Farina - Ghost Town

Unlike the Australian ghost towns that prospered and died with gold fever, Farina was established with the misguided notion that it could become the 'granary of the north' and that the barren desert-scape could support abundant wheat and barley cropping.

Farina was first surveyed in 1876 and originally called 'The Gums' or 'Government Gums' after a nearby eucalyptus lined waterhole.

Just 26km north of Lyndhurst and 55km south of Marree, Farina lies at the edge of the desert. The big rains of the 1880's promised profitable grain crops for those intrepid souls who relocated - hoping to draw their livelihood from the flats and plains.

The optimism for farming was so great that the town was named Farina - Latin for Wheat, with the official proclamation occurring on 21 March 1878.

Silver and copper mines began to pop-up in the surrounding areas and many Farina locals took the opportunity to invest in companies like the 'Broken Hill Miners Prospecting Syndicate' and combined with the lush crops the region showed great promise.

Over 430 residential blocks had been laid out and at it's peak Farina boasted 600 residents, 2 hotels, 2 breweries, a school, granary, church, bank and an iconic underground bakery.

But it was the rail line that offered a real vision of prosperity. Until 1884 Farina was the last stop for the narrow-gauge railway from Port Augusta and as the railhead for central Australia, Farina was one of the most important transport hubs of the day.

Passengers from the Afghan Express, affectionately known as 'The Ghan', stopped over and enjoyed the ambiance of the Transcontinental Hotel

Cattle were brought from as far as Innamincka, Birdsville and Oodnadatta to be shipped south and the area was populated with camels and Afghan cameleers.

Nearby Beltana Station imported over a 100 camels and Farina became a training ground for the Afghan men who came to the area to drive the camels, laden with wool and supplies, throughout the inland.

Eventually the Great Northern Railway Line pushed on through to Marree and with an increasingly saline underground water supply, Farina's fortunes began to waver.

The unusual weather events that had occurred during the towns birth soon returned to normal. With infrequent rainfall it became obvious that Farina could not support grain cropping long term. Drought and dust storms soon saw the population start to thin and just like the rains, the silver and copper began to dry up and mines started to close.

1909 saw a huge 1143kg iron meteorite discovered north-east of the town. It was named the Murnpeowie Meteorite and was eventually shipped, via rail, to the South Australian Museum in Adelaide. For a time Farina piqued the interest of astronomers and meteorite hunters and Farina supported a Cometary which closed in the 1960's.

The rail line shut down in the 1980's and was eventually torn up and by the the 1980's Farina was completely abandoned.

Today the ruins of old buildings line the outline of a town that once promised so much. The surrounds are littered with old drays and rusting equipment, wheels and broken toys.

The Farina Cemetery and the resolute headstones are still in place, a special section reserved for the Afghan Cameleers who lay, facing Mecca, far from home.

The Farina Station has set up a bush camp for interested visitors - a small creek side oasis among a desolate landscape.

As a side note, there has been a renewed interest in breathing some life back into Farina with plans afoot to renovate some of the buildings and to, once again, fire up the underground bakery.

This article is part of a project to record the history of ghost towns in Australia. If you can contribute any information about any of Australia's abandoned towns please use the 'CONTACTUS' link at the top of the page to send us an email.

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