The tiny, rural town of Clackline dates back to the late 1880s. Western Australia was expanding its railway network, and Clackline was smack bang in the centre of three of those lines. It was the perfect spot to set up an undisturbed industrial town in the middle of nowhere.
By 1898, it was mostly railway workers residing in the town which by this stage consisted of a school, a Methodist Church, a hotel, and the WA Firebrick Company (a refractory and quarry).
The WA Firebrick Company had been established by two men, John Ford and James Murray, who were searching for gold, but ended up discovering the fine quality clay that seemed suitable for fired bricks – a resource required to build the railways.
By 1901, the clay and brick industry was so important to Western Australia, that the brick products from Clackline were used by multiple government departments, the Fremantle Gas Company, and many goldmines. Other users of the bricks included the Railway Department, the Perth Gas Company, the Fremantle smelter, and the Great Boulder Perseverance Company.
After two years, the refractory changed hands and Bunnings took ownership. In 1903, “the Hunter family” owned it until the 1950s.
In the late 1960s, the Clackline Refractory underwent an expansion, and reportedly had difficulty recruiting workers due to a shortage of accommodation in the area. It closed in the 1970’s for this reason, but reopened in the 1980’s and using more modern kilns and equipment, started producing clay based ceramic products. By the end of the 1980’s, the machines once again stopped whirring and it has been abandoned ever since.
Today, it is a “heritage listed brickworks site” and can even be found on Google Maps. There are still lots of industrial parts lying around the site, including machinery that would have been the workhorses of the site during peak operation. If you go to the refractory as of now (2021), you can see the old kilns, crushers, rail lines and fuel tanks.
The site expands over hectares, consisting of a mixture of the industrial areas, and vast rolling hills that have been carved and quarried over the many decades. Piles of clay have been dumped and left behind and the man-made holes in the earth are desolate, overgrown, and look like the remnants of a mining town. Burnt out cars and machinery line the paths as you walk through and there are the usual heaps of rubbish strewn about that you would find in most abandoned areas. Overall, it’s ugly and beautiful at the same time.