Big Lizzie

Australian Tractor

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254 Pond Point Avenue, Milford, Connecticut 06460.

I think I may have an interesting sequel to an article that I had sent in quite some time ago. Back in the July-August issue of G.E.M. 1972 you published a picture of an old Australian Tractor that I had sent in (page 4). Since then I received quite an interesting letter and information from a gentleman in Victoria, Australia pertaining to that picture.

I am now sending the picture along with a copy of Mr. Sloane's letter and a short story about 'Big Lizzie'. I think the readers may be interested in it.

From: Hugh Shane, Buninyong, Vic. 3357 Australia.

Dear Mr. Clark I was interested to read in the Gas Engine Magazine of your Trumbull tractor and your correspondence with a late Mr. Rewell of Victoria.

I immediately recognized the photograph as that of the machine known here as 'Big Lizzie'. The history of 'Big Lizzie' is well known in Victoria although most accounts will differ in some details. The facts given to you appear to have many discrepancies which is puzzling.

Enclosed is a copy of an article from the newsletter of the Lake Goldsmith Steam Engine Preservation Society. This seems to be an accurate account as many of the statements made are confirmed by other reports I have had from reliable sources over the years.

A friend in Melbourne actually saw 'Big Lizzie' leave the works in Richmond. Being a young man at the time he stayed up all night to see the event. He recalls that difficulty was experienced manoeuvring out of the yard where she was built, and that the planks created a tremendous noise in the streets. Travel was only permitted at night until clear of the city.

Until recently 'Big Lizzie' was located on a property near Balmoral, Victoria, owned by a Mr. R. Meyer. A dispute arose as to whether she should be preserved at Ballmoral or Mildura, and as to legal ownership, as a previous owner of the property promised it to Mildura. It seems Mildura won the case.

I have never actually seen 'Big Lizzie' but am interested in getting as much of the true history as possible.

The name Trumbull is new to me so if you could give me any information on these 'tractors' it would be appreciated. I always thought that Mr. Bottrill designed 'Big Lizzie', but could it be that he worked to a German design?

If you would like more information I could give you further facts as they come to light. Yours sincerely, Hugh Sloane


If you are ever in the neighborhood of Red Cliffs, near Mildura, a visit to the park in the main street is well worthwhile to see the famed 'Big Lizzie' that has been preserved there.

This massive tractor was completed in 1915 in Melbourne to the design of Mr. Frank Bottrill who 9 years earlier had patented his 'Dreadnought' type wheel which was not unlike the Boydell wheel used on the very early traction engines during the 1850's in England. The main object of building 'Big Lizzie' was to use it for carrying wool from outback stations to the railhead and return with provisions to the stations. It was planned that its work in the Broken Hill area and an epic journey to this destination was commenced early in 1916, two wagons were hauled, the rear one served as a house for Frank Bottrill and his family whilst the front one housed the men assisting with the work. Also on one of the wagons was a quantity of heavy timber used for strengthening bridges and culverts on the way. Her 60 horsepower single cylinder Blackstone crude oil engine was water-cooled and drove through a system of gears providing four speeds, ?, 1, 1? and 2 miles per hour. By October 1916 the 45 ton monster had reached Elmore and after fording the Campaspe River in November arrived at Rochester on December 4th, Echuca was reached on December 8th and Korang on January 4th, 1917. Alterations to the wheels took five months here and the run across the Mallee to Ouyen occupied about 2 months, from here she headed North to Mildrua and on New Years' Day 1918 its first load of between 600 and 800 bags of wheat was hauled from Merbien South to Merbien Railway Station. The following year nearly 900 bags, a record load and what is believed to be the biggest single delivery of wheat to any railway station in the Commonwealth was taken to Merbien. During 1920 she was taken to Red Cliffs where about 4000 acres were cleared for Soldiers Settlers blocks. During 1923 two portable steam engines were taken down to lock 9, 45 river miles below Wentworth, 2500 posts made up the back load. 1925 saw 'Big Lizzie' heading South again and she worked her way through Ouyeh, Hopetoun, Rainbow, Nhill then through the Little Desert to Toolondo in the Balmoral District, clearing was undertaken until the end of 1928 when Frank Bottrill left and the machine was never used again. It remained virtually intact until 1938 when the engine was sold and used in Snells' Quarry at Pyramid Hill until 1945 when it was scrapped.