We learned a lot about steam in Australia this past spring, through the courtesy of a number of persons, some of whom we saw, others of whom we talked to by telephone.
Australia has many preserved steam traction engines; a number of active associations of collectors and restorers, and several notable museums. Any steam enthusiast visiting Australia can find plenty to see and do among followers of the hobby in addition to enjoying the wonders of this vast continental nation.
My wife Margaret and I made Sydney our headquarters for our Australian visit. Later we flew to New Zealand, where we also visited engine people.
Brian Burke, who is well known among steam collectors in both Australia and New Zealand, took me on a full-day trip to visit Australian owners of engines, plus the headquarters of the New South Wales Steam Preservation Co-Op Society Ltd. at Menangle Park.
Brian seeks aid in the U.S. in finding engine builders' records for dating these makes: Buffalo Pitts, Buffalo Springfield, and New Bird-sail. If you have such data, send it to him at 72 Roseberry Road, Killara 2071, New South Wales, Australia 02-4984483.
One of Australia's best known historians of engines, Brian estimates that with portable steam engines, and steam rollers, there are about 2,000 steam engines in Australia. 'Not all are going,' he comments. 'Some are in parks, or on farms, or grounded.' He is making a compilation, so if you are an Australian owner, get in touch with him.
Brian Burke and John Norris made one compilation in 1978 which showed 974 engines. The New South Wales society published it. Listed were engines from 55 manufacturers, primarily British and American. U.S. names included Advance, Bird-sail, Buffalo Pitts, Buffalo-Springfield, Farquhar, Frick and Kelly. Most entries were Marshall, from England. While names and types were listed, the authors stated they would not give locations of engines a very considerate reservation.
Clubs listed at that time were at New South Wales, Lake Goldsmith, Melbourne, Queensl and and Tasmania.
Many rallies are held, and the collectors seem to be in constant communication with each other. Because of the size of the continent, this is not always an easy matter.
One person we talked to by telephone, but did not meet, was Mary Wear, wife of Colin Wear. Both are active in the New South Wales group. Mary sent much printed material to the Russell Hotel, where we stayed. Among the Wears' restorations is a steam launch, which they put back on the water in 1982. The project took five years, two to plan, and three to do.
Among the publications from Mrs. Wear was a program for the spring 1983 rally, printed on glossy paper as a booklet. It included these recommendations for visitors who came to the rally:
1. Do not stand too dose to engines or tractors moving under their own power.
2. Keep clear of working internal combustion engines and wire ropes used for hauling.
3. Ensure that children are kept under control and clear of wheels it is not always possible to see them from the driving positions.
4. Qualified first-aid staff in attendance.
5. REMEMBER-SAFETY FIRST ALWAYS.
The society also has a printed set of Rally Safety Rules for participants. Putting these on paper is a very good idea. It can prevent injury or worse, and make for a rally or show free of mishap.
Boulton and Watt beam engine, restored at the Power House Museum, to be put back into steam July 22, 1985, during celebration centering on steam technology.
While in Sydney we also visited the Power House Museum, a showplace of the New South Wales government We were there during Stage 1 of the Power House, which is the first completed section of what will become Australia's largest museum.
A special event is set for July 22, 1985that is the day for a 200th anniversary celebration in the history of a Boulton and Watt beam engine. The engine was first put into operation on July 22, 1785, at Whit-bread's Brewery in London, England. It continued in service for 102 years, and was then donated to the museum which was the forerunner of the Power House.
The engine will be steaming again, for the first time in nearly 100 years, next July 22. The Museum states: 'It is now the oldest surviving Boulton and Watt rotative steam engine in the world. Its restoration to steaming condition is a landmark in the conservation of the world's engineering heritage.'
Events for the bicentennary will include: An international symposium on steam technology in the Industrial Revolution and the conservation of engineering heritage; exhibition,
'The Driving Force the art of the engineer'; steam fair and traction engine rally; festival of steam and engineering films; guided museum tours, and tours to steam displays and industrial archeology sites in Australia.
For further information, write to Dr. Louise Crossley, Power House Museum, PO Box k346, Haymarket, Sydney 2007, Australia.
Margaret and I were shown around the museum through the courtesy of Tim Hobson, design coordinator, and Fred Denholm, workshop manager.
During our visit to Australia, I also talked by telephone to Bruce McDonald and Barry Tulloch, both of whom have volumes of information on the movement which saved so many engines in their country.
Australia is a very stimulating place to visit for everyone, and for the person interested in steam, it is even more exciting. We recommend it.