A steely grey sky settled over our path, strewn with shrubs and broken concrete as we left Gormanston for Linda, another ghost town in western Tasmania. Our path cut through a pale hillside of long grass towards a silent road. Following the road a short distance, we arrived in what was once the main street of Linda, which now looks barely more than a rest stop.
Located roughly ten minutes drive from Queenstown, Linda was developed in 1899 to support the North Mount Lyell mine. However, like many mining towns of its day, Linda came and went as swiftly as the king tides in Derby. In 1903, the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company took over the mine and many residents shifted uphill to nearby Gormanston.
During its short life, Linda was used to transport metal to Pillinger and ore to the nearby ghost town of Crotty, which recently resurfaced from Lake Burbury. Sadly, along with Gormanston, Linda is mostly remembered for the North Mount Lyell disaster of 1912, when 42 miners perished in cold, dark tunnels beneath the mountain. Today, it looks as if the old town retains some of that mood.
Our first point of call – and the town’s only palpable remains – was the Royal Hotel, which closed in the 1950s. The hotel once set the scene for a rough and ready town, where a brawl between Italian immigrants and locals known as ‘Britishers’ resulted in a fatal stabbing. Prominent Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey tells us he remembers having a meal in the old pub and still has the receipt.
My friends and I snooped about the now ghostly shell, the atmosphere of which has inspired vandals to inscribe pentagrams and phrases such as ‘help me’. Photographer Dee Kramer flew his drone amongst the old ruins, sparking the curiosity of the town’s sole resident (perhaps the caretaker) from the dwelling next door.
As far as town remains go, the hotel is pretty much it, as I found no trace of the train station or town post office which closed its doors in 1966. According to former Tasmanian miner Greg Cure, Linda even once hosted the Australian ballroom dancing championships and “Australia’s richest foot race”. However there was no commemoration of either event in town.
Further east, a purple-tinted mountain – its folds covered in forest – loomed beyond the edge of town. My friends and I decided to explore the area, arriving at a hillside flecked with long, pale grass and patches of green. A splendid rainbow arched across the scene, sending a flurry of hands reaching for cameras.
Nearby lay an old cemetery, partly hidden. Some of the occupants were undoubtedly victims of the North Mount Lyell disaster, others the graves of those too young, which looked ill-kept, forgotten. I stood there in the haunting landscape and wondered what their stories were. As Cure says, “we know more about Pompeii than we do about Linda”.
Another mystery of Tasmania.