Blue Heelers cast of 1998 stand in front of Mount Thomas Police Station
|Blue Heelers location|
|Created by||Hal McElroy|
|Notable characters||Tom Croydon, Chris Riley, P.J. Hasham, Maggie Doyle|
|First appearance||A Women's Place
Ep. 1 (Pilot), 18/1/1994
|Last appearance||One Day More (Pt. 2)
Ep. 510, 4/6/2006
Mount Thomas is the fictional town featured in the long-running Australian police procedural drama Blue Heelers., which ran from 1994 until it was cancelled in 2006. The program was filmed in Victorian suburbs Wyndham, Williamstown and Castlemaine, which were all used for the show's exterior scenes to depict Mount Thomas, interior scenes were filmed in-house at the Seven Network studio's.
Mount Thomas is located in the state of Victoria in a very rough northern triangle with the real towns of Echuca, Swan Hill and Benalla nearby. In episode 321, Mount Thomas is shown to be located in the fictional Victorian Parliament electoral district of Hetherington along with St Davids and the surrounding district. In episode 56, the population is given on a "Welcome to Mt. Thomas" sign as 7805, although this undoubtedly grew as the series continued - large enough for a police force of six officers, a court house, a railway station and yards, hospital, primary and secondary schools, the obligatory football and cricket clubs and a swimming pool - but still small enough that most members of the community are known to everyone else.
It is also large enough to have its own town council, a newspaper (The Gazette) and at least nine pubs, one of which is "The Imperial" (the copper's pub) plus "The Railway", "The Federal", "The Steam Packet", "Customs House" and "The Commercial", which is The Imperial's main rival. There is also another pub down the street from the court house (which from a distance appears to be called "The Main Street Hotel") as well as another down the street from Coles and a further hotel seen in season 9. Over the years The Imperial has played home to several police characters, new to town with nowhere else to live but a rental room at the hotel. Mount Thomas also has at least one motel, a motor inn and a caravan park. There is also a local radio station, 3TM, mentioned in episode 4 which plays predominately country music.
Dozens of real-life, national business chains have branches or stores in Mount Thomas, and can be seen across a wide number of episodes. Throughout the series it is remarked by various characters that the town has been in trouble commercially, or will be in trouble in the future due to lack of employment. However, the sheer number of these actual businesses seen tends to imply that the town is thriving and in an excellent economic position. There are Coles, Safeway and IGA supermarkets; a Fosseys store and a Target Country. Mount Thomas has branches for the Commonwelath, ANZ and Bendigo Banks, a BP, Mobil and at least two Caltex service stations. There are both Mazda and Holden auto dealerships, an ABC Shop, a Hog's Breath Cafe, Hungry Jack's, CSR Gyprock, and Bridgestone Tyre Centre. An obvious oversight with the multiple filming locations also makes it apparent that Mount Thomas has no less than three Beaurepaires outlets. Several real-life real estate firms are seen, including L.J. Hooker, The Professionals and Elders. Amcal chemists and Tonks Brothers Hardware are in several areas. There is a Retravision store, a Cheesecake Shop, and Mount Thomas even appears to have its own homemaker centre, housing Mitre 10, Capt'n Snooze, Forty Winks, Supercheap Auto and Barbecues Galore, to name a few.
Mount Thomas is close to a national park and is largely surrounded by open farmland. There is a river nearby, and also a lake, Lake Widgeree.
No explanation is given for the town's name until the third season, where it is revealed that the town was settled by a person called Colonel Thomas. The town is presumably named in his honour.
Mount Thomas is sometimes jokingly referred to as the 'Crime Capital of Australia' due to the constant stream of murders, thefts, kidnappings, explosions, shootings and assaults which happened on Blue Heelers on a weekly basis.
Mount Thomas and the nearby small settlement of Widgeree are overseen by the St Davids police district, based in the larger town of St Davids (also fictional), which has a population of just over 68 000. Successive inspectors, Ted Faulkner and Russell Falcon-Price, are based there, as is Inspector Monica Draper of Ethical Standards Division (E.S.D.). The C.I.B. in St Davids is supervised by a Detective Sergeant who is also responsible for the detectives based at Mount Thomas, though this is very rarely mentioned or explored after being a major plotline in the first season. St Davids Police Station also hosts a district Forensic Services department, but other more specialised units, such as the Homicide Squad, Special Operations Group and Accident Investigation Squad respond from Melbourne.
St Davids is also the home of a local radio station, known as 3SD, and a Prime television station, as well as a number of amenities not offered in Mount Thomas including a multiplex cinema.
According to a sign seen during Season 1, St Davids is located 37 km from Mount Thomas.
Located a short distance from Mount Thomas, Widgeree is a stereotypical small country town where there is very little in the way of business besides the obligatory pub and life revolves around the local footy club. With a small population, everyone knows everyone and policing in Widgeree is a bit different than in the larger towns and cities. Served by a small, one-man police station, the incumbent police officer is technically under the supervision of the Sergeant at Mount Thomas although the local copper is generally left to their own devices. After the local officer is suspended during season 1, Widgeree station is closed down and Mount Thomas assumes the additional role of policing Widgeree until the station is reopened in season 8.
Rarely mentioned in the show, Evanleigh is home to the regional superintendent, Clive Adamson, who has ultimate responsibility for St Davids, Mount Thomas and Widgeree. Very little is known about Evanleigh, however since it is home to the superintendent it is presumably a substantially sized city, perhaps similar in size to Ballarat.
Real locations used
The majority of exterior scenes were filmed in Wyndham, Williamstown and from time-to-time at Castlemaine, all in the state of Victoria. Castlemaine, in the Victorian Goldfields region 90 minutes north of Melbourne, played Mount Thomas in the major aerial shots of the town.
To contain production costs location scenes needed to be shot close to the South Melbourne studios of Channel Seven, so coastal Williamstown (20 mins south west of the city) - noted for its Victorian and Federation architecture - was chosen. The railway yards of adjacent Newport were the location for the Mount Thomas rail yards, and the scene of numerous crimes. The nearby basalt plains around Werribee were suitable to represent farming and bush country.
The shots looking north were filmed from the Burke & Wills monument towards the former Castlemaine Gaol (now closed). The southern shots were filmed at the Castlemaine Gaol looking over the Castlemaine Railway Station (Melbourne-Bendigo line) towards the Post Office clock tower.
Coincidentally the exterior of "The Imperial Hotel" is a former local pub called "The Imperial Hotel" (which was marked up with beer signage for cut away scenes). Today it is a decaying second hand clothes and antiques store - and the interior has no resemblance to Chris Riley's pub. Even more strangely, "The Imperial" is right next door to the real Castlemaine Police Station (although this has never been featured in the show), and also across the road from the Castlemaine Courthouse. In at least two (earlier) episodes, real police cars belonging to Castlemaine Police Station (different makes to the production vehicles used as "Mount Thomas" units) are inadvertently seen parked in the street during exterior shots of The Imperial.
The first Mount Thomas Police Station was actually the former Williamstown Police Station where the majority of the Mount Thomas street scenes were filmed. Early in the series the building was sold and converted to a residence and was specially decorated for filming.
Shots and scenes for Widgeree was filmed on location at Clarkefield, Victoria. Including Clarkefield Coach & Horses which was used as the Widgeree pub, on the same street just three houses down is where Widgeree Police Station was filmed, which is actually a private residence and was only dressed up as a police station for the show.