107-year-old engine to be rehoused

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Thornbury Vintage Tractor and Implement Club president Fraser Pearce (left) and committee member Tony Strand hold a photograph of the 1911 Garrett stationary steam engine with photoshopped fire.

A 16 tonne stationary steam engine is on its way to The Thornbury Vintage Tractor and Implement Club thanks to a grant from the Lottery Environment and Heritage Committee.

Club president Fraser Pearce said construction for the foundation of the 1911 Garrett stationary steam engine’s shed was under way in anticipation of transporting both items from Waianiwa to the club’s grounds in Thornbury.

Imported “new to New Zealand in 1911”, the engine was originally used by Wright Stephenson to drive a seed cleaning plant, Mr Pearce said.

It’s next owner was the Edendale Dairy Company, but it was never used there, instead it was on-leased to the Waimumu Lignite and Coal Company in the 1930s, before being purchased by Harold Richardson to be used in his Progress Valley sawmill where it was in service until the sawmill converted to diesel.

Steam enthusiast Keith Simpson bought the 100 horsepower, 12 foot high, 13 foot wide and 20 foot long, engine in the 1970s, taking it to Waianiwa.

Now it was the time for a new home for the engine which was designed to drive industrial equipment and its shed.

Mr Pearce said the club was laying the foundations for the shed and also creating a viewing platform, alongside its Rural Heritage Centre on Thornbury’s main street, with the intention of eventually “getting the engine compliant and running”.

“Early industry was driven by steam before diesel and electricity… it is a hugh privilege to receive the funding to help towards buying the engine and the shed, and towards its transportation and setting them up at our grounds.”

The lottery committee gave $44,654 to the club in May, one of 55 grants towards environment and heritage projects totalling almost $7 million. The club also had to contribute towards the funding needed to purchase and relocate both the shed and tractor.

Mr Pearce said club members were hopeful the engine and shed would be ready to be viewed by the public by Labour Weekend next year.

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