Monday, January 4, 2010

A Mile of Machines at Ilfracombe Queensland

Ilfracombe Machinery and Heritage Museum
The Museum, situated on the northern side of the main road, provides an insight into this past with its displays of an old police lock-up used between 1901 and 1974, a meat house, the old manual post office exchange, a machinery shed with steam engines, tractors, pumps, graders, trucks, drays, buggies, a 100-million year-old petrified palm, curious natural limestone rocks with a remarkably rounded form, along with other interesting artefacts and memorabilia. One of the old wagons possessed by the museum was once in local use. It was drawn by 20 or 30 horses and carted about 100 bales of wool (weighing 15 to 20 tons) to sea ports such as Bowen or Rockhampton: a six-month return journey.
Also on-site is 'Oakhampton', a cottage which was once part of the 'Lyndon' estate. It is considered typical of a station hand's married quarters and was common enough on rural stations until after World War II. It now sells souvenirs and crafts, The museum has been built in the style of an old station homestead. It is open permanently with no entry charge.

Tiny western Queensland township surrounded by large grazing properties.
Looking at the tiny settlement of Ilfracombe, with its one hotel and rather isolated Folk Museum, it is hard to imagine that, in the 1890s, the town had three hotels each with its own dance hall, a soft drink maker, a coach builder, two general stores, a billiard saloon, a dressmaker, three commission agents, a couple of butchers, a baker and a saddler. The story of western Queensland is contained in these changes. Once transportation became efficient the number of people living in the outback declined. What took a month in the 1890s can now take only a few hours.
Today there are just 350 people living in a shire which covers an area of 6500 sq. km. The old stations where anything up to 100 people were employed are now a thing of the past. Back in1892 Wellshot Station (60 km south of town) was the largest sheep station in the world, in terms of the number of sheep it ran: 460 000. Indeed, so predominant was it that Ilfracombe was, until 1890, known as Wellshot.