Welder Ron Mortimer works on repairing Australia’s only operational steam winding engine of its type, at the Gympie Mining Museum.
Welder Ron Mortimer works on repairing Australia’s only operational steam winding engine of its type, at the Gympie Mining Museum. Craig Warhurst

Old boiler under repair

WHEN it comes to volunteering, none could be as dedicated as welder Ron Mortimer.

This week Mr Mortimer has been helping out the Gympie Historical Society repair its steam winding engine in time for this month’s Gympie Gold Rush Festival.

The boiler is the only one of its type still operational in Australia.

But to repair the engine Mr Mortimer had to go above and beyond and climb inside the 104- year-old boiler to weld new steel around the rusting fire box.

To gain entry to the boiler he had to squeeze through a 30cm wide hole, and then work in extremely claustrophobic conditions to replace the rusted parts.

Gympie Historical Society president Ralph Richardson said the boiler, built at Walkers Brothers in Maryborough in 1906, had its last major upgrade in the mid 1980s.

He said the boiler had to have regular inspections to make sure it was safe to operate.

The boiler holds 20,000 litres of water and, in it’s hey day, powered the winding engine, rock drills and 110v electric generator.

It’s capable of generating 100 horse power.

Mr Richardson said if the boiler was run 24 hours a day there would be little problem with rust.

He said because the museum only runs the boiler every couple of months, and too much water was needed to refill the it, water had to sit in the boiler, allowing rust to take hold.

He said the museum was adding additives to the water to reduce corrosion in the boiler.

Gympie Times


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