Robey stationary steam engine; Robey & Co; 1910; MUS2003.77


Tweed Regional Museum


Robey stationary steam engine

About this object

This Robey 25hp, 12 tonne, Class A DC, Portable Steam Engine, No. 29166 was built by Robey & Co., an engineering company established in 1854 at Lincoln, England, specialising in steam driven machinery for industry and agriculture. Today the history of the Company is preserved by the Robey Trust in Travestock, Devon, England by historical records, documents and a museum of steam machinery.

The Museum also holds the brass maker's plate from the engine showing the serial number 29166 and a separate plate denoting a pressure certification authorised by Herbert G Barker, of registered number 697, dated 10 January 1940, certifying a pressure of 120lbs/ The Robey engine is 5m long, 2.3m wide and 2.8m high.

Records held by the Museum show that Steam Engine no. 29166, after being built, was exported on 23 February 1910 to Robey's sole Australian agent, Arthur Leplastrier & Co. of Sydney, from where it appears to have been forwarded onto Brisbane and, it is said, onto Killarney, Queensland. It is said that the Engine was hauled by a bullock team to the old timber mill site at Mt Nullum. The Robey Steam engine powered the entire timber mill. The engine had a driving wheel on the right hand side. Looping around this was a wide driving belt attached to the driving wheel of a shaft on which the saws were mounted. Other shafts could also be driven using a similar method extending from the first shaft. The power was turned on or off by simply removing the belt from the driving wheel.

On 1 March 1996, the Tweed River Historical Society (now Murwillumbah Historical Society) received a letter from Tweed Shire Council advising them that a request had been received from a Gold Coast machinery restoration society seeking recovery of a discarded steam engine on Council's property at Mt Nullum, off Smiths Creek Road, Uki. Council's letter indicated that its preference was to give the Historical Society first access to it if they had an interest. The Historical Society accepted Council's offer and plans were made to locate and assess the task of retrieving and restoring the Engine and transporting it to the Museum in Murwillumbah. A group of volunteers, led by the late Ron Johansen, then President of the Society, located the old engine, heavily overgrown with lantana and sapling trees. The site had been an old saw mill owned by T C McIntyre of Brisbane, which appears to have ceased operations in the late 1950s, and the old engine, the source of power for the mill, was abandoned on site.

It is of interest that a paper in the Museum's files record that Mrs Lorna McIntyre stated that her husband Jack, brother of T C McIntyre, had worked with others at the sawmill where the engine was used in the 1950s. The mill was cutting banana cases and scantling for houses, which were then transported to Brisbane by Ted Radel and Col Evans.

From their inspection, the assessment by the Historical Society volunteers, revealed in a hand written note, states:

The condition of the engine is good with only heavy rusting around front of the boiler, the fire box area is in good condition and, overall, the engine is about 90% still has two rear wheels but the front had been mounted on logs for levelling.

The two front wheels were missing but, at a later date, a pair was found by Charlie Bryant on his farm at Tygalgah, and was thought to have been made by the same company. These were recovered, Council made a new axle and they were fitted. On the basis of their inspection a decision was made to put plans in place to load and transport the engine to the Murwillumbah Museum site and local firms were approached, and willingly assisted. These included the Harding family of Uki, who supplied a truck, their sawmill to make creek crossings, a road to the engine and transport to Murwillumbah, all without cost. An adjoining landowner, Marion Roberts, generously allowed access through her property. Tweed Shire Council laid the concrete foundation for the engine to rest on at the Museum without cost and Hannah and Edmed, also in the same spirit, brought in their heavy duty crane to unload the engine off the truck.

An interesting remark is contained in a hand written report by Penelope Williams, one of the volunteers witnessing the unloading. The crane driver, obviously experienced in estimating the weight of lifted loads, announced with the engine swinging in mid air, "11.2 tonnes".
Ron Johansen remarked that; ' the engine was at its future home at no cost thanks to the many helpers and generous assistance by the firms and clubs involved.'

The Museum holds a considerable number of colour photographs showing the process of rescuing the Robey, from the engine in its original state on site to the completed restoration and the work in between.

Following restoration, invitations were extended by the then Historical Society President, Ron Johansen, to various local people involved in the restoration and to the Mayor of Tweed Shire, Councillor Warren Polglase, who unveiled the plaque for the Robey Steam Engine on site at the Museum on 26 May 2002.


Robey & Co

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