Wandong and Heathcote Junction

Wandong and Heathcote Junction are joined as a township on the Hume Freeway, 54 km north of Melbourne. ‘Wandong’ is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning spirit or ghost.

To the east of Wandong there is extensive natural and pine forests, successors to stringy bark and more elevated ash and messmate timber in the Mount Disappointment range. Wandong grew mainly around a railway siding and sawmills during the early 1870s. The siding, first called Morphett’s Siding after a selector, Patrick Morphett, gave way to a small township by the mid-1870s. The nearest school was Lightwood Flat (1871), which was moved to Wandong in 1882.

In 1883 one of Victoria’s largest sawmills, Comet Mill, was opened about 20 km east of Wandong. A school was attached to it between 1886 and 1902. In 1889 a terra-cotta lumber mill was opened at Wandong, making building material from a combination of clay and sawdust. It ran for about nine years. Wandong’s economy was badly affected by the decline in demand for building materials occasioned by the 1890s depression. In 1903 the Australian handbook described the small settlement:

About 2 km south of Wandong a branch railway line to Heathcote was opened in 1888. The junction was named Heathcote Junction, and merged with Wandong as urbanisation grew since the 1980s.

Wandong has a railway station, a school (256 pupils, 2014), a hall (1902), an Anglican church, a Catholic church built with terra-cotta lumber, a hotel and a recreation reserve. It has an annual country-music Wandong Festival.

More than 40 homes in Wandong were destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.

Its census populations have been:

area census date population
Wandong 1901 176
  1921 199
  1933 167
  1954 165
  1966 121
  1981 412
Wandong and Heathcote Junction 1996 1251
  2006 1490
  2011 1634

Further Reading

J.W. Payne, Pretty Sally’s hill: a history of Wallan, Wandong and Bylands, Kilmore, 1981

Ron Pickett, Ghosts, gold and a white elephant – a history of Wandong, Clombinane and Heathcote Junction, Wandong, 2011