What’s in a name?

Transperth_Queens_Park_Train_Station

Image courtesy of Shinjiman – Public Domain

Some stories are so good, they get retold over and over again. The only problem with some of these stories is that they aren’t true. In this particular case, the story is how the suburb of Queen’s Park got its name. And it involves a murder.

According to Landgate, and repeated by that source-of-all-truth Wikipedia, Queen’s Park was originally called Woodlupine and changed its name after a brutal crime which happened in the suburb in 1911 and became widely known as the Woolupine Murder. After all, who wants to live in a suburb with that association?

We won’t go into the details of the horrific rape-murder here, except to note there are question marks over whether the offender was mentally fit to stand trial, let alone be executed. But executed he was and there’s not a lot we can do about that now.

Now there is some truth to the story, but it doesn’t involve the local residents trying to get rid of a name to which they were very much attached.

Woodlupine wasn’t even originally called that. Until 1898 it was known as Jubilee Estate, until the Railway Department changed the name of the station. The new name was after an old orange plantation in the area which had been called Wood-Lupin. There were some protests, but the station name was changed anyway.

The good citizens of Woodlupine felt that everyone hated them. They were victimised by the Railway Department, by the Post Office and, most of all, by their local government, Queen’s Park, which had been founded in 1907. The new local government rose out of the ashes of the short-lived, and completely disastrous, Canning Roads Board which, you will not be surprised to hear, was loathed by everyone in Woodlupine.

So, when one of the first actions of Queen’s Park was to propose changing the name of Woodlupine Station and the Post Office to Queen’s Park, there was outrage. After all, the new council wanted everything named after itself, and Woodlupine was the busiest Post Office and Station, so it had to go.

Naturally, petitions and complaints followed, and the council chickened out and didn’t follow through on its plan. That is, until the Woodlupine Murder in 1911. Seizing their chance, the following year the councillors wrote to the Railway Department asking for the station’s name to be changed. This was agreed, provided Queen’s Park pay the £10 cost of having all the signage changed.

Perhaps the Woodlupine residents were worn down by years of council ‘oppression’. Perhaps the murder was on their minds. In any case, little opposition seems to have been raised and the council finally got their way.

The real story here (if we put aside the murder victim and her family) is about a local government needing to have its ‘brand’ on a Post Office and Railway Station and opportunistically seizing the moment. Is it more interesting than a tale of residents so disgusted by a crime they wanted to change the name of their suburb? That’s for the reader to decide.

What to do with Beeliar Wetlands?

beeliar

Image shameless stolen from Rethink The Link website

The Beeliar Wetlands have always been a site of controversy. Of course, in the past it wasn’t talk about biodiversity or Aboriginal heritage. Instead the question was whether they were to be a tourist attraction or drained and put to agricultural use.

As early as 1905 there were suggestions that Bibra Lake should be beautified as a ‘pleasure resort’ for picnickers, and given to a committee to run. It took three years for Fremantle Roads Board to get control of the place and start planning fences and some clearing, together with improved roads, so it could become the main tourist spot in the district.

But that same year, 1908, also saw calls for the wetlands to be drained and turned into grazing land for cattle, along with commercial crops. After all, said one commentator, what were the wetlands good for except “myriads of frogs and the growth of bulrushes”? Not much sign of biodiversity think there.

The government took this suggestion very seriously and started to consider whether the Beeliar Wetlands could be successfully drained. Whether it was just too expensive, or for some other reason, the area was left alone for day-trippers and Fremantle continued to work on the place. By 1913 Bibra Lake began to see work on a carriage drive, band rotunda, kiosk and shade houses, fernery, pavilion, couch grass plots, recreation spaces, swings, bathing houses, boat sheds and fish ponds.

After World War I, the government again began to cast its eyes on the wetlands, this time proposing to drain it for vegetable production. Sir James Mitchell promised to get a report on whether the project was feasible. It seems that it wasn’t and nothing was done.

On the outbreak of World War II, there was concern that neglect and vandalism had damaged the wetland area, and a call went up for an independent board to manage all of WA’s best tourist spots: Mundaring Weir, Lesmurdie, Yunderup, Lake Jandakot, Bibra Lake reserve, Garden Island, Yallingup Caves reserve, Namban Creek Caves, Jurien Bay Caves, Naval Base, and Point Peron. The board would improve these places and encourage tourists to visit every one. It never happened.

It won’t surprise you to find that in 1948, the government was thinking of draining the wetlands and the lakes to make a great agricultural area. Yet another report was written. Yet another report was not acted on. Or it said it couldn’t be done. One of the two.

And now, in 2016, the government has again turned its eyes on the wetlands, this time to build an extension of the Roe Highway. And, as you probably know, the locals are just a little bit disgruntled. With its long history of arguing about tourism v commercial use, the current proposal won’t astonish the wetlands itself. After all, some people didn’t care about frogs in 1908 and some people wanted to travel there to see them.

Cars not trains, said the Minister for Railways

meltham

Lifting the old track at Meltham Station (1947)

The PTA suggests closing ‘underperforming’ stations on the Midland Line, and Dodgy Perth is very cranky. We’ll start with a declaration of interest: Meltham is our local station, and we hate the long trek from Maylands, especially when it’s raining. Or hot. Or any form of weather at all.

Dear PTA, your predecessors first promised us a railway station at Meltham in 1898, and the Meltham Estate was only built and sold with that pledge in mind. There wouldn’t have been development if people thought they’d have to walk to Bayswater or Maylands. But they did have to. A generation later, in 1923, the Commissioner of Railways turned down Bayswater Council’s repeated pleas for station at Meltham.

Another ten years went by and the council was getting desperate. The government suggested the council should subsidise a new station, so Bayswater guaranteed to cover losses up to £50 a year. At the moment, they said, “people were compelled to walk great distances…, and it was felt that the lack of any reasonably close travelling facilities was retarding the development of the district”.

Even so, the Minister for Railways said no. This made the council quite cross, so they resolved to keep demanding a station until the government gave in. And they engaged engineers to design reasonable solutions. Didn’t make the government budge one inch.

By 1937, the council was offering even more money and a private developer offered to chip in as well. The local MLC said, very reasonably, “if the Government wanted people to use trains in the metropolitan area it must provide facilities”. Nope, said the Minister for Railways, who was in favour of more roads!

We’ll skip over the war years, but in 1947, half a century after first proposed, it was announced Meltham would get its station. Work began in April and then immediately stopped due to a shortage of labour and materials. In fact, it was so delayed that when opened on 14 May 1948, only a tiny part of the platform had been constructed and it was essential to be in the last two coaches if you wanted to alight.

It might have surprised the Minister for Railways, but it came as no shock to anyone else that the station was an immediate success, even if only part of the platform was open. Fifty years of pleading, offers to subsidise, and proof that a station was essential had finally paid off.

And now the PTA wants to close it. Just. Don’t. Even.

Water, water, everywhere

salisbury

We’re not certain, but we think this is 43 Salisbury Street, Bayswater. And is still there.

It’s raining outside, so this seems as good a moment as any to discuss the Great Bayswater Flood of 1939. How do you feel like spending two months with your house underwater?

In July, floods forced several families to evacuate from their houses in Salisbury Street. A depression in the road had filled with water and it turned into a 40-metre-long lake. It was there so long, thousands of tadpoles swam in it and frogs kept up an incessant croaking.

One residence became an island and it was impossible to access the front door. But Mrs McBarron refused to leave her house, even though she could only get her family in and out through a gap in the side fence and then through their neighbour’s house.

Bayswater council made noises about dealing with the problem, but they had known about the issue for years and done nothing. Eventually, the council begged the government for help, but were (correctly) told small drains were Bayswater’s responsibility.

By August things were even worse. For three weeks Mrs McBarron had been walking along precariously balanced boards and boxes to get to the back fence. Her small daughter paddled around the backyard in a tin canoe, which allowed her to get to three houses either side. She might have thought this was fun, but her mother didn’t.

After seven weeks of living in the middle of a lake, things looked no better. Cars attempting to plough through the water stopped in the middle of the road and had to be pulled out. It was only when parts of Beaufort Street went underwater that the council and government finally got their act together.

Eventually, after August came and went, the water dropped. Bayswater finally decided to pull their finger out and do some drainage work the following year. All too little, all too late.

Heinz takes off

autogyro

Nothing makes you look cooler after a death-defying ride in a homemade autogyro than smoking a cigarette afterwards

Helicopters have been in the news over the last week. So we at Dodgy Perth thought we’d try and find out when the first copter flight in WA took place.

But the story was boring. 1935 if you care. Which you don’t.

Instead, we’ll celebrate the eccentricity of William ‘Bill’ Adolphus Heinz, a Carnamah garage owner, who in 1948 claimed he was going to design and built Australia’s first helicopter in his own backyard.

There were, predictably, jokes about whether he’d make 57 varieties of copter. But we at Dodgy Perth are above such cheap shots.

Powered by a 1925 Douglas motorcycle engine, which Bill modified himself, the whole thing was constructed to a completely original design.

Costing just £400 to build, this would be cheaper than five minutes of Bronywn Bishop’s jolly to a fundraiser. It was also going to weigh less than 120kg, around a fifth of a light aircraft like the famous Tiger Moth.

According to media reports, officials from the Department of Air were interested in the project.

But can you always trust your local mechanic? Well, in at least one case, Bill doesn’t seem to be very different from your average repair shop now. By which we mean making “considerable and unwarranted overcharges” on spare parts. And that’s according to a Supreme Court judge. Ouch.

No evidence seems to exist today of Bill’s wonderful invention, and we can find no proof it ever got off the ground. But if you know different, get in touch so a Western Australian aviation milestone can be given due recognition.

They’re heeeere!

Pinjarra_bridge

Just don’t ask what lies below

If you’ve ever gone on holiday via the South Western Highway, you have driven over the last resting place of Pinjarra’s earliest settlers.

According to Tobe Hooper’s 1982 documentary, Poltergeist, it is very dangerous to build on top of graveyards without moving the bodies first. And yet this is exactly what Main Roads did in 1954.

There have been a number of bridges crossing the Murray at Pinjarra, of which the 1897 one was falling down some fifty years later. It had been designed for the horse and buggy era and couldn’t cope with modern transport.

Many of the piles had rotted and engineers were amazed the whole thing had not collapsed. Although when it swayed alarmingly as stringers were removed, the workmen had to scurry to safety.

The new bridge (which is still there) was also timber, and overshadows the tiny church of St John next door.

Here many of Pinjarra’s white pioneers lay buried. But to make way for the new bridge, Main Roads needed a portion of the churchyard.

Presumably to save money, they simply dug up the gravestones, rested them against the church and built a new road over the top of the graves.

Is that really how we treat the deceased in Western Australia?

There were certainly local signs this was not a good idea. An earlier bridge over the Murray had been haunted in the 1870s by the spirit of a local lady, known to us only as Aunt C.

We warn Main Roads what happens in history once—in Poltergeist—could easily happen again.

For the sake of our flaxen-haired little girls, please Main Roads do something before They’re Heeeere for good.

A bridge too far

Anyone who has lived in Perth for more than a week knows the story of the Horseshoe Bridge. How the Railways Department came up with a brilliant solution to the problem of restricted space, making it (according to the Heritage ‘Style’ Council) an “outstanding example of a major urban railway overbridge of its time”.

Well, this is Dodgy Perth, so prepare to have all your illusions shattered. Our comments on the above story are no, no, and God no.

Firstly, it is not innovative. Nor did anyone claim it to be at the time. It was not called The Horseshoe Bridge in 1904, just described as a horseshoe bridge.

Why this particular design? Because wherever they were going to put a bridge, the tight-arse Railway Department didn’t want to hand over cash to landowners on Wellington or Roe Streets. They wanted a bridge that would only use land the Government already owned.

There never was restricted space. Just an attempt to save money.

Speaking of hard cash. Robert Howard, a draughtsman working for the Public Works Department knocked up plans for a horseshoe bridge and then offered to sell them to the Government for £1,000. They told him to bugger off, since he was an employee. So Robert quit the PWD and then sold the plans to the Government for £1,000 anyway. (The cheeky sod actually went to court later to obtain even more money from them!)

The estimated cost of the bridge was £25,000. It was delayed for a couple of years because no one could build it for that amount. When finished, the thing cost £40,000. It would have been much, much cheaper to buy some land from private owners and put up a regular bridge.

Everyone hated the new crossing. And we mean everyone. A footbridge over the railway was pulled down, forcing people to walk the long way round over the new erection. The newspapers were full of outrage. The City of Perth kept complaining to the Government that 22,000 people had to walk over the bridge every day, meaning an 3,600 extra miles daily, or 1,140,000 miles a year.

So, all up… the Railways Department created their own restriction, bought their plan off an employee who drew it on Government time, failed to budget the project correctly, and seriously annoyed everyone who worked in the CBD.

And that, friends, is what the Style Council likes to call an ‘innovate design solution’. Dodgy Perth has a different opinion.