1978 the Strathgordon Underground Power Station surveys where I worked for many years were scaling down and I was transferred to the Lower Pieman Scheme at Stringer Creek.
Moving to Stringer Creek from the Strathgordon Chalet for most people would have been disappointing, depressing and devastating, not for me though I enjoyed working in the most remote areas of Western Tasmania with many new challenges and great prospects of improving myself as a good surveyor. Strathgordon Chalet provided Motel style accommodation, rooms serviced every day.
Services in Strathgordon included Cafe, Bank, Laundromat, Service Station, Supermarket, Games Hall, Swimming Pool, School, Church, Hairdresser, large Canteen, Police Station, Medical Centre, TV and Telephones, with good well maintained sealed roads to Hobart.
Arriving at the Zeehan HEC depot after a long drive from Hobart, my private car was locked in the compound, I picked up my HEC Toyota Landcruiser and started the road trip to Stringer Creek, it was a slow never ending journey the first time, with no one showing me the way, with almost no signage and on rough narrow tracks.
Arriving at Stringer Creek camp with none of the above Strathgordon amenities, it was like moving back in time about 15 or 20 years, I was greeted with blankets and a pair of sheets and shown to my sleeping quarters an old vertical board hut with louvre windows each end, lights, heating by gas. This Camp was known as the lower Stringer Creek Camp above the Pieman River on the Western side.
This camp was originally a tent camp with a vertical board kitchen / diner; later tents were replaced by the vertical board huts. The only outside communication for me was by VHF radio from my survey vehicle car to car and back to the Survey Head Quarters at Tullah.
Next morning I located my two new Chainmen “with no surveying experience at all”, checked with the onsite Engineer to find out what survey work was required first? I was ambushed with a long list of things to do, new camp site clearing, excavation, sewerage, water lines, diamond drill hole surveys, bailey bridge and main road setting out details.
This new Stringer Creek camp site was located on the Heemskirk Road above the old vertical board camp. The new camp would accommodate 240 men to work on the Lower Pieman dam site.
Clearing the new camp site of scrub, ribbon lines were placed through the bush for the dozer drivers to follow. After scrub clearing it rained on and off for a few days and setting out for the new camp continued regardless, mud everywhere 100mm or more deep, as seen in the photographs enclosed of my Chainmen outside our Office.
The first two weeks were mentally and physically challenging with all the new survey work required at short notice, inducting and training the two new Chainmen as I progressed, with logical and practical thinking I kept everybody happy with the survey work on site.
It was the surveyor’s job regardless of weather and other environmental conditions, to work proficiently and continuously to keep the project moving.
Surveying anything on the Eastern side of the Pieman River proved to be an interesting task, access across the Pieman River for 4WD vehicles was by a 100m underwater causeway. Each side of the River had marker boards to aim for while driving across, the water was dark brown and even though the water was shallow at times, you couldn’t see the causeway below the surface and the current gave an illusion that we were moving downstream, the River flowed fast at times. The first trip across was very frightening experience. Later the rule of thumb, if the River level was within the running board height of my Toyota Landcruiser no attempt was made to cross, this meant a boat trip or D7 dozer ride across the River. Driving off the causeway may have had dire consequences, with today’s Occupational Health and Safety; this practice would not be acceptable.
Tragedy did happen crossing the Pieman River on February 16 1979 during my time there; Graham Edward Burgess aged 28yrs (Ned to his friends) a sub-contractor for the HEC was a workman with great integrity and a skilled chainsaw operator, crossing to his work site to fell trees on the Eastern side of the Pieman River when a boating accident claimed his life.
Later, crossing the Pieman River was no trouble once the Bailey Bridge was installed, this Bridge spanned 97.5m weighed in at 100 tonnes and cost of $250,000
“One of Australia’s longest Bailey Bridges of panel design and beam construction installed across the Pieman River, quotation from a Newspaper article.”
I would appreciate it if anyone had pictures of the 240 man Stringer Creek camp built on the Heemskirk Road and Bailey Bridge across the Pieman river in 1979. Please contact me on 0362571266