World-famous Wollemi Pines have been saved by firefighters

A good news story from the devastation caused by the bush fires – the only known native stand of the world-famous Wollemi Pines has been saved by firefighters. Queensland Museum Palaeobotanist Dr Andrew Rozefelds wishes to acknowledge the work done by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Rural Fire Service for responding effectively to help save this unique plant community.

Read The Sydney Morning Herald story Incredible, secret firefighting mission saves famous ‘dinosaur trees’.

The discovery of Wollemia in 1994, just 200 kms from Sydney in the Blue Mountains was unprecedented and this discovery of a previously unknown genus of conifers was completely unexpected. The Wollemi Pines are restricted to narrow canyons in the Blue Mountains and occur in one remote area of the Wollemi National Park.

The landscape in the Blue Mountains is highly dissected with the fire prone areas on the tops of the cliffs and ridge lines. These areas are dominated by Eucalyptus and other plants that have evolved in response to fire and can survive less intense fires. The wet gorges and canyons are relatively fire free. Fire in these communities is rare and the plant communities are dominated by temperate rainforest species.

Air photos of the landscape highlight the contrast between the grey-green of Eucalyptus woodlands with the bright green foliage of the rainforest occurring in the gorges and these gorges are the home to the critically endangered Wollemi Pines. It is not by chance that these trees survived in these canyons – being fire sensitive it is the only place in this landscape where they can survive due to protective landscape of steep cliffs and the wetter conditions in the gorges.

Wollemia is most closely related to the Kauri Pines (Agathis) that occur in the rainforest of North eastern Queensland. The origins of the Wollemi Pines can be traced back to the time of the dinosaurs and from the fossil pollen record we can trace the history of the Wollemia-Agathis lineage back 90 million years. While the fossil record offers up some tantalising clues, few fossils of Wollemia have been confidently identified, although the insights from molecular studies would suggest that the Wollemi Pines would have evolved some 70 million years ago.

The fossil record does show us that as the Australian continent has moved northwards it has slowly dried out, the wetter forests have retreated to fire free, often upland areas and these refugia remain the last hold outs for many species of rainforest animals and plants. Under the drought conditions experienced in eastern Australia and Tasmania in recent years we have seen rainforests burn. This “New Normal” is not a continuation of gradual change we have seen in the past – the scale and intensity of the fires in SE Australia has changed, and are likely to continue to become more severe as predicted in the Garnaut Climate Change Review in 2007. The impacts of these changes have severely felt by communities in Australia and extend beyond the environment to all areas of the economy as we have seen recently.

These new conditions pose unprecedented threats to the animals and plants in all fire-sensitive communities in Australia.  The protective vertical rampants that have in the past helped to protect the Wollemi Pines from fire may not be enough to protect this fragile community in the future. Without the intervention of the Parks and Rural Fires staff and volunteers this last population of this remarkable rainforest conifer, that is 70 million years in the making, may well have gone up in smoke. It is perhaps remarkable that it has survived so long.

Queensland’s Cavity Express

Between 1929 and 1984, the Queensland Government provided regional communities with dental care by running specifically designed dentistry clinic carriages. The train consisted of a waiting room, two dental studios and a private living section in one carriage while the second carriage consisted of a storage area and a trailer compartment for a motor vehicle. This meant that, in addition to treating patients on board, the train could pull into a regional station and then the dentists could travel further out to communities and schools beyond the railway line. They even had portable dental chairs and drills that they could pack into the motor vehicle.

In 1948 a series of pictures was taken by the Commonwealth Department of Information that documented the work of dentist Mr J Kilby and his dental assistant and wife Mrs Kilby, and their life on board the dental train. In their living area, they had two bunks (it was the 1940s after all…), a kitchen, pantry, shower, toilet, and even a hanging garden.

In Australia in the 1940s it was estimated that by the age of 18 only one in ten people had ‘good teeth’. Resources around the nation were poured into improving the dental health of children and in Queensland, outreach care included dental trucks and a flying dentist service to complement the dental trains. In one year, it was reported that Mr and Mrs Kilby treated over 30,000 people from their railway dental surgery.

Rob Shiels
Collection Manager, The Workshops Rail Museum

Title image caption: Twelve year old Eileen Russell being tremendously brave while husband and wife dental duo, Mr & Mrs Kilby, clean her teeth, 1948. Queensland Museum Network Collection.

Queensland Museum’s Top 10 New Species of the Decade

Over the last decade our biodiversity team have been busy describing 1,171 new species. Here’s the top 10 species described by Queensland Museum scientists from 2010 – 2019.

Desis bobmarleyi

D_bobmarleyi_female

Desis bobmarleyi is a small spider with a 6mm long body and long hair like his namesake

It uses this long hair on its legs and abdomen to create an air bubble around its middle that enables it to breathe and survive between the high and low tide zones. During high tide these extremely rare and unusual animals hide in the air chambers, but during low tide they are vagrant hunters found on corals, barnacles or debris. It was this behaviour that inspired us to name this new intertidal species in honour of Bob Marley’s hit song High Tide or Low Tide, which played during our field research in Queensland’s Port Douglas.

Saltuarius eximius

new leaftail gecko_Conrad Hoskin_9

A spectacular leaf-tailed gecko from Cape Melville, north-eastern Queensland, which was listed by Suny College of Environmental Science and Forestry (New York) as one of the top ten species (globally) for 2014. The lizards are about 20cm  long and are believed to be a relic species from the time period rainforests were more abundant in Australia.

Jotus karllagerfeldi

J. karllagerfeldi (Mark Newton) 2

A species of jumping spider of the genus Jotus described in 2019. The name of the species karllagerfeldi was chosen as the black and white spider was “reminiscent of the signature look” of fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. The spider was found near Lake Broadwater, a lake near Dalby, Queensland.

Burwellia staceythomsonae

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Ranger Stacey’s Pinwheel Snail’ is about .25 of a millimetre and very intricate. It has all the attributes of a rainforest relict and is known only from a single shell specimen from the higher reaches of Mt Dalrymple (altitude 1144 m).

Litoria pinocchio

Foja Mountains story - NGM

A remarkable tree frog from New Guinea’s rugged forest covered mountain. The small green tree frog has a small spike like a short nail protruding from the tips of it snout.

Oristicta rosendaleorum

Queensland Museum - New Damsel Fly - Rosendale

The first new species of damselfly discovered in a decade, this new species described in 2017 is is about 4cm long and has a long, thin, mostly dark-coloured abdomen with a pale tip in the male. Damselflies are a small flying insect with two pairs of wings, similar to a dragonfly.

Pseudopataecus carnatobarbatus

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The goatee Velvetfish, Pseudopataecus carnatobarbatus was described in 2012 based mainly on specimens collected from the Montgomery Reef area, Kimberley, WA – which has the highest tidal range in Australia, with spring tides of 11+ m.

This species lays among the seaweed with its extraordinarily long fins waving gently in the current, in wait for prey of small shrimps and fishes. It is named for its goatee ‘beard’, composed of numerous fleshy barbels on the chin. These break up its outline and when wiggled, help to draw in prey. It allows algae to grow on its skin for camouflage, but periodically releases the outer mucus layer to reveal the mottled reddish skin within.  Despite being a sluggish swimmer, it copes with huge daily tidal currents. Its habitat ranges from a shallow rockpool to 10 metres deep within a few hours.

Antechinus mysticus

Buff-footed Antechinus

A new dasyurid marsupial from eastern Queensland, Australia: the buff-footed Antechinus, Antechinus mysticus was found in former Queensland Museum curator Steve Van Dyck’s kitchen cupboard in Samford, Queensland.

Plectorhinchus caeruleonothus 

Plectorhinchus caeruleonothus2QM

Plectorhinchus caeruleonothus or the ‘Blue Bastard’ is a previously undescribed species of Sweetlips living on the shallow reefs of northern Australia that has remained unrecognised by science. The ‘Blue Bastard’ can grow up to one metre in length, and undergoes an amazing transformation in colouration between juvenile and adult growth stages.

The often solitary fish also exhibits a unique ‘kissing’ form of aggressive behaviour between rival males, thought be in defence of their territory, where they will rush each other and lock jaws in prolonged and violent struggles.

Bazinga rieki

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Found in shallow water in the Brunswick River in northern New South Wales, the Bazinga jellyfish was named in honour of the Big Bang Theory’s character Sheldon Cooper.

Bazinga rieki could not be placed in any known family or suborder of rhizostome jellyfish, so a new family Bazingidae was erected; it represents a new sub order of Rhizostomae, called Ptychophorae. Bazinga rieki has a thick round translucent and colourless body, the aboral (upper) surface of which is covered in tiny warts with yellow centres.

Aircraft repairs at the Railway Workshops

One hundred years ago, spare parts for aircraft were difficult to find. There were few operational aircraft in Australia, and the new era of air travel was only just dawning around the world. So when Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith needed new engine components and a new propeller for their Vickers Vimy, in which they had become the first people to fly from England to Australia, they received an offer from Queensland Rail to manufacture the required parts at the Ipswich Railway Workshops. The required repairs resulted in a month of public engagements in Brisbane and further celebrations for the flight crew.

On 12 November 1919, pilots and brothers Ross and Keith Smith, with mechanics Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett, left Hounslow, near London, bound for Darwin in their Vickers Vimy bi-plane bomber, carrying the registration ‘G.E.A.O.U’, known as ‘God ‘Elp All Of Us.’ The aircraft, with its two Rolls Royce Eagle Mark VIII engines, carried the crew 17,910 kilometres across France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia through difficult weather and landing conditions at an average speed of 137kph. They landed successfully in Darwin on 10 December and claimed the £10,000 prize awarded by the Commonwealth government as the first crew to fly from England to Darwin.

PlaneThe Vickers Vimy and crew with visitors in Darwin, December 1919. Thomas Macleod Queensland Aviation Collection, Queensland Museum Network.

Although they managed to complete the arduous flight from England to Australia in just 28 days, it took them almost twice as long to make their way from Darwin to Sydney. With the tired engines needing an overhaul but the wet season looming, the crew pushed on out of Darwin, hoping to reach Sydney in 5 days. However, after 11 days in hot conditions and with numerous running repairs, the damaged port-side propeller had split through and when leaving Charleville, there was a bang and a flash of fire out of the port-side engine and multiple parts were needed to repair it.

Offers of assistance came in from around the country. Famous overlander Francis Birtles said he could drive a new propeller and parts from Sydney. The Vickers Vimy crew sought spare parts around Australia, but could not secure what was necessary, knowing what they needed could be shipped from London. The Defence Department offered some of their aircraft so that the crew could complete their flight to Sydney and the other capital cities, leaving the Vickers Vimy behind. In the end, Ross Smith accepted the offer of assistance from James Walker Davidson, Commissioner for Railways, for new parts to be manufactured at the Ipswich Railway Workshops so that the Vimy could be repaired and complete its journey.

CraneDamaged Vickers Vimy engine being loaded for rail transport to Ipswich. Thomas Macleod Queensland Aviation Collection, Queensland Museum Network.

Vickers Vimy campVickers Vimy camp, awaiting repairs near Charleville. Thomas Macleod Queensland Aviation Collection, Queensland Museum Network.

The damaged engine and propeller were loaded on to rail cars and they arrived, along with Ross and Keith Smith, and mechanic Jim Bennett in Ipswich on 2 January 1920. Chief Mechanical Engineer C F Pemberton took supervision of the engine and propeller when they arrived at the Ipswich Workshops. Accounts suggest that Jim Bennett stayed at the Workshops as he was never far from the engine. Sir Ross and Sir Keith stayed at Bellevue Homestead.

The Workshops staff set to work on their projects. They did not have patterns or drawings to work from for the propeller or the engine connecting rods, so they were required to make exact copies based on the existing parts in front of them. According to Workshops records, the Pattern Shop used “nine layers of Queensland maple, stuck together with hot animal glue” to make the new propeller. The alloy connecting rods were forged with the same attention to detail and the Workshops built a stand for the engine and propeller to be tested on.

PropellerThe new propeller with Ipswich Railway Workshops Pattern Shop staff Guy Page, Clem Boyd, Frank Hazlewood, foreman J Millar, and Vickers Vimy crew mechanic Jim Bennet. Queensland Museum Network/Queensland Rail.

Damaged Propeller piecesPattern Maker Guy Page souvenired two pieces of timber from the damaged Vimy propeller and made them into straight edges, using them for his trade at the Workshops. H11250. Photos by Peter Waddington, Queensland Museum Network.

Valve inletA valve inlet believed to have been souvenired from the damaged Rolls Royce engine during its time at the Ipswich Workshops for repairs. H295. Photo by Peter Waddington, Queensland Museum Network.

Queensland MapleAnother souvenir from the airmen’s visit to Brisbane, a small block of Queensland Maple, signed on one side by Sir Keith Smith and on the other by Sir Ross Smith. Thomas Macleod Queensland Aviation Collection H22425. Queensland Museum Network.

While the work was underway, Brisbane took its opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the crew. Sir Ross Smith’s and Sir Keith Smith’s public engagements included a dinner at Government House, a reception at Brisbane Town Hall with Mayor Alderman McMaster, luncheons with The Returned Soldiers’ League and at the Queensland Club, dinner at the United Service Institution, and the presentation of an illuminated address by the King and Empire Alliance.

On 12 January, the aviators were entertained at a dinner held in their honour by the Queensland Section of the Australian Aero Club. As the Brisbane Courier described:

The distinguished aviators were entertained at a dinner at the Belle Vue Hotel last night by the Queensland Section of the Australian Aero Club, Mr J J Knight (president) occupying the chair. The table was appropriately decorated with the Australian Flying Corps’ colours – royal blue, maroon, and light blue – streamers being suspended from a shield, with the motto ‘Per ardua ad astra’, to the ends of the table. Overhead was a line of triangular shields, with the names of all the stopping places along the line of route. A miniature Vickers Vimy aeroplane was electrically driven over the heads of the guests, and on arrival at the end where the Australian Arms were displayed was greeted by the band playing ‘Australia Will Be There’. The table was decorated with crimson roses and candles softened with red, white and blue shades. The toasts honoured were ‘The King’, ‘Our Guests’ and ‘Future Aviation in Australia’. A tribute was paid to the distinguished airmen by Major Macleod, O.B.E., Lieut. Bowden Fletcher, D.F.C., Major V D Bell, O.B.E., and the chairman, this being the first gathering of airmen to greet the aviators in Australia, a number of those present being comrades of the guests Sir Ross’s and Sir Keith’s speeches were particularly appropriate.

Signed MenuSigned menu for the Australian Aero Club, Queensland Section, dinner congratulating Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith, held at Hotel Belle Vue on 12 January 1920. Thomas Macleod Queensland Aviation Collection, Queensland Museum Network.

Rangoon BadgeSigned table decoration, representing one of the stops on the Vickers Vimy flight from the Australian Aero Club, Queensland Section, dinner congratulating Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith, held at Hotel Belle Vue on 12 January 1920. Thomas Macleod Queensland Aviation Collection, Queensland Museum Network.

With the propeller and engine repairs complete, it was decided to hold a public test of the assembly at the Workshops on Saturday 31 January 1920, from 3:00pm. A special train was arranged to bring the public from Ipswich Station to the Workshops, and admission of sixpence (6d) was charged with proceeds going to the Ipswich Hospital and Ambulance Funds. It is estimated that a crowd of over 1000 people attended the engine test, as it was reported that 28 pounds, seven shillings, and threepence was raised in admission.

On what became known as ‘the day of the big wind’, the Queensland Times reported “Sergeant Bennett was seen making several adjustments adjacent to the engine. The object thereof was revealed a couple of seconds later when the propeller assumed a wonderfully increased rate of speed, which was accompanied by a dinning whir.” The success of the engine repairs were proved in the running of the engine from most of the afternoon, with the crowd impressed by its loud roar and cyclonic wind blast.

Engine TestingCrowd gathered at the Ipswich Railway Workshops to view the engine testing, 31 January 1920. Thomas Macleod Queensland Aviation Collection, Queensland Museum Network.

TicketTrain ticket to view the engine testing at the Ipswich Railway Workshops, 31 January 1920. Queensland Museum Network.

The engine, propeller, and crew returned to Charleville by train and proceeded on their route to Sydney where more celebrations were held in their honour. Their unscheduled stops in Queensland had proved entertaining and interesting to the public in Brisbane and Ipswich, who had seen little of aviation at that time. One hundred years later, an average of 2,977 domestic aircraft and 729 international aircraft move through Brisbane Airport each week.

Jennifer Wilson
Senior Curator
The Workshops Rail Museum

The Train that Blew Away

It’s hard not to look at the first trains used on the Queensland Railways as being toylike. Locomotives like 1865 built A10 No.6, proudly displayed at The Workshops Rail Museum are small and charming, but of course still heavy and hardly delicate. So it might come as a surprise to learn a train was blown off the tracks as if it were only a toy one stormy night in 1875.

Body ImageA10 No. 3 stands next to a much younger colleague in 1914, demonstrating just how small early QR locomotives were (Image courtesy of Keith McDonald).

The train had left Toowoomba on January 25th and was due to arrive at Warwick at 7:45pm that night. But halfway through the journey, a storm broke across the railway’s path. Closing windows proved no use, and there were two inches of water inside the carriages before too long. Suddenly, just outside Cambooya, a violent crash hurled passengers from their seats. The wind had scattered the train, tipping the wooden carriages onto their sides and smashing them to pieces. The locomotive was derailed but remained defiantly upright, potentially saving its crew from being badly burned by escaping steam or burning coal. Miraculously only one person was slightly injured. News was sent by horseback to Toowoomba with a rescue train arriving at 1:30am the next morning.

According to the Ipswich Observer, one passenger was heard to ‘damn the narrow gauge most emphatically’ upon returning to safety. Possibly a fair criticism of Queensland’s smaller, lighter trains given the circumstances. The ill-fated train’s guard that night – Charles Evans – later went on to be the Commissioner of the Queensland Railways in 1911. I can’t imagine there are too many railway bosses out there today that can claim that level of hands-on experience!

David Hampton
Curator
The Workshops Rail Museum

 

The Railway’s Own Cricket Champion

While working on a small collection of cricket trophies that had been donated to the Museum a few years ago, I began to research the man who had been awarded them. What I discovered was the remarkable story Ray Argus; a fast bowler and very handy slogger for the Ipswich Railways Cricket Club. The Second World War interrupted his remarkable career and he did not play again after deciding to retire in 1945 but for two and a half seasons Argus was unstoppable.

Raymond Robert Argus first came to the attention of the Ipswich cricket media in early 1937 playing for Kilcoy in the Upper Brisbane River Cricket Association competition. At the start of the new season in September 1938 it was announced that Railways had gained new players for the coming season from beyond the local district, including players from Victoria, Murgon and 26 year old Argus from Kilcoy. The 1938/39 Ipswich A Grade cricket competition was comprised of teams from Booval, Alberts, East Ipswich, Goodna, Past Grammars and Ipswich Railways.

Argus joined the Railway Department in March 1938, becoming a Temporary Coach Builder at the Ipswich Railway Workshops. In his debut for the Railways side, Argus bowled 3/19. With his first season starting well, the Queensland Times (QT) observed that he was a ‘fastish’ bowler and by November of that year, he was really starting to let the opposition have it.

His most clinical performance for the 1938/39 season came against Past Grammars when he bowled 4/8 in seven overs. This good form led to a representative call up, and Argus was chosen for a side made up of Ipswich A Grade players to take on a Queensland Cricket Association Warehouse Rep side from Brisbane in January 1939. The game was played at the Ipswich Showground with the Ipswich team defeating the Warehouse side. It was noted in the 31 January 1939 edition of the Queensland Times that ‘R Argus bowled splendidly to capture five wickets for 15 runs’.

Ray Argus had made quite an impression during his first A Grade season, but Railways still finished in fifth place – second-last on the table.  However, the 1939/40 season would see a remarkable turnaround in luck for the side.

For the 1939/40 season, Argus bowled a club record 67 wickets for the season. He had spells of 5/27 against Booval, 4/33 1st innings and 5/20 2nd innings against Past Grammars, 8/42 against Alberts and 7/32 against Goodna. Perhaps, even more, astonishing, though, he also scored one of the quickest centuries that the competition had ever seen.

After bowling an eight-wicket haul against Past Grammars, Argus came in down the order and belted a score of 112 in only 44 minutes. The QT described his batting as ‘cyclonic’. (In a game against East Ipswich in the 1938/39 season it took one of East’s batsmen 45 minutes to score 3 runs – no wonder Argus’ performance stood out in an era with such glacial scoring.) Argus’ abilities were a big factor in helping Railways to improve and the team played so well that they won the A Grade Premiership (the reserves side also won a premiership so Railways won ‘the double’ for the 1939/40 season).

The 1940/41 season was another successful outing for both Argus and his Railways side. The A Grade side became back-to-back premiers and Argus was awarded the P. Fallu Cup for the most wickets taken in a match.

Named after an Ipswich Solicitor who was a partner in the Dale & Fallu Law Firm. Argus was awarded the P. Fallu Cup after taking 14 wickets against Past Grammars in a single match (8/38 1st innings and 6/33 2nd innings).

The Railways cricket side of the late 1930s/early 1940s experienced tremendous success, but like the rest of the world at that time, the Second World War had become an all-consuming urgent endeavour.

The administration announced that the 1941/42 cricket competition would take place despite the war. Argus continued his excellent form and put on another batting masterclass, scoring 61 runs in only 32 minutes against East Ipswich. He scored 34 of those runs in the one over, hitting four 4s and two 6s.

Dwindling numbers due to enlistment necessitated a one-month break in the competition in mid-December 1941. Hopes that the season could be salvaged were dashed in late January 1942, when the competition was altogether abandoned due to the war, with many of the teams no longer able to field a full side.

Argus was a coach builder, which was a protected job, and he stayed in Ipswich during the war. Cricket returned to Ipswich in October 1945 for the 45/46 season, but it was noted in the QT that Railways would be without some of their pre-war stars, including Argus.

Frustratingly, I was unable to discover why Argus didn’t play again after 1945. He would only have been 33 years old when cricket resumed, but perhaps he decided to retire a legend, rather than risk his reputation. He remained dedicated to the Railway Cricket side and became a committee member and the club’s delegate to the Ipswich and West Moreton Cricket Association. He was awarded life membership of the Railways Cricket Club in 1954 after 17 years of service. He resigned from the Railway Department in 1959.

Rob Shiels
Collection Manager
The Workshops Rail Museum

Life BadgeIpswich Railway Cricket Club Life Membership badge present to Ray Argus in 1954 after 17 years of service to the club. Queensland Museum Collection.

Title image caption: Ipswich Railway Cricket Club – A Grade Premiers 1939/40. Queensland Museum Collection. Photograph by Whiteheads Studios.

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