Cobb+Co Museum’s Horse-Drawn Omnibus

By Jeff Powell, Curator Cobb+Co Museum Next time you catch a bus, have a thought for “commuters” of Brisbane in the nineteenth century! Cobb+Co Museum in Toowoomba contains over 50 horse-drawn vehicles, including a horse-drawn omnibus. The museum preserves the history of what was known as the ‘the horse and buggy era’, but we concede that most people could not afford a buggy, nor even … Continue reading Cobb+Co Museum’s Horse-Drawn Omnibus

What has four legs, two wheels and flies?

By Jeff Powell, Curator Cobb+Co Museum. Transport museums are not usually associated with presenting medical advances, but few objects in any museum had a bigger impact on public health than our dunny cart. It is difficult for us in the twenty-first century to imagine a time when people were left to their own devices regarding human waste or ‘night soil’, as it was genteelly called … Continue reading What has four legs, two wheels and flies?

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.

Continue reading “The convict who got Australia’s wheels turning”