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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 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 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 the hood up like modern convertibles.

Buggy drivers wore gloves when handling the leather reins to keep off leather oil and dust. These were stored in the glove box. What is too big for the glove box goes in the boot. The boot box on a coach was under the driver’s seat, behind his boots. The boot is still for luggage, but is now at the back. The driver on a coach was in control, sitting up on the box seat. People still use the term to describe a position of power.

Horses and carriages were dark colours. Accidents occurred in towns at night if buggies did not have headlights and taillights. A bit of red glass in the back of coach lamps showed which way a vehicle was going, that is which way the horses head and tail were pointing. If an accident was likely the driver hoped the brake shoes stopped the wheels. Brake shoes were made from old shoes nailed to the brake block. The leather gripped the iron tyre.

And we still refer to the horsepower.  And even the term car can be traced back to cart, carriage and the Roman words carrum or carrus, and the even earlier Celtic word karros, meaning cart or wagon.

Travel is central to our way of seeing the world. Consider the following expressions.

From the horse era we have…

  • In ‘the box seat’ driving the project
  • ‘Reining in’ the troublemakers
  • Like the horse team we need to ‘pull our weight’ or we will be ‘dragging the chain’
  • We won’t ‘put the cart before the horse’
  • We hope with a favoured project the ‘wheels don’t come off’
  • You can ‘jump on the bandwagon’ like everyone else
  • And after partying hard we might ‘go on the wagon’, but then hopefully not ‘fall off the wagon’.
Jeff-Blog-image1-bogged-down
Bogged down in a sticky situation. A Cobb & Co coach on the banks of Mary Ann Creek, Yuleba – Surat road, 1011.

We don’t want to be…

  • Bogged down
  • Caught in a rut
  • Pushing it up hill
  • Going downhill
  • Getting off track
  • Letting the grass grow under our feet
  • Facing a hard road ahead
  • Going nowhere
  • Going round in circles

We do want to be…

  • Going forward not backward
  • On the straight and narrow
  • Chasing the light on the hill
  • Taking the road less travelled
  • Achieving the milestones
  • Moving on
  • Facing new horizons
  • Moving up in the organisation
  • Climbing the corporate ladder
  • Have a career (but not downhill or into a truck!)
jeff-blog-image2-wheels-up
It’s all gone wheels up. A capsized loaded wool wagon near Blackall. Image courtesy State Library of Queensland.

We say…

  • Life we say is a journey.
  • ‘You can’t stop progress!’

We think in spatial and often linear metaphors, even if we are not physically moving anywhere. Western thought has been dominated by ideologies of ‘progress’ for centuries. There may be ‘no going back now’, ‘the wheels are already in motion’.

Jeff Powell, Curator, Cobb+Co Museum

Discover the spark for science at Queensland Museum

Young scientist don’t have to wait any longer to wait to explore their curiosity at SparkLab, Sciencentre at Queensland Museum. The brand new interactive exhibition is now open to all those curious! The new multi-million dollar interactive gallery will allow visitors to unleash their inner scientist through 40 interactive exhibitions across three zones.

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Lagoon Creek Shearer’s Strike Camp

Written by Nicholas Hadnutt, Curator, Archaeology.

In the 1890’s, work relations in Australia were a hot topic. Working conditions and wages were at an all-time low for shearers and they were preparing to fight for their rights. The Queensland wool industry was rapidly growing and shearers and pastoralists were seeking to define fair working conditions. Unfortunately, the opinions of the two groups as to what constituted reasonable working conditions were poles apart and conflict was looming. By 1890, shearers and other labourers began forming unions to better represent their rights, including a key requirement that pastoralists only employed union members. The pastoralists reacted by coming together nationally to create a shearing and labouring agreement of their own. The wealthy pastoralists were expecting a fight and were working together to defeat the union movement.
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Homebush turns 100

Written by: David Mewes, Curator, The Workshops Rail Museum

During my holidays in August 1968 I had the opportunity to see and hear the famed 610 mm gauge Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 steam locomotives used by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company at their sugar mills in Queensland and Fiji. The last ten of these locomotives at that time worked in the Ingham District at the CSR Victoria and Macknade mills. The oldest was also the smallest, the Homebush, built in 1914. The remainder ranged in size and weight with the last built in 1953 being the largest and most powerful. Continue reading Homebush turns 100