Category Archives: Transport

Remembering Australia’s Drive-ins

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Metro-Twin drive-in in the Sydney suburb of Chullora in 1956. MAAS Collection, 2007/191/1-2/7/2.

Metro-Twin drive-in patrons in the Sydney suburb of Chullora, 1956, MAAS Collection 2007/191/1-2/7/1

Open-air cinemas are popping up all around Sydney as our famed summer weather rolls on. An earlier form of open-air cinema, the drive-in theatre, originally became popular in the 1950s as car ownership in Australia soared. Continue reading

The Goods Line – then and now

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Ultimo Road railway underbridge, showing the four, decorative cast-iron columns. Photo by Phillip Simpson, 2015.

Ultimo Road railway underbridge, showing the four, decorative cast-iron columns. Photo by Phillip Simpson, 2015.

Yesterday I took a stroll along Sydney’s newest pedestrian walkway, The Goods Line. It opened last Sunday (30 August 2015) and goes from the Ultimo Road railway bridge to the Museum’s new entrance in Macarthur Street, Ultimo, an inner Sydney suburb. Its route is part of the old Darling Harbour goods railway line which brought the State’s produce, especially wool, wheat and coal to waiting ships at Darling Harbour for transport around the world. Continue reading

Henry Ford’s Model T and its impact in Australia

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This 22 hp, 4-cylinder Model T Tourer was made at Ford’s Walkerville factory, Ontario, Canada, in 1916. Ford Canada supplied cars to the British Empire. MAAS collection, B727-1

It was Henry Ford’s dream to “democratise the automobile” by not only making it available to the rich but to everyone. He did this by producing the inexpensive Model T, a car which took the world by storm and was a significant invention during the Industrial Revolution. Between 1908 and 1927, a staggering 15 million Model Ts were made and sold worldwide when car manufacturing was still largely in its infancy.

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Making a nation: “Afghans” and their camels for Australian inland transport

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Afghan camel train on the Wanaaring Road, north west NSW. Camel trains varied from 20 to 80 camels. Photo by George Bell, part of the Tyrrell collection, MAAS, gift of Australian Consolidated Press, 1985. 85/1284-765.

Afghan camel train on the Wanaaring Road, north west NSW. Camel trains varied from 20 to 80 camels,1890-1917, photograph by George Bell, MAAS collection, 85/1284-765

It’s estimated that about 20,000 camels were brought from India during the second half of the 19th century to work in the vast internal areas of Australia. Accompanying the camels were Afghan drivers. The term “Afghan” is really a misnomer as few came from Afghanistan but rather more came from parts of India and present-day Pakistan. The Afghans, or Ghans as they became known, were extremely competent at working lines of camels and had great knowledge about the care of their charges, a skill which Europeans failed to master.
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The Queen’s 1954 Royal Tour of Australia – a rare surviving memento

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Railway timetable cover from the 1954 Royal Tour of Australia. MAAS Collection, gift of Bruce L. Partridge, 2014. 2014/138/1.

Railway timetable cover from the 1954 Royal Tour of Australia. MAAS Collection 2014/138/1, gift of Bruce L. Partridge, 2014. 2014/138/1.

Many of the objects which come into the Museum have great stories. One of the most delightful over the last few months was the acquisition of this very rare fabric-covered railway timetable. It was used in the Museum’s superb 1901 Governor-General’s railway carriage in which Queen Elizabeth II travelled to parts of New South Wales during her 1954 Royal Tour of Australia.
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Ice Bird – the unsinkable boat

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Dr David Lewis, happy on his arrival in Cape Horn, South Africa, March 1974. From BOX 2 B 24446-2. Collection: MAAS

Dr David Lewis, happy on his arrival in Cape Horn, South Africa, March 1974. From BOX 2 B 24446-2. Collection: MAAS

Restoration of the sailing boat that made the first single handed voyage to Antarctica
Dr David Lewis was a courageous sailor, an extra-ordinary navigator and an adventurer with big dreams. He was the first navigator in modern times to cross the Pacific Ocean without using instruments, following a legendary Maori course from Tahiti to New Zealand. In 1972, David undertook another adventure to sail, alone, to Antarctica and circumnavigate the subcontinent. He bought a second hand, steel hulled boat designed by Dick Taylor. It was an 11 metre sailing boat, called Ice Bird and David and some friends hurriedly prepared it for his summer journey. The steel boat had a large amount of lead in the ballast in case the boat capsized. The trip involved sailing through the ‘Roaring Forties’, the ‘Furious Fifties’ and the ‘Screaming Sixties’. He encountered mountainous seas with 35 metre waves, constant gales, hurricanes and freezing temperatures. The boat was not built for such incredible conditions and capsized three times, twice on the way to the Palmer Antarctic Station and once on its way to Cape Town, South Africa. Continue reading

History repeats itself with the new rail link at Castle Hill

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A8461, Candlestick with removable insert, commemorative, ‘Baulkham Hills to Parramatta tramway’,  made by Walker and Hall, Shefield, England, 1890-1900

Candlestick with removable insert, commemorative, ‘Baulkham Hills to Parramatta tramway’, made by Walker and Hall, Shefield, England, 1890-1900

When people from the Hills District catch the new North West Rail Link in 2019 it will not be the first time a railway has come through the area. In 1901 construction began on a tramline that ran between Parramatta and Baulkham Hills with the primary purpose of carrying fruit and goods, as the Hills District was well-known for its plentiful orchards. The purpose of the tramway was to change after an embarrassing mistake that prevented goods being carried through the township of Parramatta, the man who turner the first sod, Minster for Public Works, Mr. E. W. O’Sullivan, tried to rectify the situation to no avail, this resulted in the tramway being used to carry passengers.

In the collection is a commemorative table candlestick that marks the first sod turned at the Baulkham Hills to Parramatta portion of the line gifted to the Minister for Public Works, Mr. E. W. O’ Sullivan, on March 19th, 1901
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Mechanisation of road building – 1920 steam tip wagon

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Type FGR steam tip wagon made by Aveling and Porter, of Rochester in Kent, England, 1920. Powerhouse Museum Collection. Gift of W. Duguid, 1962. B1509.

Type FGR steam tip wagon made by Aveling and Porter, of Rochester in Kent, England, 1920. Powerhouse Museum Collection. Gift of W. Duguid, 1962. B1509.

In the early decades of the twentieth century steam-powered vehicles including traction engines, steam wagons, road locomotives, road rollers and steam fire engines were a common sight on Australian roads. Up to the 1930s steam-powered wagons or trucks were much more powerful than petrol ones and were ideal for road building.
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The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-Part 9

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Guillaux preparing to take off from Ascot racecourse in August 1914. These film frames come from a segment of newsreel in the Museum’s collection. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Guillaux preparing to take off from Ascot racecourse in August 1914. These film frames come from a segment of newsreel in the Museum’s collection. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Despite the rigours of the first airmail flight from Melbourne to Sydney over July 16-18 (as recounted in parts 6-8 of this story), Maurice Guillaux was not one to rest on his laurels. Within days he was in the air again, making several flights with Lebbeus Hordern’s Farman Hydro-aeroplane (see part 3 of this story), including one on July 22 when he carried two passengers, Hordern and Lt. Colonel WWR Watson, on the first three-person flight in Australia. With Hordern perched precariously on the aircraft’s fuel tank, Guillaux took the Hydro-aeroplane up to 1500ft (almost 500m) and put it through a series of manoeuvres, including a thrilling dive towards the water.

In carrying without difficulty a slightly higher total payload (209kg) than the aircraft was supposed to carry (203kg), this flight demonstrated the potential of the aeroplane as a weapon capable of carrying a militarily useful bomb load, in addition to a pilot and bombardier. With the clouds of war gathering in Europe at the outbreak of World War I, Guillaux made frequent comments about the utility of planes in warfare and their probable use in the conflict: “aerial machines would prove perhaps the greatest factor in the present struggle.”

: Lebbeus Hordern’s Farman “hydro-aeroplane”, in which Guillaux would carry two passengers, an Australian first, in July 1914 Gift of S. Dyson, 1982. P3283-1

Lebbeus Hordern’s Farman “hydro-aeroplane”, in which Guillaux would carry two passengers, an Australian first, in July 1914, Gift of S. Dyson, 1982. P3283-1

On July 25, Guillaux gave another aerial performance with the Bleriot at Newcastle, drawing a crowd of about 10,000 exactly three months after his first performance in that city. He discussed plans for a tour of the northern regions of NSW, but these would never eventuate due to the war. Guillaux agreed to undertake an advertising stunt for Black and White Whiskey, dropping envelopes containing money over Circular Quay on July 31, but the police cancelled this event over fears of possible injuries in the waiting crowd of 5,000, as people jostled to catch the falling prizes.

Guillaux’ last major aviation display for Sydney was scheduled for Saturday, August 1. Unfortunately for the French pilot, his only serious accident in Australia occurred during this performance. Shortly after his takeoff from Ascot racecourse (on the site of what was later to become Kingsford-Smith Aerodrome), while he was flying at a height of 100-200 ft (30-60m; accounts vary as to the altitude), Guillaux seemed to lose control of the Bleriot, which dipped as if commencing a dive, but then plummeted to the ground, with Guillaux apparently wrestling with the controls. The stunned crowd stood transfixed as the Bleriot smashed into the ground alongside one of the track railings, the body of the aircraft breaking into two pieces.

Frames from a film clip of the Bleriot’s crash at Ascot racecourse, showing Guillaux being rescued from the wreckage and led away, bandaged, for hospital treatment. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Frames from a film clip of the Bleriot’s crash at Ascot racecourse, showing Guillaux being led away, bandaged, for hospital treatment. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Trapped in a tangle of broken fuselage and wires, the half-conscious Guillaux was rescued from the wreckage by members of the crowd, who cut away the debris and carefully lifted him free. Although he suffered cuts to his face, arms and legs, his clothes were badly torn and the ligaments of his right ankle ruptured, Guillaux luckily did not sustain any more serious injuries. Treated at the crash site, with his head swathed in bandages, he nevertheless waved as he was helped away, at which the crowd cheered wildly and the band played the Marseillaise.

Guillaux was taken in a car to St Vincent’s Hospital, in Darlinghurst, where he was treated by Sir Alexander McCormick. He spent a few days in hospital recovering, receiving many messages of sympathy and support. The Bleriot, however, was quite severely damaged “the framework was broken in two pieces, the tail planes badly damaged….the propeller was smashed to matchwood, the oil tanks were bent into one another and the engine was buried in the ground”.

The cause of the accident seems to have been the steering gear controlling the warping of the wings to provide lateral control (the Bleriot did not use ailerons) jamming in some way. Guillaux reported that he was unable to steer the plane left or right, but he did still have control of the elevator planes and could have landed safely in the crowd; but as this would have meant danger to the spectators he chose, instead, to make the plane dive into the ground away from them.

Newsreel film frames showing he wreckage of the Bleriot after the crash, nose first into the ground. Guillaux clearly had a lucky escape from serious injury. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2

Newsreel film frames showing he wreckage of the Bleriot after the crash, nose first into the ground. Guillaux clearly had a lucky escape from serious injury. Presented by Mr F Kilian, Editor, Movie Tone News, 1961. P2670-10/2 

 

Look out for the next instalment of Guillaux’ story in September. If you’d like to explore the newspaper reports of Guillaux’ flights, which were drawn upon for this blogpost, you can find them by searching on the National Library of Australia’s Trove Newspapers site. The Aviation Historical Society of Australia conducted a re-enactment of the first airmail flight between July 12-14. The Powerhouse Museum is also celebrating the centenary of the first Australian airmail with various events this year. Check our website and that of the Powerhouse Discovery Centre for further details.

Written by Kerrie Dougherty Space Technology and Aviation Curator

Celebrating Engineering Week 2014: A Model steam tram with double-decker trailing car

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Powerhouse Museum Collection, object B2566. Gift of A Cutcher, 1984.

Powerhouse Museum Collection, object B2566. Gift of A Cutcher, 1984.

I chose this object to celebrate Engineering Week (4-10 August 2014). It’s an excellent working model of a steam tram, the first type of tram that served Sydney. Now the city’s light rail system, which is tiny compared to the extensive electric system that followed the steam tram era, is set to grow. If you’d like to hear top-level presenters speak about this extension, you can register to attend a free Engineering Week forum on Sydney’s Light Rail on 6 August, 6 to 8 pm, at the Powerhouse Museum.  Several other events are also planned for the week.

Should transport engineers be inspired by the model, with its double-decker trailing car? People are already questioning whether the new trams will have enough capacity to meet demand in the busy south east of the city, which has no heavy rail service. Sydney led the world with its extensive use of double-decker trains, and double-decker buses recently returned to the city’s streets; perhaps double-decker trams should be considered as well.

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