The vibe is electric at the Brandon historical precinct, an hour south of Townsville in Queensland.
A dozen or so men from the Burdekin Machinery Preservationists labour at full power spurred on by their enthusiasm for their latest project — two vintage sugar mill engines that will be restored and housed together in a shed dubbed The Powerhouse.
The engines, four-cylinder 1920s air-blast-injection diesel engine made by Walkers Limited, and a 1950s Ruston and Hornsby from the nearby Kalamia and Inkerman sugar mills, were donated by Wilmar Sugar.
Club treasurer Alf Shand said the Walkers machine in particular was very rare as it is number one of just 18 manufactured by the factory in Maryborough under licence to Mirrlees, Bickerton and Day of England.
“We seem to think that all the other ones have gone to scrap and there is only two left,” Mr Shand said.
“So there is not many of that design with this air blast injection left in the world and ours is probably only one of two in Australia and the only cylinder one in Australia,” he said.
Giant engines a logistical challenge
The two engines are massive; the Walkers engine weighs 25 tonnes and each one of the four cylinders is more than two metres high.
A wall of the Kalamia sugar mill had to be removed in order to extricate the disassembled components of the engine.
Once operational, either of the two engines will be able to supply all of the historical precinct’s power needs.
“We won’t be allowed to export any power but we will be able to show people that we have a powerhouse here that is unique,” Mr Shand said.
Rekindled interest in vintage machinery drives engagement with historical precinct
Mr Shand said he had noticed a renewed interest in historical machinery since the Burdekin hosted the Queensland Heritage Rally in 2014.
More people are contacting the group to donate machinery and the historical precinct is attracting more tourist interest said Mr Shand.
“Last year when the caravan season was on we started opening the complex up a couple of days a week to the public. Some days we didn’t have many, some days we had a dozen people,” Mr Shand said.
“But we feel that when we finish (the powerhouse) the word will get out that it is well worth attending,” he said.
Contributing to the community
The Burdekin Machinery Preservationists group is primarily made up of retired men.
Club president Keith Batley said the club was a way for the men to contribute to the community.
“This gives them an incentive to do something and keep themselves active which I think is a great thing for us elderly people,” Mr Batley said.
“We are also contributing to the tourism effect in the Burdekin which is a great asset to the community,” he said.
Source – ABC