Our long planned trip to Australia and New Zealand is now a memory, but a very pleasant one! Back on February 20th, our group of 36 assembled at LAX for that long flight (14 hours) to Sydney. The seats are squeezed up pretty tight in those big 747s, and one can't help but make the comparison to a load of cattle crowded into a semitrailer. All that aside, we had good flights and reasonably good service while in the air.
Our group consisted of folks from Alaska to Florida and Pennsylvania to California.
Starting the Big 4 tractor (Built by Emerson-Brantingham) at Pioneer Park Museum. After a couple of tries the huge engine took off, and idled very nicely. We know of at least one other Big 4 in Australia, and there might be more.
This Fowler Line-Drive tractor from England is very rare. The folks at Pioneer Park Museum started it and put on a demonstration. We'd guess though, that driving one of these tractors all day in the field would have been pretty tiring.
An unscheduled highlight of our tour was the Lake Goldsmith Machinery Society, with hundreds of engines and tractors in many different buildings. Olive Landefeld of Pittsburgh, collects oil cans. One of the guys gave her a very nice Australian-made oil can. Olive cared for this treasure like a piece of fine jewelry.
At Sovereign Hill there is a fair sized little town with restaurants, shops, and of course a pub. Ye olde Reflector is on the left, with Tom Ewald of Wisconsin on the right. After this photo in the pub we adjourned next door to a wonderful restaurant for lunch.
We spent three days visiting sites in Sydney, along with some leisure time to get unwound from the flight. Although there were a lot of steps to climb, the tour of the Sydney Opera House was indeed a delight. It is truly an architectural wonder of the world. We also visited the Harbor Bridge, and our driver was very helpful in taking us to just the right spots. We also visited the Powerhouse Museum, and this was well worth our time. The National Maritime Museum was also interesting, but it is still being developed.
After leaving Sydney we traveled to Lithgow for a journey on the Zig-Zag Railway, and then on to the Pioneer Park Vintage Machinery Museum with its Big 4 tractor. This operation is run mostly by volunteers and they had plenty of iron to see, both restored and unrestored. At Finley there was another fine museum, and then we stopped at Deniliquin, the home of the largest rice mill in the southern hemisphere.
One of the nicest engines at the National Rally was this 4 HP Lambert built in the United States about 1906. The restoration was superb and the engine performed very nicely throughout the show. There are quite a number of American engines in Australia. Many of them are very rare in the United States.
This Fordson has been converted into a logging locomotive, complete with a couple of cars to demonstrate how it was used. Logging railroads like this one were not at all uncommon in Australia. Instead of using draft animals, the converted Fordson made the job of moving large logs much easier.
At Lalbert we visited Jack and Lyn Chisholm and their wonderful collection, including one of the world's largest barbed wire collections. Over the years this couple has amassed a fantastic number of engines, tractors, and farm implements. Lyn has also collected a huge assortment of needlework, all nicely arranged in wooden cabinets. The ladies really enjoyed this collection. We finished off March 1 with a visit and overnight at Swan Hill and the wonderful collections there.
The Wheatlands Agricultural Machinery Museum near Warracknabeal was another of those great collections that we all enjoyed, and then we went on to Ballarat and the Sovereign Hill collection from the gold mining days. The huge operating shops were amazing . . . this writer was especially interested in the wagon makers shop, a huge building with all the machinery operated from lineshafting and powered by a steam engine.
After making the overnight voyage to Tasmania, we started out with a trip on the Don River Rail at Devonport, and that evening we came to Queen-stown on the western coast of Tasmania. Then it was on to Strahan (pronounced 'Strawn') and many scenic sites including a day on the Gordon River and a journey into the Tasmania rainforest. At Tullah we took a ride on the Wee Georgie Wood, a small locomotive of two-foot gauge. Georgie had too many people on board, too much water, and not enough steam, and slipped down several times bringing us back up a little hill. As a result, we christened it as the Wee Georgie Wouldn't!
American collectors were astounded to see this 4 HP vertical Alamo engine with tray cooling at the National Rally near Launceston. It has only recently been unearthed and will likely be restored in the near future. This engine is quite rare in the United States, but some of our friends in Australia tell us that a few of them survive 'down under.'
On March 9th we were invited to come to the Rally Grounds for the afternoon, although this was actually a setup day. Our thanks to our hosts for their gracious invitation! On March 10th we spent the entire day at the Rally, and saw a fine collection of engines and tractors. (See photos).
On March 12th we visited the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania (impressive) and then to the Swansea Bark Mill. Eventually we ended up at Port Arthur, and also visited the Bush Mill Steam Railway where we rode a narrow gauge system, and were invited to come down to their train shops.
We've missed a number of important stops on the Australian segment, but we'll pick up on those in coming issues. The important thing is to thank all the folks in Australia and Tasmania for their hospitality. Our people all agree that they have never been on a tour where the hosts were so very kind and hospitable.
Of our group of 36, there were 30 who went on to New Zealand. As in Australia, we were most fortunate in having a driver who was also interested in old iron. Along with a number of scheduled stops to look at old iron, we also had a number of unscheduled stops that added an extra dimension to the tour.
From the beginning ye olde Reflector had in mind to 'take the road less traveled.' Our drivers were very cooperative in this respect, and took us to many places that ordinarily aren't visited by tourists. For example, when we came to our hotel in Queenstown, Tasmania, we learned that they had never before hosted a group of American tourists. Big John, the owner, and all his staff were very kind and hospitable. Many of our group have made new and enduring friendships with folks we visited on the tour. In addition, our group became somewhat of a family while on the tour. The 2003 National Rally will be out east of Melbourne, and ye olde Reflector hopes to take a group once again. In fact, we already have tentatively reserved the same driver as before. Keith was truly among the very best drivers we have ever found on any tour anywhere we have been!
Meanwhile, ye olde Reflector is making plans for a tour to Germany in July 2002. Like the last one, it will be limited to no more than 40 people; it will run about 16 days, including air time, and will include a smaller area than in the past. We are convinced it is better to visit a smaller area and do it well, rather than have hours and hours of window time. You will be hearing more about this in a few months.
No doubt about it ... we have 36 people who will tell you that Australia is a visit you must do sometime!
36/7/1 Stewart Rich Howard, Hysham, MT 59038 sends two photos of a Stewart, as used with their sheep shearing machine (as built by Chicago Flexible Shaft Co.) This is a Stover KA engine built in 1925. We saw numerous shearing stands in Australia, and a surprising number of the older stands are still in use.