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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)

The gig was followed by the 'buckboard' and the American buggy. The 'buckboard' was very simple in construction, with two wheels, no springs, and a platform of tough springy boards complete with a seat. 'Because it was light and almost indestructible the 'buckboard' was just the thing for cross country travelling'. Indeed 'as late as 1940, a 'buckboard' was doing a round trip of 450 miles with the mail in the Gulf of Carpentaria.[73] The buggie arrived with the American diggers at the time of the gold rushes'. It was more elaborate than the 'buckboard' for it had an undercarriage which allowed the front axles to move freely; it also had springs to reduce the jolting of the ride. The first vehicles were imported, but by 1867 a local industry had developed. 'The largest builder was Holt of Sydney, who employed between 40 and 50 hands'.[74]

As well as the growth in private carriages, a variety of coaching services developed in all the States. The first service ran from Sydney to Parramatta, and others quickly spread inland. By 1850 they mainly fanned out from Sydney, running to Berrima, Goulburn, Yass and Melbourne. In Tasmania a service operated from Hobart to Launceston, Brown's River, New Norfolk and Green Pond. It ran along English lines maintaining English etiquette on the road, and conforming to English standards of uniforms and manner.[75]

The first coaches were imported from England, but by 1830 they were being built in Sydney, still however to an English design with metal bound wheels and steel springs. English coaches proved themselves to be not at all suited to Australian conditions. They were too heavy for rough country, and their iron springs not only gave an uncomfortable and jolting ride, but often broke under the strain. A better form of transport arrived with the American diggers, who hurried to the Australian gold fields in the 1850s. The Concord Coach had developed to meet the needs of American pioneers as they pushed westward over rough and trackless land. It represented a revolution in coach building because instead of the body of the coach being attached to the undercarriage by steel springs, it was suspended on two long leather straps called 'thoroughbraces'.[76] The 'thoroughbraces' were made of several thicknesses of touch bullock hide, which were fastened to brackets on the undercarriage of the coach. The coach body was slung in such a way that when the wheels were jolted over rough ground, the body swayed back and forward on its flexible leather braces, and did not bounce violently up and down as was the case with steel springs. The flexibility and pliancy of the thoroughbraces reduced road shocks as far as the passengers were concerned. More importantly, because the straps were pliable enough to reduce much of the lurching and bumping on rutted and stone-strewn roads there was much less strain on the entire vehicle and on its team of horses.

The Concord coach was introduced to Australia by Freeman Cobb, a young American who had had experience of coaching with the famous Wells Fargo and The Adams Express Company during the Californian gold rush. Cobb, in partnership with three other Americans: John Murray Peck, James Swanton and John B. Lamber, imported several coaches from Concord and began to operate a service which ran from Sandridge (Port Melbourne) to Melbourne in 1853. It quickly became apparent to the four Americans that there was a fortune to be made transporting passengers to the gold fields. They surveyed the routes, made arrangements with hotel keepers on the way for passengers' meals and organized strategic points for stabling horses and changing teams. In the next year, 1854, they began a service from Melbourne to Ballarat, Bendigo and Castlemaine. It was a risky and costly venture, for coaches, drivers and horses all had to be acquired. Nevertheless, within months The American Telegraph Line of Coaches or, as they came to be known, Cobb and Co., had opened up a new era in transport which was to last for 70 years. Indeed, from this time onwards, according to the Australian Encyclopaedia, 'the story of coaching in Australia is essentially the story of Cobb and Co'.[77]

People in Bright Sparcs - Cobb, Freeman; Holt, Sydney (buggy builder); Inglis, Andrea; Lamber, John B.; Peck, John Murray; Swanton, James

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 457 - 458, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher