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The Mulga Creek Hotel at Byrock
 

Byrock
Sleepy little township with a pleasant pub
No one really knows how Byrock got its name and the theories which abound are almost certainly more interesting than the real origins. One school of thought argues that one of the early local residents, a family which had a holding of 1600 acres, was named Bye. Thus when referring to the nearby rock hole people spoke of Bye's Rockhole. From there it was only a small step to Bye's Rock which subsequently became known as Bye Rock.

Another school of thought claims that the local Aborigines, the Nyamimba people, referred to the rock hole simply as 'bai'. This then became the Bye Rock hole

One thing is certain. When the railway arrived in the tiny settlement, the station was called 'Bye Rock'. The most popular explanation for how it became 'Byrock' is that, when the post office arrived, they requested a rubber stamp from Sydney and it came back with the incorrect spelling 'Byrock'. The Railway Station Master, eager for a simple solution, cut out the 'e' and the space from his sign and made it 'Byrock' as well.

For some years the railway station was the temporary end of the single line from Sydney. It was 747.39 km from Sydney, 152 metres above sea-level, and it was opened on 2 September 1884 - the same day that the railway station was opened at Coolabah, further down the track.

The railway, slowly pushing north to Bourke, was an attempt by the NSW government to gain economic control over these northern outposts (most trade at the time was going down the Darling River to South Australia) and to serve the ever-increasing population on the large grazing properties in the area.

The NSW government was determined to make Byrock a viable centre. In August, only a month before the arrival of the railway, the government offered blocks of land for sale in the town. Although this would seem like an imaginative initiative, the land around Byrock had already been occupied for some decades and the Cobb & Co coach had been coming through and stopping at the Mulga Creek Hotel (located about 3 km to the west of the town) for some years. With the arrival of the train, Cobb & Co started offering a service to Bourke four times weekly. The trip lasted a very bumpy 12 hours.

In fairness, the government did attract people to the town. By 1885 (only a year after the railway arrived) there were about 500 people living in the area. There were 10 stores, 5 hotels, as well as a butcher's shop and a baker's shop.

The railhead was designed to attract wool shipments from the north. This seemed to work. The first rail shipment from the town was a load of wool which had come from Paroo on the Queensland border.

 

The Aboriginal water hole at Byrock
 

In spite of this success the town was doomed because it did not have regular and reliable water. The rock hole, which is no more than about 400 metres west of the Mitchell Highway, on the road north of the Mulga Creek Hotel, provided beautiful water but it did dry up in times of drought. Water had to be brought from Narromine and it was sold to locals at one penny a gallon.


 

Things to see:   

The Attractions
Today the town has little more than a hotel, a general store, a deserted railway station, an old butcher's shop, an historic cemetery and a few unoccupied homes. The hotel is a popular watering hole which also offers camping facilities and bushwalks through the scrub.

 

Byrock Water Hole
The town's old water hole (the raison d'etre of the town in the early days) was also a popular Aboriginal meeting place. It is said that Biamee, the creator god, drank from its water during the Dreamtime. Afghan camel drivers, railway fettlers and Cobb & Co coaches have also enjoyed its resources over the years.

 

Cobb & Co Heritage Trail
The historic inland coaching company, Cobb & Co, celebrates the 150th anniversary of its first journey in 2004 (and the 80th anniversary of its last, owing to the emergence of motorised transport). The trailblazing company's contribution to Australia's development is celebrated with the establishment of a heritage trail which explores the terrain covered on one of its old routes: between Bathurst and Bourke.

Cobb & Co's origins lay in the growing human traffic prompted by the goldrushes of the early 1850s. As the Heritage Trail website states: 'The company was enormously successful and had branches or franchises throughout much of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan. At its peak, Cobb & Co operated along a network of tracks that extended further than those of any other coach system in the world its coaches travelled 28,000 miles (44,800km) per week and 6000 (out of their 30,000) horses were harnessed every day. Cobb & Co created a web of tracks from Normanton on the Gulf of Carpentaria and Port Douglas on the Coral Sea down to the furthest reaches of Victoria and South Australia in all, a continuous line of 2000 miles (3200km) of track over eastern Australia from south to north, with a total of 7000 miles (11,200km) of regular routes' (see www.cobbandco.net.au).

The Byrock Hole, from whence the town sprang, was once frequented by Cobb & Co coaches and the old Mulga Creek Hotel was used as a Cobb & Co change station from 1879. Unfortunately, it no longer exists in its original form or location, although the site's whereabouts is known.

 

 

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Byrock