Algebuckina, THE BRIDGE on the old Ghan Railway.

Algebuckina Bridge, Oodnadatta track

At Algebuckina, the Oodnadatta Track and the Old Ghan Railway are side by side once more.

This is the site of “THE” Outback Rail Bridge and many other interesting areas. I reckon it is the highlight of the Oodnadatta Track!

There are three graves in a rock enclosed area near the North end of the bridge. To find them, turn left on one of the wheel tracks after the creek crossing, follow this up to the rail embankment. Turn left through the small cutting and the graves are on your left.

The only marked grave is of the young prospector, James Helps, who drowned in the creek during a flood.

The reference to Proverbs 27.1 on his epitaph appears to be a slight reprimand for the young James. He must have left home during the Great Depression, talking of the riches he hoped to find during the brief gold rush at Algebuckina.

Prov. 27.1 "Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth".

There were other deaths in the area but there appears to be no record of where these people were buried.

Chin Chue, a gardener was murdered by a tomahawk blow in June 1888.

Rail ganger, David Saunders, was yet another victim of the hot summers here. He died at Algebuckina in January 1890 from “heart disease accelerated by heat apoplexy.”

Carl Carlson, a laborer, died in April 1891 from a fractured skull, presumably the result of an accident.

Another story tells of a rail ganger in the DT's from the sly grog who burst into the dining hut, shot the clock off the wall and another ganger before anyone was able to stop him.

The following is a contemporary account of the incident.
The Register (Adelaide, SA: 1901 - 1929) Wednesday 21 April 1926 OUTBACK TRAGEDY, SENSATION AT ALGEBUCKINA.
Railway Fettlers' Quarrel.
A few details of the tragedy at the lonely far-northern settlement of Algebuckina are gradually trickling through to the city. From meagre advises available on Tuesday Jack Edward Walsh (22) was on Monday, it was alleged, shot by a companion. Algebuckina is about 38 miles south of Oodnadatta. It is alleged that Walsh met his death from a revolver shot fired point blank at him. The two men belonged to a reconstruction gang employed on the Algebuckina Bridge, which is in the great northern division of the South Australian Railways. The shooting is alleged to have followed a quarrel which marked the conclusion of a drinking bout by the men employed, on the bridge.

Anderson Arrested.
The first intimation of the tragedy was received in Adelaide by Inspector Whittle, head of the C.I.B., late on Monday night by telegram from M.C. Virgo, at Oodnadatta. The officer stated that he had received a message from Algebuckina Railway Camp, stating that a man, named Jack Edward Walsh, had been shot, it was alleged, by Charles Henry Anderson, and that he was proceeding with Dr. Shanahan and a nurse to the camp. Later information was that, on arrival at the camp, Walsh was found to be dead, and Anderson was arrested in connection with the shooting. He was taken back to Oodnadatta, when an inquest was begun on Tuesday morning, and adjourned until Sunday. Both the dead man and his alleged assailant were employed as fettlers on the Algebuckina Railway Bridge, and belonged, it is stated, to the A.W.U. Inspector Giles, of the mounted police, who has his headquarters at Port Augusta, will leave for Oodnadatta by train on Thursday to conduct proceedings at the inquest in behalf of the police. Walsh, who was highly respected in the Oodnadatta district, was previously employed as a stockman on the Allandale Station, near Oodnadatta. As far as can be ascertained, he has relatives at Balaklava.

The Register (Adelaide, SA: 1901 - 1929) Monday 26 April 1926
As previously reported on Monday, April 19, at Algebuckina (which is in the great northern division of the South Australian Railways), a railway labourer named Jack Edward Walsh was, it is alleged, fatally shot by a fellow labourer named Charles Henry Anderson. At the inquest on Sunday the accused was committed for bail.

Our Oodnadatta correspondent on Sunday telegraphed a graphic account of the tragedy. He said: — Jack Walsh was 21, 5. ft. 7 in., and well built. He had worked at Iron Knob and Todmorden, Partacoona, and Allandale Stations. He commenced work, at 13 years, and was decent, popular, and a teetotaller. Anderson, the accused, is 57. His mother was South African Dutch and his father was a half Swede. He is of big build. Algebuckina cottages are 35 miles south of Oodnadatta. At half-past 6 on Monday, April 19, at breakfast, Anderson was in a bad temper and was abusive. He appeared to be sober, but drink was in the camp. At 7.30 a labourer named Ah Chee left on a motor rail trolly with Ganger Herde, and Rowe, Walsh, and Spriggs, labourers, were in the kitchen. Anderson came in with an axe on his shoulder. He was threatening and abusive, and said: — "Where is that yellow skinned ___." Walsh replied: — "Just gone up the track." Anderson retorted: — "I'll murder that Chinese ___.”He used threatening actions towards Walsh and Spriggs, who, with Ballard, left to cut wood. Anderson did not go to work.

A Rifle Procured.
At 10 o'clock all returned and passed Anderson, who was lying on a bed. Ballard and Walsh went to their room. Spriggs heard Anderson growling at Walsh, who said to Spriggs: — "I have a good mind to ring for the police.'' Spriggs agreed, and Walsh rang up Oodnadatta to tell the police that a mad man with a gun was running around the camp. Deceased then walked out. Anderson had heard the message, and cursed him. Later he went to Walsh and talked at him through the screen door, threatening him with a rifle of .22 calibre. Walsh said: — "I am not afraid of you, even with your gun," and walked towards the screen door which separated the kitchen and dining room.

The Fatal Shot.
Anderson fired through the screen and Walsh fell into Spriggs's arms saying: — "He's got me. Send for the police." Ballard telephoned the police, who arrived with a nurse and Dr. Shanahan. When the shot was fired Spriggs tackled Ander- son and wrenched the gun away. He then turned to Walsh and attended to him. Anderson came in bringing whisky, which he tried to force down Walsh's throat. Later, Spriggs walked out on to the verandah with the rifle. Anderson chased him and both ran. Anderson slowed down after 500 yards, and stopped. Spriggs then stopped, and Anderson walked up the line, followed by Spriggs. The lorry returned and Anderson walked up to Ah Chee and said: — ''I am a murderer." He then walked into the bush, followed by Spriggs, who said: — "Come home, Anderson. Don't be a fool." Anderson replied: — "Shoot me."

Arrest of the Assailant.
M.C. Virgo arrived and took charge of the prisoner. Dr. Shanahan found life to be extinct. Walsh had a bullet wound to the right of his chest, the missile having reached the spine. The victim died in a quarter of an hour after he was shot. The Oodnadatta express arrived 12 hours late, bearing Inspector Giles and M.C. Finn, from Port Augusta. The scene of the murder was the railway cottages containing a gang of eight men under Ganger Herde, and other labourers, including Ah Chee, the man whom Anderson had a grouch against.

Inquest Held.
At 10 a.m., as the inquest on the body of Walsh was being opened by Mr. E. R. Kempe, the Rev. Father Clune read a burial service. Inspector Giles appeared for the police, and Mr. F. Penoyne Adams appeared on behalf of Anderson, who was present in custody. Accused appeared to calm. Robert William Low Spriggs, navvy at the Algebuckina railway camp, identified the body. He had known Walsh about five weeks. He was working in the Algebuckina gang. He knew Charles Anderson, who was employed in the same gang. Witness and deceased were having breakfast at the camp at half-past 6 o'clock. Anderson, Walsh, and other labourers were at breakfast together. Anderson appeared to be annoyed and growled at first. Then he abused everybody. He appeared to be sober. There were three cottages joined together in a row. Each cottage consisted of three rooms. Anderson occupied the end room at the south end. Ballard and deceased occupied a room opening off Anderson's room. The middle cottage wan occupied by Ganger Herde and a man named Rowe. One room was used as a general kitchen for all, and another room was the dining room. A third room was occupied by Donnellan, the cook. In Donnellan's room there was a telephone to Oodnadatta. At half-past seven Ganger Herde and Ah Chee left the camp. Just afterwards deceased and witness went to the kitchen. Anderson came in with an axe on his shoulder, and said— "Where is that yellow-skinned ___?" Witness knew he was alluding to Arthur Ah Chee. He said, "I will murder that ___” Witness told Anderson that Ah Chee had gone. He then raised the axe and said. "What about you. Bob?" Anderson then turned to Walsh and said, "What about you, Jack!" Deceased made some reply. Witness did not think Anderson meant to harm either of them. It was Ah Chee he was looking for. Anderson went out of the kitchen taking the axe. Ballard, deceased, and witness went to work to cut wood for the engine, about 200 yards away. Anderson did not go. They returned to camp between 10 and 11. He went to his room and had to go through Anderson's. He saw Anderson in his room, but did not speak. He also had to pass through the room occupied by Ballard and Walsh. He sat on the bed till Ballard came and were talking. They heard Anderson open the screen door between Ballard's and Anderson's room, and heard Anderson and deceased having an argument. Anderson left the door, and Ballard went into Anderson's room. Witness then left the room and went out passed Anderson's again, out of the door. He could not see all of Anderson's bed because of the door. He heard Anderson and Ballard talking, and heard a click. He took the click to be a rifle action being worked. Deceased came to his room shortly after, and went into the kitchen together. Deceased said, "I will ring up the police." Both went into the cook's room. Deceased rang Oodnadatta, and said "There is a man down here gone mad, running about the camp with a rifle. He is going to shoot everyone." Deceased then left and went into the kitchen. Shortly after witness heard Anderson and the deceased wrangling again. He never took notice. Neither appeared to be angry. There were always arguments in the camp. He heard deceased say, "Anderson, I am not afraid of you or your rifle." Witness went to the door between the dining room and kitchen.

The Fatal Shot.
Witness continued — Deceased was standing in the kitchen about 18 in. from the screen door. Deceased was looking through the screen towards the back premises. I then heard the report of a rifle. Walsh staggered back. I put my arms to save him. Deceased said, "He's got me." I partly caught deceased in my arms. I saw Anderson about 5 ft. from the screen door, and he had a rifle in one hand. When I beard the rifle shot, deceased had the handle of a pick in a hand behind his back. I helped deceased to the telephone room. He said, "Ring up for the police." I sat deceased on the cook's bed. I tried to ring. Ballard then came to the phone room and rang. Anderson came into the room carrying the rifle at the trail. I seized the rifle after a struggle and got it. Anderson left the room, but came back shortly with Ballard. I closed the door. Anderson said, "Open the door. I have whisky." I let Anderson into the room, He had some whisky. I left the room, taking Anderson's gun, and went to my own room and got my own rifle. I then went out of my room with the two rifles to the front, verandah. Walking towards the kitchen I heard something behind and looked and saw Anderson running. I ran away. Anderson ran. I ran to the end of the cottages and called. Ballard came out and beckoned to me to go into the bush with the rifles. I walked away. Anderson stopped at the north corner of the cottages. I saw Ballard go to the kitchen, and he afterwards came out and said; "I will put the truck on the rails and see if I can find Herde." Herde came, and he, Lowe, Ballard, and myself went to the kitchen. I still had the rifles. I saw Anderson going toward the creek water hole. Herde told Rowe and me to watch Anderson. We went to stop Anderson, who after going about a third of a mile turned back towards the cottages. He went up to Ah Chee, who was on the line. Anderson again went off. Rowe and I followed, but missed him.

"Shoot Me, Bob."
When passing a thick, dry bush Anderson yelled to me. I then saw him coiled up in the bush like a fox. I said: — "Come on home, Charley." Anderson said: — "No." Three or four times I asked him to come home, but he said: — "Shoot me, Bob." I said: — "No Charley, I don't want to do that." He then walked towards the railway. Rowe and I kept Anderson in view until Constable Virgo came. I handed Anderson's rifle to the constable in the same condition as when I took it from Anderson. The rifle (produced) is Anderson's. I saw deceased lying on the floor dead. I saw a small wound right of the centre of the chest. By Mr. Adams — Anderson was more abusive than the average man about the camp. He would keep to himself. At breakfast Anderson did not single out Walsh. He never heard Anderson argue with Walsh, and believed that Anderson was as friendly with Walsh as any. Not much drinking went on in the camp. He believed Anderson took more nobblers than any other of the men. He saw Anderson at 7.30 a.m., and he did not appear to have been drinking. When he first saw Anderson with the axe, witness did not think it anything out of the ordinary. When Anderson raised the axe he felt nervous. Anderson was a very fair workman. When the shot was fired Walsh was standing in the kitchen directly in front of the dining room doorway. Just prior to the shot being fired wit- ness could not see Anderson. He was worried in consequence of the wrangling at the breakfast table, but did not worry about the quarrelling between Walsh and Anderson until he heard the report. When the shot was fired five men were in the camp, namely, Donnellan, himself, Walsh, Anderson, and Ballard.

Another Fettler's Evidence.
Norman Ballard, fettler, stated: — "Anderson had breakfast with us at the camp. That morning he was abusive towards every one. In my opinion he was as sober as the rest of us. I knew later on that he had had some drink. About 7.45 a.m. ganger Herde, Rowe, and Ah Chee went away I saw Anderson walking around with an axe on his shoulder, he came into the kitchen and then into the 'phone room. Anderson said to me, "Where is that yellow ___." I went into Anderson's room. He was standing up, and had a gun behind him — a .22 calibre repeater rifle. He placed the rifle on the bed. Spriggs went out of the room. As he did so Anderson said, "Did Springs take his gun with him?" I replied, "No." He then picked up his gun, put the butt on his knee, and transferred a cartridge from the magazine to the breech. He had a bottle containing whisky. Wit- ness then largely corroborated the evidence of the first witness. Walsh telephoned to the police. He said to witness "I believe it is only bluff, but I'll settle his hash." Later accused was abusing Walsh, and he said. "I'll swing for some of you ___ " Walsh said, "I am not afraid of you, or your gun. Why don't you shoot?" He then saw Anderson raise the rifle half-way to his shoulder, with the muzzle pointing towards Walsh. He then heard the report of the weapon, and saw Walsh stagger back into Spriggs's arms. Continued page 10.

Continued from Page 7.
By Mr. Adams— When he saw Anderson transfer the cartridge from the magazine to the breech he did not take any special notice. He did not think he was going to shoot a human being. He did not hear Anderson threaten Walsh particularly. Anderson was on the eastern side of the house. The enclosure consisted of two sides made of sleepers. The roof was made of a mixture of iron and timber, with stones placed on top to keep the iron in place. From Walsh's last remark, "Why don't you shoot," to the actual time of shooting was about five seconds.

Ah Chee in the Box.
Arthur Ah Chee, a fettler in No 20 gang at Algebuckina, said — I have known deceased for about six months. He was employed as a fettler in the same gang. I last saw him alive about 7.40 a.m. on the morning of April 19. I left camp with Ganger Herde and Rowe. We ran the length towards Warrina and returned to camp about 11 a.m. Ballard stopped us near the camp and said. "Hurry! Charley has shot Jack." We ran the motor into the yard and stopped near the shed. I went to the cottage to get petrol, and when putting the petrol in the tank Anderson came up to me and said, "I am a murderer, Chee." I said, "Yes." Anderson said, "Give me a lift for a couple of miles north or south, and I will give you___?" He then stopped. I said, "No, you're gone." Anderson then went away from me. After a while I went to the 'phone room and saw deceased lying on the floor, with a small punctured wound, in the middle of the chest. I know the rifle (produced). It is Anderson's. By Mr. Adams— On the Saturday before the 19th (that is April. 17) I was in Oodnadatta, and took back a supply of liquor with me, namely, a gallon of whisky and a dozen of lager. I delivered the one dozen of lager and three bottles of whisky to Anderson. I gave three bottles of whisky to Donnellan. That was all the liquor. I have had arguments with Anderson, but have no reason to think that Anderson had a down, on me. The arguments I had with him were trivial.

The Arrest.
M.C. Virgo, of Oodnadatta, stated: — "I proceeded to Algebuckina, and saw Dr. Shanahan on arrival. I walked to the 'phone room and saw the body of Jack Edward Walsh lying on the floor. I made an examination of the body. Dr. Shanahan extracted the bullet (produced), and handed it to me. I then left the camp and went in a south-easterly direction in the motor car. Two miles from the camp, I saw a man walking alongside a hill. Two other men were behind him. I picked up the two men and went over the hill. I saw Anderson lying down on some stones. On approaching him he sat up. I said, "I want you." Anderson said, "Yes, I believe so." I then handcuffed him. When we were returning to the cottages in the motor, Anderson asked "How is Jack? He is not dead is he?" and I said, "Yes." When we got back to the cottages Spriggg handed me a rifle. There was one discharged cartridge in the barrel and 11 undischarged cartridges in the magazine. I examined the wire door between the kitchen enclosure and found a hole in the top portion of the wire gauze. The hole was four feet three inches from the floor of the kitchen. The ragged edges of the gauze turned inwards to the kitchen door. Just before we left Algebuckina Anderson again asked: —"How is Jack? He isn't dead, is he?" I said: — "Yes." Anderson said: — "I'm sorry. I took the rifle to get a couple of goats. It was only a bit of fun."

Medical Evidence.
Dr. Shanahan, residing at Oodnadatta, stated: — "I was talking to the station master outside his office door when Mr. Rice, the telegraph operator, came out of the office and called out: — "Don't go away yet, doctor. Jack Walsh has been shot. He wants you to go down to Algebuckina." I then proceeded with Sister Sinclair to Algebuckina and arrived at the railway cottages about 1 p.m. In a room at the rear of one of the cottages I saw Jack Walsh lying on the floor on a couple of bags covered with a rug. I made an examination of the body. In my opinion Walsh had been dead for a couple of hours. The body was suffused with blood. On the breast just over the fourth rib and close to the breastbone, I saw a small punctured wound. I turned the body and saw that a bullet was the immediate cause of death. All other organs were healthy. About 10 days before I had examined Jack Edward Walsh for insurance purposes and found him a first-class life.
By Mr. Adams— The point of exit of the bullet was lower down than the point of entry.

The Verdict.
The inquest concluded at 5.25. The finding was: — "That the deceased, Jack Edward Walsh, came to his death at Algebuckina on the morning of April 19 in consequence of a rifle shot fired at him intentionally by Charles Henry Anderson, and that the said Charles Henry Anderson did feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought kill and murder Jack Howard Walsh, and Anderson is committed to stand his trial at the next criminal sessions of the Circuit Court at Port August." Anderson, through his counsel, reserved his defence. The Police Court proceedings were adjourned until Monday morning.

The railway Line to Oodnadatta was completed in 1893 enabling bodies to be transferred there for medical examination, autopsy and burial. (Providing of course the line was not flooded or otherwise damaged at the time. This would have meant the end of most “on site” burials along the railway.

One interesting place you don’t find mentioned very often is the site of the proposed Algebuckina township. This was surveyed and marked out in 1858 and is still visible today. About 200m before the actual creek crossing is a small dusty rise on the right of the main road. If you walk up there among the small bushes you can see the “T” and “X” rock patterns laid down by the original surveyors.

Another area often overlooked but worth exploring is west of the graves where the remains of mine shafts and buildings are scattered through the regrowth. Note the kingfisher nests in the sandstone cliff face and the fairy martin nests under the cliff overhang.

A popular dwelling, still partly visible here, was built by digging into the steep hillside, building up the entrance with rocks and covering the roof with bushes or a tarpaulin.

Algebuckina is a perfect overnight camp or a fascinating area for an extended stay.

The waterhole east of the bridge is one of the best along the Oodnadatta Track. Groups of my mates have camped there for days at a time boating, fishing and swimming. We have caught plenty of the bream-like fish using shrimps for bait. The shrimp were caught using gum leaves in a drop net. Friends soaked the bony fillets in a special vinegar mix to make “Roll Mops”, but I stuck to tinned sardines!

The kids had a lot of fun exploring the lignum covered banks in a small fibreglass rowing boat. They could explore the many parts of the waterhole not accessible from the bank.

One local legend attributes the permanence of the Algebuckina water level to a spring somewhere in the waterhole. This is where the big Yella Belly are supposed to be!

Another legend says there were plenty of big fish in the Algebuckina waterhole before a conscienceless opal miner blew it up with explosives many years ago.

In the summer it pays to camp back from the water a bit to avoid the worst of the flies and mosquitos. Rig a simple shade area between two vehicles and swim often to keep cool if you need to.

We were kept entertained for hours on one trip watching a couple of our mates trying to assemble a “must have” fly proof enclosure made from 100 cheap imported parts, while keeping hydrated with red wine. True Bushies!

GPS coordinates

53J 0579467E 6914061N

Algebuckina Waterhole Oodnadatta Track

Read more about the Oodnadatta track.

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