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The High Plains Patrol 1959-1963

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THE HIGH PLAINS PATROL

1959 – 1963

The High Plains Patrol began its duties on the Bogong High Plains in May 1959 as the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme neared completion in 1963

COPYIGHT GORDON J R SMITH 2015

A Shakespir EDITION

CHAPTER INDEX

CHAPTER 35: MY FIRST DAY AS A HIGH PLAINS PATROLMAN

CHAPTER 36: WAITING FOR THE SNOW TO FALL

CHAPTER 37: SNOW FALLS AT LAST

CHAPTER 38: SPRING ON THE KIEWA SCHEME

CHAPTER 39: AN EVENTFUL ;CHRISTMAS AND EASTER

CHAPTER 40: A TRIP IN THE MINOR OVER THE HIGH PLAINS

CHAPTER 41: AQUEDUCT RIDDLES ON MT NELSE AND SPION KOPJE

CHAPTER 42: EQUIPPING THE HIGH PLAINS PATROL

CHAPTER 43: SEARCH AND RESCUE

CHAPTER 44: WELCOMING OUR NEW PATROLMAN

CHAPTER 45: BUSY WINTER MONTHS

CHAPTER 46: MT PANORAMA

CHAPTER 47: ANNUAL HOLIDAYS AND THE NEW YEAR

CHAPTER 48: PHASMIDS AND TROUT GALORE

CHAPTER 49: A WALK OF DISCOVERY

CHAPTER 50: MT HILLARY

CHAPTER 51: INSPECTING THE HEADRACE TUNNEL

CHAPTER 52: A LUCKY ESCAPE IN THE SNO-CAT

CHAPTER 53: PATROLLING AND SCHOOLING

CHAPTER 54: THE SNOW-TRAC

CHAPTER 55: THE UNIONS AND OUR SNOW VEHICLES

CHAPTER 56: THE HIGH PLAINS PATROL EXPANDS

CHAPTER 57: CHANGING CARS AND BOGONG RESIDENTS

CHAPTER 58: A PROBLEM AT THE BOGONG SCHOOL

CHAPTER59: T KOSCIUSKO AND THE SNOWY SCHEME

CHAPTER 60: DRIVING OVER THE EDGE

CHAPTER 61: THE NEW HIGH PLAINS PATROL LEARNING CURVE

CHAPTER 62: A BABY BOY JOINS OUR FAMILY

CHAPTER 63: A RAINY END TO THE WINTER 1962

CHAPTER 64: SPRING AND SUMMER ON THE KIEWA SCHEME

CHAPTER 65: A LEAKING HOLDEN AND A FROZEN BULLDOZER

CHAPTER 66: CATTLE GRAZING ON THE BOGONG HIGH PLAINS

CHAPTER 67: ASSESSING OUR FUTURE ON THE SCHEME

CHAPTER 68: VICE REGAL VISITORS TO THE SNOW

CHAPTER 69: WE DECIDE TO LEAVE BOGONG AND THE SEC

CHAPTER 70: OUR LAST WEEK ON THE KIEWA SCHEME

CHAPTER71: AFTERWARDS 1963 T0 2015

CHAPTER 72: AN SEC HONOUR ROLL

CHAPTER 35: MY FIRST DAY AS A HIGH PLAINS PATROLMAN May 1959

On Monday morning I walked down to Wally Deans’s house clad in my tunnel clothes, gumboots and wet gear, but underneath I had on my normal working clothes, but not the very old ones, I wore underground. I knocked on the door which was opened by Wally’s wife Margaret, who I actually knew better than Wally at the time, seeing her at the tennis club and other places. Margaret invited me to come. Wally was sitting at a table finishing his breakfast. We shook hands and he motioned to me to take a seat at the table.

My new boss Wally Deans was of average height, rugged build, with a rather taciturn nature and was now a Civil Foreman. The very first time I saw Wally Deans was when I was working at Rocky Valley, soon after I was sent up to Rocky Valley. I was standing at the door of the workshops just as a large, bulldozer with huge rubber tyres, roared into sight and came to a sudden, spectacular, see-sawing halt. Down from the bulldozer stepped a rather diminutive, looking bloke, in khaki overalls. He walked into the workshop and talked to a couple men there, and then climbed back on board the bulldozer and with an air of confidence about him drove away with great speed as dramatically as he had arrived.

I was doubly impressed by what I had seen first by the immensity and speed of the bulldozer, a Le Tourneau Tournadozer, and secondly by the bloke who drove it. I learned later that his name was Wally Deans and that he was a leading hand, plant operator. The Le Tourneau bulldozer was a powerful, high speed, skid-steered machine, purpose-built to push-load scrapers as well as other general bulldozing work. It was found however, to be inadequate on the Scheme for heavy snow clearing, because the rubber tyres slipped on the snow and ice.

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A Tournadozer at work Photo Southern Hydro

was never called to do any work on any equipment Wally Deans was operating. I somehow think on looking back, that when he could, he did all that was necessary himself. He was that type of bloke, independent and a good all round handyman, with a good deal of mechanical ability and operating skill to boot.
p<>{color:#000;}. Most SEC plant operators controlled the operation of their machines in a workman-like manner, but on the many occasions after that first time when I saw Wally operating various items of earth moving equipment, he handled the controls with finesse. It was as though the machine and he were one entity. He was one of the best, if not the best plant operator I had seen on the Scheme and there were many good ones.

Leaving the house on a brilliant, sunny, frosty morning, we drove up the road to Rocky Valley in a Land Rover utility. The weather had been like that for the last couple of weeks and as we drove up the road I noticed that in places there were ice crystals some 3 cm long growing out of the batters on the side of the road, eroding the batter as they grew. Wally had to take care driving the Land Rover as I had done in the Minor, because in some places where the sun never reached the road all day, it was very icy.

We stopped at Howman’s Gap to pick up two blokes Joe Shields and John Woods, Joe was a tubby, cheerful ‘Aussie’ and John was a big muscled, curly haired ‘Pommy.’ We shook hands and I thought they were really two good blokes and so they turned out to be.

They were both plant operators and they would be working with us until the snow fell, then with a bulldozer and grader, they would keep the road cleared into the Rocky Valley workshops, until the depth became too great. We would then use the Sno-Cat for access, which of course I was really looking forward to. We drove on past Falls Creek and around Windy Corner.

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The Rocky Valley dam and reservoir Photo W. Deans

s the Land Rover topped the rise just before we dropped down toward the dam, a spectacular new sight met my eyes. There in front of me through the windscreen I saw the terraced wall of the Rocky Valley Dam, holding back a huge expanse of water, which covered the floor of Rocky Valley.
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The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The’Sydney Harbour Bridge’ t was quite a revelation. The snow grassed depression of Rocky Valley that I knew so well in both summer and winter conditions, was no more. Long gone also spanning the Rocky Valley Creek, was the much photographed, unique rickety bridge, called ‘The Sydney Harbour Bridge’, which by some distortion of one’s imagination, had a certain resemblance to that famous structure. The bridge, a much loved icon of the Bogong High Plains was constructed with dead snow gum limbs, by former SEC gauging officers, to provide a dry means of crossing the stream when carrying out their gauging duties, recording rainfall, snow depths, river and stream flows all year round.
p<>{color:#000;}. We drove on down to an office block located above the dam wall. This office block had contained the offices for the engineers overseeing the construction of the Rocky Valley Dam, which had been completed in March of this year 1959.

Wally had taken over the large office for our crew, which contained a large, pot belly, Romesse stove that we lit straight away. We all had a hot cup of tea with water boiled in an electric jug, as the offices were connected to the power supply that came up over the Frying Pan Spur.

Looking out the office window I saw that the lake, which I will refer to by its correct title of the Rocky Valley Reservoir, (‘the reservoir’ for short), was already partially full, changing forever the picturesque vista towards Langford’s Gap. Wally said that after the dam was completed in March 1959 and when the by-pass was closed, the reservoir filled rapidly.

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Wally Deans warming his hands on the Romesse stove Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro ccess from the north to Wilkinson’s Lodge, Wallace’s hut and the Rover Chalet would now entail a long journey around the western end of the reservoir in Sun Valley, or Langford’s Gap, nearly doubling the distance in both directions.
p<>{color:#000;}. However I hoped that the beauty of the reservoir, when full, reflecting the brilliant blue of the sky above, would be adequate compensation for the loss of well loved vistas and the loss of direct access to those huts.

Wally and I were employed to look after many items of ancillary equipment and plant installed at Rocky and Pretty Valleys. He explained to me that there were a number of documented schedules of inspection that we were required to carry out periodically, which involved the taking and recording of measurements and other data. These were then sent to Mt Beauty or Bogong for evaluation.

The schedules specified patrolling and inspections of the installations at Pretty Valley, the weir, vortex tank and valve house, which were to be carried out twice weekly. Each of the racelines in operation, the Frying Pan (which we usually referred to as the Falls Creek raceline), Rocky Valley and the partly completed Langford’ East and West racelines were to be patrolled weekly, then twice weekly after the first fall of snow. There was a report sheet for each raceline, in which we were to note anything that had, or was likely to affect the free flow of water. Inspection of the valve house below the dam wall was to be carried out twice weekly and the intake structure twice each month. We would also report on and maintain the flow of water in the racelines, all of which are Bogong High Plains components of No.1 Development.

Before I joined Wally, Joe and John had been travelling around in the Land Rover, assisting Wally taking the various readings, but with the first snowfalls imminent, John and Joe had no wish to work in the snow, except from the level of a seat in a bulldozer or grader! When the snow fell and we could no longer use the Land Rover, we would use skis and the Sno-Cat to carry out our patrolling. From my point of view the sooner that happened the better!

The Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme (KHES) when designed was to consist of four major projects called Developments. In chronological order of planned completion dates they are as follows:

No 3 Development Clover P.S. completed May 1945.

No 2 Development Abandoned in 1947-1951.

No 4 Development West Kiewa P.S. completed April 1956

No 1 Development McKay P.S. to be completed in December 1960.

No.1 Development, where I worked for nearly all of the ten years I spent on the Scheme and which was now virtually complete, includes all of the infrastructure, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, racelines, the penstock line and the underground power station, all of which designed to produce a head of water for the turbines in No.1 Power Station at McKay Creek. No 1 Development when completed in 1962, marked the end of the construction of The Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme as planned to that date, which together with many upgrades and additions, is to this day, in conjunction with the SMA, still fulfilling its primary function of supplying instantaneous, peak power, to Victoria’s power grid.

It was a great experience for me to be able see the Rocky Valley dam increase in height from bedrock while I was working there, and then each time I visited Rocky Valley. I was reminded of the construction of Rocky Valley dam many times when I was teaching at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), when every day I saw the Daimaru building at Melbourne Central, grow from a big hole in the ground to its final height of 51 floors.

After we had our cup of tea, we climbed into the Land Rover and Wally took us along the road across the dam to Langford’s Gap.We drove out past Watchbed Creek to the junction of Langford’s East and West racelines. A private contractor, Leighton Pty. Ltd., had secured the contract to construct these two racelines, plus the Cope East and West racelines. Langford’s East and West racelines joined at Langford’s Gap, a saddle below Basalt Hill, the water running into the dam through Langford’s Cut, a large open cut channel.

Langford’s East raceline, was 8 km long and ran around the southern edge of the High Plains to the east above Middle Creek, below Fitzgerald’s Hut.

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A cross section of the raceline profile on a steep section of land Diagram courtesy of Southern Hydro

angford’s West raceline was 10 km long and when complete would run to the west below Wilkinson’s Lodge and Wallace’s Hut, then through an underground pipe adjacent to the Rover Scout Chalet, finally coming to an end on the slopes below and to the west of Cope Hut, where it would pick up water from the small tributaries of Middle Creek. There was still much work to be done to finish these racelines, but Leighton’s men had left for the winter just before I arrived.
p<>{color:#000;}. Most of the racelines were open channels, approximately 1.5 m deep, 1 m wide at the bottom and 6 m wide at the top, with sloping 45 degree batters. There was also a flat bench on one side to allow vehicle access for maintenance purposes.

Our job was to patrol the racelines on skis in winter, and report on the snow conditions in the vicinity of the racelines, such as the locations of the build up of snowdrifts, ice and other conditions that could affect the flow of water. How marvellous I thought. I would be getting paid to ski!

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The intake structure and our Land Rover Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro fter lunch we went around the western end of Rocky Valley to the intake structure, (offtake structure, as we usually referred to it) a high building of reinforced concrete.
p<>{color:#000;}. The intake structure, to use its correct name, is a structure erected at the Rocky Valley end of the headrace tunnel. It was completed in early May just before I came to work at Rocky Valley.

The intake structure contains a large roller gate, which can be opened and closed either manually, or by power from a Volkswagen engine, which Wally started up to show me and check that it was OK.

The gate was open allowing water in the reservoir, to enter and fill the headrace tunnel as far as the shut off valves at the McKay portal, which blocked the water from entering the penstock line and the McKay Creek power station until their completion in 1960.

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Mick Milovanovic checking the pore pressures Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro

o complete the first exciting day in my new job, Wally led us all down to the valve house, a small room set into the base of the downstream side of the Rocky Valley dam wall, where we met my next door neighbour Mick Milovanovic, a laboratory technician, who had come up from his office in Bogong, to check the pressures shown on a series of gauges mounted on a wall in the valve house.
p<>{color:#000;}. The gauges and other instrumentation equipment contained in the valve house are used to monitor the condition of the dam as it gradually filled and during its lifetime. A system of pore pressure sensors, distributed all through the dam wall, measure the pressure exerted on the dam wall by the water in the reservoir. The valve house instruments were equipped with a telemeter line monitored at the telephone exchange at Bogong, in which an alarm would sound if there was any unexpected sudden change in the readings. There was also a V notch weir to measure water seepage through the dam. Wally and I would be recording some of these measurements periodically.

The Rocky Valley dam wall is an earth and rock fill dam with terraced walls covered with a veneer of large basalt rocks. It is 533 m long, 30 m high, composed of 16.000 cubic metres of earth and rock fill. It is designed to spill excess water down a spillway shaft, which would flow under the dam to the river downstream. The concrete spillway shaft was affectionately nicknamed the ‘wing nut’ because of two wing-like projections above the shaft.

Those inspections completed my first day at Rocky Valley, learning about some of the installations that Wally and I would be looking after. When I returned home, I told Dilys what I had seen and done on my first day ‘up top.’ Later on that evening as I was recalling the events of the day, my mind went back to the first couple of times I visited the Bogong High Plains (BHP).

The first was in 1945 with the Rover Scouts to a work party on the Rover Scout Chalet which was combined with a very long, two day hike to Mt Bogong and back. The second, a more leisurely hike of nine days, was with three other Rover Scouts across the BHP starting at Harrietville and finishing at Tawonga.

These first two hikes and later in 1947 and 1948 spending two weeks of each of those years skiing on the BHP with the Rover Scouts, provided me with a very extensive knowledge of the BHP, its terrain, weather conditions in summer and winter, all of which led to me being selected for this job on the High Plains with Wally Deans.

The next day, was another freezing cold, frosty morning, as we travelled up to the offices in the canvas top Land Rover, which was not the warmest vehicle one could travel in, we arriving at the office block, where the fire in the Romesse was quickly lit, the kettle boiled and lovely hot cups of tea were made. This was a ritual we followed first thing every morning, before we commenced the work of the day.

Leaving the warmth of the office, we all climbed into the cold Land Rover and Wally drove across to Pretty Valley. We entered the deep valley across which the large Pretty Valley dam was to be built, but never was, although the earthwork abutments on Damsite Hill were still visible.

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The Pretty Valley weir just prior to completion and the vortex tank further down the valley Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro his valley originally drained the water from Pretty Valley, into the Pretty Valley Branch of the East Kiewa River, but the water is now diverted by a low, concrete weir into a large diameter pipe, which ran some 100 m down the valley side, to a high orange coloured, tank.
p<>{color:#000;}. One of our tasks was to periodically clean the weir screens of debris, to prevent them from blocking and the weir from overflowing. A branch tunnel called the Pretty Valley leg of the headrace tunnel was bored from a point about halfway along the headrace tunnel under Mt McKay, ending at a concrete valve house down the hill below the vortex tank.

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The vortex tank showing the inlet and discharge pipes Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro e walked down to the high orange tank, which was called a vortex tank and siphon. The tank was about 8 m diameter and 14 m high with its base a few metres below ground level.
p<>{color:#000;}. Wally then led us down the batter below the vortex tank to the valve house and unlocked the door, which revealed a large steel pipe containing valves, which shut off the water of the branch tunnel.

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The vortex tank and valve house Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro

4 foot (1.2 m) diameter shut-off-valve, took up most of the room in the valve house, which contained a small valve that was making a metallic rattling noise. This was an air relief valve that allowed the release of small amounts of air, which accumulated in the headrace and branch tunnels. The heat from a gas radiator was directed on to the air relief valve to prevent it from freezing.
p<>{color:#000;}. The gas supply to the radiator was piped from a bank of Heatane gas bottles stored in a room above the valve house. Wally unlocked the door to show us the gas bottles, first making sure that none of us had a lighted cigarette. Four of the bottles were connected through a switching manifold, to the radiator in the valve house. We would be responsible for monitoring the usage of gas from the cylinders, changing over to another bank at the manifold, before the four in use were empty. The method of determining the amount of gas in the bottles was by weighing them. After locking up, we walked back up the hill to the vortex tank.

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A diagram of the valve house vortex tank and siphon Diagram courtesy of Southern Hydro he purpose of the vortex tank was to separate out entrained air in the pipeline from the weir, and prevent it from entering the headrace tunnel, which would occur if the water from the weir flowed freely down the shaft into the tunnel.
p<>{color:#000;}. Wally asked me to follow him up the steel ladder to the platform around the top of the tank, to show me how to take a measurement. I looked down into the tank where water, about 2 m deep swirled around in a vortex. This was aided by the water from the pipeline entering the tank tangentially above the level of the swirling water. Rising vertically from the centre of the tank below the water level, a 1.3 m diameter steel pipe curled over the tank top and descended alongside the tank to join the branch tunnel some 20 m below ground level. The pipe formed a seal and siphon, which prevented any entrained air from entering the tunnel. Any small amounts of air that were still present, were discharged by the rattling, relief valve, I had just seen in the valve house.

Wally dropped a tape measure with a weight on the end of the tape and measured the distance from the top of the vortex tank to the surface of the water below. This measurement, together with all of the others we would be taking on our rounds, was then sent to the engineers at Mt Beauty, which enabled them to come to certain engineering conclusions, the like of which I was wholly ignorant! I think Wally was too. Once all the measurements and other readings had been taken, we drove back to Rocky Valley where we spent the rest of the day until it was time to go home

At home in House 8, life was very enjoyable with Graham and Virginia growing up all the time. As there was no kindergarten in Bogong, Dilys had begun home-schooling our children, which included playing games. Word got around (in Bogong it travelled at the speed of light) about the games, and suddenly children began arriving at our house after school to play. It began with two, then four, finally ending up with nineteen well behaved, well mannered children, totally absorbed in educational learning games. At the end of the hour, Dilys gave all the children a drink of home-made lemon cordial, after which they went happily home. Dilys was a marvel with the children and of course I was very proud of her.

With my record player I introduced Virginia to some ballet music, to which she would try to dance for Dilys and me. While I was overseas, I frequently went to the ballet at Covent Garden, and became quite a fan of the ballet, so I thought I might be able to make Virginia into a ballerina, or at least enjoy the ballet and its music. Outside in the garden, my tomatoes and vegetables had come to nothing again, while around Bogong the deciduous trees, which had looked lovely with their multi-coloured autumn leaves, were now shedding their leaves and winter was on our doorstep, but we were all cosy and warm in House 8.

Across Lake Guy we were all watching in wonder, as linesmen erected tall transmission towers that would carry the power generated at McKay Creek Power Station when it was completed, for use in Victorian homes and industry.

Bogong was also home to some very strong, black birds, or ravens, some said they were Currajong’s, but I don’t think we ever really knew their correct name. When we put out our galvanised dust bin in front of the house to be emptied by the dust man, these birds, whatever they were, were strong enough to prise off the lid and pick out anything they fancied in the bin, even though we had made sure the lid was closed tightly. Bogong village is not only the habitat of strong men, but also strong birds!

 

CHAPTER 36: WAITING FOR THE SNOW TO FALL May, June, July 1959

As the month of May came to an end, the days remained clear and cold. We were all hoping for a white opening for the Queen’s Birthday weekend, but it was not to be. Not a flake of snow fell before I went up to the ski season opening party at the Bogong Ski Club. The lack of snow at least had the advantage of allowing building to continue on many new lodges that were under construction in the village.

The weather continued with frosty, cold, mornings and beautiful, sunny days, not that we got the sun for very long at Bogong, but it was certainly better than fog and rain, although the latter usually meant snow up top at this time of the year.

Dilys, the children and myself were hoping it would snow in Bogong this winter, and as far as I was concerned that would be lovely, but it was snow on the High Plains that I was really looking forward to. The fine sunny weather produced some beautiful, cloud seas in the valleys, around Omeo and the Kiewa Valley. Some days they persisted until well after lunchtime. One advantage of living at Bogong under these conditions was that Bogong was above the fogs and ironically, received some sunshine, short as it was.

As the weather continued to be frosty and fine right through the month of June, so we had a rather easy time, travelling around in the Land Rover doing all our patrolling and inspections. One morning Wally drove us out across Pretty Valley to see the progress Leighton had made with Cope East and West racelines, but there was not much to see. These racelines were not scheduled to be completed until May 1961. We had Joe and John with us. They were good company and we had a lot of fun together. Their real work will begin when, if ever, it snows.

On the way back to Rocky Valley we had a look at the refuge hut in Pretty Valley, which was the same as the one situated at Langford’s Gap. These huts were erected where we would be carrying out patrols, to provide refuge in the case of bad weather or other unforeseen circumstance. They were equipped with bunks and stocked with some food, blankets, a hurricane lamp, plus a good first aid kit. It would be our responsibility to keep the hut stocked with all the essentials from a checklist kept in the hut, which was not locked. They also provided refuge for anyone else who might be caught in the snow.

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Raceline construction at Langford’s Gap and the refuge hut on the bench Photo GFS

Photo GFS n the afternoon we drove across the dam and inspected Langford’s East raceline. There was not much water flowing in the racelines, as the weather was so fine. Hoarfrost had built up on some of the bushes and in some places, small pools of water, away from the flow in the raceline, had iced over. We enjoyed a nice hot cup of tea in the refuge hut, before driving back to Rocky Valley and as we passed Watchbed Creek, Joe and John suggested that we should stop for a while to tickle some trout. Wally agreed rather reluctantly, so we followed Joe and John down to the side of the creek. Watchbed Creek at that point was only a meter wide with overhanging banks of snow grass.
p<>{color:#000;}. I had heard of the term ‘tickling for trout’, but had no idea what it meant, so Joe and John said that they would show us how to tickle. They knelt down with their shoulders over the bank, putting their hands in the water, and up underneath the grass growing out from the bank. They said that the idea was to move one’s hands slowly underneath the bank, until the slippery side of a trout could be felt. Then to continue moving the hands back and forth along the trout’s side, not really in a tickling, but a caressing motion. After both hands were around the trout, with a quick grab and lunge upwards, lift the trout out of the water and land it on the bank.

With their hands nearly frozen, they said for Wally and me to have a try. I was thrilled when I actually managed to feel a trout, but could not land it. None of us landed a trout, but it was certainly a new experience for me. Joe said that “Tickling for trout is strictly illegal.” I thought afterwards that it was a fair ‘sport’, as the water was so cold that it was only possible to keep our hands underwater for a short time. I felt it was certainly not as cruel as catching a trout by hooking it in its mouth, besides I am sure the trout would have enjoyed being caressed, before meeting its Maker!

The following morning Wally said he had received a message from the engineers at Mt Beauty that the valves in the valve house at Pretty Valley, were to be partially opened to discharge water from the Rocky Valley Dam. This action was required, because the Rocky Valley dam was blocking off the normal flow of water down the East Kiewa River to the Clover and West Kiewa power stations. They were being deprived of generating capacity, until McKay Creek power station commenced operating at the end of next year and the flow of water was restored through the power station.

We drove over to the valve house at Pretty Valley on a lovely, cold, but sunny day. Entering the valve house, we first raised the roller door through which the water would be discharged. To discharge water the valves had to be opened in a set sequence. The first operation in a series of actions was to open a 15 cm diameter gate valve, which allowed water to flow from the headrace side to the downstream side of the large 1.2 m diameter gate valve. This equalised the pressure on both sides of the large gate valve, which would otherwise have been impossible to open due to the water pressure in the headrace tunnel. That was the easy part of the process, the hard part came next!

The 1.2 m diameter gate valve was equipped with a large hand wheel. Wally had operated this gate valve before and said it took around 250 turns to open the valve fully. He said we would each take a turn, when one got tired the next would take over. There was a lot of good natured abuse, urging each of us to turn the wheel faster and faster as we took our turn at the wheel, until at last after about 15 minutes, the valve was fully open!

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Water being discharged from the valve house Photo W Deans he opening of this large, gate valve, admitted water to a butterfly valve (a valve similar to throttle valve, in a car’s carburetor). A butterfly valve is a ‘balanced‘ valve, a type which requires very little energy to open and close, or to set partially open, as we were required to do. This valve was opened by a small hand wheel, and as soon as we opened the valve, a great jet of water shot out into the river below. When we had adjusted the valve to the required opening, we chained and locked both valves, then locked the valve house door, leaving a noisy discharge of water shooting out into the stream below.
p<>{color:#000;}. Small diameter, unbalanced, gate valves, are used extensively in industry to control the flow of fluid, liquid or gas, but in this application the gate valve is so large and its operation so slow and labour intensive that it is not practical to use it to control the flow of water under pressure from the headrace. The large, balanced, butterfly valve on the other hand is able to be adjusted to the required flow rate quickly and easily, indicated by markings on the valve control.

We took a measurement of the water level in the vortex tank and drove back to Rocky Valley. Every day I have been working with Wally, I learned more and more about the engineering that goes into the making of a hydro-electric scheme and I felt very privileged and excited by my new job. Who wouldn’t be? My choice of becoming an apprentice fitter and turner, was definitely the correct one! Apart from going out on our periodic patrolling duties, waiting for the snow to fall was getting to be a little boring, as there was not much for any of us to do.

One of my daily pastimes however, was watching the clouds in the sky. From an early age, I had studied the weather as a hobby, learning the names of all the cloud types, the mechanisms of hot and cold fronts, and much more. I had even considered that I would like to be a meteorologist, until I learned that in the first years of my training, I would be stationed at isolated weather stations and that was not for me! I have never been bored watching the clouds in the sky, which are a constant source of unique beauty, never exhibiting exactly the same form, from day to day, hour to hour, or minute to minute. There are so many changing cloud patterns to observe. The exciting growth of an anvil above a thundercloud, the gradual growth of woolly fair weather cumulous clouds on a hot day, the gradual advance of a front as high cirri-cumulous cloud descend and are replaced by lower level (mackerel sky) alto-cumulous.

One day we walked the length of the Rocky Valley and Frying Pan racelines. The Rocky Valley raceline is a short raceline, which commenced near Roper’s Lookout on the eastern side of the dam wall. The Frying Pan raceline the first to be constructed, ran around the Frying Pan Spur, above Skippy’s Basin. It was an experimental raceline built by a workforce, which included Toni St Elmo.

The water level in the ice covered reservoir was fairly static, with virtually no water coming in from the racelines, and now that we had opened the valve at Pretty Valley, it would gradually begin to fall until it rained or snowed, to make up for the loss. Bob Hyman’s chairlift and Toni St Elmo’s Nissen ski lifts were not making any money and neither were the private lodges, especially Cecil and Ore’s, with their store, ski hire and transport business. Snow making was yet to be invented.

One morning after we had been down to the valve house below the dam, I was walking up the slope towards the offices, and stopped to have a look down an inspection manhole where we kept various tools. The one meter diameter pit had a large, thick, hinged wooden cover. After I had finished checking the contents, I pulled the lid down to close it, but did not get my thumb out of the way in time and squashed it! I was in agony as I climbed back up to the office. Wally got out the first aid kit and gave me a pain killer tablet, bathed my thumb in Dettol and bandaged it up, but that didn’t help a bit. The others were all very sorry for me and that didn’t help either. I felt a little faint and spent the rest of the day lying down in great pain. There was only one consolation. The skin around my thumbnail was broken and bleeding, so there was no blood under my thumbnail that would have had to be pierced to drain the blood off. In my working life I had performed that process on my own nails and others many times, with a small drill or red-hot needle. Dilys and the children were very loving and caring for me when I arrived home a wounded man, and I eventually lost the nail, but apart from that the pain soon disappeared and my thumb healed quite quickly.

How much longer would we have to wait for the snow to fall we wondered, as the month of June went by? The reservoir had now frozen over and at the edges it was about 10 mm thick.

We learned that we were to be issued with a small, aluminium, dinghy with an outboard motor for use on the reservoir and the dinghy arrived one day behind an SEC utility. I knew next to nothing about outboard motors, except one that Dilys’s brother Dan had at Rye. The dinghy came with a good instruction manual for the motor, so that was another item of equipment for me to learn about and look after. With ice covering the reservoir, the dinghy was useless (or so we thought), but should be of value after the thaw, even if only as an item of safety equipment, but there was no life jackets issued with it.

One day a Dutchman who was working at Falls Creek came to visit us. He had come up to have a look at the dam and the reservoir. He said that the reservoir looked as though the ice was thick enough to walk on, and said to come down to the water with him and we would find out. So down we went to the water’s edge where the road by the store disappeared under the water. The Dutchman looked at it, saying: “Yes that’s OK, it’s about 3 cm thick, I’ll show you.” He straightaway walked gently out about 10 m on to the ice: “You see, I know all about ice coming from the Netherlands, it’s a pity I don’t have my skates with me.” We reckoned that he was a great bloke knowing all about ice. Where he walked out on the ice, if the ice had broken and he had fallen through, it would have been only about 100 cm deep, although very cold and wet.

The days went by, one by one, still without snow. We kept listening to the weather reports on the radio, as well as looking at the weather maps in the papers (usually someone else’s) to try and interpret what they portrayed. I could see a succession of highs coming across from the west and that was no good for snow, just more sun and frost, but I seemed to be the only one who wasn’t happy about it!

June passed by with everyone in Falls Creek going broke and spinning prayer wheels madly, but to no avail. Then around the 20th July the weather maps took on a different look with a few lows coming into the picture. Clouds replaced the frost and sunny weather and then on the 23rd July, the weather report on the radio, predicted a fall of snow in the next couple of days.

I had brought my good Kneisel skis home from the Bogong Ski Club after Queens Birthday weekend and kept them ready for use up top, preferring to use them instead of a pair of rather antiquated SEC skis that were supplied for Wally and me. The weather on the 24th at last really turned wintry, with clouds racing across the sky and it also became very cold.

 

CHAPTER 37: SNOW FALLS AT LAST July, August September 1959

Overnight on the 25th July as predicted on the 7 p.m. news, snow at last fell, but I thought I would believe it only when I saw it. The 25th of July was a date that I have kept in my mind for over fifty years, quoting it time and time again, when skiing friends have been disappointed that no snow had fallen for Queen’s Birthday weekends. Wally and I weren’t even at Rocky Valley to see it fall, because the 25th was a Saturday, but during the weekend when I saw Wally, he told me that he had been told that about 15 cm of snow had fallen at Rocky Valley. Wonderful!

On Monday morning, clad in our warm clothing, I put my skis and ski boots into the Land Rover and we drove up to Howman’s Gap to pick up Joe and John, who were pleased that at last they would have some work to do. There was only a sprinkling of snow at Howman’s Gap, but as we drove up it became a little deeper. Cars, and I reckoned Leaping Lena, had already made tracks through the snow. Above Falls Creek we came to Windy Corner, a section of the road very prone to being covered by drifting snow, but Wally charged the Land Rover into the snow. After backing off and trying again, we rounded Windy Corner. The Land Rover did not have much ground clearance, so it did not take much snow to stop us, as the snow banked up under the front differential.

Just around the bend of Windy Corner the road was bare of snow, because some water was flowing across the road for a short section. The road then climbed slightly to cross over the Frying Pan raceline, but this caused us no trouble until we came to the steep rise where the road forked, one fork going down over the dam wall and the other to Pretty Valley. Wally tried to force the Land Rover through the snow up the hill, but even though we all got out and pushed, that was as far as the Land Rover was prepared to take us, as we had not fitted chains to the tyres.

The sun was now shining weakly through drifting white clouds as Wally and I ploughed through about 20 cm of snow in our gumboots down to the offices.

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The dam and reservoir under their first fall of snow Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro t was not the snow underfoot that drew my attention as we walked down, but the water in the reservoir, which had changed from an icy white, to blotchy white, where the snow had fallen on top of ice cover. In some places it was hard to tell where the actual water in the reservoir finished and the land began.
p<>{color:#000;}. Joe and John walked over to the workshops and started up the grader and graded the road down to the offices, while we stoked up the fire and boiled the kettle. After Joe and John had warmed up by the fire, we all had a warming cup of tea.

Wally asked Joe and John to grade the road to allow us to get the Land Rover up to the office and to then clear the road across the dam wall and out to Langford’s Gap. After we got the Land Rover up to the office, we drove out to Langford’s Gap along the cleared road. Wally wanted to see how the water was flowing in the racelines after the first snowfall. A bitterly cold wind was blowing across Langford’s Gap as we followed Wally along the side of Langford’s East raceline. There was no need for skis, we just plodded along on the side of the raceline through the snow in our gumboots. Some distance along, we found that the water had nearly stopped flowing, where snow had drifted across the raceline.

So now we were in for some hard work. We returned to the Land Rover to get some shovels and another from the grader. Armed with these we went back to the blockage, shovelling away until it was cleared. Then when we had cleared that section, we moved along to another place where there was another blockage. It didn’t take much shovelling to get the water flowing again as the drifted snow was not very deep. We knocked off for lunchtime, rather tired and cold, especially my feet. We climbed into the Land Rover while Joe drove the grader back. After lunch, Joe and John left us, as they were going to grade the road back down to Falls Creek and Howman’s Gap, and we would pick them up again the next morning at Howman’s Gap.

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Our ski steered Sno-Cat Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro ally and I went down to take the readings in the valve house, then we went up to the workshops to start up the Sno-Cat, so that I could begin learning all about it. This was the first time I had heard the Sno-Cat’s engine running. I had never heard such a magnificent sound, coming from a petrol engine’s exhaust in the whole of my life, as it reverberated around the closed walls of the workshop in a deep, melodic rhythm. The reason why I was so impressed by the exhaust note was quite clear, the exhaust pipe from the Chrysler straight 8 engine came straight up beside the cab. After shutting the engine down, Wally opened the bonnet.
p<>{color:#000;}. I had of course seen the engine when I went out with Ian Barwick to check out the stalled Sno-Cat in Pretty Valley, but never when it was running. Wally explained that the transmission came from a Dodge weapon carrier, which had one transmission characteristic that the driver of the Sno-Cat always had to be aware of. Because the hand brake was operated by a band brake on the tail shaft extension from the gearbox, if a half shaft axle broke, the Sno-Cat had no brakes and the driver would have no recourse, but to steer out of trouble!

Next, Wally opened the cavernous, boot, to show me the spare parts the Sno-Cat carried, track bars, a spragging bar to put through one side of the drive to lock the transmission if a track broke. This allowed the Cat to be driven along the snow, sliding along on the base of the pontoon. He opened the toolbox to show me the contents, containing a good set of tools and various small parts, which I had used before on the stranded Sno-Cat.

We then returned to the offices, where he gave me the operating and maintenance instructions, saying that would keep me interested, until it was time to go home. And it did! I learned that Sno-Cats were made by the Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation in Medford Oregon U.S.A. Our SEC Sno-Cat was a ski steered model, a model no longer being manufactured by Tucker.

All the later models were called ‘double pontoon‘ models, which I knew were used on the Snowy Scheme. One reason why no more ski steered Sno-Cats were being manufactured, was that Tucker’s slogan: ‘NO SNOW TOO DEEP, NO ROAD TOO STEEP,’ was not the case with the ski steered models. The double pontoon Sno-Cats were also much more manoeuvrable, versatile and efficient, using hydraulics in the design, more true to the company’s slogan.

Our Sno-Cat seated five persons, two in the front and three in the back. It had an enormous boot and carried 150 litres of petrol in a tank below the boot. The Sno-Cat was driven by means of a track that ran around a pontoon on each side.

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A Sno-Cat track being worked on in the Tucker factory Photo courtesy Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation he two pontoons, one on each side, were made from stainless steel. They were 50 cm wide with a flat base some 3 m long curved at the ends to meet at an apex at the top, where they were attached to the drive shafts with sprockets, which engaged with the track bars.
p<>{color:#000;}. The track bars consisted of strong bars that had flanged rollers attached to each end of the bars. There were 32 trackbars making up a full track for each side, joined together by mild steel links held in place by split pins. The track assembly was wrapped around the pontoons, such that the flanged rollers of the track bars ran around the steel rails attached to each side of the outer edge of the pontoon. The pontoons and track assemblies were free to rotate completely around the drive shafts.

Two large hickory skis turned up at each end were attached to an ‘A’ frame in front, which was steered by a steel cable attached to the steering wheel. The skis were attached to the A frame in such a way that they could independently follow the contours of the snow, as could the pontoons. A spare ski was carried on the roof. To enable the Sno-Cat to travel over snow less terrain for a limited distance, retractable, rubber tyred wheels, were fitted to the frame, which could be lowered manually below the skis. Having digested most of the instructions, I couldn’t wait now until we got it out on to the snow.

I needed a new pair of overalls, so I decided to buy a white pair, not to be camouflaged against the white snow, but the job was clean (or so I thought). Besides, I had always admired workers who were able to wear white overalls.

During the next few days it snowed on and off but soon stopped, so we went out and did more digging on the raceline. The conditions before our first snow fall this year could not have been worse. With a month or so of frosts and no rainfall, there was next to no water flowing along the racelines. What little water there was froze, so the snow remained where it fell on top of the ice. Soon some of the snow melted, and the racelines commenced to flow normally, but not without our help on the shovels. Ideally from a point of view of the efficacy of the racelines, there should be a period of rain before the first snow fell, so that the racelines are flowing freely and the snow, when it first fell, would simply melt in the flowing water.

When we patrolled the full length of Langford’s East raceline some time later, we found that one unfortunate result of the initial blockage of the raceline, was that further upstream water had overflowed from the raceline, spillways. This had left a wide, ugly eroded scars, down the mountain towards Middle Creek.

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Bob Hyman’s snow buggy Photo GFS e had an unexpected visit to the workshops from Bob Hymans, who had taken the opportunity of driving up the road from Falls Creek, before the road was closed. He drove a four-wheel drive utility, with a trailer on behind. Loaded on the trailer was a strange looking vehicle, with a large propeller, enclosed in a wire cage. The propeller was driven by a flat four, air cooled, engine, and a small bubble, shaped cabin, was mounted on skis in front of the engine. It appeared to be an over snow version of a dune buggy used for transport on the Florida Everglades, in America. We all stood around gazing in awe at the contraption.
p<>{color:#000;}. Bob had another bloke with him and we gave them a hand to lift the buggy, which was not very heavy off the trailer on to the snow above the workshops. Bob said he was going to start it up and take it down around Rocky Valley, to try it out. He told us to stand clear, and squeezed himself into the cabin. The buggy had a battery start, and in a moment the starter motor, with a whirring sound began to slowly turn over the propeller, but the motor didn’t spring into life.

Bob climbed out of the cabin and together with his assistant, had a look at the engine and made a few adjustments. Bob climbed back in the cabin and engaged the starter motor and again the propeller turned slowly, but after repeated attempts and a few more adjustments, the motor refused to fire up.

What a disappointment it was for us all, especially Bob and his assistant, who were devastated and embarrassed. Bob asked us to help him load it back on the trailer, which we did and off he went. We heard later that he managed to get the buggy started in Falls Creek, but it would not climb any sort of slope and besides it made a hell of a racket!

To my mind the buggy would have been an ideal vehicle for joy riding on the ice covered Rocky Valley reservoir. The last that was seen of the buggy, another of poor Bob’s innovations (besides his chair lift) was it lying forlorn, with the propeller guard removed, across the access road from his lodge.

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re Fruehauf gave me two old photos of Russian over snow vehicles, which I have reproduced below. The photo on the left, shows a type of ski steered vehicle, like our Sno-Cat, while the one on the right is a propeller driven buggy, the same basic design as Bob Hyman’s. p<>{color:#000;}. S oon we had another good fall of snow, which left about 20-30 cm on the ground and it was no longer necessary for Joe and John to keep the road open to Langford’s Gap, except up to the Rocky Valley workshops for us. At last I was going to be riding in the Sno-Cat, which I had been eagerly looking forward to, ever since I came up to work with Wally. Wally said we were going to the intake structure, and Joe and John decided to come along with us and risk having to walk back through the snow if the Sno-Cat broke down and I couldn’t repair it. p<>{color:#000;}. Wally and I put our skis on the rack on top of the Sno-Cat and it was driven out of the workshop, where I retracted the wheels. Wally and I were in the front seats and Joe and John, who were both beaut blokes, sat in the back. “Take her away Guv!” Yelled Joe. ‘The Guv’, was a nickname that both he and John called Wally. As this was their first ride in the Sno-Cat too, I think they were as excited about it as I was. Before we moved off, Wally called the Bogong telephone exchange on the VHF Ferris transceiver installed in the Sno-Cat;

“Mobile 8 to VL3KT, do you read me, over?”

“Yes, Mobile 8, loud and clear, go ahead, over.”

“We are going to the intake structure, and will call when we get there, Mobile 8, over and out.”

“Understood, VL3KT, over and out.”

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The author enjoying the sun in Sun Valley 1947

e made a radio call to the Bogong exchange, each time we started out, then when we reached and left each destination, and finally when we arrived back at our starting point. The Sno-Cat carried a long vertical aerial that we had to remove on many occasions to allow us to make our way under stands of snow gums. It was great to be on the move. The tracks made a nice jingling, rattling noise, below the powerful, exciting throb from the exhaust, as we took a route around the water in the reservoir, in Sun Valley.
p<>{color:#000;}. N

Our Rover Scout party having lunch in Sun Valley in 1947

ever did I think when I was here with the Rover Scouts on that beautiful, sunny day, in 1947, that I would be in Sun Valley in these circumstances. The cornice on this occasion on the Ruined Castle Spur had only started to form, but on that day and year it was huge. Sun Valley looked beautiful again as it had back then, when I took my shirt off and skied around a little, just for the fun of it. We inspected the intake structure, and gave the Volkswagen engine a run, before heading back to Rocky Valley workshops. After the Sno-Cat had crossed back over the small creek that caused us no trouble as the large skis easily bridged the gap over the creek, Joe and John suggested we should stop a while and see if we could tickle some trout.
p<>{color:#000;}. Wally never objected, so I watched while they lay over the banks of the creek where the dam water had not reached. Very soon there was a shout from John, and a trout was thrown up on to the snow, wriggling about in its death throes. Then Joe got one and then John another. I gave it a try, feeling the body of the trout OK, but my hands were so cold I couldn’t land it. By now they had five trout each about 20 cm long. Joe and John removed the roe by squeezing the trout with their hands along the trout’s bodies, which left large, ugly, orange, scars on the snow that was a good match for the colour of the Sno-Cat parked nearby. It was a scene of absolute massacre, the roe looking like orange blood on the snow. We shovelled most of the roe back into the stream, but it still left an orange stain in the snow along the bank.

I decided that it was not really a fair sport, as the fish were full of roe and sluggish, making them easy to catch, except by me. As we climbed back into the Sno-Cat to make our way back, Joe gave me a trout to take home. I hoped that it would snow soon and cover up all the evidence of the massacre, a little sorry too that it had occurred in my beloved Sun Valley. When we arrived back at the workshops and Wally had signed off on the radio, I wondered if the Bogong exchange had been worried because we took such a long time to return from the intake structure, but they didn’t make any comment. I checked over the Sno-Cat but everything was OK.

When I returned home trout in hand, I told Dilys all about how the trout were caught and I think she was a little shocked. She cooked the trout for dinner, frying it in a pan with flour and butter, but I didn’t think trout was the tastiest fish I had ever eaten and I still don’t. Dilys wouldn’t even try it! Shetland Cod for me.

Joe and John remained with us, keeping the road open to the Rocky Valley workshops, which we were now, using as our headquarters, where the Sno-Cat, bulldozer and grader were housed. Each morning before we could get into the workshops, we sometimes had to shovel snow away from the door, and nearly every morning a fuse lighter had to be lit, to melt the ice in the big brass, padlock, to allow the key to be inserted in the lock.

Once inside Joe and John would start the fire in the Romesse and Wally would boil the jug for our cup of tea in his office. I lit up the oxy-torch and thawed out the water pipes to the toilet and the cistern, which usually froze up too. I was rather proud of the white overalls I had purchased, which I wore over my ski clothes, although I got a bit of a ribbing when I first put them on.

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The rock at the summit of the steep climb as seen on the return journey Photo W Deans

y next trip after warming up with a cup of tea was to go out to Pretty Valley. Joe and John stayed back at the workshops and worked on the grader and bulldozer, greasing and doing other maintenance tasks. Wally started up the Sno-Cat and drove it outside. Once the skis were on a good cover of snow I raised and locked the wheels in position. I climbed in and off we went up the slope behind the workshops to the top of the Ruined Castle Spur, keeping well clear of any cornices which had formed above Sun Valley.
p<>{color:#000;}. Near where I had first worked on the stranded Sno-Cat, there was a particularly steep, snow slope, below a big rock, about 500 m down the road from McKay Gap. To circumvent this section Wally had to drive the Sno-Cat up and around a big rock at the top of the rise.

As the Sno-Cat approached the climb, Wally put his foot down hard on the throttle pedal and the exhaust roared as we climbed up without any trouble. After that thrilling short climb, it was an easy run downhill to the weir at Pretty Valley. Each time we stopped, my task was to walk around and inspect the tracks to check if they were OK, which most times they usually were

Wally and I walked down to the valve house where the water was still discharging from the valve and we checked that the radiator was working. We then recorded the maximum and minimum temperatures, weighed the gas bottles to determine how full they were and found they were OK.

Next we climbed the ladder of the vortex tank and took the water level measurement, noticing that there was some ice circulating with the water. Lastly, we raked clean the buildup of bits of bush and other foliage covering the weir screens and then we prepared to leave, but first Wally had to drive the Sno-Cat backwards and forwards a number of times, to reverse on the narrow bench, before the Sno-Cat was pointing in the right direction to start back.

After watching Wally turn around the Sno-Cat with its very limited turning circle, I realised that was one of the principal limitations of a ski steered Sno-Cat. A double pontoon model with hydraulic steering control of the pontoons, would have been able to turn around in nearly its own length.

After we returned and the Sno-Cat was backed into the workshop, I inspected it thoroughly, the tracks engine oil level, radiator. I then carried out any work needed, ready for the next trip. What a wonderful way it was to earn a living, even if my skis had not been off the top of the Sno-Cat yet!

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Boy Scout Commissioner Major General Risson t last there was enough snow for Wally and me to put on our skis and inspect Langford’s East and West racelines as far along as they had been completed. We also inspected the Frying Pan raceline. We noticed that now that there was good cover of snow, there were also quite a few skiers at Falls Creek even though it was mid-week. The racelines were now all flowing without any blockages, with only small snowdrifts building up here and there. We recorded the location of these together with our other notes, because they could be a problem in a heavy winter.
p<>{color:#000;}. In the last week of August, Wally and me, had the pleasant job of taking Major General Risson, the Boy Scout Commissioner at the time; across to the Rover Scout Chalet one Friday, to spend the weekend with the rover scouts.

We met Commissioner Risson at Falls Creek with the Sno-Cat and after introductions, I assisted the Commissioner, who was quite a large man into the back seat, then I took my usual place as navigator beside Wally in the front seat. Wally knew that I was a Rover Scout and had skied with the Rover Scouts at the Chalet for two weeks each in 1947 and 1948, and that that experience helped me get this job him. It was a lovely, sunny day, as Wally drove the Sno-Cat across over the top of the Ruined Castle Spur, and around over the Rocky Knobs. As we trundled along, the Commissioner smoked cigars and offered us each a cigar, so we travelled along in style.

I told the Commissioner that I knew Bill Waters the Rover Scout Commissioner, very well. The Commissioner said that it was Bill Waters who had invited him to visit the Chalet, so I knew I would certainly be seeing Bill. I thought to myself: I bet that he had brought a box of cigars for Bill, because I knew that Bill loved to smoke a cigar now and then.

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Rover Scout Commissioner W.F ‘Bill’ Waters e dropped down off the Rocky Knobs and drove right down to the Chalet. The rovers had heard us coming and were all out in the front of the Chalet to welcome the Commissioner. After Bill had welcomed the Commissioner, Bill seeing me, came over to me with his left hand outstretched, saying: “Well I never, Nanki Poo! I heard you were working with the SEC, but never expected to see you here today!”
p<>{color:#000;}. I introduced Wally to Bill, who invited us in to the chalet for a hot cup of tea and a bite to eat. There were a few rovers there who I knew, ‘Clarkie’ from the Brunswick Rovers, but none from our crew. It was indeed a pleasure to see Bill Waters, after so many years. I first met Bill in 1945 on a work party at the Rover Scout Chalet. He invested me as a Rover Scout on the summit of Mt Bogong when we hiked there one day, while we were on a work party at the Chalet. Since then, I had been with him on many hikes and skiing trips he had led in the mountains, as well as I had just mentioned, spending two winters 1947 and 1948, staying at the Chalet and skiing on the High Plains.

While we were waiting to take Commissioner Risson back to Falls Creek, I told Bill Waters an amazing meeting I had overseas, with another of our Rover Scouts. The following is an extract from my book:, Mountains of My Youth, which relates the circumstances of that serendipitous meeting, I told to Bill.

‘As my skiing companion Netta and me, were skiing down from the Kleiner Scheidegg, on this the last day of our fortnight’s skiing in Grindelwald, another skier, skied across to us and said to me;

“Hullo Nanki, do you remember me?”

He seemed vaguely familiar and not waiting for me to reply said:

“I’m Ernie Gertz, we were both in the Rover Scouts together.”

I was amazed, so I asked him:

“How the hell did you recognise me?”

“By the gloves you had hanging from your belt with a blanket pin.”

Meeting with Ernie Gertz, on a skiing ground on the other side of the world in this manner, was truly remarkable.

I knew Ernie quite well, but to be recognised as a Rover Scout from Victoria, by the simple Rover Scout practice of attaching a spare pair of ski gloves to our trouser belt, by a large blanket pin, was one in a million. I introduced him to Netta and we talked for a while about our travels.

I told Ernie that this was our last day on the slopes in Grindelwald, so we wished each other well before parting with a warm handshake. (Left hand of course.)

The other amazing circumstance of this meeting was that when we met, it was not only our last day, but it was to be our final downhill run for the fortnight.

Bill was absolutely amazed at the circumstances of the meeting. He said he would tell my story to the other rovers, after we had left. We spent about an hour in the chalet and then, after arranging a time to pick up Commissioner Risson on Sunday afternoon, we wished everyone goodbye.

While we were travelling back home to Bogong, I told Wally the story I had related to Bill. Wally asked about me being referred to as Nanki Poo, so I told him that was the nickname, which I had acquired in the Boy Scouts, because I was supposed to look like that character in the Mikado. The nickname stuck, so much so that I was known to the Rover Scouts by that name, most never recognising me by my correct name, as well as in the Youth Hostels Association YHA.

On Sunday, another beautiful sunny day, we drove across to the Chalet, and picked up the Commissioner and smoked his very good cigars all the way back to Falls Creek. That was the last time I saw Bill Waters a wonderful man, who pioneered bushwalking and Rover Scout skiing on the Bogong High Plains. He died in 1968. I have told of my many bushwalking and skiing adventures with Bill Waters in my book, Mountains of My Youth. Bill Waters was a great man, not only admired and loved by Rover Scouts, but by many cattlemen of the High Plains.

We arrived back without incident at Falls Creek where we shook hands and said goodbye to the Commissioner, who was picked up by an SEC vehicle. Major General Risson, or Commissioner Risson also had another title, Chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB). He was in fact quite notorious for his unwavering support for the tramways of Melbourne, against many sources that wished to get rid of all the trams in the city and suburbs, and replace them with buses.

We have Chairman Risson to thank for the fact that, as a result of him standing up against his detractors, Melbourne now has the world’s third largest network of tram tracks. He was given a Knighthood in 1970, becoming Sir Robert Risson, which he thoroughly deserved, for his outstanding good work in many fields. I considered that I was very fortunate to meet him personally in the manner I did. A real, good, Scout.

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Our predecessors Jim Curtis and his assistant taking a snow sample in 1950 Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro ne of our tasks was to take a sample of snow and send the result to Mt Beauty and from there I believe it was sent to the SEC office in Melbourne. To obtain this sample, which we took near the end of the snow season just prior to the thaw, we went out in the Sno-Cat around through Langford’s Gap, to the snow pole line that came up from the side of the reservoir and ran up to Wallace’s Gap.
p<>{color:#000;}. At the designated snow pole number, we parked the Sno-Cat and removed a large, galvanized, cylinder that was stored by the pole. We filled the cylinder with snow without tamping it down and recorded its weight. When the volume and weight of the sample was assessed in Melbourne, an estimate could be made of the likely amount of water that would flow into the dam when the snow thawed.

Travelling around in the Sno-Cat to carry out our patrols and inspections in all sorts of wintry weather, I was surprised that the only heating and demisting the Sno-Cat was fitted with, was a Smiths recirculating heater. The heater was obviously not standard equipment, and was totally inadequate for the job of keeping us warm and demisting the windows. The windscreen wipers were not very robust either, but apart from that, it was very satisfying riding along in second gear at a speed of 10 mph (16 km/hr) which was really quite fast enough.

The first day I began work in base workshops and saw the orange Sno-Cat there and wished I could have a ride in it, not for one moment did I imagine that this would be possible, but of course one never knows their luck!

When we went to Pretty Valley, on the return journey I always asked Wally, weather permitting to let me off at the top of the Ruined castle Spur, so that I could ski all the way back down to the workshops. It was a great run with the ice covered reservoir and L

View across the reservoir to Langford’s Gap and the ice covered reservoir

angford’s Gap in my view as I skied down. Best of all was that I was earning money at the same time.
p<>{color:#000;}. At the end of September the rains set in with a vengeance, with the consequent thawing of the snow. Joe and John set about clearing the road over to Pretty Valley, Langford’s Gap, and down to Falls Creek with the grader and bulldozer, the heaviest sections to be cleared being on the road to Pretty Valley below McKay Gap.

I busied myself carrying out maintenance tasks on the Sno-Cat, but only those that were really necessary in case we had a late heavy fall of snow, because during the summer the Sno-Cat was to be taken to base workshops in Mt Beauty for a thorough overhaul.

 

CHAPTER 38: SPRING ON THE KIEWA SCHEME September, October, November, 1959

Although it had not been a heavy winter, the Sno-Cat performed well except that the tracks required constant attention. When the tracks became loose and required tightening, the method used was very crude, simple, but effective. The connecting links joining each track bar to the next, were given a blow in the centre with the round head of a large, ball peen, hammer. This made each link slightly shorter by some fraction of a millimetre. So by shortening each link on both sides of the track bars by this amount, after the 32 links had been bent, the total length of the track was shortened and tightened! That procedure was only required after many hours of operation. When the holes in the links became too big due to wear, new links would then have to be fitted, but that winter none of this was necessary.

Spring gradually returned to the Bogong High Plains, with some sunny days, some rain and wind, but no more snowfalls. Joe and John had finished clearing all the roads, the deepest snow this year was on the road from McKay Gap to Pretty Valley below the large rock. Snowfalls for the remainder of the winter were few and far between, resulting in a total depth of only 75 cm on the Bogong High Plains for the winter of 1959.

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The road to Pretty Valley cleared of snow and Mt McKay looming up behind. PhotoGFS arly in September we were asked to go across to Pretty Valley and close off the discharge of water at the valve house. I imagined that as the winter was drawing to a close, the need for peak power had passed and there was now enough run off to the power stations below without the need to use water from the dam.
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Our Land Rover and dinghy Photo W Deans

ecause Joe and John had cleared the road into Pretty Valley we all went in the Land Rover to ‘put our shoulders to the wheel’ in a strictly literal sense in the valve house. Amid much cajoling and light hearted abuse, not to mention sweat, the valves were finally closed and all was quiet again.
p<>{color:#000;}. We took the measurement of the water level in the vortex tank, checked the gas bottles and cleared the screens on the weir, which needed quite a lot of attention as the flow of water from Pretty Valley was quite high due to the thawing snow. The ice and snow on the reservoir gradually disappeared, to leave clear water reflecting the colour of the sky above.

We got out the dinghy and towed it down to the edge of the reservoir and launched it without any fanfare, not even bothering to give it a name. The outboard motor was started easily on about the second pull of the cord. Wally said that one of our duties with the dinghy, was to search the surface of the reservoir for any debris such as wood and other objects and remove them. Except for a few snow gum branches and other bits of wood, there was nothing else much to be removed, so we returned to shore. It was quite a novel experience to be viewing the Rocky Valley dam wall from the surface of the reservoir.

Leighton’s men came back to their camp at Langford’s Gap to resume work on the two racelines and Langford’s Cut, a deep channel, which brought the water from the Langford’s and Cope racelines into the reservoir. Rocky Valley Camp was partially opened up for the men who were working reseeding the raceline batters and the Sno-Cat was taken back to base workshops for a thorough overhaul, not that it had done much work during the winter.

The wildflowers started to bloom, alpine daisies, grass trigger plants, red sorrel, as well as many bushes flowered. Small multi coloured grasshoppers jumped about in the snow grass everywhere. I thought that this is one of the most beautiful times on the Bogong High Plains, especially with a few snowdrifts scattered around here and there, fighting a losing battle with the sun and rain for their existence. It was a season, which I had never experienced before on the BHP. I found the return of life after a not very long winter, most exhilarating.

At Falls Creek the private lodges, the Nissen and Bob Hymans ski tows, were recovering from the poor winter, hoping that the next winter season would be a bumper one. There was one significant loss to Falls Creek after the winter, but not as a result of the poor snow season.

Toni and Skippy moved from the high country to the low country, or more correctly the valley. They moved out over the summer, to a house in the valley of Simmons’s Creek, to the west of Mt Beauty, but because I was not going up to the Bogong Ski Lodge very often, I did not discover they had left until sometime later.

Dilys and I went to see Toni and Skippy at their new house, which they had named Annapurna. I asked them why they had called their property Annapurna. They said that when they left Falls Creek, they took a mountaineering book with them that they had not had time to read. It was a book describing the first ascent of a mountain peak over 8,000 m, Annapurna (26,502 ft), by a French expedition in 1950. The expedition was led by Maurice Herzog, accompanied by three guides Lachenal, Lionel Terray and Gaston Rebuffat. The ascent and descent was a heroic struggle in which Herzog and Lachenal reached the summit, Herzog losing all his toes and fingers, and Lachenal all his toes. Herzog’s account of the climb is still one of controversy. Toni and Skippy were so impressed by this epic climb that they thought it was an appropriate name for their home and land. I had read a book on the climb and agreed wholeheartedly, with the reasons for their choice.

With the Sno-Cat gone, a lot of my time was taken up making boom gates, copying the pattern of the one already installed at Falls Creek. These were to be installed across various roads on the High Plains. The post from which the boom swung up and down was welded together from short sections of railway line, as was the post on which the boom, made of galvanised iron piping, was lowered and locked.

There were six of these required and as I finished and painted each one, we went out and installed them, first one at the entrance to Pretty Valley, down the road from McKay Gap. The next gate we erected was to block off the road up to the summit of Mt McKay. We determined that the height of the closed boom should be low enough to prevent a Volkswagen from driving underneath, as that was the lowest car we could think of.

Wally and I continued with our inspections, especially at Pretty Valley where the most work was required keeping the weir screens free of accumulated debris. As well as welding up the boom gates, I became involved as the maintenance fitter with a crew of men carrying out the re-seeding of areas where the snow grass had been damaged or removed during construction, especially along the racelines batters.

The seeding or re-grassing process was carried out using a cavalcade of four vehicles following one behind the other. The first vehicle in the procession, was as a tanker filled with grass seed mixed with water and fertiliser. It had a petrol engine, which drove a centrifugal pump, with a swivel nozzle that sprayed the area with the seed and fertiliser mixture, as it moved along. A tray truck followed, on which there was mounted a high-speed chaff cutter attached to a canon, which shot out a stream of cut chaff over the seeded area. The chaff cutter was also driven by a petrol engine. Following close behind, came a flat top truck loaded with bales of hay, which kept the supply up to the chaff cutter. Last in line was another tanker, this one filled with a black liquid called Colash, which was sprayed over the chaff, binding it all together, while germination took place and the grass commenced growing. A small petrol engine also drove that spray pump.

Whenever the re-grassing was in progress, I was kept busy cleaning carburettors and air filters, which continually became blocked with small pieces of chaff. Not only the air filters, but also the petrol filters got blocked, even though the petrol caps were kept on the petrol tanks all the time, the small chaff particles penetrated into everything. I enjoyed the work and besides, I don’t believe I heard anyone sneeze. I don’t think that hay fever was a fashionable syndrome in those days. Sometimes when I was involved on this and other jobs Joe or John would accompany Wally on the inspection rounds.

Meanwhile back at home the children were growing up. They enjoyed their trips to Albury in the back of the car, on top of the folding board I had made to take up the space between the back and front seats of the Minor. We spread a soft mattress covered with blankets to make up a bed for them on top, where they played happily together as we drove along. The folding board was also a boon when we went to Melbourne. Virginia and Graham were able to sleep comfortably together on the makeshift bed. Most of our clothes were packed under the board, sometimes with a hessian bag full of scrap copper wire and other copper scrap, if I had managed to fill a bag. I sold the copper to a scrap merchant in Melbourne, which in most cases paid for our trip.

I took my holidays in November, spending most of the time in Bogong, except for a week we spent in the city with my parents. One day we took the children for a drive into the city. We were driving down Collins Street, when Virginia saw her first tram. As we drew alongside a tram at the Swanston Street intersection, she shouted out at the top of her voice with Graham chiming in: “Look! Look! It’s a tram! It’s a tram! A tram, a tram!” Everyone on the tram and at the tram stop, looked across at us in the Morris Minor, with the two children yelling out with their heads out the window. Country bumpkins down from the bush they must have thought, and so we were.

We visited most of our relations and friends and all the children had a great time together. We drove down to Rye to see Dilys’s brother Dan and his wife Pam. Dan had built a large launch with an inboard engine. As well as building his own house and two holiday flats at the back, he was also busily engaged building houses and flats around Rye. The day we went to Rye was a lovely sunny day, so we took Virginia and Graham down to the beach. Although she had been to the beach at Rye once before, she was very excited just like she had been seeing the tram. Dan and I got on very well together, he was very interested in my work and I in his, especially his home brew. It was a nice drop, but like tickling for trout, it was illegal at the time.

I told Dan about tickling for trout, but he didn’t believe me, so I said: “Come up and see us and I’ll show you,” not that I had been very successful at tickling, but maybe my luck would change if he did come to see us, and I showed him the technique. t was beyond Dan’s and Pam’s powers of reasoning that trout could be caught in this manner, as they were both experienced Port Phillip Bay fishermen.

Virginia was now four years of age and we were looking forward to the time when she could begin school at the one teacher school in Bogong with (‘Sir’), Bob Wingrave. It was not to be however, because Bob left the school after 15 year’s service in December. It was a sad day for Bogong residents, as Bob was not only held in very high regard as an excellent teacher, but also for his beautiful Kodachrome photos of the area. His beautiful photos of local views, flowers and other subjects were featured on a line of postcards that sadly are not available today.

Dan’s curiosity must have got the better of him, because a week or so after our visit he rang to ask if he and Pam and the two girls could come up and visit us. We were of course were delighted, so we said we would be looking forward to seeing them. They arrived late on a Friday afternoon, in their big blue Ford, the two girls, Jane and Gayle, who were a little older than our two, but they all got on wonderfully together having a great time.

The next day Saturday, providing the weather was OK, I said we would go up top and tickle for trout. The day dawned bright and sunny, so a lunch was packed and we drove up in both cars to Falls Creek, to show them the ski lodges and the skiing area.

Dan was getting a little impatient to get into this ‘tickling business’, so the next stop after crossing the dam wall was Watchbed Creek. I told Dan and Pam the story of how Watchbed Creek got its name, but Dan was more interested in me showing him the ‘sport’ of tickling. I picked out a good spot and explained to Dan the method of tickling a trout. I also told him that we would be engaged in an illegal act, but not to worry, as it was no more illegal than brewing his home brew beer.

We lay down with our heads over the bank of the stream and started tickling. The water was very cold, but as I felt under the bank, I managed to detect the slippery body of a trout. Dan was a little bit further along, yelling out that he could feel one too, so I told him to be patient and make sure he got a good grip before he tried to do pull it out and land it on the bank.

I was very anxious and determined to land one, so when I thought I had a good grip, I pulled it quickly up out of the water, but lost my grip as I was bringing it on to the bank and it flipped back into the water. Dan saw the trout before it managed to evade my grasp, but he also had no success in landing one. I was very pleased however, that Pam, Dilys and the children, who were watching close by, had also clearly seen the trout that I had in my hands, before I lost my grip and it dropped back into the stream. Our hands by now were very cold, but Dan was now convinced that a trout could be tickled, having seen me nearly land the trout. We joined the girls, dried ourselves and drove back over the dam wall to try and find some snow for the children to see.

I knew that there were the remains of the drift above Sun Valley so we drove to the Ruined Castle Spur and walked down to what little remained of the drift. The children had some fun sliding around, but it was too hard to make any snowballs.

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The view from the top of the penstock line Photo D Terry

e could not drive up to the top of Mt Mckay for them to see the great view from there, which was a pity, because the road was blocked off by my gate. We continued on down Road 24 to the portal and penstock line, which seemed to be nearly complete, except fort the painting of the pipes.
p<>{color:#000;}. After viewing the spectacular panorama down the valley, the like of which they said they had never seen before, we drove down Road 26 and back to Bogong, after a lovely day showing Dilys’s oldest brother and family the Bogong High Plains.

I returned to work the next day leaving Dilys to look after Dan and Pam and the children. They left the next day after saying they had a wonderful stay in our lovely home in the mountains.

 

CHAPTER 39: AN EVENTFUL CHRISTMAS AND EASTER December 1959. January 1960

I was asked if I would like to be Father Christmas for the Bogong children’s Christmas party in the recreation hall and I happily accepted the invitation. I thoroughly enjoyed the honour and occasion, although Virginia and Graham were getting very worried and agitated, because their father was not with them to see Father Christmas, but Dilys was able to assure them that he would be back very shortly.

Soon after the children’s first meeting with Father Christmas at Bogong, we went in to Albury shopping and we took Virginia and Graham to see Father Christmas again, in Mates store in Dean Street. I thought that unlike the first one, who I supposed Virginia thought was OK because he spoke just like her father, she was a little in awe of the one in Mates! We had a very exciting Christmas, complete with a Christmas tree we cut from the side of the road on the Bright Gap. Virginia and Graham were now old enough to know what it was all about, especially getting presents off the Christmas tree.

Christmas brought an unexpected present for Dilys and me, when we discovered that we were expecting again, and our next baby was due in August. Every one we told was happy for us both, especially our relations. The local disease had struck again!

Charlie Gannon and his wife Dot came up to the house every now and again, for a singsong and a few beers. Their youngest two children Chris and Glen got on very well with ours. Charlie regaled us with another car problem he had having. This time he put his new car, a Holden station wagon, into Pyle’s garage to have it serviced. He picked the car up and as he drove it out of Pyle’s garage, a car sped past at high speed towards Tawonga South.

Charlie put his foot down on the throttle and gave chase, but Charlie’s car was not fitted with a siren. It didn’t really matter, because as he sped up the hill in hot pursuit past the Tawonga South School, he suddenly realised that the oil warning light had come on, so he had to give up the chase and limp back to Pyles to give them a piece of his mind! They apologised, saying that if the car failed later, they would fit a new engine for him, but it was never necessary. Good cars Holdens, and good luck for the speeding driver.

Virginia and Graham were now used to the afternoon thunderstorms that occurred on many summer days, with the thunder reverberating around the mountains. They enjoyed looking out the lounge room windows and counting the time between the lightning strike and the thunderclap. I had told them that they could find out how far away the lighting strike was, by counting the number of times they could say elephant, from when they saw the lightning strike until when they heard the thunder clap. Five elephants equals one mile. I don’t think they quite understood that, but they had great fun counting. 1 elephant, 2 elephants, 3 elephants and so on, although the echoes of the thunder r

Virgina and Graham in the pool Photro GFS

everberating around the mountains played havoc with their count!
p<>{color:#000;}. The weather was warm enough in Bogong to put up the canvas wading pool for Virginia and Graham. They had great fun splashing around in it together. Dilys was home schooling Virginia and Graham, but not with all the other Bogong children.

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Linesmen on trolleys working along the wires across Lake Guy at Bogong Image by the author

here was another interest for us all when one day, looking out the lounge windows across Lake Guy to the timber clad mountains where previously we had watched the linesmen erecting the transmission towers, we now saw another interesting operation taking place. Between two silver transmission towers, on the other side of Lake Guy we watched as wires were being strung from tower to tower. Linesmen were moving along the wires on a small trolleys, while other linesmen were climbing up the towers to connect the cables to the insulators on the towers. We were all able to watch this skillful operation for about two weeks, until all the wires and insulators had been installed and the linesmen moved on out of our view.
p<>{color:#000;}. We brought in the New Year with the Gannons with a few beers and cups of tea and coffee. My work on the High Plains with Wally continued on as usual, periodically inspecting the installations. I was still working with the regrassing crew when required, building boom gates and installing them. In early January we discovered something about the boom gates that Wally and I had not foreseen.

Early in the New Year my cousin Garry and his girlfriend Denise came to stay with us for the weekend on their way home from a holiday in Queensland. They arrived in a large, red, American car, a Ford Galaxie convertible. The next day, a brilliant sunny day, I suggested we take a drive up to the High Plains. Dilys stayed at home with the children while Garry, Denise and I drove up the road with the hood down. It was an exciting experience with the wind blowing through our hair, and I had some hair in those days.

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The Ford Galaxie convertible Photo Gary Smith e drove up into Falls Creek, across to Langford‘s Gap, then up along the road over the Ruined Castle Spur, from where the reservoir looked so lovely, reflecting the blue of the sky. Then we drove down into Pretty Valley, but my blessed boom gate stopped us going any further and I didn’t have the keys.
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The completed penstock line Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro arry turned the big car around, which wasn’t very easy and we drove back to McKay Gap, where I suggested we walk up to the summit of Mt McKay to see the great view. When we pulled up at the boom gate, I looked at the car and the gate and said to Garry: “I think the Galaxie will fit underneath!”
p<>{color:#000;}. While I held up the boom to the full extent of the chained lock, Garry just managed by about 6 cm, to get the Ford under the boom. Garry and Denise admired the view from the summit, which I said I rated as one of the best in the state. Garry and Denise were enraptured by the beauty of the view and the High Plains from the summit, as I knew they would be.

We returned back to Bogong down road 24, which was a tight squeeze for the Galaxie and stopped at the portal bench for Garry and Denise to wonder at the steep drop of the pipe down the penstock line. We finished the day by going down to Lake Guy and walking along the path at the side of Junction Dam, to look back over Lake Guy and Bogong village, and as we drove down and back we received many admiring looks. Afterwards some of our Bogong friends wanted to know who owned the classy car. Garry and Denise had a great time, and were very envious of us living in such a beautiful village in the Alps.

The best part of their visit however was, when I met Wally on Monday morning and told him about getting under the boom gate. He was amazed and wanted to know who they were, saying that we would have to set the booms lower on the next gates we installed!

My parents came up for Graham’s 2nd Birthday in January and he had a lovely Australia Day party with my parents, Betty and Graham Napier, Barton and Eric, Charlie and Dot Gannon and their two children. As well as bringing presents for Graham, my father brought up a large radio for us all, saying; “Your credit is good with me.” So that was something else we had to pay off, besides the Malleys, and the car.

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The new BNS radio and the author with Graham Photo GFS he radio was a beauty. A table model BNS Astor, 7 valve, superheterodyne, five-band receiver. I plugged it in and turned it on. It was so much more powerful than the small one we had, furthermore, I could connect my record player to it. The records sounded much better than through the player, as this radio had two speakers plus an electrostatic high frequency speaker. We found that the radio was a wonderful acquisition as we could listen to short wave radio too, ‘Voice of America’ and other short wave stations. We discovered that we could receive some important local broadcasts as well.
p<>{color:#000;}. The Malley’s washing machine was still doing a superb job without any problems. It still shook the house when it spin dried, after which Dilys sometimes had to straighten my water colour paintings hanging on the wall.

Directly above our house over the UKVR there was a large guesthouse called Bogong Lodge, which was where visiting VIPs, such as the SEC commissioners and members of parliament were housed. Bogong Lodge was run by a lovely English couple, Wally and Emmy Baldwin. I knew Wally well. He was a very jovial character and a member of the Bogong Ski Club, not that he skied much, but that was beside the point.

The Bogong Ski Club also held meetings in the luxurious lounge of Bogong Lodge, from time to time. The last time I was surprised to see that the Lodge also had a BNS radio. Only the best for the Bogong Lodge and House 8, and it pleased my father no end when I told him that there was a BNS radio installed in Bogong Lodge. Dilys met Emmy Baldwin at CWA meetings held at Bogong Lodge. They became firm friends, in fact I think Emmy, who was much older than Dilys was a little like a mother to her, besides she loved our children

In January 1960 the penstock line was filled for the first time. It was filled slowly over a period of 60 hours and took 283,000 cubic feet of water to fill the pipes. The pipeline was then tested hydraulically during which only minor and easily rectified faults were found. This was a most important event leading up to the McKay Creek Power Station coming on line later on in the year.

Wally told me that after the Easter holidays, we were to be outfitted with ski clothes, skis and boots, because the raceline patrol as we called ourselves, was to be properly equipped, so that we could do our patrolling efficiently and safely. I was of course quite pleased with the decision to supply us with ski gear but, I did not mind using my skis and ski clothes last year, in preference to the SEC skis with old their old fashion Alpina bindings.

CHAPTER 40: A TRIP IN THE MINOR OVER THE HIGH PLAINS February, March, 1960

Now that the dam was complete I thought it was time that I took Dilys and the children a trip up top, and a drive across the dam wall, out to Cope Hut. It would also be a good opportunity for me to show Dilys some of the places where I worked. Most of the days at this time of the year, especially in the mornings before the thunderstorms eventuated were fine, so one lovely Saturday morning we started off up the mountain. We called in to Falls Creek to let Dilys see all the new lodges and then continued on across the dam wall, admiring the blue water of the reservoir, which was not far from full. We drove on around the reservoir on the rough road to Langford’s Gap, where I turned off on to the road to take us around Wallace’s Gap to Cope Hut.

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Looking back from the Cope access road to the reservoir and dam wall

A 50 year old pressing of a grass trigger plant from the author’s collection showing one trigger at the top released

his road was also the access road for the Cope West raceline and was quite rough in some places. As I drove along carefully making sure that I dodged some large sharp rocks that stuck up from the road surface, we met a couple of Leighton’s vehicles, so I had to pull to the side of the road to let them pass by. I was hoping that we would see an emu or two, which I had sometimes seen on this side of the High Plains, but I thought that the work being carried out on the racelines probably would have driven away. We finally reached the saddle above Cope Hut and parked the car. We started walking down the hill to the hut, but had not gone very far before Dilys commenced picking wildflowers and the children did likewise as we walked along. Wildflowers were not protected in those days. Dilys and I knew about the grass trigger plants, so we showed Graham and Virginia how to make the trigger work, which made them very excited as they copied what we showed them.
p<>{color:#000;}. When we reached Cope Hut only about 500 m below where we had parked the car, I climbed up the steep stairs and opened the door for Dilys and the children to go inside, which they did with some hesitation on Virginia and Graham’s part. I loved the smells that one encounters on first entering the various huts on the Bogong High Plain’s. The odour is usually a very pleasant, woody smell, coupled with the smell of ash from the fireplace. In my experience each hut has its own unique smell or fragrance, which depends mostly on the materials from which the hut was constructed, whether snow gum logs, galvanised iron, or other material or combination of materials.

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Cope Hut think Virginia thought that Cope Hut was like a huge doll’s house. Virginia and Graham enjoyed themselves climbing over the hessian bunks and looking through the windows and Dilys said that she wouldn’t like to spend a night in one of the rough bunks, like I did on our nine day hike across the High Plains. I said that it was probably fortunate that we didn’t have time to visit Wallace’s Hut, because Cope Hut was like the Savoy Plaza compared to Wallace’s. In my experience staying in many of the huts on the Bogong High Plains, Dibbin’s, Roper’s and others, Cope Hut was one of the best, because of its good layout and sense of airiness because of its many windows.
p<>{color:#000;}. After we admired the view down into Middle Creek and I had pointed out where the Rover Chalet was, we returned to the car. I directed Dilys’s attention to the great expanse of Pretty Valley, where it led up to Mt Cope.

Back in the car we started for home with Dilys and the children clutching their wildflowers. I told them that when we got back home, they could have some fun identifying the windflowers from my book. I had a book full of pressed wildflowers, which I collected on the nine-day hike across the Bogong High Plains in 1947, with three other rover scouts. The wildflowers had been identified for me, by a group of botanists we met in the Rover Scout Chalet.

As I drove the Minor carefully along the road, there was one bad place where the rocks stuck up and I had to be really careful where I steered the Minor. A little further on, I must have relaxed from watching for any large rocks ahead, as suddenly I felt a dull thud come from underneath the car. I drove on, as it did not seem to be very ominous. A little further on however, I came to a place where I had to change down to second gear, but found that it wouldn’t go in properly, so I selected first gear, which was OK, and continued on. I went cold all over wondering what damage I had done. Dilys asked me what the trouble was. I told her that I thought the gearbox was damaged.

We managed to get home OK without second gear, but then, when I went to back the car to put it over the ramp, I found I had trouble selecting reverse gear too. Once I managed to get the Minor up on the ramp with Wally’s and a couple of other’s help, I found that the large aluminium, gearbox casing, had been dented.

What to do now? I talked it over with Dilys and rang the insurance company to get them to send a claim form. We were lucky that Wally was taking me to work in the Land Rover and I knew we could rely on our neighbours to do some shopping for us until the car was repaired.

The insurance form soon arrived in the post, and when I started to fill it out, I had a brilliant idea. I filled out the claim form, but added a note saying that instead of having the Minor transported to a garage in Mt Beauty to be repaired, I proposed that I could do it myself at Bogong, for less cost to them! I made out a quote for my labour to repair the car, (at a very low rate) with the request that the insurance company, supply me with a new gearbox casing. Believe it or not they agreed to my proposition! In what seemed a very short time, the new aluminium gearbox casing arrived at Bogong.

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The author tired, but happy, walking back home after installing the new gear box. y this time I had the gearbox and casing removed from the car, ready for the new one to be fitted. I assembled the gearbox in the small workshop at the back of the house. This took a couple of days and then with some help to get the car back on the ramp, it took another couple of days to install it in the Minor. At last the job was done and I didn’t have any parts over!
p<>{color:#000;}. When I filled the gearbox with oil, ready to try it out, I held my breath, but it worked, every gear going nicely into place. GEZ 215 was a complete car again much to Dilys’s delight and mine.

After I signed off the insurance company papers and sent them back, I received a cheque for my labour, making a profit on the deal. I made a little more money when I sold the aluminium gearbox casing in Albury for scrap! I am quite sure that no insurance company would have agreed to this arrangement, at the time of writing this.

Around Bogong the autumn leaves soon commenced to show their beautiful colours as the days became shorter and the weather a little colder, so we knew that winter was not very far away. There was no disappointment with the state of our tomatoes and vegetables in our garden this time, because there wasn’t any! We had given up trying to grow them, instead we relied on our kind fruit man just outside the bottom gate, who looked after our needs in that regard at very reasonable prices. Life at House 8 returned to normal after the Minor was back on the road. While Dilys was playing tennis, I looked after Virginia and Graham, or sometimes the children went to tennis with her and played in the small playground at the courts.

Some months previously, I had been told about an excellent service the Victorian State Library ran for country people, so I sent for an application form. The library sent me a sheet to fill out with all my particulars, as well as nominating the type of books I liked to read. My choices were mountaineering, travel and trains, but no fiction. On the basis of these choices, the library selected books that were posted to me at Bogong, six books in each delivery. When I had read them I posted them back at no charge. Then in a short time another six books arrived in the post. It was wonderful service. Some of the books the library sent to me, I would never have chosen myself, but I always found that the library’s choices of title and subject always made very interesting and enthralling reading.

I was still working on various jobs at Rocky Valley, patrolling with Wally and maintaining the reseeding equipment and in my spare time I was making a new car heater Mark 11, which I hoped to have finished before the winter.

 

CHAPTER 41: AQUEDUCT RIDDLES ON MT NELSE AND SPION KOPJE April 1960

Just after the Easter holidays, Wally said that we had a job to do out near Mt Nelse. It was to build a V-notch weir on a small creek that flowed down the eastern fall of Mt Nelse. One morning in fine weather we loaded up the Land Rover with a picks and shovels and a small bag of cement and drove off past Watchbed Creek up the track to Mt Nelse. We parked the Land Rover at the top of the Mt Nelse ridge and carried all our gear down the steep eastern slope, where Wally selected a spot to construct the weir in a small creek. About 500 m further down I could see Johnstone’s Hut, which I had never visited.

We had also brought a galvanised iron plate, in which a V-notch had been cut at a specified angle. By measuring the height of the water flowing through the V-notch, the volume of the flow could be deduced.

We placed the V-notch plate in the creek. Then we diverted the small flow of water in the creek, to allow us to build a wall around the V-notch plate with small rocks and stones to make it watertight, and then we cementing it all together. While we worked I admired the splendid view across to Mt Wills. Up the slope above us the two summits of Mt Nelse towered above us, but there was no sign of a snowdrift, which is usually one of the longest lasting snowdrifts on the High Plains,

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A section of the map showing the Nelse Aqueduct System Map courtesy of Southern Hydro hile we were waiting for the cement to dry, we walked down the slope to Johnstone’s Hut, a very small hut with a fireplace but no bunks. We had our lunch and a cup of tea from a thermos flask that Wally had thoughtfully brought along. I asked Wally who or what was going to monitor the creek flow readings of the V-notch weir we had just built, but he offered no explanation.
p<>{color:#000;}. Our V-notch weir was not like the large V-notch weir across Watchbed Creek, which was monitored automatically by a recording machine enclosed in a hut adjacent to the V-notch weir and dam. After lunch we climbed back to the weir, where we found that the cement had hardened enough to remove our diversion and let the creek water flow over the V-notch. That done we climbed back up to the Land Rover and returned to the workshops.

About the same time there was another puzzling occurrence which I became vaguely aware of. It appeared that some form of earthworks had been undertaken, before I came to work with Wally, on the southern fall of the Spion Kopje Spur. Desperate efforts were taking place to prevent erosion by the placing worn tyres on the site to overcome the problem. That was another riddle for which I never really found an explanation!

Some years later however, I obtained a copy of a paper, which included a map of the Kiewa Scheme that went some way in solving the riddles. At the far eastern side of the map, below Mt Nelse, a series of racelines (or aqueducts) is shown labelled Nelse Aqueduct. System [sic] (Proposed).The paper was presented to the Engineering Conference 1961 by Adrian Rufenacht, Hydraulic Engineer, Design and Construction Department, SEC Victoria.

The extensive system of aqueducts shown on the map consisted of one short unconnected aqueduct to the west of Mt Nelse South. To the east below the two summits of Mt Nelse, two aqueducts about 6 kilometres long are shown running east and west, below Johnstone’s Hut. They joined and were connected to Langford’s East raceline by a straight line, which could be a pipeline or channel, running past Holland’s Knob. Reading through this excellent paper I discovered a possible explanation for the two riddles, to quote a pertinent few lines from the paper as follows:

Were No 2 Development available for utilisation of the water further large aqueducts would be justified. ’Were the earthworks being shored up by tyres on Spion Kopje, the one shown to the west of Mt Nelse, and was the V notch weir that Wally and I constructed have anything to do with these Nelse aqueducts, I wondered? From the map I found that the name of the creek on which we placed the V notch weir, was called Tiger Creek. I gave a copy of Adrian Rufenacht’s important paper to Southern Hydro, who did not have a copy of it in their archives and they have permitted me to reproduce many excellent maps and diagrams from the paper in this book, for which I am very grateful.

During the time I worked with on the High Plains, to my knowledge our V-notch weir was not revisited or monitored. Why were we asked to build it and what was its purpose? I never really discovered the answer to that enigma!

Wally told me that another patrolman was being sought to join us on our inspections and patrols. This person had to be a good skier and of course didn’t mind working in the snow, but until such time as a suitable person was found, Wally and I would continue working together. Wally was nicknamed ‘The Lone Ranger’ (although Joe and John refereed to him as ‘The Guv’) and I as his offsider, was ‘Tonto’ from the cowboy TV series The Lone Ranger, which we were not able to see, because there was no TV coverage in Bogong.

 

CHAPTER 42: EQUIPPING THE HIGH PLAINS PATROL April 1960

I was really looking forward to the coming winter because last winter, the only occasions when Wally and I had our skis on for our patrolling duties, was when we walked around the Falls creek and Roper’s racelines. I skied a little however, when I got out of the Sno-Cat on the way home and skied back down to the workshops from the top of the Ruined Castle Spur.

One day a storeman came up from Mt Beauty and measured us for our ski clothing and boot size. He asked us the length of skis we wanted, I opted for 205 cm the same as my Kneisels. Wally and I had some input into the choice of ski clothing, because I don’t think the storeman knew much about skiing at all. We discovered that we were to be officially referred to as ‘The High Plains Patrol’, which sounded good and more descriptive of our job than raceline patrolmen. The term ‘aqueduct’ was used by the civil engineers to describe the racelines in all the technical papers, but everyone else called them racelines. The technical papers also referred to the water in the dam as the ‘Rocky Valley storage’ and ‘the reservoir’ which term I have used in this book, although most times we just called it the dam. All reallya little ambiguous.

Sooner than I expected, Wally told me that all the new ski gear had arrived and was to be delivered to us at Rocky Valley. One day, when I returned to the workshops from a job at Langford’s Gap, there it all was. Three pairs of blue, Atomic skis and stocks, black hooded parkas, with a skirt and a large pocket in the front, black Vorlager style ski trousers, the fashion of the time, which had sewn in pleats and legs tapering down to the feet, where wide elastic straps went under the insteps.

I tried on the imported ski boots, which fitted perfectly. Lastly a ski cap complete with earflaps, lovely warm, imported, woollen mitts and sun goggles.

The bindings were Tyrolia, safety toe irons, with cable heel straps and leather clip on boot to ski safety straps. This was to be the first time in my skiing life that I had ever worn any type of safety binding, so I was very keen to see how they performed, remembering that they only provided toe release and then only if they were correctly adjusted.

If this gear had been issued to us at the time of writing, we probably would have been sponsored by some ski company and would have had a sponsor’s name emblazoned across the front of the parkas and ski cap, but the cap did not even have an SEC logo, a bad omission I thought.

Wally said he was to be issued with a new vehicle. Better still, I was given a promotion to Leading Hand, High Plains Patrolman, and with it a small pay rise. All we wanted now was for the snow to fall, but I am sure that was not what Leighton wanted, still working busily on the Langford’s East and West racelines, which were nearly complete. Leighton learnt a lesson last year, when they moved out too early, not that they or we for that matter, expected such a late first snowfall.

This year all SEC work except ours had ceased on the High Plains in the first week of April and the camp was closed, because the planned regrassing and other tasks had all been completed.

As yet there were no sign of our new patrolman who was coming to join us, so we continued on with our duties with Joe and John. I had some spare time so I continued working on my heater for the Minor, because the original design was such an utter failure, but I had procured a second hand heater radiator core, to use in my new heater Mark 2, which I hoped would be a complete success.

 

CHAPTER 43: SEARCH AND RESCUE April, May 1960

The weather in April had been quite good for the first week or two, with only a little rain, but no snow except for one light fall. I received a phone call from Wally one night around 8 p.m., asking me to get into my warm clothes, parka and to pack my sleeping bag. He told me that we were going out towards Dibbin’s Hut, down on the southern side of Pretty Valley, to look for a couple of well known cattlemen, Eric and Adrian Weston, who had not returned home to Bright after the cattle muster.

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Ron Boyd Photo Southern Hydro packed my gear, put on my nice new, SEC ski clothes, and asked Dilys to put some long underwear in my rucksack. Then with a big hug and a kiss for Dilys and the children, I said goodbye and went to join Wally, who had already met with Ron Boyd a construction engineer and Charlie Gannon. Ron was one of our neighbours at Bogong and a member of the Bogong Ski Club. Both Ron and Charlie, were good skiers. We all climbed aboard Wally’s Land Rover and around 9 p.m. we arrived at the Rocky Valley workshops,
p<>{color:#000;}. Wally unlocked the doors and brought out the HD19 bulldozer. The Sno-Cat had not yet been returned to us from Mt Beauty workshops, but even if it had been, there was hardly any snow for it to run on.

With Wally driving and we three sitting on the seats and battery covers of the bulldozer, we set out along the road over McKay Gap, with the bulldozer making a great clanking noise as it moved along. We clanked on down to Pretty Valley, with the lights of the HD19 lighting up the road ahead of us in the gloom.

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Eric Martin Photo courtesy of Steph Martin

t was a very cold night with little wind. We kept in radio contact with the Bogong telephone exchange, by means of a portable transceiver we had brought with us. Eric Martin, Steph Martin’s husband and the communication supervisor who lived on the top bench at Bogong, had put himself on duty at the Bogong exchange. Eric kept in contact with us on the radio for our safety and would let us know if the Westons arrived home. He kept us happy too, making wry comments on the radio as only Eric could.
p<>{color:#000;}. Around midnight we decided it was time to stop for a cup of hot coffee, which Wally had brought in thermos flasks. We were in the middle of Pretty Valley, level with Mt Jim on the road to Cope Cut, and a very cold wind had sprung up. I decided it was time for me to change into my long underwear, so I stood on the caterpillar tracks, undid my vorlager belt, as I prepared to take my boots off, before I could put the long johns on. I pushed my vorlagers down, but decided that I should get out my long underwear first.

I looked in my rucksack and dived my hands right down to the bottom, but there was no long johns there. Dilys had forgotten to put them in, which was a source of great amusement for the other three. After I hastily pulled up my vorlagers and had a cup of coffee with the others, which warmed us all up considerably, we pressed on. We were beginning to get out of radio range, as we could not hear Eric at the Bogong exchange very clearly. There was a little rise nearby, so we climbed up on that and made what was to be our last call for the night, because we would be well out of range, when we continued on to Dibbin’s Hut, down on the Cobungra River.

Wally called Bogong, and the reply we received could not have been more welcome: “Right’o you blokes you can turn around and come home, the Westons have arrived home. Do you read me, over?”

Wally replied, telling Eric where we were, saying we would contact him again, when we arrived back to the Rocky Valley workshops.

Eric then signed off: “This is VL3KT the Voice of the Mountains, over and out.”

With that good news Wally quickly turned the bulldozer around and drove back as fast as possible, which really wasn’t very fast at all, but it was very noisy. We finally clanked and banged our way back to the Rocky Valley workshops, where we had a lovely cup of hot coffee and signed off with Eric at the Bogong exchange.

We arrived back at Bogong around 4 a.m. in the morning, with absolutely no regrets that we didn’t have to continue on and spend the night in Dibbin’s Hut. We could have really gone all the way in the Land Rover, because there was only a little snow here and there in Pretty Valley, but it was good, cold fun, and an important lesson for me, to pack my own rucksack with my essentials in future.

Not long after that night out, Wally drove the Land Rover down to Mt Beauty to pick up his new vehicle and returned to Rocky Valley in the afternoon, with a brand new, International, four-wheel drive, utility truck, (the Ute). The tray was covered with a substantial canopy and there was plenty of room inside the cabin for three, but best of all it had a very efficient heater and a high ground clearance, making it much more suitable for driving through snowdrifts. It was certainly a definite improvement over the Land Rover.

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Windy Corner seen through the windscreen of the new Ute Photo W Deans

week later it turned very cold and the mountains were shrouded in fog. We were returning from Pretty Valley in the Ute on the morning of the 21st of April, when it commenced to snow heavily, continuing all day. Joe and John, who were still with us, took the grader and dozer down to Falls Creek and left them there. We followed later, picking Joe and John up on the way back to Bogong with the snow still falling heavily as far down as Turnback Creek.
p<>{color:#000;}. The next morning we picked up Joe and John at Howman’s Gap and drove up to Falls Creek through about 15 cm of snow. It was snowing heavily as we followed Joe and John, clearing the road with the dozer and the grader, around Windy Corner, where the snow was beginning to build up in drifts.

When we arrived at the workshops, we first had to shovel our way to the door. Then we used a fuse lighter to melt the ice in the lock, before we could put the key in the padlock to open up the doors, which was a necessary procedure most days in the winter.

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The road over the dam wall before being cleared of snow to Langford’s Gap Photo W Deans nce inside the workshops I got out the oxy-torch to melt the ice on the toilets, which was another necessary daily task during the winter months, while the others got a big briquette fire going in the Romesse. I stood in front of the Romesse with the others, gradually turning ourselves round and round, as we were freezing on one side and scorching on the other. There was no better sight; under those freezing conditions, than to see the cast iron sides of the Romesse glowing orange from the heat of briquette fire inside.
p<>{color:#000;}. After Joe and John had warmed up, they took the grader to clear the road over the dam wall to Leighton’s camp, This would allow the men who were there, to be able to drive out for the weekend, Wally rang base workshops to enquire when the Sno-Cat was going to be brought up to us. After the weekend, he was told. Not good enough we reckoned, don’t they know what it was like up here.

The road was cleared to Leighton’s camp at Langford’s Gap and the cars were able to get away. We saw some of them driving over the dam wall on their way out down the mountain. I thought to myself. How different winters can be from one year to the next in the Victorian Alps? It was Friday 22nd of April, and last year the snow did not fall until the 25th of July.

Wally and I followed in the Ute, as Joe and John cleared the road again to Falls Creek with the grader, which they left there. They both climbed in beside me in the Ute, with me sitting on John’s knees in the front seat. The heater was blowing out a lovely stream of hot air, a great improvement over the very airy and cold conditions in the Land Rover, despite its heater.

We dropped them off at Howman’s Gap and returned to Bogong. It was great to be home warming myself in front of a roaring fire in the lounge, with Dilys and the children. I told them about the snow up top, but it still hadn’t snowed in Bogong, which was a great disappointment for the children, as Bogong was only getting steady rain.

About 8 p.m. that night I received a call from Wally asking me to get into my ski gear and warm clothes, and meet him at his house, as we were going on another search. I put on my ski clothes, but this time, I put on my long underwear, kissed Dilys and the children good bye, and went and met Wally and Charlie Gannon.

Off we went prepared for another search, but this time in very different conditions from the last. On the way up to Falls Creek, Charlie told us what he knew of the search we were about to embark on.

It appeared that there were three of Leighton’s men were returning from Langford’s West raceline in a truck, when they were caught in a snowdrift. One of them was a partly lame man called Reg Cantwell. He remained in the truck, while the other two Hans Pfieffer and Marsh Collis managed to walk in to Leighton’s camp and phone Charlie at the police station for help.

We arrived at the workshops along the road that had been graded on our way home, but already snowdrifts were beginning to form at Windy Corner. They were no problem for the International utility with its extra ground clearance and power, compared to the Land Rover. Wally left the Ute in the workshop and brought out our old friend and ‘search vehicle,’ the HD19 bulldozer. Maybe not exactly a search vehicle, but it was going to serve as one, once again. We climbed aboard the bulldozer and crossed over the dam wall, where the wind blew like hell. The bulldozer’s headlights lit up the road ahead, through large, swirling snowflakes, as we clanked our way around the reservoir and along the partially cleared road, on the way to Leighton’s camp.

When we arrived at the camp, we sought out Hans Pfieffer and Marsh Collis, who told us approximately where the truck was caught in the drift. They said it was on the road out to Cope Hut, near where the track branched off to Wallace’s Hut. (Near also, where the Minor’s gearbox was damaged on the rock.)

We were given blankets and a thermos of hot coffee for Reg Cantwell when we found him, and off we went along the road to Langford’s Gap. The road was covered by about 30 cm of snow, which muted the clanking sound of the bulldozer’s tracks. It reminded me of the wonderful time I had spent in Austria, travelling by train in the snow, when the clickety-click of the train’s wheels on the rail joints, was similarly muted.

Charlie and I got a great fright, when all of a sudden there was a loud bang from below the dozer. “Bloody hell! What was that?” We both cried out. Wally yelled out saying not to worry, nothing was wrong. He told us that as the snow got caught up between the grouser plates and the drive sprockets of the bulldozer tracks, it caused the caterpillar tracks to gradually tighten up like bowstrings. The tracks eventually became so tight, that they broke through the ice build up with a loud bang. As we continued along, we watched the tracks and could nearly predict when it would suddenly break the ice, with the accompanying loud noise.

At Langford’s Gap, Wally turned the bulldozer on to the Cope Hut road around the side of Basalt Hill, where the wind strengthened and the snow was being driven sideways, in the glare of the headlights. There were a few places where the snow had piled up in drifts some 60 cm high, but the bulldozer with the blade down, made short work of these, as we followed the road outlined by the low batter on one side. We reached the point in the road where it crossed a small saddle, before climbing up the side of a ridge, when all of a sudden, further ahead than our headlights could pierce in the darkness, we saw another light shining through a large drift of snow.

There behind the drift was the truck, which we could have easily run over, had not Reg Cantwell had the presence of mind to switch on the truck’s headlights, when he heard the bulldozer approaching. We climbed down off the bulldozer and kicked the snow away from the truck’s door, opening it to reveal Reg Cantwell who was thankfully OK. We shook hands and as far as we could tell, he was not suffering from hypothermia. “Gee I’m bloody glad you blokes showed up. I was thinking I might have to spend the whole bloody night here and it was getting bloody cold!”

Before we got him up on the bulldozer for the ride back to Leightons’s camp, we wrapped Reg in blankets and gave him a hot drink from the thermos flask, for which he was most grateful, It was very cold, because the wind was blowing a gale, but it had stopped snowing as hard as before. We all held on for dear life, as we clanked and banged our way back to the camp. A bulldozer was not really the ideal form of transport under those conditions, with no cover.

We had Reg wrapped in blankets between Charlie and me and we all huddled together as best we could, sitting on the battery boxes to keep warm, being careful not to fall off as Wally drove the bulldozer as fast as he could towards Langford’s Camp. The worst section of the return journey was crossing over the open stretch of land at Langford’s Gap, where the freezing wind howled as it was funnelled across the open space of the Gap.

At last we reached the camp where Reg was welcomed like ‘a long lost soul’, which he actually had been, to stretch the saying a little. The camp put on some steak and eggs for us all, with large cups of steaming hot coffee. After we had warmed up around a Romesse stove, and the meal and hot drinks had revived the warmth in our bodies, we were ready to return to the workshops. Leighton’s men offered us a lift in a car but Wally wisely declined, as we may not have got through, and besides he wanted the bulldozer back at Rocky Valley. We had no trouble riding the bulldozer back to the workshops, except it blew like cold, hell again, as we crossed over the dam wall.

We drove back home in the Ute, with the heater blazing full blast. There was plenty of snow on the ground, especially around Windy Corner, but the Ute ploughed straight through, and we arrived back at Bogong some time before dawn. I had a lovely hot shower, while Dilys put on a cup of tea before I went to bed, falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. So ended another rescue for The Lone Ranger, Tonto and Charlie.

Wally told me he rang Howman’s Gap the next morning to get Joe and John out on the grader and bulldozer to clear the road out to Leighton’s camp, and extricate Reg’s truck from the drift, which was then able to be driven back to the camp. Leighton having completed Langford’s East raceline, decided it was time to move out for the winter.

There was a report in Police Life, a police magazine about Charlie Gannon and our rescue of Reg Cantwell, but it was not very accurate, although thankfully, they got all the names correct, (except that this time Ron Boyd was not with us). The report referred to us as SEC Rangers, but said the rescue took place on Mt Bogong, which of course it didn’t and that Reg Cantwell 40, came from Bogong, which he didn’t. It also said he had an artificial leg, which he certainly did not. See report in Appendix.

I think this rescue, which received quite a lot of publicity around the Kiewa Scheme, brought about some action with regard to the Sno-Cat, which was sent up to us straight after that week end.

Although this was only my second year as maintenance fitter and patrolman, I wondered why, when we had sent the Sno-Cat to Mt Beauty in October, it could not have been returned to us at Rocky Valley sometime early in the New Year. I urged Wally to request that base workshops carry out any necessary maintenance the Sno-Cat required as soon as it was returned to base workshops and send it straight back to us at Rocky Valley. I didn’t know if Wally ever made the request, but I supposed it was considered that as there was no snow up top, there was no urgent need for the Sno-Cat.

Although we could not have used the Sno-Cat on our first rescue mission, due to the absence of snow, it certainly would have been used on the second search, to rescue Reg Cantwell. Wally and I received a nice surprise in the mail a week after we rescued Reg Cantwell. The letter was from the police. It was unexpected but very much appreciated.

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HAPTER 44: WELCOMING OUR NEW HIGH PLAINS PATROLMAN May, June, July 1960 p<>{color:#000;}. The Sno-Cat was returned to us promptly after the second rescue mission and I felt like writing a letter to Jack Omerod in base workshops, aquatinting them of the conditions that can occur from winter to winter on the Bogong High Plains, but I thought better of it. I spent two weeks skiing at the Rover Scout Chalet in 1947 and learned that in April 1946, Rocky Valley was described as being covered with a sheet of ice. 1946 was a very early and very heavy winter, damaging the SEC Cottage, Summit Hut on Mt Bogong, and burying many lodges completely, the Rover Scout Chalet included. This was one stark example of what early winters could be like on the Bogong High Plains, and we as the High Plains Patrol should always prepared for another such early winter.

One afternoon, our new patrolman came up from Mt Beauty to join us and assist me in patrolling the racelines, relieving Wally to carry on with his office work and driving the Sno-Cat. I expected that an Aussie bloke would have been selected with a love of the outdoors who could ski. However I. should have realised that working on the Kiewa Scheme, there were many Europeans of various s nationalities who were good skiers and who would enjoy working in the snow on skis, as well as getting paid for it. And so there he was. Theo Kirchner, a bloke of about my age with a very upright, military bearing, dressed in vorlagers, with an expensive looking long grey overcoat over his body. A woollen cap with a tassel covered his head. He spoke excellent English, with an educated accent. I guessed he was probably a German from the Berlin area.

Wally introduced Theo to me and we shook hands and then took Theo and me upstairs to his office, to explain to Theo his duties with the High Plains Patrol and myself as his companion. Next, we got out all his ski gear and clothes, which were a perfect fit except for the ski boots, which had to be changed. Theo said he was quite happy to wear his own, until he received his new ones. I was quite pleased with my new companion Theo, because I had no problem working with foreigners, particularly Germans or Austrians, having spent many months travelling through their countries, as well as having a working knowledge of the German language.

I found out later that I was correct in my assumption that Theo came from Berlin, immigrating to Australia about the same time as I arrived back from overseas in 1953. He had been working as a maintenance fitter in the workshops at Mt Beauty, when he became aware that the SEC were looking for a patrolman to work on the High Plains, so he applied for the job immediately. Theo travelled with us in the Ute each morning, as he had been transferred to live in Howman’s Gap camp. Joe and John were now staying at the camp and worked with their grader and bulldozer, where and whenever they were required, which on many occasions during the coming winter was keeping the road cleared to Falls Creek and into McKay Creek.

Wally took us both around in the Sno-Cat to show Theo the various places we had to patrol. Then he left us on our own to patrol Langford’s East and West racelines This was an ideal year for water flow in the racelines, as there had been quite a lot of rain and no frosts before the first snow fell, so there was no danger of the racelines being blocked by drifting snow. Because the racelines followed the contours of the land, and there was no foliage growing adjacent to the flowing water, the racelines were prone to blockage by snowdrifts. This is quite unlike the natural creeks all over the Bogong High Plains, which, even if they are completely covered with snow during the winter months, they never stop flowing beneath the snow. They have snowgrass and foliage right down to and growing a little over the edges of the creeks, allowing the snow to easily make a bridge over the creeks, for most of their length.

Theo was good company and we combined well together. I noticed that unlike his upright military bearing, he skied with his legs quite bent, a sign to me that he was not a completely confident skier, but certainly proficient enough for the work on skis that we were required to do.

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The author outside the Bogong Ski Club with his beloved Kneisel skis

fter the heavy early snowfalls in April, there was a lull, but thankfully there was a good fall just before and during Queens Birthday weekend. On Saturday night of the Queen’s Birthday weekend, I drove the Minor all the way up to Falls Creek for the party at the Bogong Ski Club. Snow was falling and building up on the ground well below Turnback Creek as I drove up, but I had no trouble getting through. The SEC decided to keep the road clear of snow to Falls Creek in future, especially this year, because Falls Creek was the venue for the Australian National Ski Championships, which were to commence on the 24th of August.
p<>{color:#000;}. The party was great, but I drank a little too much. So much so that Steph Martin was not sure, whether I was fit to drive the Minor back to Bogong, so she drove down behind me all the way. That was not much help, but I suppose that if I had gone over the edge, she would have been there to help me.

Steph told Dilys later that I drove up the batter a couple of times to avoid parked cars (which I didn’t believe I did), but that was Steph’s story, God bless her. Anyhow I reached home safely!

I heard later, that on the Friday night after the road had been cleared, the snow continued to fall heavily, and some cars didn’t make it all the way to Falls Creek. They had to be abandoned until the road was cleared the next morning.

Over the next weeks the snow continued to fall every now and again. Most times we went to Pretty Valley in the Sno-Cat, but when the weather was beautiful and sunny, we skied there and back. I noticed that Theo and I both skied by the Arlberg technique and that Theo was always trying to beat me with his ungainly bent knees stance, especially on straight runs. I knew that I was a better skier, so it didn’t worry me.

One lovely day we skied across to Pretty Valley over the Ruined Castle Spur above the big cornice, but on the way back, I suggested we take a short cut over the western end of the Rocky Knobs and ski down into Sun Valley. Theo agreed, so we climbed up the long slope to the top. There below us was Sun Valley, looking just like it did that day in 1947, when I first realised its resemblance to Sun Valley Idaho, but the cornices on the Ruined Castle Spur were not as large, as on that day. Theo turned toward me and offered me a challenge, which afterwards I am sure he regretted. “How about we race to the bottom?” “Whenever you are ready: “I replied.’’ So off we skied on fast, virgin snow with no crust.

I thought to myself, ‘Gordon, just don’t fall, forget the stem christies, just stem turn all the way down’, as it was obvious that Theo was going to go all out to beat me. We were skiing alongside each other, both doing stem turns, when all of a sudden Theo fell. In attempting to get up too quickly, he got his skis tangled. When he did get back up he tried to chase me but fell again and then again, before he reached the bottom. I on the other hand, looked back as I slowly stem turned all the way down with a final ‘schuss’ to the bottom of the slope.

When he joined me he made some inane excuse, so we shook hands with no hard feelings. We enjoyed the beautiful day skiing together, talking about our lives as we made our way back to the Rocky Valley workshops. In some ways, I was glad that it was not an Aussie bloke that got the job!

I told Theo about my travels down through Germany, entering his homeland at the Danish border. I told him about the German cities that I had visited Hannover, Hamburg, Heidelberg and Munich, leaving Germany through Bavaria on the way to Innsbruck in Austria. He was most impressed but disappointed that I had not visited his hometown of Berlin. We agreed that being a High Plains patrolman was a wonderful way to make living.

 

CHAPTER 45: THE HIGH PLAINS PATROL BECOME FILM STARS July 1960

Just after Theo joined the High Plains in July, Wally told us were to have a visit from the SEC film unit to make a documentary of the work of the High Plains Patrol. The week the film unit arrived with their gear led by Jim Hayes, the weather was dank and foggy, but there was plenty of snow for them to film us at our work. That there was virtually no sun for the whole of the week that they were filming us did not deter them.

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Bill McBain Photo Southern Hydro ill McBain, a leading hand construction worker, joined our crew to help the film unit with their equipment. Bill a beaut bloke, with a rather weather beaten and rugged countenance and he was to remain with us after the film unit left and act as Wally’s secretary and odd job man around the workshops. He was living at Howman’s gap camp and travelled up with us each day to the workshops
p<>{color:#000;}. The film unit took many shots of the Sno-Cat in action, together with some shots of Wally sending Theo and me out on a raceline patrol, then welcoming us back at Langford’s Gap with a cup of hot tea. John had his photo taken working on the bulldozer and Alan Carey putting chains on his grader. The film unit was with us for three days, and each day was great fun for everyone involved.

When the film unit left, they said that there would be a big article in the SEC NEWS, and a documentary film would be made later, to be shown in movie theatres. We were all very anxious to see what Jim and his crew would report.

When I received my copy of the SEC NEWS, I was very excited and surprised by the great write up on the tabloid size paper, which contained a full page of photos and excellent descriptions, of the duties of the High Plains Patrol.

THE CHALLENGE OF THE HIGH PLAINS

The sub-heading of the article told the following story:

A north-west wind sings mournfully across the snows, and keens [sic] through the icy glittering gullies. On a white slope’s verge two figures poised on skis, make a momentary tableau, then swing down and down in a speeding curve. At the slope’s verge, grouped near a Sno-Cat brilliantly orange against a background of white, other wind braced figures watch the gliding pair until, at the bottom, the skiers in unison turn, wave, then clump away through snow and scrub.’

Could I really believe that flowery piece was written about Theo and me? The rest of the article was not so flowery, very well written and quite accurate, but of course it was not a tabloid! I gave it a score of 9 out of 10. The only part of the article that was not correct, was where it said we waxed our skis before we set out. In fact, we did not need to use wax on the running surface of our new skis at all, they were quite fast on all of the snow types we skied on, which was never very dry powder.

 

The full page article and photos in the August25^th^1960 issue of the S.E.C. NEWS of the High Plains Patrol. The personnel shown on the page from top left going clockwise, are theo, the author, Wally, the author, Theo, the author, Wally, Alan Carey, John Woods, Wally and Bill Mc Bain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were told that the film version would be out some time later, which we eventually saw at the recreation hall at Bogong. Like the write up, the documentary was very well filmed. The less than ideal weather under which it was filmed, gave the documentary an added dimension, 10 out of 10 was the score I gave it.

Many years later I obtained copies of the documentary on videotape and now each of my children has a copy for posterity.

CHAPTER 45: BUSY WINTER MONTHS August, September 1960

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The Minor ready to go and get the mail

John Milovanovic and Virginia ot only were there pictures taken on the High Plains by the SEC film unit, but a week later we took some pictures ourselves of the children, when snow fell in Bogong. Virginia and Graham were very excited at seeing the snow. We rugged Virginia up and took her outside to play in the snow with John Milovanovic, our next door neighbour’s young son, while Graham was content just looking at the snow through the windows. We walked down the drive towards Steph Martin’s house, where Virginia cried out in delight; when she saw the snow covered clothes hanging on Steph’s clothesline. About 10 cm of snow fell, which lasted for two days, then rain fell and washed it all away, but we all enjoyed the occasion.
p<>{color:#000;}. One evening Tom Webb a good friend of ours called in to see us on his way to Falls Creek. I had worked for Tom on a high paying, contract job, to earn enough money to go overseas, in 1951. He had wanted me to leave the railways and work for him, but it wasn’t until I decided to go overseas that I took up his offer.

Dilys and I had not seen Tom since we were married, so we were very pleased he called in. I couldn’t believe it, when he said that I should leave the SEC and come back to Melbourne, work for him again, and make a lot of money. When I told him the job I had as a High Plains Patrolman, he understood that there was no chance of me leaving the SEC.

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Sunset on the Divide Spur and Timms Lookout Photo GFS

Sunset on the Spion Kopje Photo GFS

ife at Bogong with our rapidly growing children was a delight. This winter the Little Spion Kopje was covered in snow, as was the eastern end of the Spion Kopje Spur and if conditions were just right at sunset, the snow changed from white through red, orange to purple as the sun set behind us and as we drove up and down the UKVR to Mt beauty, the view of the deep snow covered spurs on Mt Bogong were a magnificent sight to behold.
p<>{color:#000;}. Some SEC families were moving away from Bogong. One family who we were sad to see go was Bill and Peg Minty. Peg had been a special friend to Dilys from the day we arrived in Mt Beauty. They moved to Canberra where Bill worked as an engineer on Lake Burley Griffin.

A new couple moved in, Jenny and George Soucup. Dilys and I knew Jenny well because she had once been a girl friend of Ore’s, but that is another story. George was a Czechoslovakian, who had been hired as the canteen manager for the Kiewa Scheme.

I finished making my new car heater in my spare time at Rocky Valley and fitted it to the Minor. It worked very well this time. At last we had warmth in the car wherever we went, Melbourne, Albury, or just down to Mt Beauty. As well as snow falling at Bogong, plenty also fell on the High Plains making it a wonderful and profitable season at Falls Creek to make up for last year. Driving up from Bogong each morning, Wally parked the Ute at Falls Creek and opened up the small garage that had been constructed to house the Sno-Cat. xxx

Wally drove it out onto the snow above the boom gate where I raised the wheels and off we went to the workshops, traversing around the mountainside above Windy Corner below the Frying Pan raceline. Most mornings as usual we had to d

A weekend’s accumulation of snow sliding off the roof of the workshops Photo W Deans

ig the snow away from the door and use a fuse lighter to thaw out the padlock before we could get in to the workshops.
p<>{color:#000;}. We weren’t the only SEC personnel working above Howman’s Gap. A group of men had been assigned to clear a 20 m wide, downhill course from the top of the Frying Pan Spur down to the road, and across a sloping bridge made from big logs and timber decking, being built to take the course over the road and down to the creek, a total distance of 1,200 feet.

When completed it would be high enough to allow all SEC vehicles and tourist coaches, to drive underneath, and wide enough for ski racers to pass over in safety.

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Bob Hyman’s chair lift ob Hyman’s chair lift was operating smoothly and two small tows had been installed in the Basin. Not only was Falls Creek a hive of activity, but also so was the High Plains Patrol. For us it was an excellent season for getting around in the Sno-Cat or patrolling on skis. Snow piled up to an average depth of 1.5 m with many large cornices, which we had to be aware of travelling around in the Sno-Cat, especially the big one overlooking Sun Valley and a couple more further along. We knew where cornices formed, so when driving along ridges we kept to the north-western side, as cornices built up on south-eastern sides of spurs and ridges. The reservoir had been covered with snow from the first snowfall as the surface first froze then all the subsequent snowfalls built up on top.
p<>{color:#000;}. I was never sure whether we were asked to do our next task, or whether Wally just decided it would be a good idea. Then again, maybe he was just curious. In any case Wally, Theo and myself, took the outboard motor off our little aluminium dinghy. With the oars aboard we pushed the dinghy out to the centre of the dam, where we took readings of the depth of snow on top of the water surface, by plunging our ski stocks through the ice and snow cover. We expected t

Ice and snow covered Rocky Valley reservoir looking SE towards Basalt Hill Photo Southern Hydro

hat the stock would to be stopped by hard ice, or break through into the water surface below. Neither happened, as the depth of snow on the surface of the water, was deeper than the length of a ski stock. We took measurements at various places, but the depth of snow was the same everywhere.
p<>{color:#000;}. It was an interesting and rather exciting exercise with no danger as the surface was quite firm and surprisingly, it was very hot out in the centre of the reservoir with the sun reflecting back on us from the icy surface. I was the envy of some of our friends as I had an all year round sun tan working on the High Plains

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Mt McKay from the vortex tank Photo Wally Deans

ur first real winter as fully equipped High Plains Patrolmen, was most enjoyable with plenty of snow and spells of good weather. I particularly enjoyed going to Pretty Valley whether on skis or in the Sno-Cat,
p<>{color:#000;}. I always loved going to the vortex tank and valve house because looking down the valley with Mt McKay towering above was magnificent. It reminded me of a colour photo in Frank Smythe’s book the Valley of Flowers, which showed a similar view of a valley and mountain in the Himalayas, but of course there was a 20,000 foot difference in height!

On one occasion, we found that the Fahrenheit recording thermometer outside the valve house had recorded +5 degrees, or 29 degrees below freezing Fahrenheit (–16 degrees C). It was not really surprising that the temperature could drop to such a low figure, in this deep isolated valley.

Returning from Pretty Valley one day in the Sno-Cat we ran into a ‘whiteout’ as we travelled up to McKay Gap in foggy conditions.

A whiteout phenomenon is probably best described in the following excerpts from a Government Manual for Antarctic Operations;

The Sno-Cat and the author in white out conditions beside the nearly buried signpost on the road from Pretty Valley Photo Wally Deans

There are degrees of whiteout, controlled by the density of cloud. Complete cloud cover over the snow produces a phenomenon known as ‘whiteout’. In the whiteout there is complete lack of definition and no horizon. The whole visible world, sky and earth, forms a bowl of white surrounding the traveller. Surface irregularities can no longer be detected. It is difficult to judge distances, because one cannot differentiate between a small object close up and a large object a long distance away’.
p<>{color:#000;}. I had skied in whiteouts before, but certainly not by choice. The whiteout conditions we experienced as Wally drove the Sno-Cat along, were the result of an overcast sky above and fog, which turned the snow into a featureless, off-white surface, devoid of any shadow.

As we crawled slowly along, I kept my head out of the window, watching the large skis on the front of the Sno-Cat. As the up and down movement of the skis responded to the undulations on the surface of the snow, which were not visible to the eye, I was ready to quickly call out a warning to Wally if the skis encountered any large rise or drop in the surface of the snow.

It was quite a strange feeling as we kept the Sno-Cat moving slowly, making sure we kept to the top of the ridge of the Ruined Castle Spur. As Wally and I strained our eyes ahead and we began to descend, the visibility increased enough to be able to pick our way safely back to the workshops.

Following a snow pole line under those conditions would have been of enormous assistance, but it was not until much later that a dedicated SEC snow pole line was erected at intervals of 60 m along the routes used by SEC patrolmen on their inspection duties. Later a map showing these snow pole lines, together with the touring snow pole lines, was produced by the SEC, for the use of patrolmen and others.

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Adrian Rufenacht, Chief Civil Engineer Photo Southern Hydro

had a brilliant idea after that encounter with the whiteout. I made up a little metal flag, which I mounted on the engine bonnet of the Sno-Cat, to indicate the wind direction. The speed of the Sno-Cat was too slow to influence the movement of the flag, which I hoped would guide us along with reference to the direction of the wind. However we never again got caught in a whiteout and my little flag, which engendered some good natured ridicule, didn’t get the opportunity to prove its worth. It finished up as a symbol to my ingenuity (or stupidity perhaps), until it was later replaced by a much more important symbolic flag!
p<>{color:#000;}. As well as taking the Scout Commissioner across to the Rover Scout Chalet last year, we had other important passengers in the Sno-Cat, such as the SEC Construction Engineer H.H.C. Williams, on inspection tours of work sites on the High Plains.

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A lunch stop on an inspection tour Photo Wally Deans y favourite passenger however, was Adrian Rufenacht, a charming middle aged Swiss gentleman, the Chief Civil Engineer of the Kiewa Scheme.
p<>{color:#000;}. When he came with us to inspect the racelines he brought with him a pair of beautiful hickory skis. I accompanied him on many occasions as we skied a short way along some sections of the racelines that he wished to inspect.

As we skied along the side of the raceline I enjoyed talking with him about my travels and skiing for three weeks in his country, Switzerland. He was especially interested in the ski tour I did around the base of the Matterhorn in Zermatt.

Our new short wave BNS radio had many more benefits than listening to the ‘Voice of America’ and other short wave stations. We discovered that as well as listening to various regional VHF stations, Dilys could tune in to the frequency of the Bogong telephone exchange when they were talking to us in the Sno-Cat. She could not however hear the other half of the message from the Sno-Cat, but it was still a great thrill and something to talk about, when I arrived home.

Another great personality of the time, but one not connected with the SEC was the announcer Cleaver Bunton, who read the ABC 6.45 p.m. regional news from Albury (Corowa), He was also the Mayor of Albury. The regional news was introduced by him as follows: “This is 2CO, 3GI and the national short wave station VLR3. This is the regional news, read by Cleaver Bunton.”

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Wally at the met station at Falls Creek Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro he above brings back many happy memories of life on the Kiewa Scheme without TV. There was only one problem and that was when he read out the weather report and referred to the M I A. Where was that, I wondered? It was a long time before I discovered that the M I A, was in fact the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.
p<>{color:#000;}. Wally and I took maximum and minimum temperatures and humidity readings every second day at a weather station in Falls Creek. As well as that basic met. station, there was another station there, which recorded snowfall and rain on a paper roll. This caused us a lot of trouble every now and again, because the paper became damp and stuck on the roll!

We learnt that the early snows of this winter had claimed another victim. This became our next rescue mission, but the circumstances of this rescue were totally different from the first two. This time we were to rescue or recover an HD19 bulldozer, which had been parked at McKay Gap ready to be picked up by a low loader and taken to Mt Beauty, but the early snowfalls had prevented the recovery taking place.

On a beautiful, sunny day, Wally together with Theo, John Woods, Joe Shields, Bill McBain and myself drove in the Sno-Cat across the Ruined Castle Spur to McKay Gap. There was no sign of the bulldozer. Not even the high, vertical exhaust pipe was showing as the snow had drifted to a height of about 2 m at the Gap. The operator however, had described to Wally exactly where he had abandoned it.

Wally pointed to the spot and saying: “Let’s start digging there.” We had brought extra shovels and two fully charged batteries along with us, so we picked up the shovels and commenced digging. We had only dug down about 50 cm, when we struck a hard metallic object, which a little further digging revealed was the unmistakable, orange colour, of part of the rear of the bulldozer.

We cleared the snow around the dashboard, seat and battery boxes. While the batteries were changed over, I dug away at the radiator to clear the fan, fan belt and generator. I unscrewed the radiator cap and dipped my finger in the coolant, which wasn’t frozen. Putting my finger to my lips I tasted the anti- freeze. It tasted sweet, confirming that the anti-freeze was strong enough to prevent freezing, during the time the bulldozer was buried under the snow.

John then settled himself in the driver’s seat and pumped up the pre-heater, while I stood by the intake manifold with an ether capsule at the ready. Wally then gave the order: “Right’o let’s give her a go!”

As John pushed the starter and the engine commenced turning over, I sprayed the ether from the capsule into the air intake. After a few revolutions the engine sprang to life, accompanied by a column of black diesel smoke from the exhaust pipe. We gave a few cheers and then allowed the engine to warm up for a few minutes before John moved the bulldozer backwards and forwards a couple of times, to free the tracks of snow and ice. He then used the blade to make a ramp to drive the bulldozer up on to the surface of the snow, above its three month long grave.

John followed our Sno-Cat tracks back to Rocky Valley, while we followed on behind in the Sno-cat to make sure there were no problems. That was our last rescue for the winter season of 1960 making it three successful ones in a row.

The races at Falls Creek went off well with plenty of snow and good weather. One afternoon when Theo and I patrolled the Frying Pan raceline, we spent a short time watching some of the races. Some of the courses crossed the raceline on the permanent small bridges that had been placed there. One day when we went to Pretty Valley we encountered some ski racers on the cross-country langlauf course. A ski jump had been built in the Basin, but sadly we didn’t see any of the jumping events.

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The bridge over the road seen behind the patrolman’s office Photo GFS

he bridge over the road for the downhill race was a great success and the course was named after Sir Edmund Herring the Governor of Victoria, who was in Falls Creek for the races.
p<>{color:#000;}. T

The author studying the first crack that appeared on the surface of the reservoir Photo W Deans

Photo w deans he weather gradually became warmer and there were a few light falls of snow and later rain, but not enough to melt the snow quickly. Snow clearing was commenced starting at the big drift around Windy Corner, then working up the road towards the workshops. The next snow clearing priority was to clear the road across the dam wall to allow Leighton’s men to take up residence in their camp at Langford’s Gap, to enable them to get an early start back on the racelines.
p<>{color:#000;}. There was a lot of snow to shift, and a couple of bulldozers and graders were busily working to get the job done as quickly as possible. The race course bridge over the road was removed having served its purpose admirably

It was interesting to watch the snow on the surface of the dam melt. It didn’t commence until late September, when the surface began to crack and the opening between the cracks began to enlarge to reveal small areas of clear water. Then the wind was able to have an affect on the open water. By the end of September, the reservoir was completely clear of ice and snow, back to reflecting the blue and white clouds in the sky.

The next time we ventured out on the reservoir, was with our aluminium dinghy, with the outboard motor fitted. The purpose being to find any loose timber or bushes floating on the surface. But we didn’t find too many.

Theo and I patrolled the East and West Langford’s racelines. Where there was snow on the side of the racelines we skied, otherwise we walked. Rocky Valley Camp and Leighton’s Camp were again occupied and the Sno-Cat was only used once more to take us around Sun Valley to the intake structure for our inspection there. We made our last trip on skis to Pretty Valley just before the road was cleared, but the snow, although in abundance, was wet and slow as it had rained the day before.

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My father’s FC Holden on the top of the Frying Pan Spur showing the power line climbing over the top of the Spur Photo GFS

ack at house 8 Bogong, Virginia had her fourth birthday on September 25th. My parents came up for her birthday and Betty and Graham Napier came up from Mt Beauty with Barton and Eric. The birthday party was a joyous occasion and everyone had a great time especially Virginia.
p<>{color:#000;}. The snow clearing of the roads on the High Plains took place while my parents were with us for Virginia’s birthday. I decided that the opportunity could not be missed, to take my father’s car with my mother, Dilys, Virginia and Graham aboard, up to Rocky Valley and McKay Gap, to let them see the beauty of the snow covered High Plains in spring. My father and mother and Dilys too, were amazed at what they saw, with plenty of snow still covering much of the High Plains. My father was in his element taking photos here and there.

 

CHAPTER 46: MT PANORAMA October 1960

Not long after my family returned to Melbourne, on Sunday evening October 2nd we received a phone call from my father, telling me that his brother Reg had been killed in a car race on the Mount Panorama racing circuit at Bathurst. My father said he would phone again when I came home the next night, to tell me more details of his my uncle’s death and the funeral. My uncle, Reginald Hillard Smith had three children by his wife May, Valerie, Warren and Garry.

We turned on the radio, which confirmed my father’s phone call, with the added information that my uncle had been killed when he was driving a Porsche along Con Rod straight, at the Mount Panorama racing circuit at Bathurst. The car became airborne, and left the track hitting a tree, killing my uncle, instantly.

It was a tragic loss to us all, because my uncle aged 57, was quite a remarkable man in many fields. My father rang the next night and told me a lot more about the accident. My father rang again the next day, telling us the details of the funeral arrangements, so we prepared ourselves to go down to Melbourne. My uncle Reg, dad’s brother was indeed a remarkable man. My first recollections of my Uncle Reg, were when he repaired radios in a workshop at the rear of his house in Montmorency.

He then started up a retail, radio, and repair shop in Smith Street Fitzroy, called Smith’s Radio. My uncle’s radio business was very successful, and he flew across to America, where he obtained a lot of ideas for other business ventures. One of those, was to start up a second hand car dealership in Glenferrie Road H

Reginald Hillard Smith 1903-1960 awthorn, one of the first in Victoria and probably Australia. He called it Reno Auto Sales, using slogans based on signs he saw in Reno Nevada. ‘The Biggest Little Car Yard in The World’, and ‘Divorce your car at Reno’.
p<>{color:#000;}. That used car dealership, together with others he started up, Las Vegas Motors and Reg Smith Motors, made him a lot of money, which he used in many exciting ways, most importantly and tragically, motor car racing.

In the 50s, he raced against Stirling Moss, a leading English racing car driver of the time, around Albert Park. He also competed in two Redex Round Australia car trials. Water skiing on Port Phillip Bay at Rosebud was another interest. In 1953 I water skied behind his speedboat with great success, that is, once I got up on my feet and although he tried, he couldn’t throw me off. He also bought an amphibious vehicle an army DUKW, in which. I went with my other brothers and cousins on a hair-raising drive, from the Heidelberg bridge down the Yarra River

We drove to Melbourne for the funeral at the Springvale Crematorium, which was reported to be one of the largest funerals ever held at Springvale. It was a huge funeral, with all the motor trade celebrities attending, such as Bob Jane, ‘Bib’ Stillwell, Harry Firth, and Kevin Dennis (Dennis Gowing), who got his start in the used car business, working for my uncle. Another friend of his, Norm Hamilton, who I was to meet later, flew a small, Porsche powered aeroplane over the crematorium at the funeral, dipping its wings in salute. And so the exciting life of my uncle at 57 years of age, sadly came to an end. I often wondered if he had lived, to what great entrepreneurial heights might he have risen? His sons Garry and Warren now have a Holden car dealership under their combined names.

 

CHAPTER 47: ANNUAL HOLIDAYS AND THE NEW YEAR October November December 1960, January 1961

When I returned to work on the High Plains after attending my uncle’s funeral in Melbourne, nearly all the access roads had been cleared of snow. There was however, plenty of snow still on the Bogong High Plains and Theo and I were being transported in the Ute to do all our patrolling.

The Sno-Cat was in the workshops waiting to be taken down to Mt Beauty for its summer overhaul. I expected that we would see it back at Rocky Valley well before next Easter. I hoped that the lesson had been learned by the powers to be in base workshops, that the first winter snowfalls can occur any time after Labour Day. On a three-day Labour Day rover scout hike in 1946, we were caught in an overnight blizzard two days out on Mt Federation above the Rubicon power station and we had to retrace our steps back to Rubicon in one day.

Dilys’s brother Dan and his wife Pam invited us, to take our holidays with them at Rye. We would be staying in one of the flats, which Dan had built at the rear of their house, so we were all looking forward to the holidays at the beach with great excitement. We packed the Minor to overflowing with the roof rack piled high with luggage and set off heavily loaded to Melbourne. We stopped overnight at my parent’s place. Next day drove over to Elwood to see Dilys’s mother and young brother Jeff and then down to Rye.

I helped Dan erect a car port on a house he had built, not this time as a fitter’s assistant, but a builder’s labourer, which I enjoyed immensely even though wood was not my favourite material to work with, but I learned a lot about carports and wood tools. Dilys’s mother and youngest brother Jeff came down one day and w e had a good time being all together.

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Dilys’s mother with two of her sons, Dan and Jeff in the Lady Hay Photo P Terry went out fishing a number of times in Dan’s boat the Lady Hay, an 8.5 metre long boat he built all by himself, clever bloke my brother-in-law. We fished in the Channel for flathead, catching many, which we had for dinner. I found that flathead were a delicious fish to eat, so much better than trout. However, I thought fishing was cruel, the sight of a fish with a hook in its mouth, jumping around gasping for breath, was not something I enjoyed watching. I told Dan my feelings, so he showed me how to kill a fish quickly, with a sharp blow to their head above their eyes, so that made me much more at ease.
p<>{color:#000;}. One beautiful sunny day as most of them were, except for a few thunder storms, Dan loaded both families in the boat and took us along the Bay to Portsea. There was to be no fishing, just an enjoyable cruise in the Bay for us all. At Portsea we all had a swim and a lunch the girls had prepared, together with a few of Dan’s home brew beers, which as always, were a very nice brew. After our beers we started off back to Rye in the late afternoon.

We had not gone very far when we struck trouble, the engine’s water pump had broken down. Dan with some help from me, tried to repair it, but to no avail, so Dan rigged up the bilge pump to supply cooling water for the Ford V8 inboard engine. Dan asked for my help, not this time as a fitter’s assistant, or a builder’s labourer, but with my new calling of deck hand.

My job was to manually operate the bilge pump all the way back to Rye. We finally reached Rye just before midnight by the light of a sickle moon. Dan said we were lucky, as the tide was exactly right for us to disembark easily, although I was never quite sure whether it was high or low tide. It was a great holiday, Dan and I got on marvellously together.

We had so many interests in common, high fidelity sound, cars, and of course drinking beer. Virginia and Graham had a wonderful holiday in the water at the nice shallow beach at Rye, playing with their cousins Jane, and Gayle.

We had a good journey home except that just outside Frankston, the view from the windscreen was suddenly partially obscured. I slammed on the brakes q

Virginia and Graham in the Minor with the loaded roof rack on top Photo GFS

uickly, and pulled on to the side of the road. The trouble was that the heavily loaded roof rack had slid down over the windscreen, so we had to push it back in place and reattach it more securely. I tightened it again when we stopped to see Dilys’s mother at Elwood, and again at my parents at Rosanna. After that it never shifted all the way back to Bogong.
p<>{color:#000;}. Back at work on the High Plains, seeing all the small grasshoppers jumping around in the snow grass, had me thinking that I might buy a fishing rod, to see if I could catch a trout. I could not have lived and worked in a more ideal place for the sport, so I asked Father Christmas to bring me a fishing rod.

The summer thunderstorms were with us again, and I discovered that on the BNS radio I could pick up the country fire stations around the district as far away as Corryong, so we knew first hand where the fires were, their progress and extent. Father Christmas came to the children, who were now both old enough to enjoy Christmas and all that went with it.

We had small pine tree for our Christmas tree, which we cut from the side of the Bright Gap. On Christmas morning we drove across the Bright Gap and went to church at the Bright C.of .E. service. Afterwards Virginia and Graham went for a swim in the local swimming pool. It was a great day for us as a family living in the alps, besides I had received my fishing rod from Father Christmas.

Then to cap off an exciting Christmas, Dilys’s mother and young brother Jeff came up from Melbourne in Jeff’s small Renault car. Jeff told us that when they started climbing up the Bright Gap, to keep his mother’s mind off the steep drops on the sides of the road, he suggested that his mother should count all the corners from the start of the climb, until they reached our house at Bogong. The total count was somewhere near 400, we were told.

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The small trout hooked eff took his mother up along the roads on the High Plains, where there were still some small snowdrifts, but it seemed that Mrs Terry was more interested in the colours of the little stones she saw on the ground, than the view or the snowdrifts. They left after a pleasant stay of about four days, Dilys’s mother, enthused about the life we had in House 8 in the mountains and what a good husband I was for her daughter Dilys!
p<>{color:#000;}. After purchasing a fishing licence in Mt Beauty, I was very keen to try my skill as a fisherman. I had collected a small tin of live grasshoppers of various colours in the snow grass around the Rocky Valley workshops. I really didn’t think I was going to be a very good fisherman, because I didn’t even like putting the squirming grasshopper on the hook. However I got over that problem, and on some afternoons after work, I went down to the river and put my line in the river just across from the tennis courts, trying to hook the elusive trout. After a long time, I eventually hooked one, just as it was getting dark, but threw it back as it was too small, and then. I lost interest for a while,

However an event was to occur in a short period of time when I would be seeing more trout than I could imagine or certainly eat! On New Year’s Eve we threw a little party with the Gannon, Horne and the Napier families, which turned into a great musical night.

Dilys dressed up in clothes and hat like the flower girl Liza Doolittle, in the musical comedy My Fair Lady. She looked the part as she squatted on the floor with a basket of flowers in front of her, and sang the songs from the show..

I played each song on my record player as her accompaniment in the background as she sang. We congratulated Dilys for her wonderful rendition of the songs, which became a ‘must’ for repeating in future parties.The songs were from the record of My Fair Lady. Dilys learned them from the record that her friend Pat Teese lent us. The musical was all the rage at the time. Charlie Gannon then sang ‘How are things in Glocamora’ his ‘show stopper’ in his melodious baritone voice, and of course his ‘Please refrain from urination’ song, so we celebrated the beginning of 1961 in good style. It was a great party.

Sometime later Dilys was given a copy of the record by Jenny Soucup, after Dilys sang the part of Lisa at one of Jenny’s parties.

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The feature rock wall of the McKay Creek P S machine hall and two machines Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro

ll the machines at McKay Creek power station had commenced generating power since December last year, but I had not had an opportunity to go and have a look. I mentioned this to Wally, who said he would take me down there and we would both have a real good look at the station. We drove down from Rocky Valley one day and entered the front door of the building, which led us into the power chamber or machine hall, which it is now appropriately called.
p<>{color:#000;}. I don’t know about Wally, who I think had been there before, but I was amazed at what I saw, a row of six machines, together with their ancillary control equipment, all beautifully painted in reds and yellows I could not have imagined, when I worked there as a tunnel fitter, that the completed power station would look anything like this. The machine hall walls were another surprise, clad in cream coloured perforated metal panels. Most striking of all to my eyes was the tailrace end wall, which had been left as bare rock, making a wonderful feature wall. The roof too, with the overhead crane parked at the end brought back vivid and wonderful memories of the method of construction of the roof and crane rail beams.

We then went down the stairs to the turbine level, where the machines were whirring away on load. I saw where the penstock line pipes divided into six smaller pipes to enter in to each of the Pelton wheel turbines. As we left the station, I was in awe of what I had seen and realised how privileged and lucky I had been to be a part of its construction.

My parents came up to visit us for Graham’s third birthday, which was a joyous occasion with all his young friends at the party.

Later in the summer when I tried to dial up the regional fire office and lookouts on the BNS radio, I discovered that I could no longer do so. I realised why, when I went to work with Wally in the Ute, the next day. The radio in our Ute was a different one than before. It had been changed and instead of calling VL3KT we were now calling VHO4.

This was because the communication system had been converted from AM to FM modulation. The aerials on our Ute and the other radio equipped vehicles were now only about one metre long. The radios also had a squelch system, which cut out a lot of the hash. The change from AM to FM, meant that we would no longer be able to hear the Sno-Cat and the fire broadcasts on our BNS radio. This was, a great pity, because especially in the summer months, we would no longer be able to keep track of the fires around the district.

 

CHAPTER 48: PHASMIDS AND TROUT GALORE January, February 1961

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A phasmid didymuria vioescensl

came home from work one lovely afternoon in January to hear the sound of a helicopter close by. The sun had just disappeared behind the mountains as we rushed outside to have a look. There across Lake Guy beyond the transmission line we saw a helicopter that appeared to be dropping a liquid spray as it flew along. The helicopter flew around for a couple of hours until dusk, and then all was quiet again.
p<>{color:#000;}. The next morning we were woken by the clip clop sound of the helicopter. When we looked out of our front windows we saw a curious sight. The helicopter was in the same area where we had seen it last night, but this time it was surrounded by two beautiful vortices of the spay, caused by the whirling rotors of the helicopter lit up from behind by the sun.

I dressed for work, had my breakfast and met Wally, who had all the answers. It had been discovered that a plague of Phasmids, didymuria violescens, (one species is actually called a phasmatid) a stick insect, more like a preying mantis than a grasshopper, had descended on many of the eucalyptus forests of North East Victoria, where they were laying their eggs and eating the leaves. It was very important that the phasmids be eradicated, so the helicopter was spraying with a poison mixed with diesoline. T

The helicopter spraying with the slopes of the Spion Kopje below Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro

he defoliation of the trees by the phasmids would have the same affect of a bush fire through the catchment area around the dams, causing uncontrolled rain water, run off, and increased silting of dams.
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SEC surveyors in radio contact with the helicopter, direct the areas to be to be sprayed Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro

he helicopters could only spray when the air was cool and still, so we would be hearing them only in the early morning to wake us up and then again in the evening.
p<>{color:#000;}. Virginia and Graham loved to watch the helicopter. Sometimes we thought it was going to crash into a hill across Lake Guy. Instead the helicopter just disappeared from sight, because, from our view point, the hill merged into the mountains behind. One afternoon as the sun was low in the sky, there was the beautiful sight of the spray, lit up in all the colours of the rainbow. The spraying continued until February when there was more excitement.

Another afternoon when I arrived home from work, everyone on the top bench was saying: “Quickly get a hessian bag and go down to the lake, it is being drained and there are trout galore just to pick up.” I raced into the garage, got a hessian bag and backed the Minor out. I drove down towards the Lake and could not believe the scene I beheld as I parked the car beside the shop.

Where before there had been the lovely still waters of Lake Guy reflecting the blue sky and mountains, now it was a flat dirty expanse of mud with little rivulets of water running through it here and there. There was even a bloke on skis walking out on the muddy surface, picking up trout and putting them in a bag. The trout must have been dead because they did not move as he picked them up.

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Lake Guy looked like this after it was drained

here was no way I was going to get my skis, but somebody came from the direction of the dam wall with a bag full of trout and told me to go down below the dam wall, and catch the trout caught in pools.
p<>{color:#000;}. So off I went with my hessian bag, climbing down the slippery rocks on to the river bed. Soon without too much trouble I had about six large squirming trout in my bag. This was not the place however, to hit any of them on the head to put them out of their misery, so I just returned to the car and took them back to the house. By the time I had parked the car and walked back into the house, I was happy that all the trout had stopped moving. I showed them to Dilys and the children to touch, which they were all bit reluctant to do.

Our friends told us how to prepare them for cooking. I cut off their heads and degutted them, out of the sight of Virginia and Graham, and for that matter Dilys too. Dilys fried them very simply, just covering them with flour, as she had done with the one I brought home from Rocky Valley. It was a big fish dinner, but I was still convinced that a trout was not the tastiest fish I had ever eaten.

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A brown trout from the lake

he interesting point about this event, from the talk around the Romesse stove at Rocky Valley, was that many of the blokes who fished in Lake Guy, said there were no decent trout to be caught there. They were made to literally ‘eat their words,’ because from the many fish I had seen taken from the dam that day, they were all large trout.
p<>{color:#000;}. The reason for draining Lake Guy was to remove silt that had built up, especially against the dam wall, which reduced the capacity of the Lake.

After Lake Guy had dried out a little, bulldozers pushed the silt to the side where it was loaded into tip trucks and taken away. I was never sure where it went, but I thought it would have made very good topsoil or soil for gardens. Very soon Lake Guy returned to reflecting the blue of the sky from its placid waters.

 

CHAPTER 49: A WALK OF DISCOVERY February, March 1961

Later in the summer, Dilys’s youngest brother Jeff came up on a surprise visit to see us for a few days. Since living in House 8 Bogong, I had developed a yearning to explore the High Plains to find the exact spot on the cliffs of the Spion Kopje Spur, which we could see from our clothesline. I asked Jeff if he would like to go for a hike on the High Plains. He said he would enjoy that. I rang Charlie Gannon who said he would like to go with us too.

It was a long weekend and as the weather was going to be fine, Charlie said he would be free the next day, so it seemed that the time had come for me to solve the question. I told Jeff what my real purpose of the hike was, and pointed out to him where we were going. I told him that when we reached the spot, I wanted to look down on Bogong village and pick out our house, wave a towel and flash a mirror, to see if Dilys could see us. xxx

The next morning after wishing Dilys and the children goodbye and reminding Dilys to keep a lookout around 2 p.m. for a flash of a mirror and a wave of a towel, Charlie, Jeff and I set off in the Minor. We parked the car at Watchbed Creek, on the track out to Mt Nelse, because that was another place Wally and I had put up a boom gate. We hiked up the track and put three bottles of beer in a stream we crossed, to keep them cool to drink on the way back. It was a lovely day with good visibility as we hiked across the snow grass toward Mt Nelse.

After climbing up to the summit of Mt Nelse South (6,175 ft), we walked along the ridge, admiring as we walked the wonderful, varied panorama, of mountains, forests, hills and valleys to the east. We climbed the summit of Mt Nelse North (6,181 ft) and sat down to have a rest. Just after we had squatted down, we heard a strange noise, which grew louder. As we gazed downward in the direction of the noise we saw a very surprising sight just below our feet.

A camouflaged F111 jet aeroplane flew by below us, and in an instant, disappeared from sight, leaving the noise of its jet engines behind. Oh to have had a camera, but even if I had a camera panned to take a photo of the vista in front of us, I would not have been quick enough to take a photo of the aircraft, as it flew past so quickly. As an afterthought I thought the camouflaging was very effective, because for the very short space of time that we saw the F111, it was nearly invisible against the forest background. A friend of mine who knows about aircraft, when I told him about this, said it could not have been an F111. However, whatever it was it was an exciting experience.

We left the summit of the third highest mountain in Victoria, which at that time I believed it was, (See next Chapter 50) and followed the snowpole line to the west, which then changed direction turning toward the north in the direction of Warby’s Corner and Roper’s Hut. Leaving the snowpole line we walked to the west along the high ridge of the Spion Kopje Spur. Then after descending a short distance from the highest point on the spur, we came to some very steep and rocky cliffs overlooking the large valley of Spion Kopje Creek, which descended between us the Grey Hills and Mt Arthur.

We looked down over the cliffs to the west, and there below was the view I had come to see. We all gazed down, easily picking out Lake Guy. Some of the houses were visible, especially our house, which I picked out easily because it was on the end of the bench, but not Charlie’s, it was lower down and there were too many trees in front of his. I did not have my binoculars with me, but I brought out my white towel and mirror. The time was after 2 p.m., when I had asked Dilys to watch out for us, but for some 15 minutes, as we madly waved the towel and flashed the mirror, we saw no response from below.

We ate some sandwiches while gazing down at Bogong and the great view of the Kiewa Valley, a view of the Kiewa Valley quite unlike I had ever seen before, beautiful, with the west side of the valley dominating. We retraced our steps, bypassing the high points making a path as straight as we could back to the bottles of beer.

Alas, the bottles were no longer in the water or in the shade, but were in the sun, and what was worse, the level of the water in the small creek had dropped, so when we opened the bottles, the beer they were not really cold, but room temperature more like English beer. I named the creek, Warm Beer Creek. We nevertheless drank the beer down and continued on to the Rocky Valley camp. Wet canteens had been operating in various camps on the Scheme for the last couple of years and luckily the wet canteen was still open at the Rocky Valley camp. We went inside and quenched our thirst with a number of beers, this time cold. Wetalking with the blokes as we drank them down, finally leaving the canteen after a few too many, cold beers.

I drove very carefully down to Bogong, in a very relaxed state, however, I knew that there was no local policeman going to pull me up for being intoxicated at the wheel of a car, simply because I had the local policeman by my side in the front seat of the car, in a similar state as me. Jeff however, was not a big beer drinker like Charlie and me, so I supposed I really should have let him drive. We arrived back safely at Bogong, but disappointingly, neither Dilys nor the children had seen the flashing mirror or the waving towel, which really was no surprise, but I now knew the point and area of the High Plains, we were seeing from our clothesline.

Jeff stayed with us a couple more days before driving back to the city, saying that he enjoyed his visit and his hike on the High Plains. Charlie, Jeff and I were not aware at the time that the highest point on the spur that I mentioned above in italics, was of great significance. Because in fact it was the third highest peak in the State of Victoria, (6,207 ft), and not Mt Nelse North, which is 26 ft lower but I did not discover this fact until the 70s, when I visited Jack Smith in Mt Beauty on one of our yearly holidays. (See the following chapter.)

S

The view from the front gate of our house

ome residents of Bogong said the view we saw from our house was of the Grey Hills, but they were not sure about the location of the high mountains on the skyline beyond the Spion Kopje. I knew now after our hike, that in fact it was the eastern extremity of the Spion Kopje Spur and the high point, the third highest in Victoria, from where we had looked down on Bogong.
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CHAPTER 50: MT HILLARY 1953

I was always of the belief that Mt Nelse North 6,181 ft, was the third highest mountain in the state, when I was told by no less an authority than Bill Waters. I am sure that even up to the day that Bill died in 1968, he was not aware of the significance of that small, but high bump, on the Spion Kopje Spur that Charlie, Jeff and I scaled on our walk.

Following is an account of the naming of Mt Hillary, told to me by my very good friend Jack Smith. Sadly Jack died in the 80s after being electrocuted on the job in No 3 Power Station switch yard. Jack’s account of the naming of Mt Hillary was very sketchy, but it aroused my interest, and an urge to learn more about the naming, which has never been officially recognised.

At first, the only map I found, which showed the location and height was a very old and tattered Bogong Ski Club map, dated 1947. It was amended 1959 by none other than Adrian Rufenacht, who I have mentioned previously in this book. Later in 2003, in Skippy’s diary, of which I have a copy, amongst many other enthralling tales of Toni and Skippy St Elmo’s life in Falls Creek, is Skippy’s account of the lead up to the naming of Mt Hillary. Much of the following information comes from that source.

During one of Tom Mitchell’s frequent visits to Falls Creek, he and Toni St Elmo were discussing the upcoming visit to Falls Creek of New Zealand’s Southern District Skiing Association (SDSA), in August of 1953, to compete in a friendly, ski racing competition, against Victoria’s North-Eastern District Skiing Association (NEDSA). Tom Mitchell assured Toni St Elmo that he would leave no stone unturned to make sure the visit of the New Zealanders was a success, because he hoped that the competition would lead to a more permanent racing fixture between the two countries in the future.

Toni told Tom that he knew of an unnamed peak on the High Plains, and asked Tom: “If a New Zealander was successful in reaching the summit of Mt Everest, during the current 1953 Everest expedition, would it be possible to name the peak in his honour?” Tom, who at the time was the Victorian Attorney General, said that Toni’s idea was absolutely wonderful! If Mt Everest was climbed in 1953, there was quite a possibility that one or more of the three New Zealanders in the party would be successful in reaching the summit.

Around about the time this discussion was taking place between Tom Mitchell, Toni St Elmo and Skippy, I was in London looking eagerly forward to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II only a month or so away. I had seen most of the members of John Hunt’s Everest expedition interviewed on BBC TV, and also excellent relief models of Everest, showing the route the expedition intended taking up the Khumba Icefall, and through the Western Cwm to the South Col and on to the summit.

Coronation Day June 2nd 1953 finally came along. The day commenced for me in a totally unexpected and exciting way. As I walked down the road from my lodgings to Fulham Road Parson’s Green to catch a bus to my reserved seat in a grandstand on the route, Mt Everest was not in my thoughts at all, but in an instant that changed dramatically. A paperboy was standing on the corner was holding up a newspaper, the Daily Express with a banner headline, which read: ‘ALL THIS AND EVEREST TOO.’

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The Daily Express banner headline

bought a paper and to my amazement, read that the New Zealander, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing had climbed Mt. Everest on the 29th May.
p<>{color:#000;}. I was thrilled as I read the reports in the bus as it took me into the West End and my seat in the grandstand. The report contained a very fascinating account of the climb and how the news of the successful climb, reached London on the morning of the Coronation, just in time for the morning papers to print the banner headlines. It was a fantastic, Coronation present, for the Queen and the nation.

Sometime after the crowning ceremony in the Abbey, the Coronation procession commenced. From my seat in the grandstand I had a wonderful view of the Queen as she passed by in her Golden Coach.The procession took just under an hour to pass and it was a magnificent spectacle seeing all the bands and uniforms of the armed forces of the Commonwealth countries, some very colourful.

How lucky I was to be present at the Coronation of my beautiful Queen?

Back in Falls Creek, when Toni St Elmo heard the news that Hillary and Tenzing had climbed Mt Everest, he contacted Tom Mitchell and suggested to him that the unnamed mountain be called Mt Hillary. Tom Mitchell replied, saying that he had acted on Toni’s suggestion, and had already named the mountain Mt Hillary. The news media in Melbourne learned of the naming and contacted HHC Williams, the Chief Construction Engineer of the Kiewa Scheme, telling him that a mountain on ‘his Scheme’ had been officially named Mt Hillary.

HHC William’s reaction to that news, to quote from Skippy’s diary was ‘Apparently, as we were told by his office staff. The news sent him into a prolonged period of tongue biting from which he never quite recovered.’ I also heard that he said words to the affect: “We will see about that!”

A short time later, Toni St Elmo was asked by an ABC reporter who came to Falls Creek, if he would be prepared to talk about the naming of Mt Hillary? Toni said he would. Tapes were made of this conversation, one going to the BBC in London, one to New Zealand. The last tape is believed to reside inside the ABC archives in Sydney.

When the NZ team arrived in Falls Creek in late August, Toni suggested to Tom that it would be a nice gesture to take the NZ team out to the peak and have a flag raising and naming ceremony. The members of the SDSA were honoured by the thought.

On Tuesday, September 8th I953,Tom Mitchell and Toni St Elmo, led a party of 19 skiers from the New Zealand and Victorian ski teams, to the summit of the unnamed peak on the Spion Kopje Spur. The weather was bitterly cold and windy as they skied up through Watchbed Creek towards Mt Nelse and across to the 6,207 ft (1610 m) summit, the third highest in Victoria. The party scaled the summit and crowded around in the bitterly cold wind, as Tom Mitchell made a short speech naming the peak Mt Hillary. He was followed by Isabel Thorp wife of the SDSA team manager, Eric Thorp, who planted the flag of NZ in the snow on the summit, also naming it Mt Hillary.

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he flag was later signed by all members of the party and taken back to the Nissen tow house for good keeping. Although the weather was not the best, Tom and Toni were very pleased that on the journey to Mt Hillary, the visiting ‘Kiwis’ were able to have a good look at our extensive snowfields in the Alps, of North East Victoria. A p<>{color:#000;}. day or two after the naming ceremony, there was a full page spread, reporting the event in the local regional p aper, the Border Morning Mail with the following headline: ‘6,200 ft. PEAK IN BOGONG RANGES NAMED AFTER SIR EDMUND HILLARY.’ p<>{color:#000;}. This was followed by a very good description of the journey out to Mt Hillary and the subsequent naming ceremony, which I have described above.

The two photos numbered 98, shown on this page were taken directly from Skippy’s diary with her consent. It is my wish that this diary should one day be published, as it is an enthralling tale of Skippy and Toni’s life, from the time when they first came to Falls Creek. I believe that the history of Falls creek would not be complete, without this record.

It was a pity that certain people of influence in North East Victoria, had by some means, prevented the name of Mt Hillary from being officially recognised. Aside from that lamentable decision, I have some views of my own regarding the present day confusion, in the naming of this unspectacular, but never the less, significant high point of the Spion Kopje Spur, and third highest summit in Victoria. This confusion is exemplified by the following references to the peak, and the locality.

1) The Touring map of the Bogong Ski Club, amended 1959, which I mentioned previously, shows the contours in the vicinity of Mt Hillary, and the comparable heights, but Mt Hillary, 6,207 ft is not named on the map, higher than Mt Nelse North by 26 ft.

2) An excellent book Australian Mountains The Best 100 Walks by Tyrone Thomas and Sven Klinge on page 225, describes a walk to Mt Hillary, which they call Mt Nelse West. An accompanying map No.45 shows Mt Nelse West 1,891 m and Mt Nelse North 1,884 m, to be lower by 7 m. In an e-mail dated 24/2/04 I asked Tyrone Thomas if the name Mt Nelse West was the officially recognised name for this point? His answer by return e-mail was: “Your question as to the validity of Mt Nelse West cannot be verified beyond reasonable doubt. He went on to say: “I have been a Nordic skier and walker for 40 years and have always known it by that name.”

3) Broadbent’s Map No 316, undated, but with heights given in the Imperial System, shows Mt Nelse North (Mt Hillary) in brackets underneath, in the correct position and height for Mt Nelse North 6,181 ft. The 6,207 peak is not shown.

4) With reference to item 2), it is a misnomer to call Mt Hillary, Mt Nelse West, which I am sure is not its official name. This is because it is on the Spion Kopje Spur, not the Nelse ridge, so it should be more appropriately called Spion Kopje East, if not Mt Hillary.

I will continue to refer to this summit as Mt Hillary, 6,207 ft (1.892 m), in honour of a wonderful man who, besides being the first to climb Mt Everest, has since that time devoted his life to the betterment of the people of Nepal. It is my wish that the name Mt Hillary, will be officially recognised for this high summit sometime in the future. With regard to the e-mail quotes above, the way is now clear for someone to right a wrong, and ensure that the name Mt Hillary is officially recognised. The following sections from the map I have referred to, and which I have in my passion should remove any doubt as to the validity of this high summit to be the third highest in the state, and not Mt Nelse North.

A small section of the complete map showing the height and location of Mt Hillary and Mt Nelse North The author has added the name and arrow

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On the left is a section of the title and details of the map. The notes state the following, signed by A Rufenacht. This map is based partly on ground surveys and partly on aerial photographs so that contours are not accurate everywhere. Spot levels however are reliable. .

In light of the facts of the history of this 6,207 ft (1.189 m) summit, I have presented in this chapter, I believe a move should be made to officially name this summit Mt Hillary.

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CHAPTER 51: INSPECTING THE HEADRACE TUNNEL March 1961

In march the High Plains Patrol was called upon to assist in the de-watering of the headrace tunnel, which was very exciting and unique experience for me. We were required to carry out a number of duties listed with times and dates in a three page memo titled ‘No 1 Headrace Tunnel De-watering Schedule,’ a copy of which I still have in my possession. The McKay Creek power station had been generating power for just over a year since it went on line in December last year. This exercise was designed to enable an inspection of the headrace tunnel, intake structure, valves at the McKay portal, pen stock line, the vortex tank and siphon, to make sure all were fit for continuing service and to carry out any maintenance required. Mckay Creek power station had run the turbines to purposely lower the level in the reservoir for this inspection.

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A cross section diagram of the Intake structure Diagram courtesy of Southern Hydro he first task listed for us on the schedule was on the 7th March. This was to drive across to Pretty Valley and, open the scour valve at the weir to allow the water to flow directly into the river and drain the water from the vortex tank. The next day at 9.00 a.m. Wally, Theo, Bill and myself, drove across to the intake structure. We started up the Volkswagon engine and lowered the large, head gate, 60 feet, then at 2.00 p.m. we returned and lowered the head gate fully, which prevented the water from the reservoir from entering the headrace tunnel.
p<>{color:#000;}. After this had been completed, and the message relayed by our radio to the power station, one turbine was operated to use up the water in the pen stock line and headrace tunnel.

The next day, the 9th, when it was determined that the penstock and headrace tunnel were completely drained of water, the bulkhead at the McKay portal was then removed, to allow inspection and the fitting of new seals on the valves, which controlled the flow of water from the headrace tunnel down the penstock line to the power station.

Wally told us all to bring our tunnel clothes, hard hats and gumboots to work the next day, because we were going to walk along the full length of the 5.486 m long headrace tunnel, from the intake structure to the McKay portal. When I arrived home, I explained to Dilys what we were going to do. I didn’t think she was worried because I said there was no danger. To be candid I don’t think she fully understood what the inspection involved.

The following morning, Wally, Bill, Theo and myself, together with Charlie Jervis a construction foreman, all dressed in tunnel clothes, climbed down the steep steps, below the headrace gate into the dark, wet, tunnel. As we walked along, we had to shine our headlamps on the walls and floor of the tunnel, which measured approximately 3 m wide x 3 m high. This was to see if there were any loose rocks ready to break away, or had broken from the wall and also to inspect the various sections of the tunnel that had been lined with concrete to make sure that the concrete was not damaged in any way.

I

A cross section of the headrace tunnel from the intake structure left to the McKay portal right Diagram courtesy of Southern Hydro t was not easy walking, as the floor of the tunnel was by no means flat, in many places, covered with quite large, but not deep pools of water.
p<>{color:#000;}. About half way along the tunnel, we came to the point where the Pretty Valley leg of the tunnel, branched off to the left to the vortex tank and valve house. Here the main tunnel took a slight turn to the right towards the portal. We did not find anything in the concrete lining or rock walls of the tunnel likely to cause problems, and after a little less than three hours, we literally, saw the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

Before we emerged at the portal we had to negotiate the rock trap in the base of the tunnel, a section about a cricket pitch long and two feet deep, its purpose being to catch any rocks and other loose debris that c

The light at the end of the tunnel’ Looking towards the end of the tunnel and the valve house pipes. Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro

ame down from the walls of the tunnel. We walked along a small ledge at the side of the trap, finally emerging into the daylight at the portal, after a very interesting, but tiring inspection of the headrace tunnel.
p<>{color:#000;}. It was good to see the employees at the end of the tunnel waiting for us to come out, to see if all was OK and for the tunnel to be filled again the next morning. After a hot meal that had been provided for us and a cup of coffee, we sat around discussing our walk. Someone said that it was not a walk to be done by anyone who suffered from claustrophobia, but none of us felt the walls were closing in on us. I was aware if no one else was, of the intake structure head gate, which was holding back the waters of the reservoir from entering the tunnel. It was very watertight, although the level of the reservoir was quite low.

The rock walls of the sides of the tunnel were quite rough, but there were no rocks projecting out anywhere, which would have required a team to go in and bar them down, before the tunnel went back into service again. I concluded that after seeing the rough rocky sides and floor of the tunnel, the speed of the water moving through the tunnel, even with all six turbines running, would be quite slow, and that the rough tunnel walls would not impede the water flow to any significant amount.

I will never forget that unique walk through the headrace tunnel below Mt McKay, a journey that very few employees of the Kiewa Scheme, engineers or otherwise, have been lucky enough to experience.

We were taken back to Rocky Valley workshops where we waited to be told to go out to the intake structure. We soon received the call and Wally, Theo, Bill and I drove around to the intake structure, where promptly on schedule at 8 p.m. we started up the engine and raised the headgate 3 inches (7.5 cm) to allow the water from the reservoir to slowly fill the tunnel again.

That was the end of our duties, after a long and enthralling day, so we made our way back to Bogong, dropping off Theo and Bill at Howman’s. We drove down to Bogong in darkness after a cup of coffee at Howman’s Gap camp. When I got home I told Dilys all about our big adventure, walking through the tunnel. She was just happy that I had arrived home safely.

The next day Friday 10th we went to the intake structure and raised the headgate fully. We had a few more tasks to perform to return the system to full operation, which required us to drive over to Pretty Valley. We entered the vortex tank by a manhole in the side and cleaned up the base of the tank, where pieces of wood and other debris were lying on the bottom, having been caught by a large, circular steel canopy around the inlet pipe. Leaving the vortex tank, we closed the manhole and drain valve and then closed the scour valve at the weir, to allow water to start filling the vortex tank again. Next Wally and I climbed up the ladder to the apex of the siphon pipe, and opened the small venting valve.

This done, we listened intently to the air escaping from the valve. As soon as the water level in the vortex tank reached a certain level, the air would stop being expelled, and the water from the vortex tank would commence siphoning down into the tunnel. After about fifteen minutes, as we watched the level of the water in the tank rise, all of a sudden the airflow ceased. We quickly closed the valve and with a small tremor, the water commenced to flow from the tank over the 180 degree bend, in the siphon pipe down into the tunnel. That completed the de-watering schedule.

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The Rocky Valley dam with the level of the water lowered for the inspection Photo GFS day or so after the inspection we all took a walk down the to the dam wall and across to the spillway shaft. Not far from the spillway shaft there was a small rise where some bushes had been growing, which had been reduced to a soggy mass of dead foliage. We walked over to the rise and there in the centre of the bushes we found a large cache of scrap copper, all neatly bound up with copper wire! An employee must have hidden it there, hoping to retrieve it at a later time, but for some reason never got the opportunity.
p<>{color:#000;}. I would have liked to add it to my meagre collection, but we decided to leave it just where it was, as it would remain at the bottom of the reservoir out of harm’s way, and as far as I know it is still there today! It was a sorry sight to see those parts of Rocky Valley not covered by water, looking a murky yellow, and lifeless, but thankfully, there will not be many occasions when the reservoir will be drained down to this low level to reveal this unlovely scene. Strangely, no one suggested that we search for stranded trout, because we there was enough water still in the reservoir to prevent this occurring.

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Fishing in the East Kiewa river at Bogong with Dilys, Virginia and Graham Photo GFS

e had an unexpected call one afternoon to go out to Langford’s Gap and meet up with a Peters mobile crane to help load a Bell 47 helicopter on a flat top truck. The helicopter was doing some survey work and had landed on a flat section of the road out to Cope Hut. Evidently when it lifted off to continue the survey, it had only risen to about 30 m when the engine cut out, and it fell back to earth with a thump damaging the skids. We helped attaching the lifting ropes and getting it on the flat top. I was amazed at the construction of the helicopter, its latticed boom looked so flimsy, as did the small drive shaft that ran along the inside of the boom to drive the tail rotor. The truck drove off with the helicopter securely tied down and that was another rescue operation that we had successfully accomplished.
p<>{color:#000;}. I still continued with my fishing down where the rivers entered Lake Guy. Sometimes Virginia and Graham came down to watch me. They enjoyed playing in the sand and rocks by the side of the river, but I am sure they would have got much more enjoyment if I had been able to land a fish.

One day, I took a walk up the Rocky Valley branch of the East Kiewa River across the bridge past the tennis courts. I dropped the line in some lovely rock pools, one in which I could actually see a large trout swimming, but no luck. I thought to myself that I was more likely to be bitten by a snake than catch a trout!

At the 1961 Annual General Meeting of the Bogong Ski Club I had the honour of being elected president which was truly surprising, as I was not skiing very often, although I was attending work parties every now and again. About this time Ore Frueauf severed his ties with Cecil Dobson from Winterhaven, with the idea of building a lodge of his own, called Snowhaven, further up the slope.

Summer had been a good time with plenty of excitement in Bogong and up on the High Plains, raceline patrolling, regrassing and many other jobs that kept us busy up there, the tunnel inspection and the helicopter rescue.

When we went shopping in Albury and Wodonga on the Friday of a long weekend, we usually had lunch in the Albury Gardens after which the children played on the swings and slides nearby. Having finished all the shopping, if the weather was fine, we would sometimes go to the Wodonga drive in. Quite apart from the movie, the children loved to play in the big playground at the drive in. We had something to eat there and usually just as the movie was about to start, Virginia and Graham would fall asleep on the ‘bed’ in the backseat. Dilys and I could then relax and watch the movie together, hand in hand.

Driving home to Bogong in the dead of night from the drive in, with the children asleep in the back and Dilys asleep beside me, I found it a little difficult to stay awake, but the car radio kept me from falling asleep with my precious load on board. Sometimes when I went around a sharp corner or over a bump, Dilys would wake up and throw her arms about exclaiming: “What’s happening! What’s happening?” She would then realise where she was, and simply ask: “Are you alright, honey? ”Then she would go back to sleep again, sometimes taking over the wheel at Mt Beauty to drive up the mountain to Bogong. They were very happy times.

The deciduous trees in the village were showing their lovely colours, but soon winter would be upon us. My parents came up to spend Easter with us, and my father said he was so pleased that the BNS radio he had purchased on our behalf, was giving us so much enjoyment.

 

CHAPTER 52: A LUCKY ESCAPE IN THE SNO-CAT May 1961

We went down to Melbourne late in May for my birthday, celebrating Dilys’s birthday at the same time, even though hers was in June. Usually on our trips backward and forward to Melbourne, we would share the driving. Just after that trip to Melbourne, the first winter snow fell, not a heavy fall, but enough to cover the ground. The night after the snowfall, about 8 p.m., Wally rang me to tell me we were going to take linesmen out in the Sno-Cat to repair a fault on the power line, which ran along the top of the Frying Pan Spur.

I thought to myself, here we go again, this was another occasion when the Sno-Cat was not ready for us when it was needed. One of these days we might be lucky and have it brought up to Rocky Valley before Easter as I had suggested. When I mentioned this to Wally, he told me that the Sno-Cat would be waiting for us at Falls Creek, having been taken up there as soon as the power line fault was reported.

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The power line on the frying Pan Spur as seen in mid-winter

he fault was somewhere in the power line that ran steeply up from Howman’s Gap along the Frying Pan Spur to Rocky Valley. This power line was supported by large wooden poles, with wooden cross arms that held the insulators to which the power wires were attached. Wally said we would be meeting the linesmen at Falls Creek, so I got dressed quickly into my ski gear, and long underpants and went to meet Wally.
p<>{color:#000;}. We drove up to Falls Creek in the Ute where we found that the Sno-Cat had just been unloaded off a truck. The linesmen had already commenced stowing their gear in the boot. We helped the linesmen load a couple of cross arms with insulators on the ski rack on top of the Sno-Cat before we all climbed aboard. Wally and I were in the front, three linesmen were in the back seat, and two more were crowded into the boot with lots of rope, insulators and tools. It was a clear, moonless night, with a strong wind from the south. Wally drove the Sno-Cat up behind the Falls Creek village on to the top of the Pan over the snow cover from the earlier snowfall, which had only left about 6 inches (15 cm) on the ground.

Everyone was smoking and except for the two men sitting cramped in the boot with the gear, we were all in good spirits as we made our way north along the Pan under the power lines. It became was a lot windier as the Sno-Cat clinked its way further out along the Pan, and there was barely enough snow for the Sno-Cat, because we were losing altitude and there were a lot of small bushes and dead snow gums sticking up above the snow. I had my head out the window helping to direct Wally along a line where there was more snow, when I felt a stinging in my eyes and noticed a white haze going past the window. Then I smelt petrol and looking back through my stinging eyes, I could see a fine spray of petrol being blown in the wind from the vicinity of the petrol cap. I yelled out to Wally: STOP!

Wally somewhat surprised at my request, but immediately brought the Sno-Cat to a halt. I called out for everyone to put out their cigarettes and to quickly get out of the Sno-Cat, those in the boot climbing over to the back seats to get out, while I went back with Wally, and opened the boot to see where the petrol was coming from. A few of the linesmen said that had also smelt petrol.

We soon discovered that petrol was spraying out of the 2 inch (5 cm) diameter pipe that came out of the 150 litre petrol tank under the boot. The connection to the filler cap pipe was the source of the petrol leak, where two, short lengths of pipe, were connected with a short length of rubber hose, (too short for my liking). One of the hose clips attaching the hose to the pipe had come loose. I doubted in fact, if it had ever been properly tightened, because the other hose clip was not very tight either.

As we trundled along, with the Sno-Cat leaning this way and that, the full tank of petrol had surged up and come out of the loose connections. It was then being drawn out and blown by the high wind along the side Sno-Cat, where I first felt it in my eyes. There was also a little petrol on the wooden floor of the boot near the pipe. A cigarette from one of the linesmen sitting cramped up together in the boot, could have easily ignited the spray or the small amount of petrol in the boot! If that had occurred, I hated to think what the result might have been. But we were lucky, lucky, and lucky. Without exaggeration we could have all been badly burnt!

I tightened up both hose clips very tightly, deciding that I was going to put on a longer hose piece when the Sno-Cat was back in the workshops. We cleaned off all the petrol and everyone got back in the Sno-Cat, but there was to be no more cigarette smoking while we were in the Sno-Cat. Marvelling at out our lucky escape, we continued north along the Pan, eventually arriving at the faulty pole, which was only a few poles away from where the Pan dropped steeply down to Howman’s Gap.

The linesmen’s torches soon showed that the trouble was a broken insulator on a wooden cross arm, which had allowed the power line to drop onto the cross arm, and was slowly burning its way through the arm. A radio call was put through to the switchyard to have the power turned off, and clearance to work on the line. After confirming that the power had been disconnected, a couple of linesmen climbed the pole and started replacing the cross arm and insulator.

While this was taking place, I got a torch and had a look to make sure that the hose to the petrol tank was still firmly attached. Then I went around the tracks expecting to find some broken links on the tracks due to the rough terrain we had gone over to reach the pole. Surprisingly however, there was no trouble with the tracks, so Wally and I assisted the linesmen in their repair work.

There was less snow here over the scrub than further up, but every now and again the linesmen on the pole needed to drop a tool or other object down from the pole. Our task was to watch exactly where it dropped into the snow and scrub underneath, and retrieve it. It was very windy and cold, but the air was so clear that we could see the lights twinkling below, somewhere in the Kiewa Valley.

Eventually the job was completed and a call on the radio was sent to tell the switchyard that the linesmen were clear, and the power could be restored.

I was quite fascinated by the safety procedure followed on the radio to isolate and later restore power to the line. While the pole was being repaired, we had backed the Sno-Cat up the hill and turned it around, ready to make a quick getaway when the repair was completed. This was no easy matter, not only because of the Sno-Cat’s large turning circle, it was made more difficult by the bushes, which were showing above the snow. After all the tools and gear were put back in the Sno-Cat and everyone was aboard, we followed our tracks back to Falls Creek without any trouble.

After helping the linesmen to load up their truck, we all went down to Howman’s Gap, where the cook gave us a large plate of steaming hot soup and a lovely cup of hot coffee. Wally and I left Howman’s Gap about 4 a.m. in the morning and were back in Bogong by 4.30 a.m. After telling Dilys a little of the night’s events and our lucky escape, I went off to bed thinking, I wonder what’s next?

The next day we didn’t go back to work until lunchtime. More snow had fallen overnight, so we drove the Sno-Cat from Falls Creek up to the Rocky Valley workshops. I went over the tracks thoroughly to find if there were any faults from the rough treatment of the previous night, but it came through the journey OK, expect that the skis got a few big scratches in them.

Snow continued to fall as Theo and I went about our raceline patrolling on Langford’s East and West racelines. We reported on various locations where large snowdrifts tended to form, as well as a few places where there had been some erosion. Later unconnected concrete pipes were to be placed in the raceline in those locations.

 

CHAPTER 53: PATROLLING AND SCHOOLING June, July, August 1961

The reservoir had not frozen over this year before the first snowfall, but it must have been near the freezing point, because before long the falling snow built up on the surface and the water in the reservoir was under a blanket of snow again.

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The dam and reservoir after the first falls of snow Photo GFS here was plenty of snow for the opening of Queen’s Birthday weekend, so of course now I was President, I made sure I went up one day on the weekend for the opening to see our members and have a day’s skiing.
p<>{color:#000;}. As president I attended a NEDSA meeting in Ryan’s Hotel in Albury, which I found quite interesting. The discussion centred round organising races and sorting out some problems with the Victorian Ski Club (VSC), which wanted to have control of all skiing in Victoria.

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The author at the intake structure Photo W Deans eighton s moved out well before the snow fell after working on the Cope East and West racelines, which although planned to be finished this year, still required more work. Twice each week, Theo and I went across to Pretty Valley and also patrolled Langford’s East and West racelines. Whether on skis, or in the Sno-Cat, I always enjoyed patrolling whatever the weather was, but if it was really bad we always went in the Sno- Cat.
p<>{color:#000;}. One lovely sunny day Wally took us all in the Sno- Cat around to the intake structure, which gave Bill McBain a chance to have a look at Sun Valley under snow. We started up the VW engine and made sure everything was OK. Theo and I got on very well together and I practiced my German on him from time to time. Theo spoke German in a pleasant, deep, clear voice, which as long as he spoke slowly and used simple words and sentences, I could understand.

One of the negative aspects of living at Bogong and there were very few, was that because Bogong was virtually a closed community, health problems such as colds and flue circulated around the village from family to family. When I caught a cold there was only one side effect of the cold, which really prevented me from going to work.

Leaving in the morning to go to Rocky Valley, my ears would be quite clear, but by the time I had reached the Rocky Valley workshops 3,000 ft higher, my ears were blocked. During the day they would gradually clear, having adjusted to the change of height, but by the time I reached home after work, they were blocked again up. After having a day or two at home, I would return to work and my ears were able to again to adjust to the height change.

The Falls Creek Management Committee advertised for men to be parking attendants at Falls Creek, so I applied and was one of six selected. I commenced parking duties in July and worked every second weekend until the end of August.

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Wally at the door of the valve house below the dam wall Photo W Deans utomatic transmissions were now fitted to many cars, and some drivers did not know how to use them when they encountered snow on the road, because they did not select a low gear. The tyres would lose their grip and the car would come to a stop with the wheels spinning. We told them to select low gear and pushed them to get them going again on into the parking places. Although it was cold and sometimes hard work I enjoyed it, especially the extra cash it brought us. We had another light fall of snow in Bogong, just enough for Virginia and Graham to make a small snowman and throw snow balls.
p<>{color:#000;}. Wally and Bill McBain usually carried out the inspection of the valve house below the dam wall, which left Theo and me to do our raceline patrolling.

Towards the end of August there was just over a metre of snow on the High Plains and Falls Creek was enjoying a good winter season. One of our weekly tasks was to send a snow report to the SEC in Melbourne. We prided ourselves that it was a very accurate report, and not exaggerated, like so many of the snow reports we heard on the radio, especially when they reported depths of snow at Falls Creek.

Winter was still with us with plenty of snow up top and a big milestone in our family life was about to take place, with Virginia’s fifth birthday coming up on the 25th of August, the time had come for her to start school.

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The Bogong school Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro

ilys went down to the school after the school holidays and had an interview with the teacher of the one teacher school, Mr McLeod (Neil) who told Dilys she could start right away. Dilys said she thought that the teacher was a nice young man.
p<>{color:#000;}. Virginia had been looking forward to going to school, so she was very excited when we told her she was off to school in a couple of days. The teacher told Dilys what she would need to start school and the times for starting, lunch and finishing, so all was in readiness for my lovely daughter to begin a life of learning.

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From the top bench a view of the Bogong school tucked away amongst the poplars Photo GFS

efore I went to work on her first school day, I gave Virginia a big hug and kiss and told her to be a good girl at school and learn lots of things. Amid much excitement, Dilys walked Virginia and Graham down the steep track to the school for the first day.
p<>{color:#000;}. I think Graham must have been a little envious and lonely, but he took great pride in carrying her bag to the top of the steps. He waved goodbye to her as she descended the steep steps that went from the top bench to the school. Sometimes he took her all the way down to the school gate, to say goodbye there.

Only when the children teased her about it, did Graham stop at the top of the track.

We discovered that all the children in the school were being given an iodine tablet each day. This was because the water supply at Bogong was so pure, it was devoid of this constituent, which if not present in the water, promoted the growth of goitres, so Dilys put Graham on iodine tablets also.

There was another interesting aspect of the water purity, the SEC carried out extensive tests, which resulted in a memo saying that tap water on the area was quite suitable for use in batteries, and distilled water was not required!

 

CHAPTER 54: THE SNOW-TRAC August 1961 Note: All of the photos of the Snow-Trac reproduced in this chapter courtesy of AB WESTERASMASKINER

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The Snow Trac

e discovered that we were to soon get a new, over snow vehicle, but not another Sno-Cat. Sure enough one day, a red rubber tracked over snow vehicle was driven quite silently compared to our Sno-Cat, into the workshops at Rocky Valley. The engine was shut down and a man in ski clothes emerged from the single seat in the front of the vehicle and ‘Snow’ White, the base workshop’s foreman and another bloke emerged from the cabin at the rear. We were introduced to the driver, Norm Hamilton, the company representative and his mechanic.
p<>{color:#000;}. Norm Hamilton and Snow White explained that the SEC had purchased this vehicle, a Snow-Trac and it was now ours. Norm said that this Snow-Trac was similar to a model his company was hoping to sell to the Antarctic Division, saying that our snow country on the High Plains would be a good test for the reliability of the vehicle. He said that this was because the snow conditions here on the High Plains, were not as cold, or as hard, as those encountered in the Antarctic, ours were much softer, being always close to the thawing temperature. This he said, would really test out the tracks and drive system of the Snow-Trac. The model that we were purchasing, was the same model that were used as taxis in Stockholm, Sweden and other snow bound cities.

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A view showing the flat four Porsche engine, variator belt drive, differential and the chain drive to the tracks orm Hamilton and the mechanic then described the various features of the vehicle. He opened up the engine hood to show us the engine, a Porsche, flat four-cylinder type, that drove a four-speed gearbox and a variator controlled, differential.
p<>{color:#000;}. This in turn was connected to rubber tracks on each side by chain drives and sprockets. These meshed with cleats in the rubber tracks that were supported by three sets of sprung, rubber tyred, jockey wheels. The track ran around a 60 cm diameter, rubber tyred wheel, at the rear. All of the tyres were inflated with compressed air.

There was only room for the driver behind the wheel on the left-hand side at the front, which meant there would be no room for me as navigator and mechanic in the front, as in the Sno-Cat. The rear cabin however, could seat six persons, three on bench seats on each side. The bench seat opposite to the driver’s side protruded part way into the front beside the driver.

In the passenger cabin there was a petrol-fired heater, which Norm demonstrated to us. It quickly produced an enormous amount of heat that was certainly a great improvement over the Sno-Cat. No more would I have to put my hands over the exhaust pipe for the exhaust gas of the Sno-Cat to warm up my hands. When skiing in Switzerland, I lost the feeling from all my fingers in both hands. It was a long period of excruciating agony as the feeling returned, so I always stopped, and if possible, warmed up my fingers before they lost their feeling.

Apart from the very efficient heater, there were another couple of features the Snow-Trac had that were a great improvement over the Sno-Cat. Its turning circle was only 10 m, compared to the Sno-Cat, which was in the order of 30 m at best. Both of these turning circles however, especially of the Sno-Cat were dependant on snow conditions, and the snow craft of the driver. The other advantage was that because the brakes worked on drums on the front drive axles, we would never become brakeless, as was possible in the Sno-Cat.

Norm saying that the Snow-Trac was used in Sweden as a taxi in the winter, reminded of the five days I spent in Stockholm in the summer of 1952, where the city traffic and road rules were very confusing, if not chaotic. Ninety percent of the cars at the time were American, with the steering wheels on the left hand side of the car, but traffic in Sweden, drove on the English or left hand side of the road! Pulling out from a kerb in the city, or pulling out to pass a car or truck on a highway, even with indicator lights and trafficators signalling the intention, was fraught with danger. I was made very much aware of the danger, when I was given a lift in a Ford for the 500 km drive between the cities of Stockholm and Copenhagen, in Denmark.

It was not until ten years later in the 60s, that the road rules were changed to comply with the right hand drive rule, which applied on the Continent and the rest of Scandinavia. The change was accomplished by prohibiting all road traffic in Sweden, with the exception of emergency vehicles, from using the roads for two days. During that time, all the traffic signs were altered to comply with the keep to the right rule of the road. After those two days, traffic was allowed back on the roads, but at a greatly reduced speed. The speed restrictions were gradually relaxed in the following days, and after four days, all the speed restrictions were lifted, after the successful completion of the change.

Because the population knew well beforehand the date of the changeover, many cars and other vehicles had been bought with, or had their cars converted to right hand drive, with the steering wheel on the left-hand side of the car. At long last Sweden’s road rules were the same as all the other European countries, including its neighbour Norway.

Over lunch and a cup of tea, I mentioned to Norm Hamilton that my uncle had been killed in a Porsche at Bathurst. He was very surprised to learn of this relationship, because he said that my uncle was a great man and friend of his. Furthermore it was he himself, who flew the Porsche powered aeroplane over my uncle’s funeral at Springvale. We had a long talk together and he invited me to come and visit him at his Porsche show rooms near St. Kilda Junction when I was in Melbourne, which I did on a couple of occasions.

Norm Hamilton left us with the maintenance manuals and a range of spares, tyres, tubes, variator belt, spark plugs and last, but not least, a very good tool kit. We had our first test of the Snow-Trac driving Norm and the mechanic down to his car at Falls Creek. Norm said he would be back in two weeks to see how we were going with our new toy.

We found the Snow-Trac to be much faster than the Sno-Cat and much more manoeuverable. Another advantage of the Snow-Trac was revealed, when we took it out to patrol the Langford’s racelines. On the way, we did not have to stop and drop any wheels, when we came to the bare, snow-less ground, as we crossed the dam wall, where the strong winds blowing across there, never allowed much snow to cover the gravel road. This was a most welcome bonus. Another very welcolme bonus with the Snow-Trac, was that after Theo and I returned from our patrolling, we could climb into a lovely, warm, cabin with the petrol heater going full blast, and quickly warm ourselves.

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The Snow-Trac climbing straight a steep slope

he next place we took the Snow-Trac was over to Pretty Valley to do our inspection and measurements. Wally drove the Snow-Trac up over the Ruined Castle Spur following our usual route. It climbed the steep pinch between the rocks very well, but the great advantage came, when we found we could drive the Snow-Trac right down to the vortex tank and valve house and turn it around there. This was so much better than the Sno-Cat, which we had to leave at the weir, and walk or ski the rest of the way down. If we had to change Heatane bottles, the Snow-Trac could bring us and the bottles right to the door of the valve house, a wonderful saver of time and effort.
p<>{color:#000;}. Wally decided to return the short way home, over the route where I had raced Theo down the slope into Sun Valley. It was here that we found that the Snow-Trac did not like traversing along the side of steep snow slopes. Wally found it was hard to stop it side slipping down the slope, whereas the Sno-Cat would not have had any trouble. This was not such a bad characteristic because it was always up to the snow craft and route finding capabilities of the driver, to avoid long and steep traverses.

The next time we went to Pretty Valley in the Snow-Trac the snow was much heavier and wetter. Wally purposely drove the Snow-Trac, along a traverse in the wet snow to give it a real good test, but this time found it even more difficult to hold the line across the slope. S

The Snow Trac traversing a steep slope oon he had to bring the Snow-Trac to a halt, because we could all smell rubber burning. We opened the bonnet and immediately saw that the heat was coming from the variator drive belt. The variator principle was sometimes used as a variable speed adjustment for machines, but in the Snow-Trac, the variator principle was adapted so that the steering wheel, by a system of levers acting through the variator, caused one track go faster than the other, so making the vehicle turn. When the Snow-Trac was traversing across a slope with the driver trying to hold the line with the steering wheel, the variator belt slipped on the sheaves, eventually causing the belt to get very hot, so we had to stop and let it cool down. Route finding under wet snow conditions would be an important skill for the driver of the Snow-Trac to master, to get the best from the vehicle. Using the Sno-Cat and Snow-Trac on selected routes and snow conditions, which were within the capabilities of each would insure that together, they were a great combination.
p<>{color:#000;}. Norm Hamilton came back up to see us, and was of course very interested in the problems we had with the Snow-Trac, but said any vehicle or machine has to be operated within its capabilities. As long as these were understood, we agreed with him that the Snow-Trac was a very valuable vehicle for transporting people and equipment on the High Plains.

The next time we took the Snow-Trac to patrol the Langford’s racelines, on the way over we heard an unfamiliar noise as we were going along. We stopped and found we had a punctured a jockey wheel tyre. We carried two spares, so that was a new job for me, with the help of Wally and Theo to fit a new one. It was actually a straightforward job, and could have easily been changed by one man, no more difficult than changing a tyre on my Morris Minor. If however, it was a rear wheel that punctured that would not have been so easy, quite apart from the fact that we didn’t carry a spare.

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Langford’s East raceline flowing freely Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro

fter we had changed the tyre, it was a pleasure to climb in to the warm Snow-Trac cabin and warm our bodies and hands on the petrol heater. After Theo and I had patrolled the Langford’s East raceline, which was flowing well below one metre walls of snow, it was again a great pleasure, to be able warm ourselves in the heated cabin of the Snow-Trac.
p<>{color:#000;}. The difference in the comfort level of travelling in the Snow-Trac compared to the Sno-Cat, was like ‘chalk and cheese’ or like ‘sexy hot and frigid!’

Many years later when I attended the opening of the new Rover Scout headquarters in Mt Waverley, on display was the visitor’s book from the Rover Scout Chalet on the High Plains. I found my name in the visitor’s book for the two fortnights I stayed there in 1947 and 1948.

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Photo 1

Photo 2 ut that was not the only interesting signatures I saw in the visitors book. I discovered Wally Deans and my name, recording our visit when we took Scout Commissioner Major General Risson over to Chalet in 1959. (Photo 2)
p<>{color:#000;}. Leafing further through the visitors book I found a whole page devoted to a description of a group of rover scouts who were given a lift in the Snow-Trac to the Rover Scout Chalet in 1961. The page was headed ‘The Erratic Journey’ with a rather good drawing of the Snow-Trac. (Photo 1) It was a portion of the written entry that I found to be most interesting as follows:

Photo 1‘ After spending four days skiing in absolutely beautiful weather on Bogong we descended from our Mt Olympus to have a bash at the flesh pots of Falls Creek, and that salubrious establishment The Rover Chalet. Door to door transport from the Falls Creek parking area to the front door of the Chalet was conveniently provided by the SEC who were persuaded with typical Rover diplomacy (as handed down by WFW) that they should put their Snow-Track [sic] vehicle to some useful purpose apart from chasing around the countryside to see how wet the snow was!

The writer definitely had the gift of the gab as well as being a bit of a smart Alec. I thought his last paragraph was ungrateful and not very rover like. It must have been Wally who took them across to the rover chalet, but strangely he never mentioned the journey to me. I imagine I must have been out patrolling with Theo at the time.

Theo and I carried out one memorable trip to Pretty Valley at the end of August. It was decided that because it was pouring rain and the snow was very wet, loose and thawing rapidly, it would not be wise to use either snow vehicles, due to the risk of getting them bogged, but it was important that the screens be cleared of debris at the weir.

So Theo and I in the pouring rain, with tunnel clothes over our ski clothes, ventured out on our skis to Pretty Valley. Although it was still raining heavily, the visibility was very good. We were sopping wet by the time we reached Pretty Valley, but neither of us made any complaint. I don’t know about Theo, but I rather enjoyed the experience. Arriving at Pretty Valley we found that the weir was indeed overflowing. We removed a lot of debris from the screens on the weir, which prevented it overflowing, so we had the satisfaction of being responsible for a few extra kilowatts of power the turbines could generate, with the extra water going through McKay Creek power station. We carried out our measurements on the vortex tank and after an inspection of the valve house, we put on our skis for the return journey to Rocky Valley with the rain still pouring down.

There was no racing each other down the slope into Sun Valley this time, we just plodded along on our skis and when we got back to the workshops with our reports, which remarkably were still legible, we crowded around the Romesse to get warm and dry off a little.

The snow season of 1961 came to a rather miserable and wet end, heavy rains knocking down the snow cover very quickly. When what was left of the snow cover, had changed its form into spring snow, we used the Snow-Trac in preference to the Sno-Cat for the remainder of the winter because of its capability of being used over places where the snow was very bare or nonexistent. Soon however, the Sno-Cat and Snow-Trac were effectively grounded, because the snow was too soft and wet, and sadly we put away our skis for the year.

When the graders and bulldozers had cleared the roads to Pretty Valley and Langford’s Gap, the Ute became our mode of travel. I busied myself with various jobs around the workshop as well as patrolling Langford’s East and West racelines with Theo.

 

CHAPTER 55: THE UNIONS AND OUR SNOW VEHICLES September, October 1961

Driving up and down to work each day in the Ute with Wally, we had talked together about the need for more raceline patrolmen, especially in the coming winters, when both Cope racelines would be completed. He told me that applications for a couple more raceline patrolmen had already been posted and also now that we had two snow vehicles, a driver for the second Sno-Cat or Snow-Trac would need to be recruited.

The question of a driver for the extra snow vehicle was actually being resolved at the time, which neither of us were aware of, until a short time later when we heard what was going on. I however, did have some inkling of what was ‘in the wind,’ because of conversations I had with Rod McDowell (the angry ant), who was the union representative for the Transport Workers Union (TWU). Rod was a great bloke and we got on well together. He was short, with curly ‘gingery’ hair, acquiring the nickname ‘angry ant’, which he did not object to, because he was short and as a union representative, was always deemed to be of an angry disposition, when he was upholding the rights of his drivers.

Rod believed that only members of his union should be driving over snow vehicles and that Wally should be restricted to driving his International Utility in his position as foreman of the High Plains Patrol. If this change of was to take place, I knew that this would be a severe blow to Wally, not so much to his pride, but because of the enjoyment I knew he experienced driving the Sno-Cat. Who wouldn’t for that matter?

My only disappointment with regard to Wally driving the Sno-Cat was that not once, did he ever turn to me and ask: “Would you like to take over and have a drive for a while Gordon?” Without power steering the Sno-Cat could be very tiring to drive for long periods, and although I offered to give him a spell at the wheel on occasions, the offer was always turned down. I would of course, very much have liked to drive the Sno-Cat every now and again. The only times I drove the Sno-Cat, was after I had carried out some big maintenance or repair job on it. Then sometimes I would take it for a test run a short distance into Sun Valley.

Now that we had two snow vehicles, it was obvious that Wally could not drive both, so this was the time for Rod to act, to bring about the change he wanted. His move in this regard was valid as it would provide extra work for his drivers, an important consideration at the time, because the construction work on the Scheme was drawing to a close. This meant there was not as much work for drivers as there had been in the past.

Up to this point in time during the summer months, there was nucleus of regular drivers who worked at Rocky Valley. They drove buses from Mt Beauty to Rocky Valley and other camps. During the day these drivers drove various trucks, utilities and other vehicles that operated around Rocky Valley. Other employees, who were regulars at Rocky Valley, were plant operators like Joe Shields, John Woods, and Alan Carey who operated items of plant, bulldozers, graders and other earth moving equipment. They belonged to the Australian Workers Union (AWU). Like the transport drivers, their jobs too were on the wane, even probably more so than the transport drivers.

It appeared that both unions were claiming that the job of driving the snow vehicles, should be members of their union. The crux of the argument was whether the Sno-Cat and Snow-Trac were items of plant, or passenger carrying vehicles. As far as I was concerned they were definitely passenger carrying vehicles. No argument! The controversy was finally resolved, when it was declared that both the Sno-Cat and Snow-Trac, were passenger carrying vehicles, and as such would driven by drivers, who were members of the TWU.

When I heard about the change in responsibilities, which was not really going to take affect until next winter, when both snow vehicles came up to us from base workshops, my concern was who would be selected as suitable men to take up the positions, of snow vehicle drivers.

Ideally, I believed that whoever it was, should possess basic skiing skills, and have a knowledge of snow craft, coupled with a good knowledge of the terrain of the High Plains under its cover of winter snow. As regards being able to drive the Sno-Cat and the Snow-Trac, these skills could be learnt along the way. Having the knowledge of the affect of a white out, where cornices, snow covered creek crossings and other hazards were likely to be encountered, was knowledge that could only be gained by first hand experience.

There was also another consideration. Now that both the Cope East and West racelines were nearly complete, the need to take patrolmen out to Cope Cut, the junction of the racelines, involved a round journey of at least 14 km from Rocky Valley workshops, driving across to the southern edge of Pretty Valley. The driver would then have to remain there while the racelines were being patrolled, or by taking another patrolman, go back and inspect the weir and vortex tank installations, returning to pick up the raceline patrolmen after they had returned to Cope Cut.

I therefore believed that another refuge hut should be located at Cope Cut, in addition to the one in Pretty Valley for the use of the driver, because he should not, under any circumstances, be permitted to drive the snow vehicle alone anywhere else while he was waiting. I never mentioned any of these thoughts to Wally, but hoped that the additions to the High Plains Patrol would be efficiently and above all, safely organised.

 

CHAPTER 56: THE HIGH PLAINS PATROL EXPANDS November, December 1961

In November and three new patrolmen had been added to our crew. Bill McBain became a leading hand patrolman replacing his position as a leading hand construction worker, when he first came to work with us when the film crew was filming the High Plains Patrol. Bill would still be acting in part as Wally’s secretary as well as patrolling racelines. The other patrollers selected were Collin Tester and Collin Croucher.

Both Collins were tall energetic young blokes, but with limited skiing experience. I had not met any of them previously and neither had Theo, but they were all very friendly. Wally took them around in the Ute showing them their duties, while Theo and I carried on with ours, being taken by one of our three Rocky Valley drivers Lennie Man, Tommy O’Brien or Rod McDowell to the Langford’s racelines, or wherever else we needed to be transported.

Very soon we received word that Tommy O’Brien and Rod McDowell had been chosen as the drivers of the snow vehicles, which made Rod very happy, (certainly not at all angry), because I knew he had been ‘eyeing off’ the job of driving a snow vehicle for some time. Like the three new patrolmen, however, Rod and Tommy were not skiers, having virtually no knowledge or experience of winter conditions on the High Plains. I felt that Rod would make a good snow vehicle driver, whereas Tommy was a little older and less agile.

All the snow had gone with only a few small drifts left and the grasshoppers were again jumping around in the snow grass among the wildflowers and bushes, which were all beginning to bloom, signalling that it was time for me to take my annual leave!

We began our annual holidays by driving down to Melbourne and after doing the round of our families and friends for a few days, then we drove down to Rye to spend the rest of the holidays as we did last year, in Dilys’s brother’s flat. We had relaxing holiday, building sandcastles and swimming with the children on the very safe Rye beach. I drank a lot of beer with Dan and went fishing in the Lady Hay. Dilys and Dan’s wife Pam too, had many interests in common, so we all had a great holiday together.

After returning to Bogong however, we soon discovered that we had caught the local disease again. Not a cold, which circulated continuously around the closed community of Bogong Village, but the real disease, the one that lasted for nine months. We were going to have another baby! We were very happy with our discovery, calculating that our new baby would be born in early September. We rang Betty and Graham straight away to tell them our news, then Dilys’s mother and my parents. They were all very happy for us. After thinking about the affect of a new addition to our family, the first thing that came to our minds was that we were going to need a larger car, but that could wait for a while.

Back from our holidays, my working days at Rocky Valley were a little different than previously, because there were now three other patrolmen besides me, Theo and the two Collins. We also had drivers who could ferry us to the various racelines to do our patrolling duties. On one occasion, when Theo and I were driven across to Pretty Valley we noticed that there were a couple of bulldozers working there, so we stopped to find out what was going on. The bulldozers belonged to McCarthy Constructions, who we learned were under contract to the SEC to build a small desilting pondage upstream of the Pretty Valley weir.

We had a word to their engineer, who in the course of conversation, asked us if we knew of any fitters who may be interested to work at weekends. I said that I would be interested, so he asked where I could be contacted. I gave him my phone number and he said he would contact me soon.

I was now doing less actual patrol work, instead I was working at my trade, which as far as I was concerned, was much more interesting than walking along racelines in the summer, even considering being in the midst of the wonderful country of the High Plains. Raceline patrolling on foot in the summer could become rather boring, but not of course during the winter.

In summer while working at my trade at various locations, there was no better way a tradesman could earn a wage, than working up in the Victorian Alps, and there was always maintenance and repair work to be carried out, to keep me busy.

Periodic jobs such as my Monday rounds as Doctor Pox, testing the strength of the anti-freeze in the radiators of all water-cooled engines, as well as the twice weekly fire drill operating the water tanker, fire pump and hoses. Regrassing was being carried out on the Cope racelines from time to time and that occupied a lot of my time when that was in progress.

O

The fire tower on Mt McKay silhouetted against a thundery sky Photo GFS

n the summit of Mt McKay, a high, steel, fire tower had been built, together with a large building housing communication equipment. In our area, as well as this fire tower on Mt McKay and another on Mt Stanley down the Kiewa Valley, there were also fire towers or lookouts, on high points all around the district. Each fire tower or lookout was equipped with a large map of the surrounding country, marked with the points of the compass.
p<>{color:#000;}. Where possible, the bearing of lightening strikes were recorded, especially if a strike started a fire that could be seen from any of the observation points. The compass bearing was noted and sent by radio to the central fire office. It only required three observation points to observe a strike that caused a fire and for the bearings to be transmitted to the fire office. They were then able to pin point the position of the fire by triangulation. Fire crews could then be sent immediately to the source of the fire.

While the access road to the tower and building was being regrassed, I was called out to fix a problem with the flat top truck carrying the bales of hay. The engine had stopped and couldn’t be restarted. I thought it was the usual trouble, a blocked air filter or fuel pump, but after checking and cleaning these the truck still wouldn’t start.

I decided to use a method I had used with success many times. I dipped a rag in petrol from the tank, removed the air cleaner, then held and squeezed the rag over the carburettor intake, at the same time asking the driver to turn the engine over which he did. The engine fired first time, but this time it backfired and set my rag on fire! I quickly threw it on to the batter that had just been covered with hay, where it set the hay alight. I yelled out to the lookout on the fire tower: “This will be the nearest fire you have to report. Quick take its bearing!”

The truck’s engine kept going and the small fire was soon put out and I replaced the air cleaner. Problem solved, so on to the next problem.

A dragline working at Langford’s Gap Cut required maintenance from time to time, and a centrifugal pump that pumped water from the Frying Pan raceline to the water tanks above the workshop wasn’t pumping very well. I had to dismantle it to find the problem. I found that a hard, clay like substance, had built up on the vanes restricting its output, so I set to and laboriously chipped off all the build up, which restored the pump’s efficiency. It was the variety of jobs like those that I enjoyed, which kept me busy during the summer months.

I received a phone call from McCarthy’s foreman one night asking if I could do some work on a couple of bulldozers over the weekend. I said I would come over to Pretty Valley on Saturday morning. It appeared that there was only a skeleton staff left to work on the pondage on the weekend. The foreman left me with a list of maintenance jobs to be done, which I worked on during the Saturday and Sunday of the weekend. When I had completed those he said he would give me a ring when he needed me again. I was very happy to be making a little extra cash.

He rang me again a week later, asking me to come over again in the weekend, so I worked for a few hours each day of that weekend also.

I had told Wally from the start that I was working weekends for McCarthy. He made no adverse comment, but expressed interest in the job. After the second weekend that I worked, as Wally was driving up the mountain to work in the morning, he told me that he had been instructed to tell me I was not to work for McCarthy any more. Wally said it had something to do with a ‘conflict of interest’ which I suppose it was, but it could also be said that I was assisting in the construction of the desilting pondage. I suppose if I had been seriously injured when working for McCarthy, it could have had serious consequences, however I accepted the decision without argument and that was that, but it was a bit of a disappointment.

W

Wally on patrol with the horses Photo W. Deans

e had an unexpected arrival at the Rocky Valley workshops one day, not another over snow vehicle or patrolman, but a couple of horses that were to be stabled under cover at the far end of the workshops, with bales of hay and a water trough provided for them. I was not sure whose idea this was, but although he never said so, I suspect it was Wally’s, as I knew he was a good horseman.
p<>{color:#000;}. He may have thought that if I can’t drive a snow vehicle in the winter, I will inspect and supervise the racelines on horseback, during the summer months. I for one, thought it was a good idea for Wally, after he was no longer permitted to drive the Sno-Cat, which I knew was quite a blow to him. Besides it was good for Wally to assert his independence, as it were, and do something which I knew he enjoyed as much as driving the Sno-Cat. Besides it was a job that did not need a union ticket!

One morning on the way up to Rocky Valley in the Ute, Wally suggested that I should join the Bogong Tennis Club, which I did. I should really have started to play tennis with Dilys as soon as we shifted to Bogong, as I found I enjoyed the game very much, especially being able to play together with Dilys. I had loaned my golf clubs to my brother Geoff, after I returned from overseas, but I had no urge to get them back from him and play golf at Mt Beauty, because being able to play tennis at Bogong with Dilys was much more enjoyable, than driving down to Mt Beauty to play golf on sand greens.

During the years that he and I travelled to work and back every day in the Ute, we talked a lot, although I am sure he learned more about me than I did about him, because of his taciturn nature. We had a very good working and village relationship, which became a little closer when he asked me to be his partner in the tennis doubles. We practiced together, scheming in the Ute on the way to work how we would beat the opposition. We worked our way on to the finals and when the day finally came, much to our relief we won, but I can’t remember who our opponents were.

Falls creek was expanding rapidly and new lodges were being built all the time. Kevin Shoebridge, the chemist at Mt Beauty built a lodge below Winterhaven, which he named Diana. Kevin and I were great friends and I was one of the few people, who knew where the name Diana came from!

Meanwhile Ore was progressing well with his new lodge Snowhaven and had taken to himself a wife named Suzie. Ore did not tell us when he was married or where, but he acquired a stepson called Winton in the process, as well as the father of a girl called Nina. It was all a bit of a mystery. I thought Ore would have told me of those significant new events in his life, considering we had been close friends, but he didn’t.

Dilys took up some lupins for Suzie, who was attempting to start a small garden in front of Winterhaven, to put a women’s touch to the starkness of the site. In conversation with Suzie I discovered that she had been a ballerina in the corps de ballet of a The Australian Ballet Company. I told her of my interest in ballet when I was living in London and of the many times I went to the ballet at Covent Garden. I said I would show her my prized collection of autographed programs, autographed by such famous ballet dancers as Margot Fonteyn, Alicia Markova, Svetlana Beriosova, Micheal Somes and Fredwick Ashton, to name a few of the famous dancers I saw at Covent Garden and the Royal Festival Hall. The next time I saw Suzie, I showed them to her. She asked me if I could leave them with her, so that she could study them more closely, so I obliged. As it turned out, it was one of the worst decisions I ever made.

 

CHAPTER 57: CHANGING CARS AND BOGONG RESIDENTS December 1961, January, February, 1962

Virginia was home for her school holidays after her first four months at school, which made Graham very happy, although we had taken Virginia from school when we went to Rye on my annual leave. Before Christmas we went shopping in Albury, where Virginia and Graham saw Father Christmas in Mates. We finished the day at the Wodonga drive in with the realisation, that it was probably the last time we looked at the movie screen through the Minor’s divided windscreen.

Christmas Day at Bogong was an exciting day, for us all with a Christmas tree, again cut from the side of the road up the Bright Gap. We drove across to Bright for a morning church service, and before we drove went back home, the children enjoyed a swim in the swimming pool in the Bright picnic ground. Then it was back over the Bright Gap to visit Betty and Graham, Barton and Eric with Christmas presents, before returning up the mountain to Bogong.

There had been many changes in the population of Bogong, mostly families of engineers being transferred to positions with the SEC in the Latrobe Valley. The Teeses, Graham and Pat moved out, but in their place the Trathens, Marg and Norm and their children moved in. Marg went to the same school as Dilys, St. Michaels in Windsor, so the meeting was quite exciting for them both.

A big loss for us was our local policeman and great friend Charlie Gannon and his family. They were being transferred to Mansfield where Charlie would be policing the Mt Buller Ski village, so our New Year party, was the last time we were to hear him sing his ‘swan song: ‘On the Hills of Glocamora,’ in his melodious, baritone voice.’ We were left with a lovely memory of the Gannons in the form of their white, female cat, called Bimbo, which Virginia and Graham took to their hearts. We let Bimbo inside with the children, who spent a lot of their time playing with her on the back verandah.

A

The minister from Mt Beauty performing the dedication ceremony for Charlie with his ashes in the rock face behind. The plaque is inscribed with the following words; Charles Gannon Died 15th December 1974 Clan Gannon You’ll Never Walk Alone

fter Charlie and his family left Mansfield, they were transferred to Forrest and we visited them there once. Their next move was to of all places Rye, where he became friends with Dan and Pam, then finally to Mornington, where sadly, he died suddenly and tragically of a heart attack in 1974.
p<>{color:#000;}. At the time we were living in Melbourne and we went to his funeral in Mornington. After the funeral service, we followed his hearse, which was piped up the main street by a Scots pipe band. We then followed the procession led by policemen on motor bikes, all the way to the Springvale Crematorium. At every intersection, police were in attendance to change the lights to green, to provide Charlie with a non-stop journey to Springvale and Charlie’s hearse was saluted by the policemen on duty as the procession passed by, a very moving experience. In 1966, Charlie Gannon’s family obtained permission to place the urn containing Charlie’s ashes, in a rock on the High plains.

The locality they chose was in the face of a large rock overlooking the Pretty Valley pondage. We came up from Melbourne for the solemn occasion and together with the Napiers, went up to Pretty Valley, where with a portable rock drill, we bored a cavity in a rock. Together with Charlie’s family and other friends, a short dedication service was preformed by a minister from Mt Beauty, and the urn containing Charlie’s ashes was placed in the cavity with an inscribed plaque attached. Charlie’s Gannon’s ashes are in good company with two other great men of the Bogong High Plains, Bill Waters and Robert Wilkinson, both of whose ashes are deposited in rock cavities on the Bogong High Plains.

A new family moved into the Gannon’s house Len and Annette Penny, who soon became our very good friends. Len was not a policeman, but worked for the SEC as a draftsman, so Bogong lost its resident policeman and station.

In the last days of January,Virginia went back to school again which she loved. Sometimes in the weekends we would drive down to the river just above No 3 Power Station, where Virginia and Graham would try to dam the river just like the engineers of the Kiewa Scheme..

Sometimes we would go for a picnic in the park across the river from the tennis courts. On one occasion when we were there, Dilys and I were together on one side of the park, while the two children were on the other. We spotted a big, black snake, sliding down the grass of the park toward the river, between the children and us. We just watched. The snake had not seen any of us, and so long as it kept on with its intent on getting to the river, none of us were in any danger. If however the snake changed direction, or the children made a move to join us, we were ready for quick action.

Only when the snake had disappeared under a rock in the river, did we call the children over and show them where the snake had gone. Although we watched for a while, we never saw it come up for air. I thought to myself, what a shock I would have had if I had put my hand down under the bank there, to tickle for trout!I was still doing a little fishing down by the tennis courts, sometimes taking Graham with me. I caught another small trout, but once again, I had to throw it back, as it was too small. I suppose I could have gone fishing in my lunchtime in the Rocky Valley reservoir, but I couldn’t find any interest in that, so I didn’t even try.

After thinking a lot about the effect of a new addition to our family, the first thing that came to our minds was that we were going to need a larger car! Apart from that important consideration, we felt that we were well situated to have another child. Our house at Bogong was large enough, we were managing OK on my wage and paying off all our debts gradually, so we decided that the next time we went to Melbourne we would look for a larger second hand car and probably ‘divorce our car at Reno.’

T

The author changing a flat tyre Photo GFS

here was no doubt that our Morris Minor, GEZ 215, ‘the Minor’ was certainly not ‘minor’ in reliability and suitability for our needs, having been an integral part of our lives from the day I first took Dilys home from the Christmas party. It had always performed marvellously on the rough, winding, alpine roads, on highways, in snow, floods, most times heavily loaded. It never once let us down.
p<>{color:#000;}. I

Our Morris Minor GEZ 215 fording Mountain Creek on one of our drives up the valley. In loving memory of a superb car that was an integral part of our family life on the Kiewa Scheme. Photo GFS

had a copy of the Morris Minor Workshop Manual and followed the periodic servicing instructions in that manual to the letter, so the Minor gave us very little trouble. The overhaul I gave it some six years ago, the week before we were married, ensured that it was still performing well up to the time when we were contemplating trading it in.
p<>{color:#000;}. I supposed that since that time, I had fitted four sets of big end bearings, many sets of brake shoes, (and of course the new gearbox casing), but apart from the normal servicing, it had not cost too much money to run. The only new tyres the Minor was ever fitted with, were those that came with it when I purchased the car, and a pair of Olympic Wintertreads for the rear wheels. All other tyres were retreads, which gave little trouble, so it was a sad but necessary day, when we finally decided to trade the Morris Minor in. My father, as soon as we told him we wanted a bigger car, set the wheels in motion, having my cousins Garry and Warren, who were now running my uncle’s used car business, looking out for a good car for us.

In February Lake Guy was drained again. As Dilys and I were not keen on eating trout, this time I couldn’t be bothered going out to get any, even though surprisingly, there appeared to be as many trout again for the taking as on the previous draining. This was much to the surprise of the ‘Romesse fishing pundits’ at the Rocky Valley workshops, who said it would take five years for the trout population to build up after the last draining. I said to Dilys that it was a pity that her brother Dan was not here to see it all.

We let my father know that the time came to change over cars and soon after we got word from him that my cousins Garry and Warren had looked out a good Holden car for us, not at Reno, but at Las Vegas Motors another of my cousin’s used car lots, so on a long weekend in February, for the last time we took turns to drive the Minor down the Ovens and Hume Highways

Las Vegas Motors was in Nicholson Street Fitzroy. On Friday morning, we drove the Minor in to the used car lot where we were shown the car that had been selected for us. It was a grey FC Holden sedan. I liked the colour, but Dilys thought it was drab, but otherwise it looked to be a good car and we were of course getting the change over for a good price.

We went into the office to sign the ‘divorce’ papers with my cousin Warren, who said we should be very happy with the car. My father had come with us to oversee the trade in and paper works. He was at the time, working from an office in our house at Rosanna, as the accountant for my cousin’s car yards, which totalled about five at the time.

After thanking my dad and cousins for their help, I took the keys and had a last fond look at the Minor, but life moves on. We climbed into the Holden and I drove away. Although I was used to driving my father’s Holden, I was amazed at the extra power of this car and the extra room inside and in the boot. The steering wheel gearshift was quite an improvement over the Minor’s gearbox, which was not the easiest to use.

I purchased a workshop manual for the Holden, planning to look after it as well as I had the Minor. When we arrived back at Rosanna with our new car, we realised we had not given Virginia or Graham a chance to say goodbye to the Minor, especially as Virginia had begged us to keep the little car for her to drive, when she grew up. However they liked the extra room in the Holden, and very soon Virginia’s disappointment was forgotten.

t

Graham and his father with the new FC Holden, HAB 477 at Rosanna Photo GFS

Photo GFS

he weekend in Melbourne passed very quickly. We visited Dilys’s mother and our other relatives, who all thought our new car, was just what we needed. Soon it was time to say goodbye and head out on the Hume Highway.
p<>{color:#000;}. Dilys and I shared the driving and found that with the extra power of the Holden it was much easier passing cars. We both adapted quickly to driving the Holden with its very convenient column gear change. By the time we arrived back in Bogong, we thought we had cut thirty minutes off the journey. The Holden also gave us a much smoother ride over the corrugations of the Bright Gap and the Upper Kiewa Valley Road.

I had removed the heater that I had made for the Minor before it was traded in, so my next spare time job was to adapt it to the Holden, as it was not fitted with a heater. I also removed the car radio. That had to be installed in the FC quickly, because we really missed not having the car radio to listen to on the way home.

A

Graham and Sooty Photo GFS

nother job for me to do, was to make a new table that went between the back and front seats, so we could set up a bed in the back for the children like we had in the Minor. There was now much more room too, to stow a bag of scrap copper that I was collecting under the table.
p<>{color:#000;}. Not long after we acquired the Holden we added another member to our family, when it was our turn to go down the valley to the Higginsons for eggs. When we arrived there Mrs Higginson said she had a new litter of kittens and would we like one? Graham immediately cried out: “ Can I have a cat please Mum?” “Ask your father, it is his decision.” Graham looked up to me and I could not ignore his pleading eyes, so I said yes he could. He took possession of the lovely little black kitten and sat with it in the back of the car ‘looking like all his Birthday’s had come at once. Bimbo was Virginia’s cat and this one, which they appropriately named Sooty, was definitely Graham’s.

In February Lake Guy was drained again. Because Dilys and I were not keen on eating trout, this time, I couldn’t be bothered going out to get any, even though surprisingly, there appeared to be as many trout again for the taking as on the previous draining. This was much to the surprise of the ‘Romesse fishing pundits’ at the Rocky Valley workshops, who said it would take five years for the trout population to build up after the last draining. I said to Dilys that it was a pity that her brother Dan was not here to see it all.

 

CHAPTER 58: A PROBLEM AT THE BOGONG SCHOOL February 1962

When I attended the first parents committee meeting of the Bogong School, I knew beforehand that it was the annual general meeting and surprise, surprise, I was elected President! Quite an honour I thought, but I did not realise at the time that there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the new young teacher Neil McLeod, as there was certainly no hint of that at the meeting.

A month or so later however, I was made very aware of the problem, because in my new position as President of the Parents Committee of the Bogong State School, Mrs Jacobs ( not her real name), one of the mothers come up to see me. She asked me if we as a committee, or I as the President, could do anything to get rid of Neil McLeod the teacher, as she felt his standard of teaching was not high enough.

As far as Dilys and I were concerned, we told Mrs Jacobs that we were very happy with Neil, and found him to be quite a nice bloke. With regard to Virginia’s progress at school, we said that we felt that she was getting along OK, and we had no complaint. I asked the Mrs Jacobs what the problem was, and if she knew of any other mothers who felt the same as her about the teacher? I got the impression that there were not too many mothers she could name, who felt the same as her. I thought that it was only Mrs Jacobs herself, that thought the standard of teaching provided by Neil McLeod, left something to be desired.

Mrs Jacob’s worry I supposed was not so surprising because Bob Wingrave had taught her children in their first years. Bob was a brilliant man, teacher and photographer, and for any teacher to take his place would be a ‘hard act to follow,’ especially for a new, young teacher, like Neil McLeod in his first year at the school. Mrs Jacobs evidently saw a difference in her children’s schoolwork. As far as I could discern however, I felt this could be put down to a different emphasis of style and content, and not on any lack of teaching ability on Neil’s part.

I said to Mrs Jacobs that I would keep my eyes and ears open and see if any other mothers came to me expressing the same concerns. This more or less left it up to her to rally support for her grievances, and I left it at that. The next morning, I told Wally on the way to work what had occurred. He said that neither he nor his wife Marg had any complaints. My philosophy on matters such as this, was to give Neil time to establish himself at the school before making any hasty moves. Teaching at a one-teacher school I thought, must be one of the most difficult teaching assignments there was for any teacher, and I believed that any teacher in this position needs all the help and encouragement parents of the children can give.

Sometime after I had the first visit from Mrs Jacobs, we had another visit from her. This time she was in tears, but there was nothing different about her concerns, except that this time she showed me a petition, requesting the removal of Neil McLeod. There were a number of signatures on the petition. Mrs Jacobs asked Dilys and me to sign it. We refused, because we had no problem with Neil’s teaching. Dilys and I tried to placate her, but in the end I told her that she should state her complaints in a letter to the Education Department, but that was all I could suggest. Other members of the committee later agreed with my advice.

Just before the Easter holidays, at a parents committee meeting, we had a letter from the Education Department informing us that the school would have a change of teacher after Easter. Nothing more, nothing less. Time would tell.

 

CHAPTER 59: MT KOSCIUSKO AND THE SNOWY SCHEME Easter 1962

When we spent a weekend in Melbourne shortly before Easter, my father said he would like to come up to visit us at Easter and take us on a drive through the Snowy Hydro-Electric Scheme (SMA). I thought that would be a great idea, because I had looked forward to seeing the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, and the Snowy Mountains for some years, to see how that scheme compared with our own Kiewa Scheme. I knew that the Snowy Scheme was a much larger scheme than ours, and quite rightly produced much more interest in the media than our Kiewa Scheme. To this day, as I have mentioned in the introduction, whenever I talked or was asked about my work on the hydro-electric scheme, it was often assumed that this was with the Snowy Scheme.

I was also very keen to see the Snowy Scheme, because it was responsible for curtailing the construction of the Pretty Valley dam, although I was aware that the lack of government finance was also another important factor in the decision. The Snowy Scheme was such a large and wonderful engineering, project that when completed, would be able to supply most of the electricity generating needs of NSW with some capacity available for Victorian consumption. The Snowy Scheme also had another important function, that of providing and controlling water for irrigation.

As the Easter holidays approached, I gathered all the information I could on the area around the Snowy Scheme. I realised that it might also be possible on the trip to climb Mt Kosciusko. I was not however, able to obtain the construction schedules for each component of the scheme, which would have been of great assistance in our appreciation of the whole endeavour.

My parents arrived on Good Friday in their new car, a red and cream Holden FC, and we spent the remainder of the day talking. At dinnertime, we had our own strawberries and cream for desert, which we all enjoyed. The strawberries, were some we had transplanted from our garden in Mt Beauty, which was one thing we could grow in Bogong, although the strawberries were not quite as abundant as those in Mt beauty.

We made an early start on Easter Saturday morning, after Dilys and my mother had prepared and packed some sandwiches for eating along the way. My father and I sat in the front seat and my mother and Dilys with Virginia and Graham were in the back. There were no seat belts at that time to secure us all, which really would have been a boon for our comfort on the journey, especially in the back seat, quite apart from the safety factor. My father and I planned to share most of the driving. My father drove first from Mt Beauty along the Kiewa Valley, where we joined the Wodonga-Corryong road at Red Bluff.

I drove for most of the rest of the way along the gravel road, which wound around and over wooded hills and valleys, crossing and re-crossing the Wodonga-Cudgewa railway line every now and again. We passed through a couple of small towns, one in particular called Shelley, a town that I had previously heard of, because the Shelley railway station was the highest railway station on the VR, 2,562 ft above sea level.

We eventually arrived at the large township of Corryong where we had lunch. Corryong was also a very familiar name to me because of its associations with the famous Victorian grazing and skiing family of Tom Mitchell and his wife Elyne Mitchell, who lived on their property called Towong Hill. Elyne Mitchell wrote a wonderful book called Australia’s Alps, as well as many other books about the Upper Murray country and their life at Towong Hill. She was also a well-known author of many excellent children’s books.

Tom Mitchell was a remarkable man, who I first met through Toni and Skippy St. Elmo. Tom assisted Toni and Skippy with their vision of turning Falls Creek into a ski resort. Tom wrote a ski instruction book called Ski Heil, the title of which he used as a greeting to other skiers on the mountain. It was always thrilling to hear Tom’s booming “Ski Heil” ringing out over the slopes. He was also instrumental in the naming of Mt Hillary, but I was unaware of this event at this time. After a walk around the town and the purchase of a few postcards, we were off again.

We crossed over the Murray River just outside Corryong on the way to Khancoban, the Victorian base for the Snowy project, the site for a future pondage and power station. Leaving Khancoban the road began to gain height, because to reach our proposed overnight stop at Cooma NSW, we had to cross the Great Dividing Range. The unsealed road first took us down the very steep, winding road, of the ‘Geehi Wall’ to the floor of the valley of the Geehi River. There was no sign of construction work there, although work had just commenced on the construction of a reservoir and associated tunnelling.

The very dusty, dirt road, followed the valley climbing all the time, with many sharp corners through tall forests. I noticed as I drove along that the car’s temperature light was flicking on and off a couple of times. It was a very hot day, so I stopped the car to consult the map to see how far we were from the top of the Divide, but quickly started it up again to prevent the radiator from boiling.

My father had a heater installed in the car, so after driving off again I told everyone to open the windows wide, because I was going to turn on the heater! They all thought that I was mad, but I said the extra cooling provided by the water going through the heater might get us to the top of the climb over the Divide without the radiator boiling, which in fact it did.

Finally, after a series of sharp turns and switchbacks to gain height, we arrived at The Pilot Lookout a high point cleared of trees that provided a wonderful panorama to the south.

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The Pilot from the Pilot Lookout Photo GFS stopped the car and we all got out to cool off, but the radiator started to boil again so I raised the bonnet, started up the engine on idle and left the heater running, as we waited for the car to cool down.
p<>{color:#000;}. While we were waiting we enjoyed the magnificent view of the Great Dividing Range, stretching away to the south with many high summits rising above the timberline. Two of these summits I had often seen away on the skyline to the east from the Bogong High Plains, The Pilot (5,997 ft) and Mt Cobberas (6,013 ft). While we were admiring the view a Volkswagon drew up alongside us and the driver, seeing our car with the bonnet up, came over to look at the view and said to us: “That’s one thing that doesn’t happen to a Volkswagon.

“Sure, but other things can go wrong,” I replied.

While we waited for our car to cool down, the driver of the Volkswagon wished us goodbye and good luck and went back to his car and tried to start the engine, which wouldn’t start. He looked rather bewildered, so I assumed that he did not know much about cars. I walked across to him saying: “I think you have a vapour lock. Open up the engine bonnet and I will have a look.”

I got out the bottle of water that my father kept in the car’s boot and poured a little over the fuel line leading to the carburettor and a little over the carburettor bowl. Then I told the bloke to give it a minute or so before he tried to start the car again. He waited for a short while, then tried to start the engine. After a few attempts the engine sprang into life, and the very grateful driver, closed the engine bonnet and drove away. I hoped that he had learned something about his car and he would not be so ‘cocky’ in future.

By this time our FC had cooled down enough to take the radiator cap off and top up the water in the radiator. My father took over the wheel as we continued on the road towards Thredbo, crossing the Divide by a high saddle called Dead Horse Gap at an altitude of 5,190 ft. The Holden’s overheating problems were now over, as we drove down the relatively straight, gravel road to Thredbo, which was in the process of developing into a major ski resort, similar to Falls Creek. We stopped at Thredbo and had a quick look around at the new ski lodges u

Some of the ski lodges at Thredbo Photo GFS

nder construction. No two lodges were alike in their design, which made Thredbo a very picturesque village.
p<>{color:#000;}. After consuming ice creams and snacks bought at the general store, we moved on, driving down the Thredbo River valley through many stands of large snow gums. The valley then widened out and most of the snow gums were left behind as we entered the valley of the Snowy River.

Further on along the River we came to the town of Jindabyne, located beside the Snowy River’s tree lined banks. Jindabyne was a small township with houses scattered around the surrounding hills. Commencing in 1965 a dam and pumping station was to be constructed, with the result that Jindabyne would be flooded. The only evidence we saw of what lay ahead for this lovely country town, was a camp housing the workers who were engaged in the initial dam works.

Leaving Jindabyne, the sun was beginning to drop down in the western sky, so we wasted no time covering the 60 km or so to Cooma, across large open plains populated with grazing cattle, finally reaching Cooma at dusk. My father booked us all in for the night at a hotel, and after a filling dinner, we climbed into bed, quite tired after covering many miles in the trusty FC Holden.

The next day we were again blessed with good weather, but from past experience, I was fully aware that Easter weather could be one extreme or the other. The weather however, looked like it would be fine for the last two days of our journey back to Mt Beauty. After having a good look around Cooma in the morning and buying some souvenirs, we got back into the car for the drive to Mt Kosciusko, which we believed, was accessible nearly all the way to the summit by car!

We first had to drive back to Jindabyne, before taking the road through the future great NSW skiing resort areas of Smiggin’s Holes, Perisher and Blue Cow. The road climbed gradually as we left the lightly, timbered country, and entered a broad valley, where soon we were driving through snow gums and snow grass. Further up the valley about 40 km from Jindabyne we came to Charlotte’s Pass and the magnificent Kosciusko Chalet, with its distinctive cupola. This Chalet is the highest hotel in Australia at an altitude of 5,774 ft. It is completely s

The cupola of the Kosciusko Chalet Photo GFS nowbound during the winter months, guests being transported to the Chalet in Sno-Cats and other types of over snow vehicles. I remembered seeing photos of the Chalet in books when I first began skiing, but the Chalet we were looking at now was a new one, as the earlier Chalet had been burnt down some ten years previously.We had a look around the Chalet, but did not go in, before we returned to the car to resume driving to the summit of Kosciusko, roughly 10 km further on and 1,500 ft in altitude above the Chalet.
p<>{color:#000;}. T

GFS 000, my father’s car on the summit of Mt Kosciusko Photo GFS

THz trig point on the summit of Mt Kosciusko Photo GFS

he road was quite rough, but we drove carefully along the gradually rising road until we came to the final steep section of the road, which was cut into the side of the mountain. Soon we came to where the road, if it could be called one, had been cut through a large snowdrift with a high wall of snow on one side. This drift must have been very deep and corniced in the wintertime, for it to have left such a large portion of unmelted snow right through to Easter, but of course this drift is above 7,000 ft, 1,000 ft higher than those persisting on the BHP. I thought that it might even last until the first winter snowfalls of the year.
p<>{color:#000;}. We drove on up through the drift, where the road finally came to an end, in an area where it was possible to park and turn the car. There were a couple of other cars there besides ours, while only a few metres away, a trig point and a circular block of concrete, marked the rock strewn summit, of the highest point in Australia, Mt Kosciusko 7,313 ft (2.229 m). This was the height given on the circular plaque, although I had always known its height as 7,328 ft!

We had a look at the view from the summit, and with the aid of a circular, brass plate, attached to the top of the concrete block, we noted the various points of interest, that could be seen in the distance, indicated with arrows I was most interested in looking toward the west, where I found that Mt Bogong and the Bogong High Plains were quite easily identified across range after range of forested country. We were very lucky that it was such a good day without any smoke haze to impede our view.

Mt Kosciusko stands on the Great Dividing Range, which stretched away to the north and south from the summit. To the north, the unspectacular summits of Mt Townsend (7,250 ft) and Mt Twynam (7,208 ft) were close by. Further to the north near where the Divide made a 180 degree turn to the south east, the unmistakable mountain mass of Jagungal (6,765 ft) stood out above the lower ridges and spurs.

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My father’s turn to be the highest in Australia with Virginia and Graham Photo GFS ill Waters first pointed out Jugungal to me, which could be easily recognised from the Bogong High Plains by its distinctive shape, looking a little like a lion lying down at rest. The summits of Kosciusko, Townsend and Twynam however, were seen just as one high range of raised summits, all blending together in the distance. Looking east from Mt Kosciusko’s summit, snow grassed plains dotted with snow gums, lay before our feet reaching to the skyline of the Ramshead Range, the summit of The Ramshead (7,188 ft), rising amongst large stands of snow gums.
p<>{color:#000;}. As there is no real cairn on the summit of Mt Kosci usko, like there is on Mt Bogong, there was no mad scramble to climb to the top of the cairn to be the highest person in Australia, but we all had a turn to be he highest in Australia .

In fact I felt that for a number of reasons Mt Kosciusko was a great disappointment for me. The absence of a large cairn and being able to drive to the summit in ordinary, two wheel drive cars, like our FC Holden, was not what I expected to find on the highest mountain summit in our land.

I reconciled my disappointment with the knowledge that in winter, Mt Kosciusko would come into its own, only granting visiting rights to those persons who were prepared to expend some energy and sweat, coupled with a deal of skill, to be able to stand on its lofty summit. I was sure also that it was only then that the true glory of the panorama from Mt Kosciusko’s summit would be at its snowy best, much more spectacular and beautiful than I found it on our summer visit.

There was no sense of disappointment however, for my parents and Dilys. They were thrilled, because for them it was the highlight of the tour, so I didn’t tell them of my thoughts, not wishing to derive them of their pleasure in being the highest persons in Australia for a short period.

O

Returning from the summit of Mt Kosciusko through the large snow drift Photo GFS nce again Dilys was ‘with child’ on the summit of a significant mountain. The last time was on Mt Bogong with Virginia, and this time it is with one unnamed as yet. Soon our visit to the highest point on Australia’s mainland was over and it was time to leave.
p<>{color:#000;}. My parting thought as we drove back down through the snowdrift was that I hoped Mt Bogong and Mt Feathertop would never have to suffer the indignity of people being able to drive to their summits in a motor car.

W

Guthega Dam and Lake Photo GFS

e drove back down past the Chalet and then we took a side road leading to the Guthega Dam. This large concrete dam, wedged between the sides of the valley, was complete and the waters of the Guthega Pondage filled the valley behind it. Guthega was the first completed component of this immense hydro-electric scheme that we had actually seen. Guthega and its associated tunnels were completed in 1955 and in the ground below where we were travelling, there were many miles of tunnels being bored, sight unseen.
p<>{color:#000;}. We left Guthega and returned to the motel in Cooma to spend the night, before starting out on the last day of our journey in the morning. Cooma is the principal town at the heart of The Snowy Mountains Scheme, in many respects it is a town like Mt Beauty at the centre of the Kiewa Scheme. Cooma was much larger than Mt Beauty, but both towns were the location for the headquarters of their respective hydro-electric schemes.

It was another fine day as we drove along the sealed road to the small town of Adaminaby much like Jindabyne, having a main street with old shops, with the town’s houses scattered around the surrounding countryside. Like Jindabyne, the town of Adaminaby would be submerged under the waters of Lake Eucumbene, which was growing in size, day by day.

New towns carrying the same names w

The advancing waters of Lake Eucumbene Photo GFS

ere to be built above the level of the Lakes. This involved some buildings from both towns being lifted and transported to sites in the new towns. It was interesting to have been able to see both of these towns in their original rural settings.
p<>{color:#000;}. Further along we came to the old historic gold mining town of Kiandra, another name very familiar to me, because of its skiing history. This small town of about ten buildings, which is snowbound each winter, is said to be the place where the first competitive ski racing in the world took place in 1860, even before ski racing commenced in Norway in 1870! At Kiandra the ski races took place between Chinese miners and other nationalities racing each other on rough palings for skis, using one long stick for control.

We bought some postcards there before we drove on through the mountains to Tumut, where work had already commenced on tunnels, dams and power stations, although again this was all hidden from our view as we passed through the large township. It was here that my father looking at the map said: “We should make a 30 km detour across to Gundagai to see ‘the dog sitting on the tuckerbox.”

Deciding that we had plenty of time to make the detour, we asked my mother and Dilys what they thought. They agreed that it was a good idea, so we drove along on a lovely, warm day, on the sealed road to Gundagai, telling Virginia and Graham all about the dog as we went along. When we joined the Hume H

Dog on the Tucker box with our family Photo GFS

ighway however, we discovered that we had to drive a further 8 km north to see the dog, so off we drove in pursuit.
p<>{color:#000;}. The very life like statue of the dog, which was erected in 1932, was sculptured by Frank Rusconi of Gundagai. The statue together with its story, became a famous Australian icon, immortalised in a delightful six-verse poem by Bowyang Yorke. It was also made popular by a Jack O’Hagan song, which included the words: ‘Where the dog sits on the tucker box, five miles from Gundagai.’

We had a meal in Gundagai and purchased some souvenirs before commencing the long journey back to Mt Beauty, a distance of around 290 km. My father’s FC Holden had performed excellently over all the mountains and dirt roads we had travelled along. I thoroughly enjoyed driving it. The column gear change was very easy to use, the same as in our FC. The 290 km drive home through Albury and Wodonga was pleasant and without any problems, and we reached House 8 Bogong just as darkness was beginning to fall.

We all thought it had been a great trip and thanked my father for the opportunity to see the Snowy Scheme. I was especially pleased with my mother and Dilys, who just sat in the back seat with Virginia and Graham and never complained during the whole journey. They made sandwiches each morning for the day’s journey, which were greatly appreciated during the day’s driving.

Dilys, then three months into her pregnancy had no problems on the trip, but I would not have been surprised if both she and my mother had been car sick, but thankfully this did not occur. Whether it said something for the driving of my father and me I was not sure. Later Dilys told me that she felt sick for most of the trip but just grinned and bore it! Our children were immune to car sickness, having been brought up as car passengers on the winding roads of the UKVR, ever since they were born. My mother was also a seasoned traveler.

Although I had seen little of the construction works of the huge Snowy Scheme, I could not help thinking about the comparison between both Schemes. Our own Kiewa Scheme was a much smaller and compact scheme than the Snowy. When the Snowy is complete, both Schemes will contain all the various components that make up a typical, alpine hydro-electric scheme, dams, power stations, both above and below ground, tunnels and pressure pipe lines, together with all the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.

However anyone wishing to see all the components of a hydro-electric scheme, in its alpine setting, can see and enjoy this in one day on the Kiewa Hydro-electric Scheme. The Snowy Scheme, on the other hand, because it is so huge, and spread out over such a vast tract of country, cannot all be seen in one day.

There are very few photographs included in this chapter of the Snowy Scheme, firstly, because most of the work on the Snowy Scheme at the time was taking place underground, and secondly due to limitations of easy access and time. When the Scheme is complete there will certainly be much more to see and photograph.

My most significant impression of our tour, was not the immensity of the infrastructure of the Snowy Hydro-Electric Scheme of which we saw very little, because (as already mentioned), much of the construction was taking place underground, but of the stark difference between the high country in which the Snowy Hydro-Electric Scheme (SMA) is located, compared to the Kiewa Scheme. Most surprising of all was being able to drive all the way to the summit of Mt Kosciusko, Australia’s highest mountain!.

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Mt Bogong towering above the Kiewa Valley near Mt Beauty Photo GFS

he high alpine landscape of the Bogong High Plains, with its two spectacular and distinct, highest summits of Mt Bogong 6508 ft (1.984 m) and Mt Feathertop 6307 ft (1.922 m), compared NSW’s Great Dividing Range highest summits of Mt Kosciusko 7,310 ft (2.338 m) and Mt Townsend 7,247 ft (2209 m), are both unspectacular, mere rises in the surrounding high uplands of the Great Dividing Range. On our tour we saw the Great Dividing Range rising above us in the distance, but the actual summits of Mt Kosciusko and Mt Townsend were not evident.
p<>{color:#000;}. However, from various vantage points on the High Plains in winter, these two mountains together with their lesser neighbours, provide a beautiful, snowy white, skyline in the east some 80 km distant.

In comparison, Mt Bogong 6,508 ft (1.984 m) towering above the surrounding valleys, its broad, summit ridge, is certainly the male of the mountain species, while Mt Feathertop 6,309 ft (1.922 m) to the south west, the second highest mountain in Victoria with its sharp summit and long train of the Razorback Ridge, is no doubt female. Both separate peaks are easily discernable from a plethora of surrounding high mountains and valleys.

Most impressive and spectacular are Mt Bogong and Mt Feathertop under snow cover both as seen from the High Plains, Mt Feathertop with its long white snowy veil covering the Razor Back ridge, and the bulk of Mt Bogong rising above the northern extremity of the High Plains.

There should be no doubt that any tourist or other person wishing to see a hydro-electric system surrounded by spectacular high mountains, the highest in Victoria the place to visit is surely, Mt Beauty.

At the time of writing, is no longer possible to drive a car to the summit of Mt Kosciusko. The road has been replaced by a not very attractive, covered walkway.

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Mt Feathertop and the Razorback as seen from the western edge of the High Plains Image by the author1948

fter the Easter holidays when Virginia returned to school, she told us she had a new teacher. I made a few phone calls and discovered that the new teacher, Robert Richardson had replaced Neil Macleod. We the parents committee was never told why Neil was moved on, just that there was to be a new teacher coming to the school after Easter. I certainly hoped that this new teacher would meet with Mrs Jacobs’s approval. I do not know to this day, if Mrs Jacobs, who came to me crying on the last occasion, had taken my advice and sent her petition to the Education Department complaining about Neil McLeod, was responsible for the change.
p<>{color:#000;}. As President of the parents committee, on Dilys’s suggestion, I invited Robert, to have dinner with us. We found Robert to be a very nice young bloke and later we invited Robert to have dinner with us on a couple of other occasions. We didn’t mention anything about the problems that had taken place with Neil, and thankfully Robert fitted in well, with no complaints about his teaching ability.

 

CHAPTER 60: DRIVING OVER THE EDGE March, April 1962

During the time we lived on the Scheme, there were very few accidents on the UKVR even though it was unsealed, rough, corrugated and had very many blind corners, with steep drops down the sides. No doubt the speed restriction of 20 m.p.h. at the time, together with the rule that all traffic proceeding towards Mt Beauty after sunset, must stop and dim their lights when passing a car going in the opposite direction, helped to keep the road safe to drive on.

E

A section of The Pretty Valley Branch of the East Kiewa River below the road

xcept for the time when I put the two front wheels of the Minor over the edge just below Turnback Creek and the Minor was promptly dragged back on to the road by many willing hands, I had not had any accidents. Apart from that small error, caused by very big, 5 cm aggregate, having just been put on the road, neither Dilys nor I had any near misses. Steph Martin however, may not have agreed with that statement after the night she followed me down the road from the Bogong Ski Club!
p<>{color:#000;}. There were some bad accidents on the road, all but one occurring in the same place, between where the bitumen surface finished above Bogong and the bridge over the Pretty Valley Branch of the East Kiewa River. Two of these accidents occurred during March 1961. Both involved cars that went over the edge and were caught by trees and scrub, after falling about 100 m down the steep roadside, although the drivers escaped serious injury. On two occasions, I was called out to assist the wrecking crane crew, bringing the cars back on to the road.

Later in the year a Leyland Beaver tip truck, went over the edge. The driver was thrown out half way down. He only suffered from bruising and cuts and a wound where a pencil had punctured his chest. The Beaver finished in the river, upside down, with the aluminium cab flattened. If seat belts had been compulsory at the time, we were sure the driver would have been killed.

Some months later, Wally went along the river to the tip truck and with permission from the SEC, he disconnected the hydraulic ram from the truck, to give to his brother in Wangaratta. Wally asked me to help him carry it out down the river to his car parked at the tennis courts, a distance of about 400 m.

The ram was very heavy and it was one of the most difficult jobs I had ever tackled. Keeping our footing on the slippery rocks was not very easy, but after many rests, we eventually got the job done, for which Wally was eternally grateful.

Soon after our trip to the Snowy, late one afternoon George Soucup came up to our house, breathless and in a panic. He asked me to come with him quickly, because a friend of his, who had been staying with him and Jenny had been taken away to the hospital In Wangaratta, after his car left the road on the sharp bend above the Pretty Valley bridge.

As we drove along to the scene of the accident, George explained to me that his friend was a diamond merchant, and there was a possibility that a sample bag of diamonds was still in the car. We parked our car near the bend and walked back to where the car, a Karman Gia had gone over the side, dropping down the near vertical roadside, 40 m into the river below. We carefully made our way down to the car, which was partially under water and searched as best we could for anything resembling a bag that could carry diamonds, but found nothing.

As it was getting dark, George said he would have a look again tomorrow, but I couldn’t because I had to go to work. A couple of days later we had a phone call from George telling us that his friend was recovering from his injuries in the hospital at Wangaratta, and that there were no diamonds in the car, he had them all in a case in a hotel!

Another car accident that could have had serious consequences if the driver had been wearing a seat belt, occurred one day in the winter last year when I was parking cars at Falls Creek. A snazzy, single seater, MG convertible, arrived at the car park, The driver said he was only staying for a short while, as he had to deliver a small parcel to one of the lodges. We all had a good look at the MG, which was the latest model. It was black and in immaculate condition.

The driver returned soon and we waved him off down the mountain. About one hour later, he returned in a patrolman’s utility, looking rather dishevelled and was quickly taken up to one of the lodges. We asked the patrolman who had brought him back, what had happened. He said the MG had gone over the side about a mile below Turnback Creek. He said that the bloke was lucky to be alive.

On the way back home I saw the MG which had gone off the road at a bend. The MG had come to rest not far down, stopped by a big horizontal log, which had sheared off the windshield and canvas top. I imagined that the driver had saved himself by crouching down in the front. If he had been wearing a seat belt, I am sure that would not have been possible and he would have suffered severe head injuries at the very least!

This chapter about vehicles driving over the edge of the UKVR would not be complete, without telling about one, well known, construction foreman, who I will not name. He habitually put his red SEC Bedford utility, over the edge. Usually it was only the front wheels that transgressed, needing only a small crane to haul his utility back on the road. He always had the same excuse: “A wallaby ran across the road in front of me and I had to swerve to avoid it mate!”

He was notorious for driving too fast on all the roads around the Scheme. I believed that he had been cautioned many times by HHC, but he had the ‘gift of the gab,’ and his lame excuse about the wallaby always seemed to save his day.

We too, saw many wallabies on the road as well as a few wombats. One night near the top of the Bright Gap, I was sure I drove right over the top of a big wombat in the Minor, but there was not even a sound or bump, which said much for the Minor’s high ground clearance.

However, this tale about my meeting with a wallaby is true. Late one dark night when we were returning from Albury in the FC, I was driving along the flat stretch of road, just before the road turned down to No. 3 power station. In an instant in the beam of the headlights, a big wallaby bounded from the side of the road directly in front of the car. There was a muffled bump as it collided with the car and I slammed on the brakes, which woke everyone up.

“What’s happened, what’s happened?” Dilys asked.

“I hit a wallaby and I am going to see if I killed it, you all stay in the car.”

I opened the door of the car and walked around to the front of the FC, which had come to a halt in the middle of the road. In the beam of the headlights, I saw the large wallaby lying without a movement on the ground directly in front of the car. I had a quick look at the strong, chrome bumper bar of the FC, but there was no mark that I could see.

I then walked a couple of steps, bent down and braced myself ready to grab the wallaby’s legs and haul it across to the side of the road. I bent down and as soon as I touched its leg, I got a Hell of a fright and nearly fell on my back! The wallaby suddenly sprang to life, rising on its long legs, and with a shrug, bounded off down the road in the beam of the headlights, disappearing into the bushes at the side of the road. It must have only been stunned.

I returned to the car rather shaken, but didn’t need to explain what had happened, because Dilys and the children had seen it all in the car’s headlights. They were all very excited with our close encounter with the local fauna. I calmed down and drove home without any further shocks. When I examined the FC the next day there was not a mark to be seen, but I don’t think the Minor would have got off so lightly.

 

CHAPTER 61: THE NEW HIGH PLAINS PATROL LEARNING CURVE May, June, July 1962

In preparation for the winter, a garage had been built beside the car park at Falls Creek, to house our two snow vehicles. This year at last, the Sno-Cat and Snow-Trac had been sent up to the Rocky Valley workshops just after Easter, in readiness for the coming winter. The new patrolmen and drivers had been measured for their ski clothes and ski boots. One day all the new gear was delivered to the workshops and amid much hilarity, we watched as the new patrolmen and drivers tried on their ski clothes and boots and admired their new skis.

To get the feel of having skis on their feet, the two drivers Tommy and Rod put on their skis for the first time on a mat we spread out on the workshops floor. The two Collins tried theirs out on the mat too, so I took the opportunity to adjust the safety bindings, and explain how important it was to have the bindings adjusted correctly. I advised them that even though they had the benefit of safety bindings, it was important that they learnt the correct way to fall. The bindings were only toe release, and not full toe and heel release, like modern safety bindings. Now all that was required was for the snow to fall.

There were quite a few frosts before the first big winter snow fall. There was some snow on the ground for the Queen’s Birthday opening weekend, but it was barely enough to ski on. As both snow vehicles had been delivered to us at Rocky Valley, before the first snow fell, this year, someone at base workshops at last had realised the importance of this move.

They had also devised a method of tightening the tracks of the Sno-Cat, in lieu of the crude, but effective method of bending the joining links. Tapered, mild steel shims, of varying thicknesses had been made, which were to be welded to the curved running rails at both ends of the pontoons to take up the slack. One set had been welded to the pontoons when the Sno-Cat came up from the workshops. I thought it was going to be very interesting to see if this new innovation was an improvement.

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L to R Collin Tester, Collin Croucher, the author and Tommy O’Brien. Photo W Deans he roads were still open for us to drive to Pretty Valley and to all the racelines. A short time after Queen’s Birthday weekend, however, the snow came down in earnest and both snow vehicles were used to take patrollers to Pretty Valley and the Cope East and West racelines.
p<>{color:#000;}. On a windy, cold day, I went to Langford’s Gap, with Tommy O’Brien driving the Sno-Cat for the first time, I sat in my usual place as navigator with Colin Tester and Collin Croucher in the back seat. We drove across the dam wall where we had to put the wheels down. This was a good trial for Tommy, just straightforward driving of the Sno-Cat, following the snow covered road that he had driven along countless times in road vehicles.

Although there was enough snow for the Sno-Cat on the road, there were no drifts for Tommy to negotiate, so we reached Langford’s racelines without any problems. Tommy handled the driving with ease, the Sno-Cat clinking along in second gear, the only gear ratio that was ever really needed or used, quite enough to propel the vehicle along at a satisfactory speed of about 10 m.p.h. (16 km/h).

Tommy found the steering a little heavy, and with the Sno-Cat’s large turning circle, I told him that in deep snow conditions, he would have to learn how to use the surface conditions of the snow to select easy places to turn.

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Langfords East Raceline and hut with Tommy on the left Photo W Deans

hile the two Collins, who had both been on skis before, went along the raceline, Tommy and I took our skis down from the top of the Sno-Cat, so that I could give Tommy some ski instruction, while we waited for the two to return.
p<>{color:#000;}. We walked along and kick turned for a while. After he had mastered that I showed him how to snow plough on a small snow slope nearby. The two Collins returned after about two hours, having had no problems walking along the banks of the raceline on their skis. They reckoned it was a great way to earn a living! We had a nice hot cup of tea ready for them in the refuge hut, then we returned to the workshops after a very successful first patrol inspection.

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The pretty Valley hut and the Snow-Trac Image by the author

n the meantime, Wally went to Pretty Valley with Theo and Bill McBain in the Snow-Trac, with Rod driving the vehicle for the first time. They then went out to Pretty Valley hut.
p<>{color:#000;}. The next day we all stayed around the workshops, so I started up a ski school with Theo’s help. Across the bench in front of the workshops there was a good snow slope with enough snow cover to teach skiing. The two Collins could ski a little, so I concentrated on the others, reminding them again, that even though they had skis with toe release bindings, they should not rely on them to always open when they fell. I stressed the need when they knew they were about to fall, to try to keep their skis below them and above the snow as best they could.

I taught them to herring bone, kick turn and traverse, before going on to the snowplough. I had never taught skiing before, except once in Austria to a young Austrian girl, who after the first lesson, said she loved me. But that is another story. I enjoyed the experience of teaching Tommy, Bill and Rod the rudiments of skiing, especially as my pupils responded to my instructions very well, none however, told me they loved me!

During the first week or so whenever there was some spare time, we all got out on the slope for more practice and instruction. After a short while, they had all mastered the snow plough, so they would improve from there on with practice.

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The Snow-Trac at Falls Creek ready to leave for Rocky Valley Photo GFS

s far as I was concerned, they all had sufficient skiing skills to be able to carry out raceline patrols on skis safely, although Wally wisely did not allow any of the new patrolmen to ski across to Pretty Valley by themselves, as Theo and I had been doing.
p<>{color:#000;}. Now that we had the use of two snow vehicles, the patrolmen would always be taken to the commencement of the racelines and to Pretty Valley in one of the vehicles. Snow continued to fall, providing a good cover on the ground. The road above Falls Creek was closed and the two snow vehicles were left in the garage overnight. Each day we were ferried to the workshops and back in the Sno-Cat and Snow-Track.

One day Wally took Theo and me down to Howman’s Gap, where we picked up some hessian bags full of course salt. Then Wally drove down the road a few kilometres below Turnback Creek, where the road had become very icy in some places, where the sun never reached. He stopped the Ute and turned it around, saying we were going to salt the road. Then as Wally drove slowly back up the road with the tailboard down, Theo and I spread the salt from the two hessian bags on the road, which was very cold and hard on our hands.

It reminded me of the time I fitted chains to the tandem rear wheels of Alan Carey’s grader, one of the coldest jobs on my hands I had ever experienced, and spreading salt was no better! I was not sure whose idea the salting of the road was. Wally never said, but over the next week, going up and down to work where we had spread the salt, we saw it had certainly melted the ice.

So much so, that the road surface had become wet and muddy, having broken up to the extent that it had exposed the corduroy base below the road surface. I was pleased to say that was the first and last time salting of the Upper Kiewa Valley Road was ever used.

I had travelled in cars and buses on ice and snow-covered roads in the winter in Austria and Germany, where the process of salting was successfully used, but as far as I had observed, only on sealed roads. It was the prime cause of much premature rusting of cars that regularly travelled over salted roads in Europe. In Bavaria, I travelled by car at high speed on a snow-covered road, where the snow covering the road surface was hard and dry. I was pleasantly surprised that it felt just as firm as driving on a bitumen road surface and as safe.

The High Plains Patrolmen were performing their patrol duties without any problems and I was spending most of my time in the workshop. When Tommy was driving the Sno-Cat I went with him as the navigator, as there was now nearly a metre of snow cover on the ground.

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A Trans Antarctic Expedition double pontoon Sno-Cat showing how the pontoons are free to swivel a full circle Photo courtesy Antarctic Division

ne foggy day Tommy was driving the Sno-Cat down toward the dam wall along a route he had followed many times, when all of a sudden I realised he had not turned to the right soon enough, and was heading for a steep drop down the side of the snow covered batter of the road. I yelled out to him and grabbed the wheel: “Bring it round quickly. Hard right hand, then. Stop!”
p<>{color:#000;}. But it was too late. The Sno-Cat with its tracks still rotating, slipped sideways half way down the side of the batter, with .the track on my side swivelling up past my window. When I first read the operating instructions for the Sno-Cat, it warned the driver and front seat passenger, that they should never have their head or elbows out the window. This was the first, and I hoped last time, I would have the reason for this warning demonstrated to me so dramatically, because the rotating tracks could severely damage an elbow or head as the track on the pontoon rotated very close past the window.

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Tommy O’Brien and the author Photo W. Deans

ommy quickly stopped the engine and we all managed to climb out through the driver’s side door, because the pontoon was preventing me opening the door on my side. We walked back through the snow to the workshop to get some shovels to try to dig the Sno-Cat out. First of all we dug the snow away, so that the pontoon could be rotated back to near the horizontal. After a lot of hard work digging, we managed to bring the vehicle nearly level. Tommy then got back in the Sno-Cat to see if he could drive it out backwards, but I told him if it didn’t move straight away to shut the engine off and we would dig it out some more.
p<>{color:#000;}. The Sno-Cat was still on an angle and I didn’t want there to be any risk of oil starvation, as had occurred the first time I skied out to the Sno-Cat at Pretty Valley. Tommy started up the engine, put it in gear and thankfully as we all watched, the Sno-Cat backed itself out amid much cheering.

The Snow-Trac on the other hand with Rod driving, was acquitting itself very well except for a few jockey wheel punctures, a bent track adjustment rod, and the need to fit a new variator belt. The punctured wheels were changed over by Rod in the field and I made any other repairs needed back in the workshops. The track adjusting rod that bent, was a weakness in the design, that surprised Norm Hamilton on his next visit. He said he would have them strengthened and have the new design fitted to the Snow-Tracs that he was selling to the Antarctic Division. He was glad that this weakness had made itself apparent in the more difficult snow conditions of the High plains.

With regard to the short life of variator belts brought about by the long traverses, he had no remedy, except that traversing should be kept to a minimum. I imagined that Snow-Tracs operating on the ice fields of Antarctica, would not experience the need to traverse on long and steep slopes, like we encountered on the High Plains, so the high wear rate of variator belts would not be such an issue. Considering that these vehicles were designed for use on flat, snow covered roads, their performance on the terrain of the High Plains, was quite acceptable and an asset to the High Plains patrol.

Other than those problems with the snow vehicles, there was the occasion that I did not witness, when Bill McBain slipped into the raceline. Except for sustaining very wet, cold boots, vorlagers, as well as his pride, no harm was done and he was whisked quickly back to the workshop, to dry out around the red hot Romesse.

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A Nodwell over snow vehicle Photo Simon Maddock author of People Movers e had some interesting visitors to the workshop during the winter when a couple of over snow vehicles were brought up for us to inspect, each at opposite ends of the size scale.
p<>{color:#000;}. The first was a huge Nodwell rubber tracked over snow vehicle, which was driven up from Falls Creek. Its 70 cm wide tracks, supported a very large driving cabin with living and working space. It was totally unsuitable for our purposes, but ideal for Antarctic conditions. I had seen similar vehicles to this in photos taken in Antarctica

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A Ski-Doo Photo Southern Hydro

he other over snow vehicle was a Ski-Doo, a brand and type of snowmobile that was very small in comparison with the Nodwell. The Ski-Doo resembled an over snow motorbike. It had a pair of short steerable skis in front. A motor bike type engine, drove an endless cleated, rubber track, above which there was seating for two. We all had a drive of this great machine. It was fun to drive, fast and very easy to control. I thought at the time, that it would be a wonderful vehicle for patrolling racelines.
p<>{color:#000;}. The use of snowmobiles by the SEC at Rocky Valley for raceline patrolling is a much more efficient means of patrolling racelines than on skis. I am sure however, that there are times when snow and weather conditions dictate that skis are the only practical method of travel.

No matter what form of transport is used for conveying patrolmen, a knowledge of snow craft, coupled with a good appreciation of the winter snow conditions on the Bogong High Plains, must always be a prerequisite for any person engaged in this wonderful occupation. I consider myself exceedingly fortunate that I was a High Plains Patrolman, in the conditions that prevailed at the time. The Ski-Doo became very popular in later years. Wherever there was snow on the ground, this form of ubiquitous snowmobile was there too. At the time of writing, snowmobile racing is a major snow sport in many parts of the world.

While the reservoir was still covered by ice and snow, we had a visit from scuba diving members of the Antarctic Division. After we met them, the Snow-Trac took them down to the dam wall, where they spent about two hours, diving under the ice and snow covered surface, of the reservoir near the spillway shaft. Not the sport for me, maybe in warm tropical waters it would be very enjoyable, but certainly not in near freezing water.

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The film unit with the Snow Trac in Rocky Valley Photo W Deans

Theo left, the author right, skiing for the film unit Image by the author

ast, but not least of our visitors to the High Plains Patrol, was a film unit from the Ministry of Information who were making a documentary series called ‘Unusual Occupations.’ They wanted to film the work of the High Plains Patrol and Theo and me were to be the skiing stars. This film, unlike the last one in which we starred, was in colour and this time the weather was perfect.
p<>{color:#000;}. The film unit was with us for three days. Theo and I had to ski down slopes of untracked snow, and the runs had to be perfect or we would have had to shift to a new location. As the sun moved around during the day, we were again shifted to new locations. I was really tired at the end of each day’s shooting, saying to Dilys that I knew what it was like to be a real film star, hard work. Sometimes w

The film unit filming the Sno-Cat Photo W. Deans

e talked to an imaginary person, pretending that a microphone was a person’s face, quite eerie.
p<>{color:#000;}. The film was shown around the picture theatres, but not one of our family had the good fortune of seeing it. Someone who had seen the film, said it was good, but it only lasted for three minutes.

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The cornice on the Ruined Castle Spur above Sun Valley and the Sno-Cat left. [_ Photo Ministry of Information- Wally Deans _]

fter the filming was over, the High Plains Patrol reverted to normal duties. The winter was another good one for depth of snow, together with plenty of brilliant, sunny weather between each fall of snow. All was going very well with the reorganised High Plains Patrol, except of course driving the Sno-Cat into a hole and Bill McBain falling into the raceline.
p<>{color:#000;}. The time was drawing near for the birth of our new baby in early August, and since we had changed cars from the Minor to the Holden, it had performed very well with no problems. Dilys had adapted to driving the larger FC easily, but now with August only a month away, driving the car was not as easy for her. She had stopped playing tennis and so had I. We had been to Melbourne a few times during the year, as well as going into Albury regularly, but now with the new baby’s birth much closer, we didn’t venture very far from Bogong. We just took occasional trips down the mountain to Mt Beauty on a Friday or Saturday to shop, and visit Betty and Graham to give the children an opportunity to play together.

 

CHAPTER 62: A BABY BOY JOINS OUR FAMILY August 1962

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The one time SEC administration building now the Tawonga and District Hospital Photo GFS

ilys’s youngest brother Jeff rang to ask us would if it be OK for him and his mother to come up and see us around the time the baby was due to arrive, so of course we said yes, without knowing the exact day when Dilys would go into labour. Our new baby would be born in a different hospital and locality than Virginia and Graham, who were both born it the Tawonga Hospital at Tawonga opposite the Bogong Hotel.
p<>{color:#000;}. Tawonga Hospital had been closed down and our new baby would breathe the clean, alpine air, for the first time in the new Tawonga and District Hospital, the former SEC administration office building at Mt Beauty. This substantial building was converted into a hospital with up to date facilities, new wards and operating theatre. It was closer to the centre of the population of the Valley and of course Bogong. It was also much closer to the expanding Falls Creek ski village, a definite benefit for dealing with any serious accidents, which occurred from time to time during the winter months.

As the time drew near for the birth of our baby, the two children, especially Virginia, knew vaguely what was going on, and she was looking forward to having a new baby to play with. I came home one afternoon when Dilys said she thought that it was nearly time for her to go down to the hospital. We had arranged for Betty and Graham Napier to look after Virginia and Graham for a few days when Dilys went into the hospital, until my parents came up from Melbourne.

This arrangement was not required, because about 5 p.m. just as Dilys had said to me that we would soon have to leave for the hospital, the phone rang from the top gate, to tell us that Jeff and her mother were on the way up the road. Dilys went around doing a few last minute tasks, showing me where everything was that I would need for myself, Graham and Virginia. Dilys had just started making a cup of tea for her mother, when there was toot from a car horn, and Jeff and Dilys’s mother were at the door. They came into the house and amidst hugs and kisses, then Dilys said to Jeff: “You’ll have to move your car, so we can get ours out of the garage. We will have to leave you with the children. They are asleep, and it’s time for me to go to the hospital. The tea’s made, but you’ll have to help yourselves.”

Dilys’s mother exclaimed incredulously; “You can’t mean now? How will you get there dear? Where is the ambulance?”

Smiling at the thought of an ambulance, Dilys replied: “Yes, mum, *now*. Gordon is driving me down in our car. Goodbye for now, thanks for coming, make yourselves comfortable. See you tomorrow.”

With that, Jeff shifted his car, I drove out the Holden, put Dilys’s bag in the boot, helped Dilys into the front seat and with a few parting kisses we were off. We had a great giggle as we drove down the mountain, about her mother wondering where the ambulance was to take Dilys to the hospital.

We booked Dilys into the lovely new hospital. The date was 2nd August 1962. I stayed with Dilys until she was settled in the only private room in the hospital, then after a big kiss and hug I left her in the tender care of the hospital staff. On the way back to Bogong, I called in to tell Betty and Graham the news.

When I got back to the house, Dilys’s mother asked me all the questions in the world about what was happening to her daughter? To put her mind at rest, I answered all her questions as best I could. I told her that her daughter was in good hands in a brand new hospital. I then rang my parents to tell them the news and tell them that Jeff and his mother had just arrived, so there was no need to hurry up the next day. By this time the children had woken up, so I had to explain to them that their mother had gone down to Mt Beauty to get a new baby. After dinner we relaxed with the children, until it was time to put them to bed, telling them that if they were lucky, when they woke up, they might have a new baby to play with.

I did not go to work the next day, but I rang the hospital to see if there was any news. There wasn’t, but just after noon, I received a call from the hospital telling me that I was the father of a baby boy, who was born at 11.40 a.m. and that both mother and baby were doing well. The date was Friday 3rd August 1962.

I rang my mother and father to tell them the good news. We celebrated with a cup of tea, because I didn’t have any champagne in the house, not even a beer.

Jeff and his mother asked me if we had a name for the baby. I said that yes we did. It is Donald James Robert Smith. Donald (after my brother), James (a family name for both of us) and Robert (after Dilys’s second oldest brother, grandfather and great grand father).

We all prepared to go down to Mt Beauty in the afternoon to see Dilys and the new baby. I don’t think that Virginia and Graham knew what to say or think when I told them they had a new baby brother Donald to look after. Dilys and I did not know at the time that although Donald was Dilys’s mother’s eighth grandchild, he was the first, newborn baby, that my mother in law had ever seen in the family. So this was a double joy for Dilys and her mother

Dilys rang me to bring her a timer so she could time the baby’s feeds, but the only clock I could find was the kitchen clock, which caused Dilys some amusement.

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Virginia and Graham looking at their mother through the hospital window

he wanted a proper timer, so Jeff went and purchased one and brought it to her. It was a lovely sight to see Dilys, her mother and Jeff so happy, together with our new baby. Our children were not allowed in to the ward, so I stayed outside and held up Graham and Virginia in turn, so that they could see their mother in bed through the window.
p<>{color:#000;}. The baby was brought out and like all of our babies, Donald was good looking too. Mother and baby were doing well, so we left and went go back to Bogong, ready to come down again in the evening.

Eventually, both Graham and Virginia were allowed to come into the ward to see their mother and the new baby. They thought it was very exciting, but wanted to know when mummy and the baby would be coming home to Bogong. I had a day off from work on the Monday when Jeff and his mother left to go back to Melbourne.

I am quite sure that Dilys’s mother never knew quite what to make of me, but I after those days with us, I reckon she thought I was not such a bad bloke and had looked after her daughter very well, so it was with some regret that I waved them goodbye.

I took Virginia and Graham down to the school, to explain why Virginia was late, and Robert Richardson congratulated me on the birth of our new son. My parents arrived in the afternoon and called in to see Dilys on the way up to Bogong. I went to work the next day, visiting Dilys and the baby after dinner each night. My mother as usual looked after us wonderfully. My parents stayed until Dilys and the baby came home from the hospital, then after spending a couple of days with the new baby they left for home.

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Looking across the snow covered reservoir towards Basalt Hill Photo GFS

The Rocky Valley workshops and camp with the Spion Kopje in the background Photo GFS ne day just before my parents left, I arranged with Wally for my father to have a ride in the Sno-Cat. Tommy O’Brien drove the Sno-Cat down to Falls Creek with me to meet my father in the car park. My father sat in the front and I sat in the back. Tommy drove up above the workshop so that my father could look down at the frozen surface of the reservoir. My father took many photos before we returned to the car park. I was sure that the ride in the Sno-Cat was the highlight of all his visits to the Kiewa Scheme. It was a thrill for me too, to have my father with me to show him another place I worked on the Scheme.
p<>{color:#000;}. Back at the Rocky Valley workshops, we heard about an improvement that was being made to Romesse stoves all around the Scheme. This was to burn used engine oil in the stove instead of briquettes. There was an abundance of used engine oil around the Scheme, so it sounded like a good idea. I was told what was required for the conversion and I started work on it straight away. I cut a piece of ¼ inch (6 mm) thick steel plate to fit above the existing grate, and drilled a series of small holes through the surface of the plate. I placed this above the grate, and above this I put on a 3 inch (75 mm) thick layer of course sand.

A 4 gallon drum filled with waste engine oil was then suspended above the Romesse. The oil was fed from the drum through a small stop valve and copper pipe, to enter the Romesse through a small hole cut in the lid.

The Romesse was started up with kindling wood and once this was burning well, the valve was adjusted to drip oil slowly into the stove. It was truly amazing the heat that the oil fired, Romesse stove, quickly generated. It reminded me of locomotives on the VR, many of which at the time were being converted from coal to oil burners, but not of course with used engine oil.

We heard too, of another use for discarded engine oil, this time however with quite a different, less efficient, result. The SEC had placed suggestion boxes around the Scheme, although I was not aware of this. One suggestion received was put into effect. The suggestion was to use discarded engine oil to lubricate the many pins and bushes that connect the grouser plates of a caterpillar track together.

The suggestion was for a shallow, reinforced concrete bath, to be constructed large enough to accommodate the length and width of a bulldozer such as a HD19. The bath would then be filled with discarded engine oil to a depth of about 4 inches (100 mm), and a bulldozer would be driven backwards and forwards through the shallow bath, until all of the tracks were lubricated, which completed the treatment. The bath was constructed behind base workshops and quite a few bulldozers were given ‘the treatment.’

Unfortunately, in a relatively short space of time after ‘the treatment,’ reports of premature wear of the pins and bushes on those bulldozers, which went through the bath, were received at base workshops.

It was discovered that the dirt a bulldozer is always working in, had combined with the oil to make a very effective grinding paste, which ground the pins and bushes and reduced their life considerably. So driving bulldozers through the bath was immediately abandoned! I was not aware if the employee who suggested the oil bath, ever received any reward before the disastrous result of his suggestion was discovered, but I remember once when I visited base workshops of seeing the abandoned bath at the rear of the workshops, surrounded by black oily dirt.

 

CHAPTER 63: A RAINY END TO THE WINTER 1962 August, September, October 1962

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The ice cover on the reservoir breaking up Photo W Deans

he winter on the High Plains was coming to a very rainy end as the rain softened the snow, although it had been a good year for snow cover with an average depth of 100 cm being recorded on the Bogong High Plains and Both the Sno-Cat and Snow-Trac were still being used. Later warm rain fell, which put a quick end to the use of the Snow- Cat, but the Snow-Trac was still used to take the patrolmen out to the racelines, as it could cope with the bare patches where there was no snow. I was really amazed this year that after the first patch of clear water showed itself on the reservoir, how quickly the wind broke up the rest of the cover, and the surface was once more clear water, reflecting the colour of the sky above. Wally decided that the time had come to clear all the roads, so it was great to have the ever cheerful characters of Joe and John back with us at the workshops on the snow clearing. p<>{color:#000;}. The snow clearing also meant that there was now maintenance work to keep me busy on the bulldozers and graders. There were also more plant operators and other personnel working out of the Rocky Valley workshops, which gave rise to many animated discussions around the Romesse stove. The subject of most of these discussions was football, both the Victorian Football League (VFL) and the Bogong Football Club, which fielded a team in the local country league, and. many members of the team were SEC personnel. My former workmate Harry Bell I was told, was a very good player for the team. One of our middle aged, plant operators, Paddy O’Brien (no relation to Tommy), was the coach of the Bogong football team, so he was the centre of much of the football discussion.

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A football game in progress at Mt Beauty Photo GFS ally was a Footscray supporter, premiers in 1954, (their only grand final to date). I supported Essendon from nearly the first day I was born, but since I had returned from overseas, I had lost touch with the fortunes of the Essendon football team. Around the Romesse however, Essendon’s chances of being premiers for 1962, were thought to be very good and they came in for much debate and discussion, so I thought I had better declare my interest. Essendon did go on to win the grand final against Carlton and that made me very happy. I knew that my parents, especially my father, would be ecstatic.
p<>{color:#000;}. I also learned about another grand final, in which the Bogong football team was involved, a year or so before I came up to work on the High Plains Patrol. Bogong evidently had always been a very good team and this particular season, had won every game including all the finals, except the grand final, which ended in a draw. Sadly however they lost the replay, which must have sent the Kiewa Scheme into period of deep mourning.

I considered myself very fortunate to be working on the High Plains during all four seasons, witnessing the changes that occurred from month to month. Where before, as a visitor to the Bogong High Plains with the Rover Scouts, it was usually either in the summer or winter, so I never experienced the changing seasons in between. I believe that spring on the Bogong High Plains, is one of the most picturesque and beautiful times, when much of the snow has melted, leaving snow grass and drifts like a white patchwork quilt, with the wildflowers blooming among the drifts.

This year with the advent of the reorganised High Plains Patrol, it had been an interesting one for me working on the new Snow-Trac, as its Porsche engine was quite small, compared to the Chrysler, straight eight engine, of the Sno-Cat. I never thought I would ever have the experience of working on the engine that powered the car, which I had always admired. The sight of a Porsche car of the time, with a couple of pairs of skis on the bumper bar ski rack at the rear of the car, sloping upward above the car was for me, the epitome of motoring elegance and sporting sophistication. I must say however, that the Porsche engine did not evoke the same admiration, as did the Porsche car with the skis aboard. It was not an easy engine to work on in the confined space of the engine compartment of the Snow-Trac.

The shim idea for adjusting the tightness of the tracks on the Sno-Cat was a complete failure, as the welds gradually broke on the set that came up from base workshops. I rewelded them, but to do a proper job, the pontoons needed to be removed and that was a big job, so I reverted to the standard method of bending the links. Double pontoon, Sno-Cats, were used in the Antarctic expeditions during the period of the International Geophysical year in the 50s, and on other expeditions and to my knowledge, they used the method for tightening the tracks as described in the instruction manual, of bending the track links, without any problems.

I managed to finish the car heater for the FC Holden and I was glad to say that it worked very well. I also made a radiator blind of a type, which in the winter I had seen fitted, to many cars in Europe. I used a small roller blind, which I fitted in front of the radiator. A cable through the dashboard, pulled the blind up in front of the radiator, the spring in the blind returning it back down below the radiator when not in use. It was marvellous for heating up the engine and car quickly, especially on the way down the mountain on very cold days.

The two snow vehicles were eventually returned to base workshops which meant I was now working on maintenance work that was required around the workshops, as well as travelling around with one of our drivers to Pretty Valley and the racelines. Leighton had completed the two Cope racelines, but the batters and surrounds had to be regrassed, so that kept me well occupied maintaining the equipment.

Back at Bogong, little Donald was getting bigger day by day. It was great fun when we drove to Albury the first time with Donald. We had Donald in the basinet with Virginia and Graham in the back seat of the Holden, where there was enough room for them all to enjoy the ride. However, as we approached Dederang, the engine temperature warning light started to flicker, so I stopped to find out the reason why, because it was quite a cool day.

Everything seemed OK and after the engine had cooled down I drove on, only to have the temperature warning light come on again. I stopped the car quickly and jumped out. As I was opening the engine bonnet, I glanced at the radiator, and caught a glimpse of the blind, which was gradually retracting the last few inches. Overheating problem solved, but I couldn’t believe the cause. As I drove along at high speed the wind, despite the resistance of the roller spring, the roller was unreeling the blind up against the radiator core, finally fully covering it, which accounted for the rise in temperature. I got some string and tied the blind down to prevent it unwinding, and off we went with no further trouble. Later I modified the blind control to prevent it happening again. I thought that if I had not noticed the blind rewind that last little bit, I might have taken forever to discover the real cause of the overheating!

One day while I was telling my friend Jack Smith about my experience with the radiator blind, I noticed that he had the windscreen of his Fiat covered with chicken wire. He told me that the reason for the chicken wire was because when he went on a drive to Mt Hotham, his windscreen was broken by a stone. He went in to Albury to get a new one fitted and on the drive back to Mt Beauty near Dederang, the new windscreen was broken by another stone. Hence the chicken wire over the windscreen. The joys of motoring in the mountains.

D

The Hume Weir

onald was too young to go to the drive in, but on this occasion when we had finished our shopping, we drove out to the Hume Weir, where I was fortunate to be able to join a party being shown over the power station. It was much different to our power stations on the Kiewa Scheme, because the power was generated from a much lower head, but a greater volume of water. The Hume Hydro-Electric power station generated 50 MW of electric power, half that generated by McKay Creek P.S. After I saw over the power station, which was very small, compared to Mckay Creek power station, we all had an ice cream and drove back home across the Weir.
p<>{color:#000;}. This was about that time when I decided I should give up smoking as it was costing us too much money. Now that I had another mouth to feed, I decided I would not give up yet, but smoke a pipe as it was much cheaper, but in the first few weeks I broke the pipe at work. Dilys then bought me a cheap, corncob pipe, and this I really enjoyed, together with a few cigarettes here and there.

When I was driving the car, Virginia kept complaining and asking me to put out my pipe, as she had with the cigarettes. Virginia’s constant begging for to me to put out my cigarettes, assisted in the momentous and life extending decision that both I and my brother-in-law Dan, eventually made together in 1964. His daughters were also criticising him for smoking.

Dan and I smoked our last cigarette together in 1964, when we were holidaying in Rye, and neither of us smoked after that day. I thought that I might have a social cigarette every now and again, but the first time I had a social cigarette, I was violently ill. I daresay I would not be writing this today, if I had not given up smoking when I did, besides it was much healthier for Dilys and the children when I eventually stopped smoking for good, with the emphasis on the word good.

CHAPTER 64: SPRING AND SUMMER ON THE KIEWA SCHEME November, December 1962, January, February 1963

Seeing myriads of various coloured species of grasshoppers jumping around amid the snow grass and windflowers on the High Plains, together with the advent of the first mountain thunderstorm, signalled that it was time for our family to take our annual holidays

W

Loading our FC at Rye for the journey home. Photo D Terry

e drove down to Melbourne with the FC loaded up with the roof rack on top. Even with the FC Holden’s cavernous boot, we still had the roof rack loaded with goods to carry all we needed for the holiday. Baby Donald was of course was partly responsible for the extra luggage. We were going to spend most of our holidays at Rye with Dan and Pam, but we stopped at my parent’s place for a few days while we toured around visiting Dilys’s mother and all our other relatives. Then we went down to Rye where we had a relaxing holiday with Dan and Pam.
p<>{color:#000;}. During the holidays while the children played on the beach, I read a lot of books sent to me from the Victorian State Library in Melbourne. We were very sad when it was time for us to return to Bogong, where the Malleys was still doing a great job washing the nappies.

I had a few days left of my holidays before I went back to work, so I took the opportunity to work on the Holden checking brakes and other areas that needed checking.

Just after I arrived home from work one evening, I heard the familiar noise of a helicopter, and discovered that they were here again to continue spraying the phasmids. The High Plains Patrol was called to act as markers one afternoon during the spraying, We walked across Junction Dam at Bogong where we were directed deep into the forest, to hold up marker balloons filled with nitrogen above the treetops. After the helicopter had passed overhead, the spray drifted down around us. We were then directed to move a further 200 m into the bush, taking our balloons with us to mark a path for the helicopter to make another run.

As we were moving dead phasmids were dropping out of the trees like dead autumn leaves. In one place a white sheet had been stretched between the trees, which had already caught a surprising number of the large green phasmids. We only had to change our positions with the marker balloons twice, before the spraying was finished for the day. By now it was late afternoon and well past our knock off time, so I went home and had a long, hot shower to wash off any remnants of the spray.

Virginia brought home her little report card for the end of the year, which showed she was doing very well, so we were very pleased. At the same time, I hoped that the report cards of Mrs Jacob’s children were equally acceptable!

Before each Christmas, as usual, we went hunting for a suitable Christmas tree up the Bright Gap, but it was getting harder each year to find a suitably shaped and sized pine tree. However, much to Virginia and Graham’s delight we managed to find one, taking it back home for the children to help decorate.

Just before Christmas we had a terrific thunderstorm and a bolt of lightning struck Big Hill and set fire to the bush on the summit. Wally was on holiday at the time. Around 2 p.m. I received a call on the radio to load up our Ute with all the men at Rocky Valley, and bring them down the mountain and up the fire track behind Bogong Lodge to Big Hill.

While Wally was on holiday, I went up to Rocky Valley each day by bus. I of course would have liked to have had the Ute handed over to me while Wally was on holiday, but the Ute was kept in the workshops, which I drove every now and again to a job if a driver was not available, but this was a bit different, driving down the mountain and up Big Hill with a load of blokes on board. I drove very carefully and when I started driving up the steep, Big Hill fire track, the rain started to come down in buckets, so I put the Ute in four wheel drive and continued up the fire track. Charlie Jervis was somewhere behind me in his Bedford two wheel drive utility, with a load of his men. He called me on the radio to stop and reverse to pick up his men as his utility was slipping on the wet track. I reversed down the track a short way, picked up Charlie’s men and drove on up the track to the fire on the summit, with a: “Good on You Smitho,” from Charlie Jervis.

But there was no fire! Believe or not, when we arrived at the scene there was only a few smouldering embers. Together with the help of the men that had been fighting the fire, the heavy downpour of rain had doused the flames. We were no longer needed, but at risk of being struck by lightening, so with the rain still pouring down and thunder and lightning surrounding us. I drove back to Rocky Valley with my men and the Ute intact. I must say I was relieved of having carried out the task requested of me, without any trouble, driving the Ute up and down the mountain, but I have always considered myself to be a good and safe driver even so at 88, as I write this.

Christmas Day for Virginia and Graham was very exciting for them, finding the presents that Father Christmas had left them both, and Donald too, who didn’t know what it was all about, except he had some extra things to play with. We went across to Bright as usual for the morning church service and another Christmas Day at Bogong was gone. On Boxing Day my parents came up to spend the rest of Christmas with us and Dilys cooked a belated, succulent Christmas dinner.

While my parents were with us, they baby sat, when we went to Bill and Tops Smith’s house one night, for a farewell square dance, as they were leaving Bogong for the Latrobe Valley. Wally and Marg, Steph and Eric, Jenny and George, Norma and Greg Stewart were all there. I had never square danced before, but it was a great night. As for square dancing, although I enjoyed the occasion it was not my favourite dance form.

Dilys and I were back playing tennis and summer, with its afternoon thunderstorms was in full swing again. Up at Rocky Valley the High Plains were still a mass of wildflowers mostly yellow and white, with plenty of grasshoppers jumping around in the snow grass, but fishing had lost its interest for me, so they were quite safe.

We received a letter from Dan and Pam, telling us they were coming up to spend a week at the Hume Weir Spillway camping ground again, inviting us to come and spend a day with them, so we arranged a day in the weekend to make the trip i

Pam and Dan at their camp the Spil’way Hilt’n Photo D Terry nto Albury. We packed some food and drinks and drove to the camping ground situated on an excellent site where Pam and Dan had set up their tent, a short distance below, and within sight of the massive Hume Weir Dam.
p<>{color:#000;}. Dan and Pam had put up a sign naming their camp, the SPIL’WAY HILT’N, which was featured in a local newspaper, with a suitable caption below. It was a great reunion for us all, especially the children, who had a wonderful time together. Dan and Pam had brought their small boat and outboard motor, so we went a short trip on the Murray. After an excellent day spent with Dan and Pam on the Murray River and a barbecue of trout and steak, together with the consumption of many glasses of beer, Dilys thought it best, if she drove home and I certainly did not argue as I was not fit to drive. She drove all the way home as usual, very capably.

One afternoon at Rocky Valley, some surveyors came up from Mt Beauty. They needed help to secure large white calico sheets on the summits of some of the high points of the Bogong High Plains for an aerial survey, that was to take place the next day. They said they were behind schedule in placing the sheets. The two mountains, which remained to have their summits marked with the sheets, were the Spion Kopje and the Little Spion Kopje. Because I knew that area of the Bogong High Plains very well, I was asked to take the surveyors in their small Toyoto, 4-wheel drive vehicle, to secure the sheets on to both the summits. I drove along the track past Mt Nelse, then along the broad Spion Kopje spur to the summit of the Spion Kopje, where we secured the first large white sheet without any problems.

I started off down the steep slope toward the Little Spion Kopje a little less than 400 ft in height below, carefully picking a route through bushes, rocks and snow gums to reach the summit, where we secured the sheet. I took it very carefully on the way back up towards the summit of the Spion Kopje. As the Toyoto climbed the steep rise easily, about half way up I drove over a large bush and the Toyoto bellied on a big rock hidden under the bush. I found with dismay that I could not move the Toyoto forward or backward. We were scared at first to jack it up, as it had tilted sideways and we thought it might tip over. Finally, we got out the axe to clear away the bush, and by jacking the Toyoto up just a little, we were able with the axe, to break off slivers of rock from the big rock on which the Toyoto’s differential was resting. F

The Spion Kopje Spur with Big Hill on the left skyline Photo GFS

inally, after further jacking and rock breaking, the Toyoto came free and we were able to climb aboard. I was very careful driving up the remaining distance to the summit of the Spion Kopje, and from there on it was a pleasant drive in fading light back to Rocky Valley.
p<>{color:#000;}. Soon summer came to an end as the days shortened and the afternoon thunderstorms ceased. The autumn leaves exhibited their lovely colours and it was on to winter.

 

CHAPTER 65: A LEAKING HOLDEN AND A FROZEN BULLDOZER March, April, May 1963

I had noticed that the Holden’s radiator coolant needed topping up all the time, and after checking out all the hoses and other sources of possible leaks, I came to the horrible, conclusion, that the water was probably leaking from the head gasket, although there was no sign of water in the engine oil in the sump.

I pulled the head off and sure enough it was the head gasket, as I could see water marks where water was leaking into a cylinder. I fitted a new gasket, and after putting it all together, I again had to keep topping up the water. I Removed the head again, and after inspecting it I determined that the reason for the leak was that the head wasn’t quite flat.

To save money, I attempted to file and scrape the head to the block, a technique not usually applied to rectify this type of trouble, but one in which I was quite adept, having earned the money to go abroad by this type of work.

T

The author at work on the leaking Holden here was a big difference this time, I was scraping and filing cast iron, not aluminium, and besides the light was poor and I had to work in a cramped position.
p<>{color:#000;}. After many hours of backbreaking work, in the dimly lit garage, away from Dilys and the children, I at last thought I had scraped enough to match the block and head surfaces together. I assembled it all together and hoped this would be the last of it.

But it was not to be. It only lasted about a month before it started leaking again, so there was nothing for it, but to send the head to Wodonga and have it ground and pay up. The head came back after about a week, and I assembled it hoping for the best. Driving around for the first few weeks after the repair was a little nerve racking, waiting to see if the leak had been stopped. It had, the head grind cured the problem. Thank goodness! The main lesson to be learned from this motoring debacle, is that even if you purchase a used car from your cousins it will not necessarily be trouble free. The buyer be warned.

A

A Caterpillar D4 bulldozer with a hydraulically operated blade Photo courtesy Williams Adams lthough regrassing of the batters on both Cope racelines was nearly complete, I was still spending some time out there with the regrassing crews and equipment.
p<>{color:#000;}. One cold, windy Monday morning in May, I received an early call to go out to Cope Cut, to have a look at a new Caterpillar D4 bulldozer, one of the smallest dozers in the company’s range at the time. Tommy O’Brien took me out in a utility and as we pulled up alongside the bulldozer, I saw that the engine side panels had already been removed. The sight that met our eyes was something I never imagined was possible.

The top hose connecting the radiator to the engine block was disconnected. On closer inspection I found that it was filled with ice, the bottom hose likewise, but there was more! The engine water jacket was fractured, and had separated from the engine block, when the water in the block froze and expanded.

I was still carrying out my Doctor Pox duties checking all the water cooled equipment for anti freeze in use at Rocky and Pretty Valley, but this bulldozer was not on my list, because it had only been brought up in the last few days. I put my finger in a little pool of liquid water in the block and put it to my lips, and there was no sweet taste, which indicated to me that the coolant did not have any anti-freeze added to it. Why was the bulldozer radiator not filled with anti- freeze? Why did it freeze so solidly? The scenario gradually unfolded.

After the bulldozer had been unloaded and went to work, it was parked with the radiator facing to the north west. Over the weekend the weather had been bitterly cold, no snow, just temperatures well below freezing, with the wind blowing from the north west, so it all froze up. The brand new D4 was taken back down to base workshops at Mt Beauty to see what could be done in the way of repairs. Very little I thought.

Sometime later, I discovered the train of omissions that led to the frozen bulldozer. Before the D4 left William Adams in Clayton, the Caterpillar distributor, anti-freeze was supposed to have been added to the radiator coolant. Evidently it wasn’t. Then the D4 was transported to Mt Beauty, where it was to be given a thorough check over, prior to being sent up to Pretty Valley. Part of this check should have been to check the strength of the anti-freeze coolant in the radiator, however this apparently was not done, so it came up to the High Plains, with only water in the engine cooling system.

I made my Doctor Pox rounds each Monday morning and if the D4 had survived the weekend without freezing, I would have discovered the omission then, and would certainly have wondered why there was not a hint of anti-freeze in the coolant. I would have added the correct amount of anti-freeze without anyone being any wiser.

I heard some time later that a process called Metalocking was used to repair the engine block. I knew of the Metalocking technique and had used it later in my employement with general Electric to keep a large, hydraulic cylinder, on a plastic, moulding machine operating, while a new cylinder came from Japan.

In the light of this knowledge of Metalocking, the damage to the bulldozer was so extensive, that I believed it would not have been possible to repair the engine by this method. A new engine block would be required block would be required, but I never saw the bulldozer again, repaired or otherwise.

 

CHAPTER 66: CATTLE GRAZING ON THE BOGONG HIGH PLAINS June 1963

It was quite noticeable that there were fewer cattle on the Bogong High Plains, than when I first visited there the in the summer of 1945. Even at that time there was a move to reduce the number of grazing cattle, because it was feared that irreparable damage was being done to the moss beds and the snow grass, but. I hoped that there would always be a token number of cattle allowed to graze on the High Plains, simply because they gave a completeness to the charm of the high country.

I for one could not imagine the High Plains, without a head of cattle to be seen.

With regard to the push from various quarters to remove or reduce the number of cattle on the High Plains, a spokesman for the cattlemen had this to say:

One of the most endangered species in the high country is the mountain cattleman. We don’t have the political clout of some, so we are easy targets. But when they are putting heritage listings on buildings in the city, they should stop and consider that mountain cattlemen are a living and productive heritage, an image of our history that should be preserved.” p<>{color:#000;}. Philosophically I agree heartily with those sentiments. In 2015, the Victorian Labor Government voted to end cattle grazing in Victoria’s National Parks and River Red Gum national parks.

Just recently a brochure came into my possession called Maisie’s Pretty Valley Plots. Since 1945 Maisie Fawcett had established experimental plots in Pretty valley and other localities on the Bogong High Plains. The accompanying picture is a copy of the front page of this coloured brochure, which shows the growth inside and outside one of Maisie’s plots.

I remember seeing one of these plots when four of us Rover Scouts hiked across the Bogong High Plains, in 1947. It was near Wallace’s Hut, and it was evident to me then that the growth of snow grass and wildflowers inside the plot, was much more prolific than outside.

I am now of the firm opinion that the Victorian government has made the correct decision banning cattle grazing on The Bogong High Plains, a decision which the NSW government took many years ago, banning cattle grazing on the Snowy Mountains. I have reluctantly come to this conclusion, not only on the basis of my memory of the plot I observed near Wallace’s Hut, together with the photographs shown in Maisie’s brochure, but also after reading the information contained in a document published by the Victorian National Parks Association described below.

The Victorian National Parks Association has published an excellent six page document titled; Alpine Grazing, with the sub-title The Impact of Cattle Grazing on Alpine and Subalpine Plant Communities of The Bogong High Plains. The document can be accessed on the following website:

http://www.vnpa.org.au/campaigns/alps/alpgraz.htm

 

CHAPTER 67: ASSESSING OUR FUTURE ON THE SCHEME June, July, 1963

I was beginning to realise that it was time for me to assess what the future held for me and my family working for the SEC and living in Bogong. Due to the reorganisation and expansion of the High Plains Patrol, made necessary because the total length of all the racelines to be patrolled, were now just over 32 km.

The racelines, together with the other installations that required regular periodic patrolling and inspecting, meant that my role as a member of the patrol, was now quite different than previously. My knowledge of the terrain of the High Plains, coupled with my skiing ability, was not required as much now, as when I first worked with Wally.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed working on the High Plains all year round, most of my future duties would be confined to working as a mechanical fitter on the snow vehicles in the winter. During the summer time construction work at Rocky Valley, as well as at most other places on the Kiewa Scheme was nearly complete, and the only construction work, on the High Plains, was still some r

The Sno-Cat returning from Langford’s Photo W Deans

egrassing at Pretty Valley. SEC workers had erected snowpoles along all the routes to the race lines. The desilting pondage, being constructed by the private contractor McCarthy, was due for completion this year.
p<>{color:#000;}. The work of the High Plains Patrol was going along quite well. Tommy O’Brien had learned to drive the Sno-Cat and was learning some snow craft as he went along. Rod the angry ant, was in his element driving the Snow-Trac. He told me that when he was driving the Snow-Trac, how much he enjoyed observing how different and wonderful the snow covered terrain, of the High Plains was in winter, something he had never imagined. He said it had opened up a whole new world to him. Wally and I sometimes took a ride in the Snow-Trac or Sno-Cat to Langfords’s and Cope racelines and the vortex tank.

On one occasion, when I travelled with Tommy, Collin Tester and Theo to Langford’s, nearing the dam wall on the way back we struck trouble with a track on one side. I got out and had a look and saw it was repairable, but would have taken some time. I said to Tommy that we would roll up the track and slide home on the pontoon.

At first he did not realise what I was talking about, but I explained to him the procedure. After I had disconnected the faulty track, we all helped to roll it up and stow it in the boot, which was not easy, as it was heavy and awkward to handle. Eventually we managed to get it all in the boot.I then got out the sprag bar and spragged the drive shaft axle, to prevent it turning, so that all the drive was transferred to the good track.

We all climbed back in and Tommy started up the engine, put it in gear, and we crawled slowly back, to the workshops, sliding on the pontoon without the track. I had always wanted to try this recovery method, which was described in the instruction manual. That was really why I made no attempt to repair the track. The only problem we encountered was when we came to the road over the dam wall, which had very little snow cover. We lowered the wheels, got out the shovels, and where there was little or no snow over the road, we shovelled snow in front of the trackless pontoon.

By the time we returned to the workshop Tommy had aching arms, because with only the one track driving, the Sno-Cat tended to veer to one side all the time. However, ‘mission accomplished’ and a good experience for us all. When we returned to the workshops I found a length of stout rope and put it in the boot of the Sno-Cat, so that a faulty track could be towed along behind the Sno-Cat on the rope. A complete track was certainly very heavy for four men to manhandle into the boot as we had done, but would have been impossible for two. Of course now that we had the Snow-Trac, any such problems we encountered with the Sno-Cat or the Snow-Trac, a call on the radio would be all that was required for assistance for a faulty vehicle.

Over the next week or so, I gave quite a lot more thought to our future, but I did not say anything to Dilys. I did not want to worry her, as my job here was not in jeopardy. I finally decided a week or so after Queen’s Birthday weekend in June that it was time to think about moving to Melbourne and leaving the SEC. I did not want to work down in the Latrobe Valley, which would be the most likely place I would be transferred to, along with many other SEC personnel, who had already left the Kiewa Scheme to work there. I finally put the bit between my teeth, when I arrived home one day, and said to Dilys: “Honey I have been doing a lot of thinking lately and I have come to the conclusion that from today, it may take us ten years to get out, but our aim will be to leave here and shift to Melbourne. What do you think?”

I told Dilys my thoughts and my reasons for this decision. She thought it was a good idea. She said that she was beginning to be concerned about the children’s limited options for schooling in Mt Beauty. Strangely at the time, neither of us gave any thought to Tom Webb, who called in regularly to see us on his way to Falls Creek. He usually said when he visited us that if I ever wanted to leave the SEC, there was a job for me in Melbourne working for him.

 

CHAPTE4R 68: VICE REGAL VISITORS TO THE SNOW August 1963

During the first week of August, Wally was advised that we were to meet the Governor of Victoria, Sir Rowan Delacombe at the Falls Creek car park at a certain time and date, one day when the weather was fine and sunny. We were to take Sir Rowan in the Sno-Cat for a few hours skiing on the tows in the Basin.

S

Sir Rowan Delacombe

ir Rowan Delacombe had only just been appointed Governor of Victoria, and his visit to the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme was part of a tour he was taking in North East Victoria.
p<>{color:#000;}. His visit to Falls Creek would be quite an honour for us and no doubt a pleasure for him, because he was said to be a good skier. We were given the dimensions of the Vice Regal flag post, so that I could make up a holder to secure the Vice Regal flag to the bonnet of the Sno-Cat. I remade the flag holder indicating the wind direction, which I had made earlier and attached it to the bonnet of the Sno-Cat ready for the appointed day.

Wally was instructed that he was to drive the Sno-Cat, and I was to go along as usual to assist him. We were notified the next day, which was a lovely, fine sunny day, to proceed to Falls Creek to meet the Governor at 1 p.m. I checked everything thoroughly and gave the Sno-Cat windows a good clean, before we drove down about an hour earlier to get the Sno-Cat in position at the start of the road up to the Basin, with the wheels up and the skis down ready to go.

Right on time Sir Rowan arrived in a shiny black Daimler. His chauffeur handed us the Vice Regal flag from his car, which I put on the Sno-Cat. Thankfully it fitted perfectly.

Sir Rowan was a most imposing looking gentleman, with thick, white hair and white moustache. He was dressed in ski gear and boots. The driver took the Governor’s skis from the boot, which I attached to the rack on top of the Sno-Cat, as Wally was being introduced to Sir Rowan. I got in the back seat, while Wally helped Sir Rowan into the front seat beside him and off we went up the road to the Basin. We parked in front of the Bogong Ski Club, where I gave Sir Rowan his skis and watched while he put them on, then with a wave and a thank you, he skied off towards the ski tow up the Pan.

Wally and I stood by the Sno-Cat and watched as he sidestepped up toward the tow. We wanted to see some Vice Regal skiing and we were not disappointed. The tow operators had obviously been told beforehand of the visit, because without getting a ticket he was waved straight through on to the tow.

He rode the tow expertly and it was easy to tell he had ridden on tows previously, so we both watched as he skied down in the Arlberg style of linked stem turns. It was very obvious that he was no novice. He most likely skied in various resorts in Europe where he was stationed, serving once as an Officer of the British sector in Berlin for three years.

While we were waiting we had a few questions from skiers, wanting to have a look and ask about the Sno-Cat, and in particular the small flag flying on the front. Some were quite surprised to find that the Governor of Victoria was a skier and was skiing on the Pan. I said to Wally that I would like to have a couple of runs on the tow next to where Sir Rowan was skiing. Wally offered no objection to my request, so I had two quick runs on perfect snow, and returned to the Sno-Cat. I too got the tow rides for free. After some two hours Sir Rowan returned to us saying that he had enjoyed his skiing very much.

After some small talk Wally helped him into the front seat and we drove back down to the car park, where the Vice Regal flag was transferred back to his Daimler. His skis were put in the boot of the Daimler and with a thank you and a shake of our hands, he was off down to Bogong Lodge, no doubt for a Scotch Whisky, to enjoy the rest of the day with his hosts Wally and Emmy Baldwin.

T

The Snow Trac Rod and the author at the Falls Creek car park waiting for Lady Delacombe Photo W Deans he next day was another beautiful, sunny day, and we received word that we were to be prepared to take Sir Rowan’s wife, Lady Delacombe, on a trip around the High Plains. It was suggested that this time we use the Snow-Trac. The reason for this became very obvious when a short while after noon we were asked to take the Snow-Trac down to Falls Creek to pick up Lady Delacombe’s party.
p<>{color:#000;}. By now Rod was deemed to be a competent driver of the Snow-Trac, and he drove Wally and me down to the Falls Creek car park, where unlike the Sno-Cat, the Snow-Trac was able to be driven straight off the snow on to the bitumen of the car park, where we waited for Lady Delacombe’s party to arrive.

We only had a short wait before an SEC utility arrived with Greg Stewart at the wheel. Greg was now the engineer in charge of most of the operations above Bogong, which included the High Plains Patrol. Soon after the Daimler, this time without the Vice Regal flag, pulled up alongside us in the car park.

Emerging from the car came Lady Delacombe followed by a big black dog, which she referred to as Zara. The chauffeur introduced us all to Lady Delacombe, while Greg introduced Rod, Wally and me. We helped Lady Delacombe, an elegant looking Lady in her 60s, dressed in sensible clothes for the journey into the back seat of the Snow-Trac. Her big, black, setter dog, Zara climbed in after her and lay on the floor at her feet. Greg, Wally and I climbed aboard beside her.

Rod had been told to drive up to Rocky Valley, cross the dam wall and head for Langford’s Gap, so off we went around Windy Corner. I of course, knew Greg very well because he lived on the same bench as us in Bogong, but of all the engineers that lived in Bogong, he was the only one who held himself aloof, compared to all the other engineers. I discovered later that it was Greg who had instructed Wally to tell me to stop working for McCarthy.

As we trundled along, there was hardly a word spoken. Greg was not pointing out any of the landmarks as we passed, not even as we crossed the dam wall. I don’t think anyone knew what to say. That was, until Lady Delacombe ‘broke the ice,’ mentioning that she loved the snow country of Switzerland and Austria, but this snow covered country, was totally different to anything she had seen before.

I decided at this point that I would keep the conversation going. I told Lady Delacombe that I agreed with her, as I had travelled through Europe and skied in Switzerland and Austria. So while Greg and Wally remained mute, I talked quite naturally with Lady Delacombe, pointing out to her various features of the High Plains during the journey to Langford’s Gap and back to Falls Creek. Zara the dog didn’t join in the conversation, nor did it move a muscle for the whole journey! When we arrived back at the car park, Lady Delacombe thanked us all for taking her on such a lovely trip, then turning to me, she said she had enjoyed talking to me about Europe.

I had talked a lot with Wally as we went up and down to work in the Ute, about my adventures overseas, but I am sure it was quite a surprise to Greg to learn that I had travelled abroad.

At the end of Sir Rowan and Lady Delacombe’s first official visit to the Kiewa Scheme as the Governor of Victoria, they were to be farewelled by the schoolchildren from the one teacher Bogong Primary School.

The school children were sent home at lunchtime to clean up and change into any scouting or other uniforms they had. There were nineteen students in all from kindergarten and up, and they planned to line the road at the intersection of the UKVR, and the road down to the School, to wave farewell to the Governor’s car as it passed by.

The new teacher Bob Richardson rang Dilys, when the time was approaching, to ask her if she could come down to the school to help him get all the children up to the corner to meet the Governor. The farewell to the Governor and his Lady went very well and afterwards Dilys wrote the following poem describing the farewell.

 

THE BOGONG SCHOOL

 

Nineteen children hurried home

And quickly ate their lunch,

Cleaned and tidied up themselves,

With vim and lots of punch.

Back along the road to school

To where the ground was shady;

They played until the time came

To meet the Governor and his Lady.

In ones and twos they climbed the track,

Each quietly as a mouse,

Till nearly at the corner——-

Some at the corner house——

A patrolman called out “Hurry”

And the children promptly ran—-

Arriving at the corner, they

Saw a lady and a man.

But, more surprises were in store;

For, who else should they be?

But those very eminent people

They’d come uphill to see!

 

The Governor shook hands with a few,

The cubs, the scouts, the guides,

Their teacher (lady helper shook hands too)

And a few other folks besides.

The Governor declared a holiday,

“Thank you” the children said,

A few more laughs and back to the car

Waiting for them up ahead.

The children ran across from the car.

Waving their flags on the way.

The Governor called out “One big shout”

And the children shouted “Hooray”

The car moved off, slowly at first

And more hoorays shook the air,

Sending them off with a happy sound

While the children continued to stare

.

For its not every Governor who leaves his car

When his tight schedule is right up to date,

And smilingly stands on a cold windy road

To greet nineteen children running late!

 

CHAPTER 69: WE DECIDE TO LEAVE BOGONG AND THE SEC September 1963

T

My Very good friend Tom Webb This photo taken 16 days before his 100^th^ birthday, still very alert and in good health for his age

he Governor’s visit was to be the last important event that occurred during my time working on the Kiewa Scheme, because a week later we had our usual visit from Tom Webb on his way to ski at Falls Creek. He did not call in to see us last year and that was probably why neither Dilys nor I thought of Tom’s offer of a job in Melbourne, when we made the big decision to leave the SEC.
p<>{color:#000;}. After we all sat down for a cup of tea, I asked Tom if the offer of a job in Melbourne was still there. He said it was, so I told him that I had come to a decision, to make it our aim to shift to Melbourne, even if it took ten years.

He straight away asked me when I could start with him in Melbourne, saying he had a job for me as a merchandising manager, with his company Tawco Products, which made engine conversions for boats. We talked about shifting down to the city and all that it would involve. Tom said he would call in again on his way back to Melbourne from Falls Creek.

When he left, Dilys and I just looked at each other in disbelief, because as soon as we could find a place to live in Melbourne, there was nothing to stop us leaving immediately. I said to Dilys: “I am going down to see Betty and Graham, to tell them what had transpired and ask them for their advice.” Dilys thought that was a good idea and began packing immediately. I drove down to Mt Beauty and told Betty and Graham the whole story. I asked Graham:

“What do you think Graham, about this opportunity should we go or not?”

Graham thought for a minute, asked me a few questions, then turned to me and said one word: “Go.”

Betty and Graham said that of course they and the children would miss us, but they were also aware that there would be great changes on the Kiewa Scheme now that the construction works were all but complete. They also knew about my former friendship with Tom Webb, and how I had left the Victorian Railways to work for him to earn the money to go overseas. Graham’s advice for me to go, was therefore, with the full knowledge of the circumstances. I drove home and told Dilys that Graham and Betty said we should go. We made the final decision there and then that I would accept Tom’s offer of work. We would shift as soon as we could find a place to stay in Melbourne. I rang my father to tell him that I was leaving the SEC and that we were shifting to Melbourne. I asked him if he could see if there were any places nearby to rent. My news came as a bit of a shock to my parents, but they thought we were wise to leave. My father said he would look around straight away for a place to rent.

Tom called in on his way home from Falls Creek, and we told him that thanks to him, we had made the decision and we would be leaving as soon as possible. Dilys and I decided not to say anything to anybody about our plans. I did not even tell Wally.

The next weekend we went to Melbourne, and because my mother and father were now looking forward to having their eldest son, his wife and three children close by, they wasted no time in finding a house for us to rent in Rosanna, only a short distance from theirs. We went to have a look at the house that my father had found, deciding that it would have to do until we found something better. Next we located a furniture remover to come and remove us in one week, subject to confirmation and I made a quick trip out to see Tom Webb at his small factory in Brunswick to tell him we should be down in a fortnight.

When we returned to Bogong we told Virginia and Graham that we were moving to Melbourne. We weren’t sure what their reaction would be, but they took it in their stride, especially when we said we would be living near Grandma and Pa-Pa.

On the Monday night I wrote out three resignations, one to the SEC, the second to the Bogong Ski Club and the third to the school parents committee. I realised also at the time that I was only three months short of my ten years long service leave, but I was always a firm believer in the motto that one must ‘strike while the iron is hot.’ On Tuesday morning I gave Wally my letter of resignation to pass on. He was of course surprised, but when I told him our reasons for leaving, he understood. Now that the word was out, we received many phone calls and visits from Bogong people.

Our minds were in a muddle as we began packing. We used some of the tea chests we had stored in the shed after our shift from Mt Beauty to pack many of our goods and chattels. Dilys had already started putting things away in gelignite boxes on the back verandah, when I had first mentioned my intentions.

Some of our former good friends at Bogong had already left Bogong, Irena and Mick Milovanovic our next door neighbours, the Teeses, the Boyds, Isobel and Norm Savage, Bill and Topsy Smith and the Trathens who had shifted to Mt Beauty.

I imagined that the phones were running hot in some quarters. “Have you heard the Smiths are leaving Bogong?” “Did Gordon have a row with Greg?” This was one of the questions that was asked of Dilys by some of the wives. I really wondered what rumour or gossip had prompted that question about Greg and me?

The blokes in the High Plains Patrol were of course very curious as to why I was leaving so quickly, so I told them my reasons; to which the general comment was: ‘Good on you Gordon, you are doing the right thing.’

I took the car to work one day so that I could call in and tell Ore and Suzie that we were moving to Melbourne as I had not seen either of them for some time. Suzie however, was not there. Ore told me she had left him and gone to the USA. He never told me the circumstances of the break up and I never asked, but. I immediately thought of my autographed ballet programs, so I asked Ore if she had left them with him. He said that no, she hadn’t.

I was devastated! Quite apart from them being valuable souvenirs of my life in London, I imagined they were worth quite a lot of money to a collector if I had decided to sell them.

 

CHAPTER 70: OUR LAST WEEK ON THE KIEWA SCHEME September 1963

My work with the SEC on the Kiewa Scheme, was an experience that exceeded my wildest dreams as a person who was a skier and loved the mountains. I never imagined the day I joined the SEC almost ten years ago, that I would have such an exciting work experience. Then after marrying the most beautiful girl in the world, we would share the great experience of living in the Alps and raising a family of three lovely children.

U

The huge cornice on the Ruined Castle Spur above Sun Valley

p at Rocky Valley during my the last week, I went a few trips in both snow vehicles, taking in the beauty and magnificence of the Bogong High Plains for the last time, until I was not sure when. I admired the huge, cornice on the Ruined Castle Spur overlooking Sun Valley. The cornice, like me, was not going to be a part of the Bogong High Plains for very much longer.

Since Falls Creek became a major ski resort, with its many ski lifts, skiers skiing over the lip of this cornice as it was building, prevented the cornice from attaining its former awesome form, in fact I am told that Falls Creek Management, purposely prevent it from becoming very large for reasons of skier safety.

If the present day skier wishes to see a large cornice in its natural form, sculptured by wind and snow on the Bogong High Plains, they should venture to Mt Nelse where a huge cornice builds up most years on its eastern face.

From the vortex tank and valve house, I gazed up at Mt McKay draped in snow, with a cornice running along its summit ridge, once again reminding me of the beautiful photograph in Frank Smythe’s excellent book Valley of Flowers. I gazed across the ice and snow covered expanse of the Rocky Valley reservoir, remembering what it looked like when I first saw it in 1945, with the frail l

The Snow-Cat with the dam in the background Photo W Deans

ooking, snow gum structure, of the Sydney Harbour Bridge spanning the Rocky Valley Creek.
p<>{color:#000;}. W

On one of my last trips in the Snow-Cat looking west from around Watchbed Creek Photo W Deans

as the flooding of Rocky Valley and the Rocky Valley dam wall an eyesore, compared to the virgin valley of snow grass and snow gums that it replaced? I didn’t think so. The Bogong High Plains now has a beautiful lake that in summer reflects the blue of the sky above. What’s more it provides water for snow making for the Falls Creek There is still the relatively untouched expanse of Pretty Valley, which to my eyes, was always a much more picturesque, high alpine plain or valley, than Rocky Valley ever was, especially in summer. On reflection, I believe that the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme, enhanced the beauty of the Bogong High Plains, and not the reverse. p<>{color:#000;}. Once our move was known, friends wanted to throw a party for Dilys, but she declined all these offers with thanks, because she was so busy packing and looking after the children especially our youngest, Donald.

Pam Landy, who lived one house away, refused to accept Dilys’s excuses and invited a roomful of people, all from the top bench, second bench and others. The party was a very happy one with most of Dilys’s Bogong lady friends attending.

Not to be outdone I decided to have a small party myself while Dilys was having hers. I got on the phone and invited Graham Napier, Wally Deans, Bill Landy and Wally Baldwin, who was a great friend of mine through the ski club and whose wife Emmy was at Dilys’s party. Apart from wanting him to be at my party, I had an ulterior motive for inviting Wally Baldwin, because I hoped I could get him to recite his excellent poem about the Kiewa Hydro-electric Scheme, which would be very appropriate for my farewell party.

After my friends arrived, we sat around the fire swapping yarns, listening to records and drinking Scotch whisky, which Dilys bought for me each year, since we were married as a Christmas present, We had a great night. Wally Baldwin and I drank Scotch, while the others, not Scotch drinkers, had a beer or two or a cup of tea or coffee.

The time was getting on and Wally Baldwin appeared to be in the right frame of mind, or Scotch, so I asked him if he would recite his famous poem for us. Just to make sure, I produced a baby’s bottle, complete with a teat, with some Scotch in it, so that Wally could drink from the bottle, as he recited. The result was quite hilarious, as Wally with the baby’s bottle in hand, with feigned reluctance commenced reciting. I had read the words of the poem previously, but never had the good fortune to have it recited by the author, his rendition of the poem being especially enchanting as he recited it in his broad Yorkshireman’s accent.

 

OUR RUDDY ‘YDRO SCHEME

 

I took me seat in a train one day,

An’ the bloke wot’s next to me

Folds up his bloomin’ paper,

An’ puts it on his knee.

I

Wally Baldwin Photo courtesy of Steph Martin

could see wot he’d bin readin’
p<{color:#000;}. It was about our ruddy ‘ydro scheme

An’ half of it was lies.

 

Wot’s a ‘ydro scheme?

I could see he didn’t know,

So I ups an’ tells him all about

Kiewa-Bogong show.

“For a ’ydro electric-scheme,” I says,

“You need a lot of ‘ands,

A Con/Eng. cooks and orderlies,

Blue prints and lots of plans.

 

“You need a few surveyors ,

With assistants of some kind,

To roam the ‘ills and knock in pegs

Wot no one else can find.

You need a lot of foremen,

An’ blokes called leading ‘ands,

You need some civil engineers

To muck about with plans”

 

This poem was written by ‘Bogong’s Poet Laureate’ Wally Baldwin in the early days of the Kiewa scheme. “You need a lot of office staff,”
p<{color:#000;}. Wot for I couldn’t say,

But some of them are useful.

The day we gets our pay

You need a lot of transport

To run the boys about

An’ quite a lot of motor cars

For the ‘eads when they goes out.”

 

“You need an officer of the law,

To get a licence for tour pub,

To see the boys behave themselves

An’ don’t play that game two-up

For a ‘ydro electric scheme” I says

“You’ll need millions to pay bills,

An’ there’s one thing more, I near forgot…

You need a river an’ some ‘ills.”

 

W

All packed up ready to leave

e all cheered and clapped Wally at the end of his poem, recited in his wonderful Lancashire accent. His poem puts in a nutshell everything that ‘a ‘ydro scheme’ was all about, which my family and I were privileged to be part of for nearly ten years. Not long after, the party broke up with everyone wishing each other good luck for the future. After the party we had another day before we moved, which was spent packing.
p<>{color:#000;}. My last day finally came as an SEC employee and member of the High Plains Patrol, when Wally drove me up to Falls Creek in the Ute and I completed the journey to the workshops in the Sno Trac.

I handed in my skis and skiing gear, shook hands with everyone, with a special warm farewell and handshake with Wally. I was not really sure, whether he was pleased to see me leave or not.

A

The beautiful Spion Kopje from the Falls Creek car park Photo GFS

fter warming myself beside the wonderful Romesse stove for the last time, I climbed into the back of the Snow-Trac and drove off with Rod to Falls Creek, where a utility was waiting to take me to Bogong for my final pay. Before I climbed into the utiliy, as I had on many previous occasions with great joy, I looked across at one of the most beautiful views to be seen on the Kiewa Scheme, the Spion Kopje with its huge, high spur, laden with snow, an absolutely, magnificent sight. No other ski resort, not even Mt Hotham, has a vista like this for the delight of its inhabitants.
p<>{color:#000;}. Now with the day of our departure from Bogong upon us, our house was alive with gelignite boxes and tea chests, as we made ourselves ready for the furniture van to arrive the next day.

Virginia was still going to school and the school holidays were a week away. Our two cats Bimbo and Sooty were going to be looked after by two family friends in Bogong, and Virginia and Graham were quite happy with that arrangement. Both cats slept on the back verandah at night. They would be missed, because they had been a great joy not only to the children, but also to us as a family.

I don’t think I realised the finality of our decision to leave House 8 Bogong and all our friends there, until the furniture van backed up to our door in the late morning of the next day. The furniture was quickly loaded, and the piano, much to Dilys’s relief, was correctly handled. The canvas cover on the furniture van was pulled down, and the backboard closed. The driver said goodbye and we all walked outside, and watched the van drive along the bench and disappear from sight.

I then brought the Holden around, which was already partly packed complete with the roof rack on top and finished putting the last few items on board. There was only one item that we found was too big to pack, our huge Christmas bowl used for cooking. Dilys and I, hand in hand, had one last look around the house a

Our last look at the beautiful view from our clothesline of Mt Hillary and the BHP Image GJR

Figure 1

nd shut the door.
p<>{color:#000;}. We stood by the clothes line for a brief moment, enjoying for the last time the familiar, wonderful view of the two Spion Kopjes, while further up the valley, the high, snow covered skyline, which I now knew was Mt Hillary, stood out in brilliant white against a cloudy sky. I gave Dilys a hug and a kiss, and we all got in the car.

Without looking back, I drove along until we came to Waite’s house at the end of the bench. Barbara Waite came out to say goodbye, and was delighted when Dilys gave the cooking bowl to her.

A

The Divide or Quarts Knob Spur from the UKVR Photo GFS

s I drove on towards Mt Beauty I looked across at the snow covered, Divide Spur, (Quarts Knob Spur), appearing more mighty than usual. Luckily the weather was fine for our last look at this great Spur.
p<>{color:#000;}. I turned to Dilys and the children and said to have a good look at Mt Bogong as we drove down the mountain, and remember what they saw, because they would not be seeing a beautiful snow covered mountain like that again for a long time. There was really no need to tell the children to yell out “Cranky Charlie, Cranky Charlie!” as we drove around the bend, but to yell out “goodbye” as well, which they did with gusto.

We said goodbye and thank you, to the patrolman at the top gate as we passed through. He got a surprise to learn that we were leaving and wished us good luck.

T

Junction Dam, Lake Guy, Bogong Village, and Mt McKay

hen it was off down to see Betty and Graham Napier to say a quick goodbye to them. We gave them our new address. Then after many sad goodbyes and best wishes, together with vows to see each other soon, we were off over the Bright Gap, to a new world of exciting experiences, bringing to a close our life of working and raising a family on the Kiewa Scheme.
p<>{color:#000;}. I

Mt Bogong from near the bottom gate

n this book, Concrete Hard Rock Earth and Snow Part Two, There are no watercolours, because my painting came to a virtual stop when we shifted to Bogong, due to a lack of time, coupled with the delightful distraction of being a parent of two, and then three lovely children.
p<>{color:#000;}. H

My incomplete watercolour of Junction dam and Lake Guy

owever to conclude above are two small watercolours ( the originals are A4 size), in memory of our life spent in Mt Bogong and Mt Beauty. The first, a watercolour I never completed, is shown on the right. Earlier this year, I decided to attempt to complete the watercolour using wonderful facilities of Photo shop. The result is shown above. Copies of all the watercolours I have inserted in both parts of this book are available from the author.
p<>{color:#000;}.  

CHAPTER 71: AFTERWARDS 1963 T0 2015

The day I left Bogong in August 1963 for a new and exciting life with my family in the city, I did not however, end my love affair with the mountains, even though it was another ten years before I buckled on a pair of skis again, on Mt Buller.

Some years later I was thrilled to be able to ski with my daughter Virginia at Falls Creek and Mt Buller, then later with my elder son Graham on Mt Buller. As I grew older, I eventually became a fair weather, downhill skier, selecting a sunny, winter day or two, to ski on Mt Baw Baw, which brought back to me, many happy memories of earlier Rover Scout and Youth Hostel Association times, having to climb up the steep, muddy, log slide, from Newlynes Mill, for a day’s skiing.

S

An approximate 20° section of the view from Doncaster Shopping Town car park. I photographed and added the names of the mountains and their heights

oon after we shifted to Melbourne, Dilys selected a house in Box Hill North, which we purchased. It was a wonderful choice, because of the spectacular manner in which the area has progressed. There was another attraction for me, when we shopped at Doncaster Shopping Town at least twice weekly. From the car park, I am able to gaze across to the mountains of my youth, the beautiful, dark blue skyline, of the nearby ranges and the Great Dividing Range. The nearly 180° view extends from Mt Disappointment in the northwest to the Dandenong Ranges in the east.
p<>{color:#000;}. This extensive panorama is never the same from day to day, varying in shades of blue and grey with the changing cloud cover and weather conditions. In the wintertime it was a great thrill for me if viewing conditions were favourable because, if I strained my eyes, or with the aid of binoculars, I was able to see the snow on Lake Mountain and some of the higher summits in the far distance, beyond the Black Spur. Every time that I gaze at the many summits on this magnificent skyline, it brings back many happy memories of the times I visited, or climbed many of these summits. Such is my love affair with the mountains in my retirement, ardent admiration from a distance, but no less fervent than in my earlier years.

In 1952 I spent two weeks in Vienna and visited the famous Vienna Woods, which are situated about the same distance from Vienna as the Dandenongs are from Melbourne. They also have two high points of virtually the same height, but in my opinion the Dandenongs are by far much more attractive, with regards to the variety of forestry, local points of interest, views and overall beauty, and I believe that this is still so, as I write.

I worked for Tom Webb for three months after we left Bogong, but the job was not to my liking. I joined Australian General Electric and remained with the company for 18 years until they closed. I then began teaching pneumatics and hydraulics at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology until I retired.

While the children were still in their teens, we made yearly visits to Mt Beauty in May, to visit our many friends and relax surrounded by the magnificent alps. I began to play golf again at Mt Beauty. After I retired we holidayed in Bright, that beautiful town at the foot of the Victorian Alps, and I skied on at Mt Hotham and Falls Creek. On those yearly visits to Mt Beauty and Bright we usually drove up to Falls Creek and the High Plains. On the way we always drove in to have a look at House 8 in Bogong, which in later years was up for sale, but was basically unchanged from the time when we lived there.

In 2002 however, when we went to look at the house, there had been great changes in the surrounds. A gate had been erected in the drive adjacent to the front gate, and a portion of the back yard had been cleared. The greatest change was in the trees down the batter, which had grown so high and dense that a view of the Spion Kopje, the Grey Hills and Mt Hillary, was barely visible. Worse still, was the sight of a discarded, rusty, car engine, dumped half way down the batter!

Dilys and I both declared that that would be our last visit to House 8, we would hang on to the happy memories we had of House 8 in the past. Our decision was rather prophetic, because we heard that House 8, Milovanovics next door and Bogong Lodge, had been burnt to the ground, in the disastrous fires of January 2

House 8 and Milovanovic’s house all gone

003. In a sense I was relieved that House 8 no longer existed, but was saddened by the loss of Bogong Lodge, the commissioner’s residence.
p<>{color:#000;}. In late 2004 Dilys and I were staying in Bright and we decided to visit Bogong and see what was left of our house and Bogong Lodge. There was nothing left, all three had all been burnt to the ground ours Milonanovichs and Bogong Lodge.

We then went on a round trip across the High Plains and Buckety Plains, and down the winding, dirt road, to the Omeo Highway and on to Omeo. We were amazed at how quickly the regrowth of the trees was occurring after the fires just a year ago. We returned to Mt Beauty and back to Bright following the route we took on our honeymoon from Melbourne to Mt Beauty through Glen Wills (the Glen Will hotel was no longer there) and the Mitta Mitta Valley.

Around this time, my life on skis came to an end at Falls Creek, when I discovered that my skis no longer obeyed the commands given to them by my brain, which before had been automatic, I didn’t have to think about it!

W

7 The Bogong Hotel as it was in 194 Photo courtesy of Southern Hydro e visited Mt Beauty and Bright for many varied events, some sad, but one particularly joyous event occurred in 1993 when my daughter Virginia was married in the Anglican Church in Tawonga. We held the reception in the Bogong Hotel, which sadly was burnt down in December 2011.
p<>{color:#000;}. Apart from the reception in the hotel, I have very happy memories of the Bogong Hotel going back to the time in 1945 when, with three other Rover Scouts, we went on a nine day hike over the Bogong High Plains (see my Ebook Mountains of my Youth).

A memory still vivid in my mind, was when we descended the Staircase Spur and could see the roof of the Bogong Hotel in the far distance. Did the Mountain Creek Road, which we joined at the bottom of the Staircase go straight to the hotel? No. It circumnavigated all the paddocks! It was a blistering, hot 100°F, summer day and when at last, we fronted the bar of the hotel, I can still recall the feel and taste of those lovely, cold, lemon squashes, sliding down my throat.

Since leaving the Scheme in 1963, I have been disappointed that the Kiewa Hydro-Scheme was never completed, and that a 1,000 ft (actually 420 m) head of potential, electric energy, was being wasted when the water, having been through the turbines in No. 1 McKay Creek P.S. tailrace, flowed down the Pretty Valley Branch of the East Kiewa River into Lake Guy, before it was used to produce power in No.3 P.S. However, in 2006 I was thrilled to learn that the Bogong Power station and its infrastructure was to be constructed, the project originally called No 2 Development.

In 2009 construction was complete and in 2010 we went to Mt Beauty and up to Bogong to see the new power station, to be known as Bogong No 2. Approaching the station, which is situated just below the tennis courts, the unimposing, entrance doors to the station did not indicate what lay behind, in fact underground, because that is where the headrace tunnel connected to the turnbines and where the power is generated, a total of 140 MW of peak, electrical power, from two turbines.

T

The McKay Headpond where the water flows from McKay No 1 P S. to the Bogong No 2 P.S. headrace tunnel. Photo courtesy AGL

he two power stations McKay Creek and Bogong No 2 go on line together, the water flowing directly from one power station to the other by means of the Mckay Headpond, directing water from No 1 P.S. into the Bogong headrace tunnel down to No 2 P.S.
p<>{color:#000;}. An excellent description of the planning and construction of Bogong No 2 Power Station titled; Bogong Power Development links Kiewa Gap, can be obtained from the following website:

http://ecogeneration.com.au/news/bogong_power_development_links_kiewa_gap/2023

On December 10th Dilys and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary, and just before we celebrated the day at the Box Hill Golf Club, where we had both been members for over twenty years, my son Donald and family, as an anniversary present, took us for a week’s holiday in a guest house Tawonga South.

Over the years I had kept in touch with Christine Walker, Southern Hydro’s Corporate manager, who was a great help to me in writing the original book, Working and Raising a Family On the Kiewa Scheme.

On the first day of the holiday, Christine arranged for me to meet Barbara Pyle of the Kiewa Valley Historical Society as she thought that my book might be of interest to the Society. My son went with me and it was quite an enjoyable meeting with Barbara and her husband Roger there to meet me.

O

My meeting with the Historical Society L to R Barbara Pyle, Christine Walker, the author, Cecil Dobson, Graham Pyle Photo D Smith

ne person I did not expect to see at the meeting was my dear old friend Cecil Dobson. It was so wonderful to see him again after so many years.
p<>{color:#000;}. Cecil’s Friend and business partner Ore Frueauf who was also our very good friend and my best man at our wedding, in the rush to leave Bogong we completely forgot to tell Ore we were leaving. However, we rang him when we got to Melbourne, and we saw him again on the many occasions when we visited Falls Creek and Tawonga South, after he had left Falls Creek. Sadly in 1997 Ore, ‘the perfect host of Falls Creek’, one of the many accolades bestowed on him, died. I attended his wake in the Bogong Hotel, where we all drank a Vodka in his memory.

AGL purchased Southern Hydro and as I was writing these two book, I contacted Marion Birt who replaced Christine Walker as Corporate Service Manager of AGL. Marion was a great help to me in answering many questions I had about the Scheme, especially with regard to the Bogong power station. Marion also arranged for me to visit some of the areas I especially wanted to see on the Scheme.

I was working on the boring of the McKay tailrace, when I was transferred to Rocky Valley with Wally Deans, and I was curious to see what it was like now that Bogong No 2 was built. Most of all I wanted to find out if the High Plains Patrol still existed, and in what form it operated in 2015, fifty years two years after I left in 1963.

I had hurt my hip and was not able to see the tailrace and Headpond, but Marion supplied me with photos, one of which is shown on the previous page. The highlight of my holiday was going up to the Rocky Valley workshop with my son, his wife and daughter. Marion arranged for my visit and I met the two rangers, Brian Maddison and Brett Cope who had taken Wally and my place 55 years ago.

Rocky Valley workshops L to R The author, Brian Maddison and Brett Cope Photo D Smith

It was thrilling to talk to both of these men, Brian Maddison, a descendant of a pioneer family of the High Plains, and Brett Cope (no relation to Mt Cope he assured me). It was interesting to see the new equipment. Excavators to clear the racelines of snow bloackage where we had to manually dig them out with a shovel and spade.
p<>{color:#000;}. A later model Snow-Trac and double pontoon Sno-Cat, which I did not see because it was locked in a shed nearby, are now instantly available for use all year round, the maintenance being carried out on site. Most of the reporting and inspections of the infrastructure are as they were in my time. The intake structure gate is now operated electrically, not by the small VW engine. One of the great changes now, 55 years later, is that when readings are taken at the vortex tank and syphon, due to Worksafe regulations, harnesses have to be used. This is so even though the ladder and walkway (not the syphon) are fully guarded. I am sure also that life jackets are also required when using the dinghy. The Rocky Valley workshop had been replaced by a new, modern building, with offices and work rooms. The double workshop doors are opened by remote control, with no need to use a fuse lighter to melt the ice in padlock to open the door in the wintertime.

A very welcome spin off from the construction of the Bogong power station is the sealing of the road from Falls Creek over the High Plains and down to the Omeo Highway, using rock spoil from the construction of the Bogong power station.

A

One of the signs erected on the High Plains

fter we left the workshop drove along the sealed road past Langfords Gap and up to the track going to Wallaces hut. I was particularly pleased to see all excellent, new informative, signage, a credit to whoever designed and erected them all. I would like to thank Christine Walker and Marion Birt for making probably, my last visit to Mt Beauty and the Scheme a very rewarding one.
p<>{color:#000;}. And so these two books come to an end, as did my visit. I was very fortunate to spend nearly ten years of my life working on the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme, which to this day has given me so much enjoyment writing about those times, with the help of my dear wife Dilys.

It is my hope that one day the picturesque Rocky Valley Reservoir, the highest dam above sea level in Australia serving a hydro-electric station, will be given a suitable name as has Lake Guy at Bogong, named after an early engineer of the Scheme. I have three names in mind, Lake Romuld, Lake Rufenacht and Lake St.Elmo.

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The Rocky Valley dam, reservoir and workshop Photo GFS

artin Romuld and Adrian Rufenacht, together with Trygve Olsen, engineers, carried out early investigations, to determine the possibility of building dams for the construction of a hydro-electric scheme from waters derived from the Bogong High Plains. Those investigations led eventually to the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme as it is today. Tony and Skippy St Elmo had the vision to see that Falls Creek ‘the bowl’ would make an ideal skiing area and they were the pioneers of what today is the premium ski resort in Victoria. If the reservoir were named either Lake Romuld, Lake Rufenanacht or Lake St Elmo, my choice, it would add a sense of charm and interest for tourists, who would wonder who Romuld, Rufenacht or St Elmo were when viewing the beautiful, blue, expanse of water in summer, and in winter when it is covered by ice and snow.
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CHAPTER 72: AN SEC HONOUR ROLL

Listed below are the names of SEC personnel who worked on the Scheme I have mentioned in my books. They are persons of many occupations who were responsible for the construction of the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme, which continues to operate as an environmentally, ideal system, supplying peak power electricity to Victoria to this day.

Andreson Bob Mann Len Smith Bill

Barwick Ian Martin Eric Smith Gordon

Baldwin Wally McBain Bill Smith Jack

Becker Peter McCulloch Alec Soucup George

Bell Harry McDowell Rod St. Elmo Toni

Boyd Ron McKew Bill Stewart Greg

Carey Alan Mills Ken Teese Graham

Croucher Collin Minty Bill Tester Collin

Deans Wally Milanovic Mick Tratham Norm

Dobson Cecil Napier Graham Walker Christine

Frueauf Orest Neilson Jack White Snow

Greenlees Alan O’Brien Paddy Williams HHC

Henshaw Earnie O’Brien Tommy Wilmot Paddy

Horne Lew Omerod Jack Woods John

Jarvis Charlie Penny Len Ziebell Harry

Kirchner Theo Rufenacht Adrian Ziebell Kelly

Korne Rudi Savage Norm

Landy Bill Shields Joe

 

 

 

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The author age 24

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BOUT THE AUTHOR
p<>{color:#000;}. Gordon James Robert Smith was born in 1927 in Victoria. He served an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner with the Victorian Railways (VR) and qualified as a tradesman in 1949. He was a member of the Boy Scouts, Rover Scouts and the Youth Hostels Association (YHA). Together with another YHA member he left Australia in 1951 to travel by ship to the UK on a working and backpacking holiday for two years. He returned to Australia in 1953. Soon after, in December 1953, he joined the SEC Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme. In 1954 he married Dilys Terry. He worked for nine years on the Scheme, raising a family of a girl and two boys, Virginia, Graham and Donald. In 1963 he and his family left the SEC and shifted to Melbourne where he worked for Australian General Electric (AGE) and as a part time teacher of pneumatics at the Royal Melbourne Technical College (RMIT) until AGE closed down in 1983. He retired in 1993 as a full time teacher of Fluid Power at RMIT. In 1999 he suffered a stroke and small heart bypass after which his son Graham set him up with a computer system. He began writing books about his life. He is now 88 and lives with his wife in Box Hill North.

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The author age 88

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OOKS BY THE AUTHOR
p<>{color:#000;}. He co-authored a technical book, Pneumatic Control for Industrial Automation, published by John Wily and has written four other books all unpublished; Aussie Backpacking Abroad The Beginning 1951-1953, Mountains of My Youth, Working and Raising a Family On The Kiewa Scheme and Learning a Trade 1944 to 1949 (self published). He has published the following Ebooks on Shakespir. Two Voyages—My Journey Through Occupied Austria 1952—To the Swiss Alps via Venice—The Assimilation Of An Aussie Backpacker—Backpacking in 1952—An Aussie Backpacking Londoner—Back to Australia via France and Italy–Working on the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme 1953-1959, and this last book The High Plains Patrol 1959-1963.

[email protected]

 


The High Plains Patrol 1959-1963

The High Plains Patrol describes how in 1959 with the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme very near to completion, with only the Langfords and Cope racelines and a small weir being constructed by private companies soon to be finished, year-round maintenance of the infrastructure on the Bogong High Plains (BHP) into the future, would be a necessity. To carry out this work, which involved periodic inspection, reporting and mechanical maintenance of this infrastructure, the High Plains Patrol was formed. Initially only two patrolmen were selected to become members of the patrol, myself and a civil foreman Wally Deans, Wally because he had a very good knowledge of the infrastructure, on the BHP and could handle a pair of skis. I was selected because I was known to SEC engineers of the Scheme who, with me, were fellow members of the Bogong Ski Club. They knew that not only was I a very good skier, but I had hiked and skied with the Rover Scouts over the BHP, and had acquired a very good knowledge of the terrain in both summer and winter conditions. And so it was a great thrill for me to become a member of the High Plains Patrol with Wally. Our duties were to maintain the many items of infrastructure and equipment on the BHP at Rocky and Pretty Valleys. This involved the taking and recording of measurements and other data as well as a number of documented schedules of inspection, which were then sent to Mt Beauty or Bogong for evaluation. Patrolling and inspections of the installations at Pretty Valley, the weir, vortex tank and valve house, were carried out twice weekly, together with patrolling each of the racelines in operation weekly, then twice weekly after the first fall of snow. There was a report sheet for each raceline, in which we noted anything that had, or was likely to affect the free flow of water. Inspection of the valve house below the dam wall was carried out twice weekly and the intake structure twice each month. All of the infrastructure, including the dam, headrace tunnel, racelines, vortex tank and weir were elements of No 2 Development, designed to produce a head of water to supply the turbines of McKay Creek power station. The inspections and maintenance of the racelines were carried out on foot with transport to the various locations by utility truck, and in the winter months by ski and over snow vehicles. As can be imagined the work was interesting, thrilling and in the winter could be quite challenging and at times uncomfortable and difficult, but for me it was the highlight of the work experiences of my life. When all the racelines were completed extra raceline patrolmen were required to carry out the work. They were recruited from SEC employees who, although some not skiers or who had extensive knowledge of the BHP, were interested and keen to become members of the High Plains Patrol. Another over-snow vehicle a Snow-Trac was purchased to work with the Sno-Cat. Drivers were recruited for both of these leaving Wally to oversee the day to day operations of the patrol. The patrol’s activities also included two search and rescue missions, and when they visited the Kiewa Scheme, taking Victoria’s Governor Sir Rowan Delecombe skiing at Falls Creek, and his wife Lady Delecombe on a sight seeing tour of the BHP in our over snow vehicles. In the meantime we had another baby a boy and our two oldest were in school at Bogong. We were very happy living in Bogong, but finally after all of the construction work on the BHP was complete and my skills were no longer needed as they were when I first joined the patrol with Wally, I decided that it was time to shift back to Melbourne, where I had been offered work by the same good friend who I had worked for to get the money to go abroad. So just three months short of ten years of marvellous working life with the SEC on the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme we moved to Melbourne.

  • Author: GORDON J R SMITH
  • Published: 2016-02-20 00:41:19
  • Words: 75518
The High Plains Patrol 1959-1963 The High Plains Patrol 1959-1963