Yorke Peninsula, South Australia - Marion Bay

Marion Bay
Marion Bay is a young town compared to the majority of the other Peninsula towns. Commenced in 1899 with the construction of a 400ft jetty along with a wooden tramway track from the nearby Marion Lake Gypsum & Whiting Mining Operations. As the project expanded the wooden tracks were replaced with steel tracks, two steam locomotives and 70 small side-tipping trucks to haul the gypsum to the jetty where it was stockpiled.

In 1925 the jetty was increased in length to a total of 1936 ft and with a depth of 16 ft of water at the end which was now 'T' shaped. A conveyor belt loading system was also installed.

Several miles away, to the south-west, another company began mining the Inneston Lake, and constructed their own loading jetty at Stenhouse Bay. The problem was that unlike the Marion Bay jetty which was built straight out from the low shoreline, Stenhouse Bay was a totally different proposition due to the 150 ft cliffs surrounding the little bay.

At first steel tracks were carefully laid down the face of the cliff to and along the jetty. The laden trucks were lowered down the incline of the cliff with the aid of a steam-driven winch. On reaching the jetty each truck was detached from the cable then manually pushed out along the jetty to the ship’s side. About 1916 a cutting was blasted through the cliff face, with steel tracks laid and connected to the main tramway. But as the incline was still too steep for safety, a counter-balance system was devised using two truck, on a separate track at right angles to the main incline, with the trucks both loaded with similar weight. These trucks were connected to the descending trucks and locomotive by a steel cable.

After the second world war, new loading equipment was installed including a continuous conveyor loading belt stretching three-quarters of a mile (just over one km) in length. It was constructed in six sections. It went from the washing plant directly down the cutting and out to the end of the jetty.

Unfortunately the gypsum mining operation became a victim of progress. The parent company had discovered gypsum at Lake MacDonnell on the Eyre Peninsula’s West Coast, which though further away, were easier and cheaper to mine and load onto ships than Inneston and Stenhouse Bay.

The gypsum mining lease closed in the early 1970s. Inneston became a ghost town, while Stenhouse Bay was purchased by the South Australian State Government of the time and now is the headquarters for Inneston National Park, Inneston, even though a ghost town has had some of the houses restored which are now used for holiday accommodation.

During the 1960s the Bitumen finally reached Marion Bay and Stenhouse Bay townships. Instead of heading south from Warooka to Sturt Bay, then westwards along the coast, or westwards to Corny Point, then southwards along the old 'Dust Bowl Road' to Marion Bay, the new road takes a more direct route through the scrub-land. This has cut traveling time literally by half or more especially in winter when some roads became almost impassable during and after heavy rain.

Researched by Roger Jenkins. Copyright © .Roger Jenkins August 2012

Information sourced from various Yorke Peninsula Publications.