Historical traces and the Marne River

I’ve spent some time tracing the old Sedan railway line in South Australia for the Absent History section of the Mallee Routes project. The railway lines in the mallee country were once a significant part of the infrastructure in the 20th century as access to this transport meant the farms were viable since the railways provided a way for the farmers to get their grain to the market. The railways were built by the state governmental to encourage the process of the settlement of the Murray Mallee with a yeomanry of white English settlers on their too small blocks. The dominant settler narrative was of a harsh climate and vegetation, isolation and the hardship of clearing the land.

The railways are now absent. The Sedan line was pulled up around 2000, but the traces are clearly seen in the still standing railway bridges. The ordinary concept of trace is that of a mark left by an entity or event of which it is but a fragile reflection. Its meaning or value lies elsewhere — eg., the erasure of the First Nation’s people in the mallee lands.

One of most visible of these traces is the railway bridge over the Marne River near Cambria. I had been at this bridge in 2019 when I was scoping the South Australian Mallee, and I recently returned with a large format camera. The picture below was made with a 5×4 Linhof Technika IV:

The  source of the Marne River  rises near Eden Valley in the eastern Mount Lofty Ranges. It flows eastward down onto the Murray Plains near Cambrai, then across the plains via Black Hill before eventually reaching the River Murray at Wongulla. There is a lack of surface streams and limited rainfall in the Murray Mallee.

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