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

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion
i General Conditions
ii Early Iron Production
iii The Effects of the Gold Rush - Ballarat in Particular
iv Gawler - A South Australian Industrial Town
v Railways - A Major Employer
vi Brewing and Soft Drinks
vii Drink Containers
viii Food Containers

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present



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The Effects of the Gold Rush - Ballarat in Particular

The establishment of the iron works at Lal Lal was probably stimulated by the gold rush at Ballarat and Bendigo two decades earlier which in turn had stimulated the local establishment of engineering works that would need iron, copper and brass in comparatively large quantities.

With the rapid opening up of gold fields, there was an immediate and growing demand for picks, shovels and the various devices needed for the easy alluvial fields being worked for the first few years but as these gave out, rock mining of quartz lodes, often through hard basalt, was necessary and required much more sophisticated equipment. Much of this was imported initially, particularly the steam engines that were becoming common on the gold fields. In Ballarat there were 13 engines in 1855, 135 in 1858 and 342 in 1861 mainly used to control underground water in the gold mines. There was an increasing need for on-the-spot repairs and maintenance to keep the mines going and an extensive foundry and engineering industry was well developed by 1856 in Ballarat as well as in Melbourne and Castlemaine. In 1856, Scott Clow and Prebble opened the first cast iron foundry in Melbourne; in 1860 Enoch Hughes established a crude rolling mill in Melbourne and later was to play a major role in the establishment of iron and steel works at Lithgow, NSW.

By 1861, Ballarat had 10 foundries, 8 for mining equipment and 2 for producing and repairing agricultural equipment; the latter also being important as the town was the gateway to the Victorian western district, which was being settled and farmed. Foundries such as Phoenix and Vulcan developed from small blacksmiths' shops to become intensive engineering businesses, trading around the Colony and overseas boilers, engines, pumps, rock crushers, chain, pipe etc. that were being produced regularly. The first steam engine was produced by Victoria Foundry in 1858, in which year a flour mill water wheel, 3.5 metres diameter, was cast. In the fifties, Victoria Foundry produced engines with cylinder diameters of 280 mm and by 1869, the capacity of the plant had increased to cylinders of 635 mm diameter and to flywheels weighing 10 tonnes. Such large engines had to lift mine water 120 metres and drive six puddling furnaces at the mines.

In 1863, two Ballarat men, Walker and Braddoch, started the Union Foundry which made retorts for the local Gas Company, machinery for The Ballarat Meat Preserving Company, and heavy castings for sugar mills in Queensland. Business in Queensland was evidently extensive and expanding and finally Walker left the Union Foundry to establish the now well-known John Walker & Co. Ltd. of Maryborough, a foundry closely associated with the growth of the sugar industry in that State.

Around the mid century, there was considerable expansion in agriculture with both wheat and wool becoming important overseas trade commodities. Ballarat in Victoria was a natural centre for manufacture and repair of agricultural machinery, eliminating the long, costly overland haul from Melbourne or Geelong as the rail connection had not yet been completed. Wool presses were much in demand at the time and their designs evolved rapidly and included many unique features that greatly stimulated competition. The rack wool press was first demonstrated in Melbourne in 1865.

In 1861, foundries such as Victoria, Vulcan and Western were all producing stripping and reaping machines. John Tynam's Victoria Agricultural Implement Factory began making ploughs in 1857 and these were to become famous throughout the district. The same company is credited with producing the first drilling tools suitable for use in basalt quartz-load gold mining. By 1868, Gibbs was producing binders, chaff cutters, reapers and threshers.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Ballarat Meat Preserving Company; John Gibbs & Co.; John Walker & Co. Ltd, Maryborough; Scott Clow and Prebble; Union Foundry; Victoria Agriculture Implement Factory; Victoria Foundry

People in Bright Sparcs - Braddoch, T.; Hughes, Enoch; Tynam, John; Walker, John

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 854 - 855, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher