Category Archives: Transport

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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The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-part 5

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: Crowds gather to see “Wizard” Stone’s Blériot during his regional Queensland airshow tour. Photo courtesy of the Queensland State Library

Crowds gather to see “Wizard” Stone’s Blériot during his regional Queensland airshow tour. Photo courtesy of the Queensland State Library

Despite his fame as a daring aviator, Maurice Guillaux was not the pilot originally intended to fly the first Australian airmail from Melbourne to Sydney. That honour should have gone to an American, Arthur Burr “Wizard” Stone, who had been presenting aerial shows around Australia and New Zealand since 1912.
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The Story of Australia’s First Airmail-Part 4

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: A view of the Blériot XI aircraft that flew the first Australian airmail, on display in the Powerhouse Museum’s Transport exhibition

A view of the Blériot XI aircraft that flew the first Australian airmail, on display in the Powerhouse Museum’s Transport exhibition

Following his spectacular aerial exhibitions in Sydney and Newcastle, Guillaux’ fame quickly spread and after his pioneering seaplane flight on May 8, 1914, the French aviator began to make plans for a series of airshows around southern NSW and Victoria.

On May 16, Guillaux gave his first performance in Wagga Wagga, to which he would return during his airmail flight. So anticipated was this event that special train services were run from the towns of Junee and Culcairn in order to bring spectators to Wagga. Around 8,000 people paid entry to the Wagga Racecourse to see Guillaux’ exhibition with another two to three thousand watching from outside. They were not disappointed, with Guillaux’ stunt show including a thrilling vertical dive from which he only pulled out just above the heads of the crowd.

The Wagga event set the pattern for the rest of Guillaux’ airshow tour, with large crowds drawn from surrounding towns at each regional display and special transport laid on to get them to the show. In Albury, on May 23, interest in his performance was so strong that the golf club competition was postponed and shops which remained open operated on reduced staff. Once again, Guillaux garnered breathless praise from local journalists: “No words describe what he does and can do. All other aviators pale before him; looping the loop at an altitude of 14,000 feet is mere child’s play to him….”

The silk scarf worn by Maurice Guillaux during his aerial spectaculars. It’s red, white and blue colours (now somewhat faded by time) reflect the colours of the French national flag. L3120/2. On loan from Australia Post, NSW

The silk scarf worn by Maurice Guillaux during his aerial spectaculars. It’s red, white and blue colours (now somewhat faded by time) reflect the colours of the French national flag. L3120/2. On loan from Australia Post, NSW

Departing Albury, Guillaux, the Blériot and his team by train to Melbourne, where he established a base at the Showground in Flemington, having apparently been offered a guarantee of over £1000 to induce his visit to the city. On May 28, he flew from Flemington to the grounds of Government House, the seat of Australia’s Governor-General in the period between Federation and the construction of Canberra. The Governor-General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson his wife, the Governor of Victoria, Sir Arthur Stanley and his wife, were all on hand to greet the intrepid French pilot and inspect his aircraft. One of the few snippets of surviving film of Guillaux’ time in Australia shows the Blériot taking off after this visit.

Invited to visit the newly established military flying school at Point Cook, outside Melbourne, Guillaux flew there on May 29, gave a flying display in the Bleriot and then flew over the area in one of the flying school’s own aircraft. The following day he gave his first public display at the Flemington Showground, which drew a crowd of 25,000 to 30,000. Guillaux practically stopped the races at the Moonee Valley course when he performed some stunts overhead and, as he pulled out of one of his signature thrilling dives, a bookmaker supposedly offered to bet six to four that he had broken his neck! But the daring pilot once again survived and a Melbourne Herald report compared Guilaux’ performance to an earlier show by Australian aviator Harry Hawker thus: “M. Guillaux was to Mr. Hawker as a Drury Lane melodrama is to a repertory play”.

A contemporary 1914 postcard showing Guillaux’ Blériot aircraft. A8213-5/12 EA and VI Crome Collection

A contemporary 1914 postcard showing Guillaux’ Blériot aircraft. A8213-5/12 EA and VI Crome Collection, Powerhouse Museum

On Monday June 8, the King’s Birthday holiday, Guillaux performed at Bendigo, after which he flew to Ballarat, causing a sensation en route as he flew overhead. On this flight Guillaux carried a letter from the Mayor of Bendigo to the Mayor of Ballarat, however this was not officially consigned mail. Once again travelling by train, the Guillaux team moved from Ballarat to Adelaide, where another spectacular stunt show was staged on June 20. By June 27, Guillaux and the Blériot were back in Melbourne, before flying to Geelong on July 3, for the last aerial show before the airmail flight. To reach Geelong, Guillaux followed the railway line, a form of navigation he would also use on the airmail flight, and arrived there just at the end of a race meeting at the Plumpton course. Guillaux gave an impromptu display to the crowd of racegoers before his public show the following day. While performing in Geelong, Guillaux carried his first recorded passengers in the Blériot.

Look for the next post in this series in a few days, which will cover the background to that first airmail flight. Next week I will be posting an account of each day of the airmail flight, between July 16 and 18. The Aviation Historical Society of Australia will be conducting a re-enactment of the first airmail flight between July 12-14 and hosting other commemorative events. 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. If you’d like to explore the newspaper reports of Guillaux’ flights, which were drawn upon for the quotes used in this blogpost, you can find them by searching on the National Library of Australia’s Trove Newspapers site.

Written by Kerrie Dougherty, Space Technology and Aviation Curator

Australia and the Industrial Revolution – Impact of the first railways

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Locomotive No. 1 shown in Sydney yard with a frock-coated railway official, possibly a station master. Detail a stereoview published by William Hetzer, Sydney, 1858-1860. Powerhouse Museum collection P.3145-7. Gift of Royal Australian Historical Society, 1981.

Locomotive No. 1 shown in Sydney yard with a frock-coated railway official, possibly a station master. Detail a stereoview published by William Hetzer, Sydney, 1858-1860. Powerhouse Museum collection P.3145-7. Gift of Royal Australian Historical Society, 1981.

It’s 160 years ago this year (2014) since the first railway was opened in Australia in 1854. The railways were a vast improvement on the Cobb and Co. coaches, which carried people, and the drays and wagons, which carried goods, over the rough bush tracks. Pulled by horses or bullocks, wagons were slow and expensive, while the threat of being held up by bushrangers was a real possibility for coach travellers. Continue reading

A Percy lookalike – 1911 saddle tank steam locomotive

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Industrial saddle-tank steam locomotive, 0-4-0, made by Manning Wardle and Co. Ltd, Leeds, England, 1911. Powerhouse Museum collection. Gift of the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, 1966. B1630.

Industrial saddle-tank steam locomotive, 0-4-0, made by Manning Wardle and Co. Ltd, Leeds, England, 1911. Powerhouse Museum collection. Gift of the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, 1966. B1630.

This little green steam locomotive, which looks remarkably like Percy from Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, is in the Museum’s collection. Percy is the Small Engine and Thomas’ best friend. He’s quite happy puffing around the yard with no particular desire “for adventure in the world outside”. Percy is just like the small industrial and mine steam locomotives that once operated all over NSW. These engines were not used for main-line working but on industrial sites, for shunting coal in collieries, at quarries and on various construction projects including building breakwaters, reservoirs and dams. Continue reading

Fire fighting with an 1895 steam fire engine

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Steam fire engine pumper made by Merryweather and Sons, Greenwich, England, 1895. Powerhouse Museum collection. B1406.

Steam fire engine pumper made by Merryweather and Sons, Greenwich, England, 1895. Powerhouse Museum collection. B1406.

Steam has been used to power engines used in industry, agriculture, mining and even for fighting fires. The Museum has a horse-drawn steam fire engine built by the English firm of Merryweather and Sons of Greenwich, in 1895. It spent all its working life in western NSW at the Broken Hill Central Fire Station in Blende Street, from about 1897.
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