one who bore him. Gold/yellow the colour of divinity; clear, the colour of humanity (Jesus’ halo) ... This window, following the great traditions of Mediaeval times, has the story of Jesus from his birth to his death, in a series of panels. Sometimes the story “overlaps”.  Sometimes one panel is sufficient."

Traralgon Railway Reservoir Conservation Reserve
Located in Hickox Street, this Conservation Reserve covers 29.5 hectares of bush and grassland with a lake which is part of the catchment of the Traralgon Creek.  There is a car park, an information board and a gravel/boardwalk circuit which passes around the wetland which is home to numerous bird life and native plants.


Other Attractions in the Area

Making sense of the Power Stations and Mines of the Latrobe Valley
Called Power Drive Route 98 the Latrobe Visitor Information Centre has created a circuit of 14 places - from Traralgon to Loy Yang, across to Churchill and Hazelwood then up to Morwell and across to Yallourn and Yallourn North - which includes most of the essential places in this coal-rich area of Victoria. This is the way to understand fully the huge coal field and power generation that has been the Latrobe Valley since the 1870s.

Some Background on the Mines and Power Stations
Although coal is rapidly being replaced by renewable sources, the Latrobe Valley has, historically, been at the centre of Victoria's coal industry. It contains one of the world’s largest coal deposits and nearly 90% of Australia’s brown coal reserves. Three coal mines (all of them open cut) provide coal for four major power generating stations (Loy Yang B, Hazelwood and Yallourn). The coal field runs eastwards from Yallourn for over 60 km and is between 8 and 20 km wide. The coal is between 15-50 million years old. In geological terms it is young coal, which explains its soft, crumbly texture and high moisture content. It is characterised by the thick seams close to the surface which make it relatively cheap to extract.
Coal was first discovered in the Latrobe Valley in 1873 and mined on the north side of the Latrobe River by the Great Morwell Coal Mining Company and later by the Victorian Government. The State Electricity Commission (SECV) was formed in 1921 and by 1924 power was being sent to Melbourne. The Morwell Power Station opened in 1958, Hazelwood Power Station in 1964, Yallourn W in 1973, Loy Yang A in 1984 and Loy Yang B in 1993. Today they are slowly being replaced by renewables.
There is an excellent map and guide to the power stations and open cut mines in the area. It is downloadable through the Latrobe Visitor Information Centre website. Check out https://visitlatrobecity.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/A3-Power-Drive-Mar-2019.pdf.

A Circular Route from Traralgon - The Power Station and Mines of the Latrobe Valley
The route from Traralgon is as follow (the numbers relate to the download brochure):

1. Miner's Lookout
Drive from Traralgon on the C483 (Traralgon Creek Road) south towards Loy Yang. The Miner’s Lookout offers an excellent view of the Loy Yang Open Cut Mine with the Power Station to the south of the mine.

2. Loy Yang A & B Power Station
Continue on Traralgon Creek Road and the Loy Yang Power Station is clearly visible on the eastern side of the road.  Construction began in 1977 and it started producing electricity between 1984-1988. It currently has an output of 2,200 MW and it’s two chimneys are 260 metres high. Construction of Loy Yang B commenced in 1985 and it came online in 1993, when the first of its two 500 MW generating units began operation. The second commenced commercial operation in 1996. It produces 1000 MW of electricity. For more information check out http://www.gdfsuezau.com/about-us/asset/Loy-Yang-B-Power-Station.

3. Hazelwood Mine
The mine had a surface area of 300 ha and at its peak it employed five dredges extracting 19 million tonnes of brown coal each year. The coal was carried on conveyor belts to the power stations. In recent times there has been talk of allowing the mine to fill with water and using it as a picnic and bird watching facility with a walking track, wetlands and a waterfowl refuge.

4. Jeeralang Power Station
If you return to Churchill and head north towards Morwell on Tramway Road you pass the Jeeralang Power Station which was opened in 1971 and is currently controlled by Ecogen Energy. It is a gas turbine peaking station which operates on natural gas from Bass Strait. Within 12 minutes the station can supply an extra 449 MW to the state's power grid. Jeeralang consists of seven gas turbines configured to operate in single cycle mode. The plant is divided into two stations, "A" Station which consists of four gas turbines with a combined capacity of 220 MW and "B" Station comprised of three gas turbines with a combined capacity of 240 MW.
Head soth to Churchill and then west from Churchill on Switchback Road and turn right at Yinnar Road. As you drive around Hazelwood Cooling Pondage, which is now open from fishing and boating (there is a lookout and a Power Boat Club launching site just off Brodribb Road), you will see:

5. Hazelwood Power Station
The Hazelwood Power Station was closed down in April, 2017. It was supposed to close in 2005 but was privatised and the government allowed it to keep operating. At its peak, when it was Victoria's second largest power generator, it had  a capacity of 1600 megawatts and required 160 million litres of cooling water. Hazelwood used thermal brown coal. It commenced operations in 1964 and had eight boiler-turbine units. When it was operating water left the plant at up to 50 °C and cooled as it travelled to the Pondage. Continue on and head north on Monash Way where you will pass:

6. Morwell Terminal Station
The Morwell Terminal Station can be viewed from Monash Way north of Churchill and south of the Princes Freeway. It is the main source of supply for a major part of south-east Victoria including all of Gippsland. The geographic coverage of the station’s supply area spans from Phillip Island to Bairnsdale and Mallacoota. 

7. Energy Brix Australia
On the left as Monash Way heads towards the Princes Freeway, is Australia's largest co-generation manufacturing complex. Between 1956 and 2014 it produced both electricity and brown coal briquettes. At its peak Latrobe Valley Coalfields produced about 300,000 tonnes of briquettes each year. It was progressively demolished starting in 2017.

8. Morwell Open Cut Mine
Located to the south of the Princes Freeway this huge open cut mine was the second to be established in the Latrobe Valley. It is hard to stop (as it is a freeway) but if you look south you can see dredges which, at their peak, extracted 19 million tonnes of brown coal each year. The mine is expected to continue operating until 2030. The best viewing point for the mine is at the PowerWorks Visitors Centre.

9. PowerWorks Visitors Centre
The PowerWorks Visitor Centre is a coal and power museum  which was operated by the Latrobe Valley power generation operators until it was closed in 2012. It was gifted to the community by AGL Loy Yang, GDF Suez Hazelwood and Energy Australia Yallourn. It has since been reopened with volunteers who curate the exhibits and interactive displays and it offers lots of information about the changing nature of power generation. It provides good views over the Morwell open-cut mining operation. The main feature is Dredger 21, the huge No. 21 Bucket Wheel Dredger which was the first of its type to operate in the Morwell mine and was originally used to remove the overburden. The sign records: 'The postwar years brought about radical change to mining methods and the use of this kind of bucketwheel technology is now commonly used throughout the Australian mining industry.' Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10.00 am – 3.00 pm. For more information check out  http://www.powerworks.net.au.

10. Yallourn Mine Lookout
Drive west along the Princes Freeway and turn north to Yallourn and Yallourn North. On the road north there is an excellent viewing area looking over the Yallourn Open Cut. Coal has been mined here since 1921. There is a map at the lookout which shows where the town of Yallourn, which was built in 1921 and which once had a population of  5,000, stood until 1971 when it was dismantled and moved so that the coal underneath could be accessed.

11. Yallourn Power Station
Located to the east of the road to Yallourn North, this huge open cut mine started in 1924 and was the site of Victoria’s first permanent power station. The Yallourn East Coal Field river diversion provided access to new reserves which means the mine can keep operating for another 30 years. 

13. Yallourn North and Old Brown Coal Mine Museum
The small town of Yallourn North was created as a Brown Coal Mine and now has, as its major attraction, the Old Brown Coal Mine Museum which is located on the corner of Third Street and Latrobe River Road. The museum explores the history of the town which known as “Brown Coal Mine”. It is open Sunday from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm and Monday-Tuesday 10.00 am - 2.30 and shorter times in winter. Check out http://yallournnorth.vic.au/old-brown-coal-mine-museum or tel: (03) 5167 1046. From there you can drive back to Traralgon.



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

* The explorer, Count Paul Strzelecki, travelled through the area in 1840.

* The area was settled in the 1840s as an agricultural and pastoral centre. Edward Hobson took up a run in 1844. 

* By the early 1860s Duncan Campbell had built the Travellers Rest Hotel which operated as a hotel, general store and post office.

* Traralgon grew during the gold rushes due to its important location on the road from Melbourne to Sale. 

* The town site was surveyed in 1858. The Traralgon Hotel opened that same year.

* Land sales, which were slow, commencing in 1859. 

* The arrival of the railway in 1877 gave the town a further economic boost. 

* In 1878 a Presbyterian Church was constructed.

* The shire of Traralgon was created in 1879.

* In 1880 St James Anglican Church was consecrated. 

* A tannery and bakery were opened in the 1880s.

* A Roman Catholic Church was consecrated in 1883.

* The town's impressive Post Office and Court House were both built in 1886.

* A butter factory was built in 1892.

* Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet, a medical scientist specialising in immunology who won the 1960 Nobel Prize, was born in Traralgon in 1899. 

* In the 1920s Yallourn was built.

* By 1939 the Maryvale Pulp Mill was in full operation.

* A local high school was opened in 1951.

* A Central Base Hospital was opened in 1956.

* The town became a borough in 1961.

* A milk bottling plant was established in 1963.

* In 1964 Traralgon was declared a city . 

* The Loy Yang Power Complex opened in 1984. 

* The population in 2011 was 24,590.


Visitor Information

La Trobe Visitor Information Centre, Old Church at Southside Central on the Princes Hwy, tel: (03) 5176 3030, 1800 677 526.


Useful Websites

The official local website is http://www.visitlatrobecity.com. It offers detailed information about accommodation and eating. There is a very good and detailed history of the town at http://www.traralgonhistory.asn.au/history.htm.

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