The Brisbane Sulky

Italy has Ferraris, Germany the Porsche, England Aston Martins. Long before these marques hit the road, the sunshine state had the ‘Brisbane’, or maybe ‘Queensland’ sulky. These single ‘horsepower’ vehicles were so popular and commonplace north of the border Queenslanders didn’t realise they were a distinctive local style, rarely seen in southern cities. Indeed the name ‘Brisbane sulky’ was what they were called interstate. Sulkies … Continue reading The Brisbane Sulky

Henry Lawson’s other skill

Henry Lawson remains one of Australia’s best known poets and authors a century after his death. Poems such as ‘The Lights of Cobb & Co’, ‘The Teams’ and ‘Andy’s Gone with Cattle’, and short stories like ‘Joe Wilson and his Mates’ flowed from his pen. His face has adorned banknotes and stamps. Henry Lawson’s life was glorious and tragic in equal measure. At once blessed … Continue reading Henry Lawson’s other skill

CHANGING COMMUNITIES. CHANGING LIVES.

For decades across the Queensland Museum Network, hundreds of volunteers have generously given their time and knowledge to ensure visitors to our museums enjoy an experience to remember. This year for National Volunteer Week, we celebrate the theme, “Changing Communities. Changing Lives”. We know our volunteers do exactly that, with visitors often speaking of the lasting impression left after an encounter or tour with a … Continue reading CHANGING COMMUNITIES. CHANGING LIVES.

The convict who got Australia’s wheels turning

Australia’s first wheelwright* was Hugh Hughes, a convict with the First Fleet in 1788.

He was the only wheelwright in the First Fleet so Hugh would have been kept very busy. Wheelwrights had to have the eye, skill and accuracy of cabinetmakers, but it was also a very laborious trade requiring strength and endurance. Hugh Hughes would have soon discovered timbers in this strange land were much harder than any he encountered in England.

There was no powered machinery at the time to saw and dress the ironbark, blue gum and stringy bark. Every timber component Hugh made was split, sawn, chipped and shaved with wedges, pit saws, adzes, axes, draw-knives and spoke shaves. Even the lathe that turned the wheel hubs was hand powered. Hugh, like country wheelwrights in Britain, probably even felled the trees he needed.  Yet Hugh Hughes was not making the big wheels, carts and wagons we might expect.

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The women of Cobb & Co

“Who will forget the meal served at Loder’s mail change? Roasted goat, prickly jam and jelly, splendid home-made bread, to say nothing of the hot scones and ‘nanny’s butter’, which made up a real ‘rich’ meal, and one that cheered the heart of the traveller for the next stage of the journey.”

– William Lees, on the Loders of Waldegrove change station near Surat QLD, 1916.

Cobb & Co coach drivers like Whistling Tom Elms, Flash Harry Bruce and Let ‘Er Go Gallagher were almost legendary in their lifetime, but for every coach driver there was a host of other workers keeping Cobb & Co’s coaches and horses on the roads. Grooms at stables and bush change stations harnessed, watered and fed the horses and cleaned the yards. The cooks not only fed the passengers, they grew the vegetables, fed the chickens and collected the eggs, milked the cow or goat, separated the cream and churned the butter. The cook might have even shot the wallaby or cockatoos in the stew.

Couples like Mr and Mrs Loder at Waldegrove ran the horse change between them. If there were no men around the women got on and did everything regardless. Mrs Fox and her four daughters ran the changing station at Boonoo Boonoo, on the Warwick to Tenterfield route. Women publicans and their families ran many of the country hotels where Cobb & Co’s parched and weary passengers stayed overnight. Their hotels acted as booking agents for Cobb & Co as well. Women filled vital roles in Cobb & Co’s day-to-day operations ‘on the ground’.

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Electric Vehicles: Technology recharged

Electric vehicles (EVs) are gradually becoming visible on Queensland roads. The pioneer of this cutting-edge electric technology was a plain 1980s parcels van.

The converted Bedford van carried the digital clock showing Robert de Castella’s time in the 1982 Commonwealth Games marathon in Brisbane. For a short time the van was perhaps the most watched vehicle in the world. The Lucas Bedford van was virtually silent and produced no exhaust fumes, making it perfect for use in sporting competitions like the marathon and 30 km walk. It has a range of 100 km and a top speed of 80 kph.

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THE WHEELS ARE IN MOTION

Many expressions we use today date back to the era of ‘horse and cart’ transport. Cars feature 21st century technology like sat-nav systems, but they also have reminders of travel in the 1800s. The dashboard was originally a timber or leather panel in front of a buggy which stopped mud from the ‘dashing’ horse flicking onto passengers. On rainy days buggy owners also rode with … Continue reading THE WHEELS ARE IN MOTION

A Toy Train for Christmas

“I remember clearly the Christmas my parents decided I was old enough to have a model railway all of my own. Saturday mornings were spent in the local hobby shop. I was awe struck by the rows of gleaming model locomotives in glass display cabinets, with little handwritten price tags propped up neatly next to each engine. The present I opened up on Christmas day … Continue reading A Toy Train for Christmas

They Also Served

Remembering the men and animals of The First World War

Written by Jeff Powell for Cobb+Co Museum

Around 332,000 soldiers left Australia for the battlefields of the First World War, and they took 60,000 horses with them. Another 70,000 horses were sent away to other allied armies. In total, ‘British Forces’ which included Australia, used well over one million horses and mules in the First World War. (War Office 1922:396-397) Continue reading “They Also Served”

Vehicle building in Australia

Written by Jeff Powell, Cobb+Co Museum

Anders Nielson’s Coach Factory in Fitzroy Street Rockhampton, around 1900.

October 2017 marks the end of motor vehicle building in Australia, but the industry goes back further than most people realise. The first car with a ‘Holden’ badge was built in 1948, but Holden in Adelaide had been building car bodies for General Motors’ Chevs, Pontiacs and Vauxhalls since the 1920s. GM-Holden had assembly plants in other state capital cities by the 1930s. Ford Australia also had assembly plants in Australian capital cities since the mid-1920s. Yet vehicle building in Australia began even a century before the earliest motor cars.

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How big was the Leviathan ‘Monster coach’?

Written by Jeff Powell, Cobb+Co Museum

This lithograph illustration of the coach by H Deutsch may be a fairly accurate image of the ‘Leviathan,’ matching the description in The Argus, although the people seem a little too small. (Image courtesy State Library of Victoria)

Contemporary newspapers which are now accessible via the TROVE website may help clear up the confusion. Regarding when it first Continue reading “How big was the Leviathan ‘Monster coach’?”