After European Settlement

Click here for National Library of Australia "Trove" search of newspaper articles about Mount Elephant.

Click here for a "Trove" article about the rail line and the branch line to the scoria pit.

Europeans settled in the district in the 1840s. There was a dry period then and the only nearby fresh water was from a spring several km to the south of Mount Elephant.

The land was leased by the government to several pastoralists, and it is believed that the junction of 3 properties was in the crater of Mount Elephant.

The remains of the iron post and "bullwire" fences certainly meet there and run over the rim to join with diagonal fences on the plains outside.

An 1893 map of land titles shows the lines of these fences. It also notes the area is lightly covered with lightwoods and honeysuckles (Acacia and Banksia).

Rabbits and weeds began to appear in the early 1900s and are mentioned in early newspaper articles.

Early paintings and photographs showed a dense stand of trees (sheoaks?) in the 1840s, but becoming thinner over the next 100 years.

Many were cut for firewood, fence posts, and fuel for the Derrinallum butter factory.

The fires in 1944 burned any remaining trees, and the rabbits and sheep ate any seedlings.

The 1977 fires burned most of the remaining fallen timber, But it is possible to see the odd stump.

There are 5 shrubs of tree violet still surviving in the south side of the crater. One shrub on the southern rim is 10cm high and is where the hawks perch to eat their rabbits.

Probably it is the nearest thing to a tree they can find.

The railways in about 1910 ran a line to the north side of the mount and mined the scoria for ballast. this is the site of the present car park.

In the 1950s the farmer who owned the mount at the time started a private quarry on the western face.

He sold scoria to local farms, and the Shire worked a pit in the same area for scoria for the local roads. Both pits ceased operations in the 1990s.



Old quarry on the west face

(Updated 21/4/2016)

Mount Elephant had 3 quarries at different times.

The first was the railway ballast quarry on the north face.

This operated from about 1910 to 1913 and provided ballast for the new line west from Derrinallum to Maroona.

Newspaper articles at the time record the issues to do with that line.

From high on the mount it is possible to trace the line of the old rail track curving from the pit to Derrinallum rail station.

This is now the Mount Elephant visitor car park and is managed by MECM

The rocks in this quarry are 20 to 50mm diameter with few inclusions. It was probably deposited early in the eruption cycle.

Around the base of the slope are the rocks which were rejected for railway ballast. They were originally thrown to the north side of the rail wagon loading area and recently were pushed to the base of the slope to clear the area and stabilize the slope. The holes into the slope are probably old rabbit burrows.

The second pit (pictured) is the old commercial pit of the previous owner, visible on the western slope of the mount.

This provided gravel for many farm tracks in the district from the 1950s until closing in the 1990s.

Where possible the surface was restored with topsoil and trees.

There are peregrine falcon nests in the cliff face and young are raised there in the springtime of most years.

The southern end of the face is too steep to restore.

The face provides the geologist with a cross section of the effluvia from the mount over the course of its eruption.

This area is managed by MECM.

The stones here are different to the stones on the north railway pit.They tend to be more vesicular (holes) and there are patches where limestone covers them. This may have been ejected during the eruption.

The third pit was used by Corangamite Shire for gravel for local shire roads.

It is to the west of the commercial pit and not visible from the highway.

It also has been closed and the shire are restoring the area with local topsoil.

This area is owned by the shire and is not managed by MECM.

The stones here are much smaller, being 5mm to 10mm diameter. It is suitable for mixing with granite sand which is used to sheet the less-used roads to the north of the shire.

Quarrying regulations.

Modern quarrying techniques ensure that the slope is always manageable, the quarry is out of public view, one face is rehabilitated before another face is opened, and the quarry operator must hold the rehabilitation cost in a bond until the work is completed. These conditions did not apply at the time of these Mount Elephant quarries. Various reports have suggested ways to rehabilitate these quarries and these are being considered in the overall management plan of the Mount.

Click here for a guide to the current Victorian government regulations.

Some memories........

"My (step)Grandfather, Percival George Hoare, (1898-1980) originally from Dereel (near Ballarat), told us about working one of the quarries on Mt E.

" It was during the depression, and they were loading scoria onto trucks by hand. His trucks (2) were two ton, Fords I think. They used the really long shovels often preferred for coke, or lighter materials where volume was more important then weight.There's a name for those, but I can't recall it.

He had two trucks, and during the depression,"susso" workers became available, so he thought it might be useful to use them to load the trucks more quickly. He said the scoria was for "roads", so it may have been that he had a contract from the shire to deliver the rock for roadmaking. That would fit with susso workers being available to him. The work was hard and physical, and with the shortage of manpower after the war, he had great difficulty finding and keeping reliable workers, hence when the susso opportunity came up, they grabbed it.

"He and his off-sider loaded a truck in 45 minutes. He told us the susso gang, of 10 men, would take an hour and a half to two hours. After a week, he found that the slow loading, added to the supervision, was slowing him down, so he was actually delivering less rock than before.

"He ended up sending the susso gang away, and they continued loading on their own. I don't know dates, or how long that lasted, but I think he said that mechanical loaders, which he could not afford, came in not long after. He later held contracts for mail, sanitary, and garbage all over Victoria, so I'm not sure what he did immediately afterwards, but the experience put him off employing people from that time on.

"Hope the new centre goes well, and keep up the good work. I'm sure the history of Mt E. generates memories for a great number of people, just as it has for me".