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Shire of Dundas

The best way to Norseman, in my opinion, is via the "Hyden Road". The Hyden Road is a well-formed and maintained gravel road between Hyden and Norseman. If the road trains are operating between the Emily Ann mine near Lake Johnston and Norseman, you should  travel with headlights on and pull well over before a roadtrain. Under no circumstances should you attempt to overtake a roadtrain in the dust. Use UHF CB channel 40. 

The easiest route to Hyden is from Kelmscott to Brookton and through to Hyden. There are not many (if any) late night fuel opportunities so check your fuel status. Between Hyden and Norseman there are a few really good camp sites, but no other facilities, and there is no mobile phone coverage...you really are in the bush here!

If you want to see some great places and experience a wide variety of exciting 4WD country then Norseman and the Shire of Dundas will get you going. There is arguably some of the best 4WD country in this state! There are many trees and plenty of camping places to choose from. The terrain may be overgrown, but in general there is no extreme 4WD, however, that doesn’t mean you wont end up with scratches.

We'll try to keep this page updated as things happen.... Unless we're in the bush!


Some of the 4WD tracks worth Trying:

Widgiemooltha to Norseman to Balladonia Telegraph line
.

This track follows the old telegraph line from Widgiemooltha (Widgie) to Norseman and then to Balladonia Telegraph station (about 25km east of Balladonia Roadhouse). The Widgie to Norseman section has a wide variety of track conditions with some large (and possibly dangerous) washaways, steep hills and descents and rocky outcrops, with plenty of car scratching overgrowth. There are sections that are not passable when it has been raining (use commonsense here, there are no regular patrols checking track conditions) to salt lakes that should only be crossed by helicopter (that means you WILL get bogged if you venture out on them!). But it is a very remarkable road and it is often difficult to forget the sheer effort that went in to build and maintain our early communications systems.

This track has recently been recognised by the Heritage Council of WA as having significant heritage value in Western Australia's history.

Woodlines (north east of Norseman) tracks.

The woodlines west of Widgie near Cave Hill and Burra Rock are quite well known. The sections Northeast of Norseman are almost forgotten. This is the younger section of the woodlines that fed the mines and furnaces in Kalgoorlie. The regrowth is a staggering example of how resilient the Australian bush can be when humans depart after the destruction. There are many miles of old track (sleepers remain, but we haven't yet found any rail still in place). There are plenty of old settlements scattered around (look and don't break or take). There are even local rumours of a loco still out there...I have looked and not found it yet, what about you?

4WD trips from Norseman.

The Western 4WD magazines Trips Out of the Eastern Goldfields is worth getting. It not only gives you a taste of the Goldfields, but specifically has four trips from Norseman. Have a look and visit the area...you will be surprised by the bush around there! Those trips include the Luigi Cappa Tour (woodlines), Ned Devine Tour and George Mundale Tour. This book is available direct from the publisher. Use the Western 4Wdriver link from the home page to navigate there.

Theatre Rock Loop.

A track exists that runs towards the Hyden Road bypass track from Theatre Rocks. It is very overgrown and sometimes difficult to follow. The track into Theatre Rocks is a bit washed out in places. We know of utes that have made it in, but recommend 4WD only.


Mt Andrew Track.

I drove this track possibly 10 years ago, and this is what I found; There is a section that is heavily overgrown, though an attempt has been made to remove some of the overgrowth. This will put you near Deralinya, which is on the Balladonia Track running from the roadhouse to Israelite Bay. The track from the old telegraph track is in pretty good nick, with only a few detours around some fallen trees. There are a couple of very interesting rocks to climb. Currently the track ends at a lake about 60kms south of the telegraph track, where a bush fire a few years ago has resulted in some thick regrowth. Most of the dead and fallen trees were cleared over ANZAC weekend 2005. Some regrowth has obscured the track but we made it through all the way to the Parmango Road. However, the current maps do not show the track anymore, and some "new" survey lines appear to have been added some years ago, which are also not marked. The section through the regrowth I would rate as difficult, due to its isolation, overgrowth and lack of any maps. But having said that we got through ok and the only puncture was driving over a stick when we camped.
Some other places to visit/travel:


Some things to watch out for.

It is essential to use maps in this area. Signposting is minimal (or non-existant). Like we said this is real 4WD country. We recommend the Western 4WDriver "Trips Out of The Goldfields" booklet.


The Pilbara

T
his area is best seen in the cooler winter months. It has a harsh beauty that is unlike anything you have ever experienced before. If you travel here in the summer, make sure you are WELL prepared. People have died here in recent years from thirst (believe it or not). You also must take care with rain as creeks or rivers may rapidly rise from run off that may be from a storm 100km away. And we all make mistakes, just at the beginning of the 2009 wet season we visited Weeli Wolli Creek and chose a beaut camp spot near the water (which is present due to dewatering of an iron ore mine). Just at dusk it started to rain for about an hour then some time during the night we were woken by other campers calling out a warning about rising water.  Sure enough the water had risen almost a metre, cutting off the route we had come in and starting to reach our table and chairs. We hurriedly but calmly packed all our gear after working out an escape plan, and waited as we watched the water slowly recede. This was the start of the wet, you can imagine if we had been a bit later in the year.

Then there are cyclones, treat them with excessive respect, they still kill people too, as we found out with Cyclone George early in 2007.

But the wet season also has the most water in creeks and gorges too, and it is a terrifyingly beautiful place!

There is a lot of more extreme 4WD here. And without saying it (but I will), you need to take a lot of extra precautions in this area, especially in summer.

 Corunna Downs Airforce Base

One of the most exciting places to visit is the old air force base at Corunna Downs. This airstrip was so secret in WWII, many people who served there were not aware of the different units stationed around the base. The old runways are still in existence, and the bunkers where the planes were loaded with bombs are easily spotted on the taxiways. The left over bombs at the end of the war were blown up, and the shrapnel of exploded bombs and other miscellaneous parts can be found, as well as the concrete pads where buildings once stood.

If you stand in the old bunkers at night and close your eyes you can almost hear the hub bub of activity as the men load the planes. It is a far cry from those days when many lived in fear of invasion, and the uncertainty of all-out war.

A hill not far away also had a radar station on top. There is a rock with the words “Out of Bounds to all personnel” painted on it. And most excitingly, is the rough engraving of a soldier's name on a boulder nearby.

The RAAF unit that was based there was called OBU73 (Operational Base Unit 73). Slowly, everything will decay and nothing will be left. The old soldiers and airmen, will fade away, as they do. And all that will be left will be the stories of a long ago war that touched our shores.

Port Hedland was bombed during WWII, and one person was killed. OBU73 was serviced by the Hedland to Marble Bar Railway line, and was used so much that by end of the war, it was almost unserviceable. For a State struggling with the task of rebuilding itself, the old railway was simply too expensive and too far away to repair. It too has faded into history, and almost nothing remains, except perhaps a couple of lengths of rail in a creek bed near Marble Bar.

During a 2009 trip we found an old WWII .303  intact and unfired. Later the same trip we found a discarded ID Disc (dog tag). Sadly this old soldier has passed away, we have commemorated him in the link below.

Percy John Edward Parker

Ernest Newton Cook

 
Don’t forget Marble Bar itself. Once renowned for it high temperatures, it is a small community that still services gold prospectors and miners and the pastoral area around.

 
Fred Savory

The grave of Fred Savory can be found at Burrumbar Pool, out of Newman. It is a long drive and quite isolated. The headstone is a marble block, and considering it was erected in 1903, it is a tribute to mateship, as much to the memory of Mr Savory.

The name Burrumbar varies with different maps. I have included a mudmap of the way to Burrumbar pool.

As with all journeys into the outback, be responsible and take care.

 
Marble Bar Shay Gap Road

This is an interesting 4WD route back to Port Hedland from Marble Bar. You can visit Coppin’s Gap and drive through Kitty’s Gap to where Shay Gap once stood. Some sections may be impassable during the wet months. Mining in the area may impact acces, so it would be wise to check with the visitors' centre in Marble Bar.

 Marble Bar Railway

The Port Hedland to Marble bar railway line was opened on July 1st 1912. For the first few years there was one train per fortnight. This was increased to one per week in 1919. When it was not necessary to run a full train, a railcar, called the Red Terror, was used.

There were few bridges and most of the river crossings were no more than a causeway, and often flooded during the wet season.

During World War II the line carried huge loads from Hedland to Marble Bar for the secret air base at Corunna Downs. At the end of the war, much materiel was returned by the line to Hedland. This war time use caused excessive wear to the track and a cash strapped State Government eventually closed the line on 27th October 1951.

There are two sections of the old track that are accessible. The northern part from around the 12 mile to where the track meets the current Marble Bar Road, and the southern section from Marble Bar to near the Coongan river. The southern section is shown on our mudmaps page. Travelling this track requires care,  as the formation is covered in dog spikes, spinifex and has numerous hidden washaways. But it is none the less good fun and a fascinating 4WD adventure. Oh and there will be scratches.

Eginbah Siding

This is the ruins of an old siding on the Hedland Marble Bar railway, which was abandoned in the 1951. It has been protected because it is off the main road, behind a hill. There are the ruins of a couple of water tanks and a pipe line to a small water hole in the river bed. This site can easily be seen on Google earth, but sadly a fire has destroyed most of the old wooden tank stand.

It would be amazing to see a steam loco passing through this beautiful place.

Though this siding is on the banks of the Coongan River, it is not the Coongan Siding I believed it to be. A search at the Battye Library and a 1942 map clearly shows this place is Eginbah Siding and the Coongan siding was on the northern side of the river....to be discovered.

 

 The South

My job has brought me back to the city. This isn't going to stop the adventure, but what we do will be different. The Pilbara is an exciting 4WD place, but requires a lot of planning even for simple trips to ensure safety. It is a sweet change to be able to have regular fuel stops, be able to buy what you want, when you want and get it just down the street. We will be adding new treks to our pages and hopefully some of these will be much more accessible from Perth.

As is always the case, you take responsibility for your own actions in the bush. If you can't manage it, don't go; if you aren't prepared, don't go; or if you are just too bloody stupid, stay home and watch the footy!

Remember, we ask you to not damage the environment or leave your rubbish behind, but welcome like minded people who care not only for the bush and our history, but want to ensure we give back to our kids the country our grandchildren have loaned us!


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