The development of Snowy towns video (9:07) uses Adaminaby as a case study to unpack the story of how a whole town was dismantled house by house, transported to higher ground before being reconstructed at the new site, all to allow for the development of the Scheme.

Episode 8

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Narrator - The Snowy Mountains region is a rugged and untamable landscape. Dotted with a multitude of charming townships. But the Snowy Mountains region you see today, is a result of years and years of remarkable change. In this episode you will explore one of these beautiful towns. Adaminaby. We will investigate both the new and the old townships. As we explore its history, I want you to focus on the concept of change. Here we are in Old Adaminaby. The area around Adaminaby, was occupied by members of the Ngarigo people. The area was also seasonally used by the Wiradjuri to the west and the Yuin to the east. Old Adaminaby was first established in 1885. By the turn of the century, it was nearly the same size as the region's biggest town Cooma. It was an important town in the region, and the opening ceremony for the Snowy Scheme was held here in 1949. New Adaminaby, the functioning town, is located up the hill. But what caused the need to build a second version of the town? The township of Old Adaminaby stood on the banks of the Eucumbene River. The plan was to dam the river so the flow of water could be controlled for the creation of hydroelectricity.

Archive film - 1956 was the year of great activity on the Scheme. Contracts had been awarded to an American group to build the Adaminaby dam. Now, Eucumbene Dam one of the world's largest earth and rock-filled dam, When completed, would be the heart of the Scheme, from which water could be diverted either to the Murray or Murrumbidgee systems. And water began to back up in the valley behind the dam wall. Residents from the old town of Adaminaby six miles away, were being moved to a new situation at a higher elevation.

Narrator - The damming of the river resulted in the planned flooding of the town. Before this flooding was to occur, the town was physically moved, building by building, to the new site.

Archieve film - Men and machines were tested to the limit, the smallest successes and major achievements. The battle was won inch by inch, one house, six miles.

Six days for the first four, slow, but certainly an achievement. Many people predicted that the house would never reach the new town. And at times the removal team thought they might be right. Progress was made despite the difficulty. This pioneer enjoyed the driest position, waved happily to old friends. And at the peak of removals, houses were moved at the rate of one a day.

Narrator - In total, 101 buildings, including 75 houses and two churches were relocated to New Adaminaby. The first house arrived in July, 1956 and within 18 months most of the move had been completed. One of the most difficult buildings to move to the new town, was St John's Church of England. St John's was dismantled stone by stone, and each stone was numbered before it was transported to its new site.

Archive Film - This contractor who was a lad, and assisted in constructing the original church, will rebuild it in the new town.

Narrator - When the church was rebuilt, every stone was put in exactly the same place as it had been in the original building. The news that Adaminaby residents would be forced to move from their much loved town was not always received well. Town folk, were also not the only ones to be impacted as the flooding zone was going to impact farmers and graziers, as the rising waters were to take excellent productive land. On the other hand, the inundation provided the opportunity to bring new life, modern services and a planned approach to the township.

Archive film - The heart of the new town began beating as residents occupied the completed houses. And new shops opened their doors. The old town began to look deserted, and empty spaces grew.

Frank Rodwell - For people who were brought up in the area to see their town sort of was a bit tough. But, my own personal opinion is that is was probably the best thing that ever happened. Adaminaby had grown at the time with the gold rush in Kiandra in the 1860s. It had a lot of old buildings tumbled down. And so, when the Snowy Authority... Their property section, were masters at working with people and understanding their problems. And they were able to convince them that they would be better off. And they moved into towns that were already laid out. You had tar sealed roads, curbed and guttered. The town was laid out properly by the town experts. You've only got to look at Adaminaby and you'll notice that the main road doesn't go through the town. It goes along the edge so that people don't have to cross the highway to go to the shops or the children don't have to cross the highway to go to the school. Those are all properly laid out, the shops and everything. Those who had businesses in the old town got the business in the new town. And the Snowy Authority was very careful to do their best and help the people. And of course, when they moved into their houses, they had the benefit of electricity, fresh running water and sewage. Now the old town didn't have that. They had to light with kerosene lamps. And so really, it was of great benefit to those people who moved into it.

Archive film - Now the removal team moves the last house as the rising waters cross the road. The story of the removal of Adaminaby is finished. As the newest town in Australia lives, and one of the oldest dies. The story of men, women and children, who gave up their heritage to cooperate in an era of Australia's progress. They made sacrifices, so that the dreams of our pioneers might be realised.

Narrator - Well, here I am standing on the edges of the beautiful Lake Eucumbene.

Today if you visit old Adaminaby when the water levels of Lake Eucumbene low, the mass of artefacts can be found on the shores. These include artefacts such as farm tools and household items like crockery from the 1950s before the town was moved. The foundations of old homesteads and other buildings and roads can also be seen. It's fascinating to explore the remnants of a township frozen in time. The artefacts left on the shore provide us with small glimpses of what life was like in the old town. It also provides evidence of the impact the building of the Scheme had on the people who lived in the old town. It is evidence of a discontinued way of life, customs, associations and traditions that were abruptly ended in order to build the Scheme.

End of transcript

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