The best laid plans

Thought of the day: maps show the world the way it is; plans show the world they way it might be.

A couple of pieces of drain-related correspondence dropped into my in-box and triggered this thought. The first email (from the good folk charged by Jemena with the task of rehabilitating the gasworks site) came with photos of a pair of plans from the turn of the twentieth century. These plans set out the gasworks as it was intended to be. The first one shows a detail of the junction of Clyde Street and the rail line; the only recognisable feature today is the Pepper-designed admin building.

IMG_1014

The second plan – a more complete scale – is from slightly later, given the presence of holders 4 and 6, and the one for tar and liquor.

IMG_1032

I find it interesting that neither of them exactly mirror the gasworks site based on the remains of the built environment. The rail tracks, roads and building footprints are recognisable but don’t match exactly. There’s a fractional discord, like a radio station that isn’t properly tuned in.

In contrast, these maps (sourced by Lachlan) show the area as it was, a snapshot of the time focusing purely on what was of interest to the cartographer. If you look at the middle dark line of those running from the bottom left to the top right, the one with the words “unused railway” along it, you’ll see the point where it crosses the Styx. I’d always understood that this unused railway was simply a planned track, but Lachlan has discovered (through the wonderful resource that is the National Library of Australia’s Trove searchable archive) reports that prove the base for the track was created in the 1870s but was resumed in the 1890s and “repurposed” as a drainage channel.

1893 Parrott-extract

This map shows another later detail.

HLVR1918-extract

I’ve added the links Lachlan sourced as they’re well worth reading for a sense of the track / drain’s development, particularly the insight provided by the progress of the “commonage drain”, A Day with the Unemployed, when “butty gangs” of 10 unemployed men assembled and worked on a rotational basis to spread out the income.

As the future of the drain, and the lands to either side (the soon-to-be remediated gasworks and the fuel depot), is in a period of flux, it’ll be interesting to see what plans the powers that be are drawning up for the area. And, of more interest to us mere mortals who simply happen to live right next to it, the reality of what will actually happen.

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