ALL HUFF AND PUFF
By BELINDA SCOTT
BY the time you read this, Bob McLeod, several mates, and Dennis the dog, may have made it to Glenreagh.
They started from Dorrigo on Sunday and it's taking them four days for the 80km trip.
But that's par for the course when your mode of transport is a 1925 steam traction engine which weighs 10 tonnes and has a top speed of six kilometres an hour 'flat out'.
Described by 'ringmaster' and engineer Bob McLeod as 'a complete circus, but it's the only alternative to the senile old men's home', the friends and Dennis, have been puffing, hissing and clanking their way in a leisurely fashion through Megan, Briggsvale, Cascade, Bobo, Ulong, Lowanna, Mole Creek and Tallawudjah Creek.
They are on their way to this weekend's two-day celebrations of 150 years of steam trains in Glenreagh, but there's plenty of time to admire the scenery.
Dubbed simply 'the unprintable' by its owner, the steam engine is also towing Mr McLeod's period camper van with all the necessary accessories like litres of oil, a chainsaw to top up the firewood bin and a whole armoury of arcane tools just in case 'the unprintable' decides to have a breakdown in the backblocks. The vintage engine gulps down 16 litres of water per kilometre to keep up its head of snowy white steam and needs to chomp down a wheelbarrow load of firewood every six kilometres to keep its wheels turning.
It began life as the 1920s equivalent of a large council tractor, building and rolling roads and hauling gravel.
During World War II the farmer who then owned it drove it into a remote gully near Narrandera to hide it from government agents requisitioning surplus machinery. It remained in the gully for 40 years before being dragged out to start a new career.
Bob McLeod said at one time 'the unprintable' actually lived in a shed in Cowra a few hundred metres from where he grew up and he had waited 47 years for it, so the two were obviously meant to be together.