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Weeks 1 & 2

Leaders – Peter Cram, Lorraine Short and Tom Harding

The Native Plant Committee:

During the 2014 Lake Cullulleraine Planning Conference, it was unanimously decided to try and establish some native vegetation as a component of the 2015 works programme. With this in mind a committee was formed, consisting of Peter Cram, Helen Fairweather and Julie Bolton. Throughout the following months, further discussions and research took place as to the most suitable plants for this project. As a result, it was decided to initially try five tree species native to the Farina area. In due course these were obtained from the Arid Lands Plant Nursery at Port Augusta.

It was decided to begin our project at the main information bay located opposite the bakery. This was an area where rainfall could be collected from the pergola roof via guttering, downpipes and slotted underground pipe-work, all of which were duly installed. This water catchment ‘hardware’ would help these young trees to survive during the 10 months or so that FRG volunteers were not on site. All the trees have wire netting guards, which have been encircled by rocks.

Our foremost concern was that after planting, and all volunteers having returned home, these newly established plants would need a degree of protection from natural elements. Namely, varying seasonal effects and the feeding habits of kangaroos and rabbits. (We all know how much these animals love fresh young growth!)

We intend adding to these original plantings with other native vegetation throughout future projects. At the end of this year’s camp the trees were flourishing. THANK YOU TEAM. Photographer Rob Fairweather has recorded the planting work on FRG website which has links to the Facebook page.

General Overview:

From day one of the 2015 project commencement (and earlier in the case of the underground oven rebuild) preliminary work was occurring all over the site. The installation of our new generator (to service the bakery), required creation of a deep conduit channel, leading from the generator to the rear of the bakery van. Sounds straightforward doesn’t it? Well, this channel wasn’t named the Suez Canal without good reason! Kevin Dawes operated his grader right into the action and every able bodied (and some not so able bodied) man who could swing a pick or shovel were volunteered – read that as coerced – into the chain gang! And work they did.

From early morning until sundown it was ON and the urgency grew as darkness sets in around 5pm at this time of year; also impending bad weather had been predicted. Unfortunately Kevin’s grader suffered some damage so a hardy and skilled volunteer set to work on necessary repairs. Other areas needing immediate attention were the construction of a Defence Services dedication wall alongside the existing memorial cairn (two stonemasons were in charge of this task), reopening/maintaining or extending several walking trails, plus the Exchange Hotel walls had become unstable.

All these activities needed every person and the workshop, became a hive of activity with carpentry, pre-construction and welding happening daily through several dedicated work teams.

Officially starting on Thursday 21/5 bakery operations, servery van and cafe were staffed seven days a week from 8am to 4pm or later, along with the newly installed information area at the front of the cafe marquee.

Wood collection for the Scotch oven, daily firebox stoking and the need for an “underground” assistant cum baker’s right hand woman/man, kept a number of people fully occupied from 6am or earlier each day. Meanwhile back at the shearers’ quarters, we needed morning tea prepared for up to 30 people Monday to Friday, camp laundry taken care of, kitchen and bathroom amenities cleaned daily and supplies maintained for the above. Not to forget supplying firewood for the evening campfire gathering, rubbish collection, firing up the donkey boiler each afternoon for hot showers and attending to our camp’s power generator.

All in all, not much time for sunning ourselves around the pool! It’s fair to say there was not a single person (or a married one) still looking for a task as everyone was fully occupied and, on occasion, we could have done with extra hands. Wednesday 27/5 saw our first camp roast organised; food prepared by an expert team, cooking pots at the ready and the outdoor fires lit. Our recently arrived second baker, Scott Schaese’s father, Wally readily helped out by managing the dutch ovens, keeping an eye on food as it cooked and maintaining the all important hot coals at the exact level. We all enjoyed a hot meal, camaraderie around the campfire and getting to know people who hadn’t previously been at Farina. And then it rained.

Thankfully, the electrical trench (Suez Canal) had just been completed but when the heavens opened, this was not in our favour. Road closures between Lyndhurst and Marree meant the bakery had to temporarily cease operations, as traffic was barred from all directions. Roads and tracks on Farina went under water, the whole site became a quagmire and outdoor work quickly came to a halt. (Photos on Facebook page). Carpentry or welding jobs could continue on a limited scale inside the shearing shed, but otherwise we were completely hampered by the weather and chances of further flooding couldn’t be ignored.

To bring some cheer to the situation a camp stew cook-up was organised and the shearing shed became our dining room. Anyone who could sing, recite poetry or play a musical instrument had been rehearsing for the occasion. While Scott and Wally pitched in with the cooking, we all enjoyed some tasty “extras” that magically appeared from volunteer’s pantry stores. A cheerful evening with food, friends and entertainment proved that rain, mud, cold and living in your gumboots couldn’t keep spirits down.

After roads reopened traffic and visitor numbers continued to build and the bakery once again recorded brisk trade in high-top bread loaves, pies, pasties, fruit scrolls, cream buns, and more. It was also gratifying to note that so many visitors were keen to walk down the few steps into the underground bakery and learn about its history and gradual transition to what they were experiencing in the present day. Many travellers couldn’t believe the bakery signs positioned on the highway and had to drive in to see for themselves. They weren’t disappointed. The info bay hosted

good numbers of people who were keen to find out more about Farina township and in particular, John Bell who was born and raised there.

The emphasis this year was on Flight Lieutenant John Bell and his role in a WWII secret operation. This was commemorated through the newly installed memorial wall, a gathering of Defence Service Personnel in mid June, an issue of wine labelled with the Walrus Aircraft image and a book “Four Men and a Walrus” telling the story of the military operation involving John Bell and his crew.

In conclusion, Lorraine and I spent approximately 2-1/2 weeks on site and shortly before departing, enjoyed our final “camp roast” night. This time, our meals were cooked in the underground bakery, using the ever reliable Dutch ovens. Another expert team prepared our dinner, plus a delicious bread and butter pudding with cream for dessert. As the weather had become much colder, wetter and darkness fell earlier than was the case in mid May, these get-togethers were much welcomed by everyone.

Weeks 3 & 4

Leaders – Barry and Bron.

With the weather causing a few hiccups and people being asked to defer arrival, the start of the second fortnight was a little disjointed. However, thanks to the keenness and cooperation of everyone concerned, rosters and work tasks were quickly arranged.
Work that was being done on pergolas during the first fortnight was completed and “planted”, and ongoing jobs such as sign and pergola painting continued.

Most of the resources, especially in the early days, were utilised in the Bakery / Restaurant / Marketing area. It must be said that all those involved did a great job working as a team and making mega bucks from both the sale of Martin’s delicacies as well as the sale of merchandise in the marketing area.

The sale of merchandise has been a real plus with volunteers bringing new ideas to the table (last year Serviette Holders, this year Fridge Magnets, next year – watch this space).

With the domestic side of the operation ticking over like clockwork, thanks to the roster and the unsung heroes collecting wood, keeping water hot, doing camp washing etc, it was left to the remainder of the group to kick goals in our aim to “restore the history and stabilise the buildings”.

Early in the fortnight the walking trail received some much needed love and attention with a group redefining the route of the walk, whipper snipping and mowing, and generally giving it a great spruce up. Later in the fortnight some extra bollards were planted to give the trail more definition.

The memorial wall, which had previously been built by Peter Russell during the first fortnight, was completed when the life sized figurines arrived and were duly attached to each end of the wall. They look grand.

Some exploration was done around the Stockman’s Hut near the restored cattle truck, however with little to go by, the exploration did not result in any measureable outcome. Whilst aspects of how it originally looked were considered, it was felt that input from people who have seen it erected (Kevin and Gordon) should be sought to assist with its re-erection.

Once the above decision was made, resources were channelled to the repair of the sheep loading ramp.

During the fortnight, priority was given to the saving of the front wall of the Exchange Hotel. Using the newly purchased scaffolding, with the expertise of our stonemason and involvement of volunteers, not only was the front wall saved, but also extension work was done in finding and cleaning out hotel rooms, and finding walls and doorways. Having opened up these newly found walls, pointing was undertaken to save them from future deterioration.

Social events for the fortnight included pizza and camp roast nights, all held in the bakery marquee with cooking done in the underground oven. It was pleasing that all volunteers were able to have the opportunity to enjoy Kevin’s wonderful 4wd tour of the Farina station. This was a great new experience for many. Most nights we enjoyed poetry, singing and stories around the happy hour campfire. We also convoyed up to the Marree pub for an evening meal.

During week four we were fortunate in being able to use the labour of 23 10th Squadron RAAF personnel. They were camping with us prior to their participation in the Bell Memorial Ceremony. The work done by these young men in a two day period was outstanding, and our plans to open up the Exchange went ahead in leaps and bounds. We enjoyed sharing our morning tea sessions with them.

After working until lunch time the airmen were given a guided tour of Farina and afterwards were presented with a copy of Bob Olston’s book signed by all volunteers present at the time. The Officer in Charge made comment that the book would go into their library and would be prerequisite reading for all those who came to Farina for future ceremonies.

I will leave it to Bob or Peter to make comment on the Bell Memorial Ceremony.

Weeks 5 & 6

Leaders – Bob Brownlee, Bob Murray and Shirley Murray


The Fly-by event took place on Thursday June 18, commemorating the flight of Flight Lieutenant John Bell to rescue Madame de Gaulle on 18 June 1940, and mirroring a celebration at Ploudaniel in Brittany, France where the plane crashed and all were killed.

The event took place at the War Memorial. The setup of the site was accomplished by the previous group and included chairs, the memorial plaque of Flight Lieutenant John Napier Bell on the newly constructed memorial wall covered by the RAAF flag and flanked by the Union Jack and the French flag.

In addition to a gathering of 50 or so members of the public, 20 members of the 10th Squadron from the RAAF formed the guard. The service was led by Wing Commander Cameron from 10th Squadron and Peter Harris and Martin McLennan from the Farina group. It was indeed a moving service. After the service we all retired to the bakery where Martin and his team supplied excellent fare.

When our group arrived it was evident that no work had been done on the shed other than Kevin levelling the site. Thus we set about erecting the shed framework which involved surveying the site, placing the footings in the exact position and elevation and concreting them in.

Next all of the frames were erected with the help of Kevin’s front-end loader with attached extensions and the shed team. Not an easy task on a windy day! Then we ensured that all was level and square, so that the girts, the roof purloins and diagonal braces could be installed. All of this would not have been possible without the loan of the scaffolding.

Out contribution would not have been successful without the fantastic job done by Brian and his team with great help from Kevin.
Peter Russell and volunteer helpers completed stonework on the memorial wall, a great deal of work was accomplished on stabilising the Exchange Hotel, the Police Station wall was nearly finished and, in particular, the keystones over the window were installed. All of this would not have been possible without Ron Johnstone and our newly acquired scaffolding. With our volunteers being used at the shed and the bakery we did not have as many people as we would have liked working with the stonemasons. Those who did found it a very rewarding experience.

The Old Ghan river crossing walk was cleared and marked with tape and star pickets when they were delivered. This walk starts at the northern standard gauge railway bridge and joins the 3’6” Old Ghan railway on a causeway, then travels south past wooden trestles, protective structures, steel trestles and even the water pipe from the railway dam to the water tank at the Farina railway station. It completes our Farina creek walks and is an historic piece of the Old Ghan infrastructure and illustrates the problems of maintaining a railway in the harsh conditions near Farina. Next year a range of signs will be required.

In late June we hosted a pilgrimage to the Anglican Church, in preparation for the visit we cleaned up around the site. There were short prayers and blessings at the church which were necessarily short because of the very strong winds. We all retired to the bakery café for refreshments when the Reverend Trevor reminisced about Anglican Church history. We hope to see a full delegation next year.

Our group continued the tradition started by the ABC of having drinks at the pub on the last evening, after which we retired to the bakery café for food and drinks.

The Bakery and Information areas, with the sales of bakery products, memorabilia and bags of cement were highly successful.
The Bakers did a fantastic job. Thanks Dennis and Laurie.

We would especially like to acknowledge the mechanics who kept all of our equipment working all of the time.

Highlights were searching for Bakery orders at PA, Leigh Creek, Copley and Lyndhurst, but we found them all.

We need a credit card facility for one lady!


We had a great team; great communal meals were lots of laughs.

Work on the shed could not be scheduled.

The memorial wall took resources from other stonework

No work on cemetery, Stockman’s hut, or cleaning up around the TC, Angels Rest, old Police station, Granny Davies house or back of Bells store

Mid week changeover did not work well. We should move back to Sat/Sun change over.

We had a great time and hope to see many of our volunteers back next year.

Items worthy of consideration:

We agree the mid week change over was poorly explained, and led to the loss of a “day”.

The limiting of campers to 30 (with a number absent) meant that we had fewer effective volunteers, which affected our works program. A point to ponder when drawing up future programmes.

Whilst we understand that the SHED was an unexpected task, we felt that more weight should be given to supporting Peter and Ron, as we are paying them. All the people who did get to spend time with Peter and Ron felt they gained from the experience.

It appears that a number of people thought that they had volunteered exclusively to assist in the Bakery. A re-assessment of the volunteers’ forms and the bakery roster may be required.

From what we heard, is the RAAF intending to make their visit an ongoing annual event? If so, will it affect our scheduling?

Weeks 7 & 8

Leaders – Steve Harding, ably supported by Tom Harding

What a holiday season we had. With the Victorian & South Australian school holidays all at a similar time meant that whilst we experienced up to 1000

people per week visiting Farina, our resources where stretched to the limit, as a few of our volunteers could not attend. We still soldiered on after looking at what the “critical” service issues would be – with such demand on the bakery, our staff breaks were far between. Our team did such a wonderful job and should be commended. The demand on the bakery products also meant that our information centre was flat out as well.

Stone work continued on the “Police Station” with a small team led by Ron Johnson and the western wall is now fully complete.

The “Narrow Gauge” rail-walking trail has been pegged out and is ready for the erection of new storyboards and definition in 2016.

The “Blacksmiths” area has had a new “Pergola” erected awaiting its storyboard in 2016.

The ANZAC memorial was expanded to include the curved memorial wall built during week 5 and we were able to install nine “Memorial Plaques” for those who forfeited their lives during both world wars. We also removed a large number of big rocks and added in some gravel to expand the seating area for larger groups in the future.

Another feature of the last week was cooking “Scones” in a cardboard box!!!!!!!!!!!!! Unbelievable when you think about it, but Greg Williams from the William Angliss Bakery Training Programme managed to line a box with aluminium foil, add hot coals around the scone mix and, hey presto, in 13 minutes we had a batch of perfect scones for everyone to share. Also in the last week we were joined by the stations “Wild Dog” pest management manager, Joey and his family, who in their spare time joined in to help every team. Many thanks.

Our team of shed builders for weeks 7-8 took over the framed building, to take it to the next level of completion.

We had set ourselves a very important “Target” that was to achieve the final “lock up” stage before we were to leave Farina. We had about 14 days remaining, and so the fun began.

Our team was mainly Bruce Morris, Frank Thomas, Bruce Crosbie, Graham Curtis, Ken Blackman, Steve Harding in the early parts and Robert Power, Derek Sheather, Jim Catt also helped out the last few days.

We need to say that without the help of our sponsor for scaffolding, “Mobile Scaffold” from Adelaide, we could not have continued with the high level works. These guys are great and hopefully they can help out again next year.

We continued at first to ascertain the finished floor concrete level, which is to be poured later, and then outlined where the doors and window were to be placed to make the best use of available light, space and functionality. Once the two sliding glass door support steelwork was concreted in, we were able to position the two access doors and window. We then started to erect the first of the wall sheets on the rear southern wall, using the scaffold, and taking into account the prevailing wind and wet weather direction. Whist this work was going on the doors and window support steelwork where being screwed into place. Next we started on the western wall and trimmed up the height of the gable wall when we finished.

All along we need to rotate, share jobs/skills around and whilst the guys went onto the eastern gable end wall erection Graham & Steve commenced installing the “roller door” structural steel work. It was important at this stage to obtain the correct height to allow clearance for the food caravan under the roller door when it’s up, as it will be stored within the shed when the concrete floor is finished.

We were lucky enough to have a visitor drop in who met Tom and asked if he could help out with the shed, but he would not be coming back for a week or so. Resources at this stage were pretty tight, with a limited number of people available. The bakery and stone works had to be manned also and if this person turned up then that would be a great help.

Wall sheeting continued with the front side until Wednesday / Thursday week 7 and we had to say goodbye to Bruce Morris, Bruce Crosbie and Frank Thomas. Works then continued to install the sliding glass doors now that the wall sheeting had been completed.

Next we prepared the gutter and downpipe spouts assembling them together on the ground before lifting them into place, bearing in mind that the above visitor, might be back who could help out with the roof. The gutter support brackets were then screwed into place at the correct height to allow the rainwater to fall into the tanks. The following day we started to install the southern gutter.

Would you believe that later in the morning Robert had met a family of about a dozen people, who asked what we were doing at the shed and could they help??? Robert put them straight onto Tom.

After their lunch (where they sampled the bakery, of course) Tom arranged a camp site for them in a spot where they could all be together, as they had 4 vehicles, tents etc and lots of children. The camp grounds were rather full as you can imagine, with school holidays we were very busy.

The shed team were in a bit of bother at this stage as we hadn’t completed the gutter, so we had to go like the clappers to get it finished so the roof sheeting could start.

Andrew Fullston and Justin Wenham, who turned out to be wall and roof installation contractors with their 3 children and Scott started at about 1-30pm and by about 4-30pm the roof sheets where all on. During conversation Justin indicated that they loved the “cream buns” so we decided that due to their eagerness to support the shed build with their time, that we would throw open the bakery for them and they could take as much as they wanted for their next journey.

We thought that they had finished and that in the morning they would be leaving to travel further south and we would take the next couple of days installing the flashing for the “barge boards and ridge” capping.

Surprise, surprise, whilst we were having breakfast the next morning at 6-30am we could hear the sound of the screw guns working in the distance. Andrew & Justin were back on the roof installing the flashings, job done in 45 minutes. WOW were we so grateful!!!!.

These guys saved us about 4 days of work, fantastic, we could not have got the shed to lockup in the time remaining otherwise.

We then moved on to preparing the ground for the water tank sites and concrete floor and, with Kevin Dawes help, carted in soil, sand etc and levelled it all with the loader. Then the team got together and levelled the remainder by hand raking while Derek was on the compactor.

While this was happening Robert, Graham & Steve installed the PVC stormwater piping inside the shed to keep it tidy.

The water tanks arrived on the final Tuesday and we connected them to the stormwater pipe, so that when it did rain we could fill the tanks and use the water next year.

The roller doors were then the final items to install and, hey presto, we were finished to lock up stage in time.

Some of the shed team were:

Frank Thomas, Bruce Morris, Graham Curtis, Bruce Crosbie and Steve Harding

We held the “Shed Warming” party on the final “Tuesday” evening, Tom warmed up the shed with a campfire and everyone gathered around for celebratory drinks and nibbles. JOB DONE.

Of course we could not have done all of this without our support teams led by Allan Penny and Julie Penny in the afternoons, who ensured our site cleanliness and wood, water, diesel, bakery and other supplies were all on hand when they were needed.

Finally a great big thank you to everyone involved in the support and site programs this year, our best so far. Well done.