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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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The First 100 Years 1788-1888 (continued)

As the years passed, numerous refinements were added to the earlier designs. Elliptical springs, ewer brakes, and screw brakes were all added, as well as grease caps on the improved axles. The smooth turning of four-wheeled drays had long presented a problem and the first solution, a front axle which pivoted freely, was not completely successful, for the inside wheel ground against the body on tight curves. The solution, 'simple but ingenious'[64] presented itself in the form of lock chains running under the floor, linking the front and rear axles. This technically simple solution ensured that when the front wheels turned, the chain on one side tightened to prevent the wheel from turning too far. Furthermore, if the driver unhooked one end of each chain, crossed the two diagonally and rehooked both, he could reduce the slack so that only a slight turn of the front wheels tightened one chain and forced the back and front wheels to track on the same line.[65] This prevented the rear wheel from cutting a separate track to the front ones in soft soil and so reducing the pulling power of the team.[66] Another innovation which appeared at the end of the century, was the great 'table top' wagon which carried wheat and wool. According to McGregor[67] 'These great wagons were designed and built for Australian conditions by Australian craftsman. They had no sides, and the platform had a slight 'float', which meant that the floor curved upwards two inches at the front and rear. This design caused the heavy bales of wool to work inward towards the middle, and steady the load'.[68] The huge tabletop has a floor 20 feet or more in length and 7 to 8 feet wide. The front wheels were up to 5 feet in diameter and were mounted on an undercarriage. The rear wheels were seven feet or more in diameter and rose above the floor level. An improvement on earlier wagons was the positioning of the five foot fore or 'pony wheel' right under the decking, making sharp turns possible.[69] The normal carrying capacity was 9-10 tons, but some, like William Grice's Morning Star carried 14 tons and more.[70] The distances covered by these horse or bullock drawn wagons were astonishing when the weight of the loads is considered. In 1898 for example, 26 bullocks pulled 123 bales of scoured wool (12 tons) a distance of 185 miles from Woolerina Station to Mitchell in Queensland. The table-top was a purely Australian invention that was designed to cope with specific conditions and purposes. They were not something totally new, except in their immense size and capacity, but they demonstrate the innovative use of an established concept and its development into a new form.

Passenger transport underwent a significant change in the 1850s with the importation from north America of the Concord Coach. Before this time, a variety of English coaches and gigs had been employed when conditions permitted, to transport people from one place to another. In the cities the most fashionable English carriages were available. In 1840 Mrs Louisa Meredith noted 'no lady in Sydney believes in the possibility of walking, (and) the various machines, upon wheels, of all descriptions, are very numerous; from the closed carriage (to) the showy Barouche'.[71] In the country the vehicles were a little more simple, predominately two wheeled gigs and four wheeled phaetons. Richmond Henty, for example, recalled that when he first went to school in Portland 'the journey was performed in one of the old- fashioned English gigs, over rough bush tracks and through and over rivers and creeks'.[72]

People in Bright Sparcs - Grice, William; Henty, Richmond; Inglis, Andrea; McGregor, H.; Meredith, Louisa

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 456 - 457, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher