Page 97: We're still messing about in tamworth but not for too much longer
     
  Dust and More Dust.  
 

Mid October. Today, again, a strong wind is blowing from the west. On the way across the land it is whipping up topsoil from the surface of parched paddocks over a wide area and carrying it high into the atmosphere. It travels east on the wind at around 40 knots (75 km/hr) from the direction of South Australia. Some of it is settling on us as it passes, coating everything. It isn't apparent in the natural landscape but when you pass a car sales yard and all the cars on display are the same colour, it brings it home. People with asthma don't need to look at car yards to know how much dust is in the air.

Just to rub it in we had a brief spattering of rain which not only washed more dust out of the air but gathered the surface dust into blobs which dried out and made cars and caravans look even worse.

The good news? There's no need to feel guilty as there's no point in rushing out with a bucket and sponge because the car and caravan would be just as bad in an hour or two.

 
     
  Greg and Maz call to see us.  
     
   
  What can I say? Colourful bunch, aren't they? Pam, Greg and Maz.  
     
  Greg and Marilyn (Maz) have previously appeared three times in these pages and meeting up with them has always been an occasion of great hilarity. This time was no different. They had sold their Adelaide home and were travelling - with their caravan - to Cairns via Brisbane.

Do you like Pam's hat? It somehow defies all attempts to make it sit straight so she always looks what she would call "squiffy".
 
     
  Steam at last  
  For the past 9 months the steam engines that drive the generators in the Power Station Museum have stood cold and lifeless. Many visitors to the museum have asked, "When do you run the engines?"

Recently there was a local government conference in Tamworth and the Council asked for the engines to be run for two consecutive days. Everything was prepared and the firewood was stacked ready.
"Come back on Sunday or Monday and you'll see the engines running," we told museum visitors.

Two days before the engines and generators were to be run, word came from the Council: "Forget about it, it's off."
The councillors from other areas, apparently, were not interested in seeing these historic engines running.
"But what about all the visitors we've told?" we asked. "We've no way to notify them".
I don't know exactly what the reply was but it amounted to "Too bad."

The museum volunteers were totally disgusted. Another kick in the teeth from a council that takes no interest in this wonderful place that so many volunteers have put so much into over 21 years. Not, that is, until the Council thought it could gain some kudos from showing off the Tamworth Power Station running, as it had back in 1888, to councillors from other towns. Then the Tamworth Council was all in favour - not that one member got off his fat backside to help out. When it became clear that none of their visitors were interested in seeing the museum they just pulled the rug out. No consideration whatsoever for all the people who would be inconvenienced and disappointed.

Shortly afterwards there was another conference in Tamworth, this time connected with the Tidy Town scheme. It was to be held in the Community Centre adjacent to the museum, and guess what? Another chance for the Council to show off its wonderful old power station. Yes, they wanted the volunteers to forget about the recent let-down and rally round, open the museum all day and run the engines. The Council's contribution? They paid for the firewood - with rate payers' money, of course.
 
     
   
  The Engine House at 07:30 on the morning of Friday, 30th October. Inside the Fowler boiler was all ready to go.  
     
   
  It took Steve, the museum's steam engine expert, but a short time to get a roaring fire going.  
     
   
  Two hours later steam was beginning to hiss from around the pistons and Steve was busy topping up the oil pots and lubricating all moving parts from his collection of colour-coded oil cans.  
     
   
  Soon all three engines were running smoothly. The second Fowler engine is pictured here, driving a Crompton No. 15 Generator. Or is it? Note the photograph on the wall behind the generator, then read on.  
     
 

Back in 1988, when the museum was first started, no surviving Crompton No. 15 Generators could be found anywhere in the world. They were essential to the authenticity of the museum as the originals, a century earlier, had been of this type. At that stage, had I been involved, I would have given up. The enthusiastic volunteers, however, were not to be thwarted; they had no drawings but they had the photograph and they took all the necessary measurements from it, scaled them up, and built two fully working replica generators.

You may notice from the picture (above) that the green frame of the generator is a large casting with many smaller castings attached to it. Wooden patterns of the castings were constructed in order to make the moulds into which the molten iron was poured. Of course, the volunteers didn't do all the work themselves but they all had mates and knew of people who were glad to help. The copper electrical field coils were all wound by hand and the two generators worked beautifully. In fact, the museum lights are switched over to the Cromptons whenever the engines are run.

To see those machines come to life was absolutely wonderful for me. The heat, the smell, the sounds, were pure magic. Even to watch Steve fuss over them with his oily rag, adjusting valves, topping up the water, checking the steam pressure, topping up the oil pots and throwing a few more logs into the fire box was like stepping back a hundred years.

So, to answer the question in the caption below the picture, no, the engine is not driving a Crompton No. 15 Generator, it's driving an almost identical replica made by some very talented, hard-working and dedicated people.

 
     
  Another Odd sign  
  You perhaps know how I love bizarre signs. I found this one next to a level crossing at Taminda, the industrial area of Tamworth.  
     
   
  What do you make of this sign? It has me beat - any ideas? References to politicians welcome.  
     
  Back to banalasta  
  Pam discovered that Donella, one our favourite singers, was performing one Sunday at Banalasta, the winery up in the hills. We arrived to find two parties already in full swing. One was a birthday party and the other a reunion of nomads such as ourselves. Everybody was in a jolly mood and all it took was Donella to set the place alight.

Soon everybody was having a great time aided, of course, by a drop of wine. Some of the children had hoola hoops - such as the little cutie in the picture on the right - and these were temporarily commandeered by the adults who seemed to imagine that they had lost none of their childhood skills. They were wrong!

Even Kim, who owns Banalasta with her husband Rolf, took time out to try a hula hoop with the usual energy and enthusiasm that she puts into everything. While trying to spin the hoop on one leg she raised her leg so high that I've had to censor the picture.
 
     
   
  Kim watches as others tried the easy stuff. Then it was her turn . . .  
     
   
  Go Kim! Thankfully this old bloke doesn't suffer from a weak heart.  
     
  Two people asked if Donella is my daughter - she's certainly young enough. So here she is, my new 'daughter'.  
     
   
  Donella, my new 'daughter', is a very talented singer and song writer with a HUGE personality.  
     
  Towards the end of the afternoon Donella sang some nursery rhymes for the children, but it was the children of yesteryear who responded, especially to Ring-a-Ring-of-Roses.  
     
   
  And when it came to "All Fall Down" . . .  
     
  Yes, folks, it was a really enjoyable afternoon. Even the children had a great time. We certainly did.