Saving the memories

EVERY Australian man needs a shed. In Doug Hoschke's case, he has four. And he would like more. Doug Hoschke's Upper Orara farm, Fairview, is the headquarters for the Karangi Vintage Farm Machinery Museum and its treasure trove of rural Coffs Coast history.

Inside these sheds the blood, sweat and tears of felling trees and wresting a living from the land with draught horses, bullock teams, axes and handsaws is preserved.

Sulky wheels and wooden pulleys hang from the roof, bullock chains loop along the rafters, peg and raker saws are stacked along the wall and stationery engines repose on the bed of a heavy timber dray.

Tractors range from a tiny Ransom to a hulking two-tonne KL Bulldog.

They share shed space with corn crackers, chaff cutters, milking machine parts, drag saws, livestock scales, horse scoops, bullock bows, rotary hoes and every kind of hand tool as well as equipment for repairing and maintaining the old machines.

The members of the Karangi Vintage Farm Machinery Museum, who specialise in working farm implements from local farms, will wheel out some of their machines next month and set the flywheels whirring and the engines puffing for the 2009 Orara Valley Fair on June 8.

Vintage farm machinery is a regular and popular feature of the annual fair, which can take part of the blame for founding the museum.

Doug Hoschke said he and his friends and family 'put a bit of a collection together' for the 1985 fair to celebrate the district centenary of Karangi and Upper Orara. One thing led to another and the museum was born.

After a lifetime of dairy farming, retirement now allows Doug Hoschke to spend more time amongst his vintage machines, which he views as the hard-working essential companions of the district's early farmers, including his own family, who helped pioneer European settlement in the Orara Valley.

He said the formation of the museum was also spurred by the realisation that local farming history was disappearing as dairy farms closed, families left the land, and clearing sales saw tools and machinery dispersed to private collectors and scrap merchants.

“The biggest problem was not being able to round it up in time,” he said,

“We didn't have the money to go buying stuff. We got to some of it before the private collectors moved in.”

Doug is fascinated by the care and craftsmanship in methods and materials that went into these old machines, from the way they were made and worked the metals to the way they solved problems in power transfer and gearing. Each machine has a story and collectively they illustrate the evolution of farming and forestry; from the slavery of the sawpit to the power of the portable chainsaw; from the drudgery of the horse-powered corn cracker to the push-button ease of today's chippers and shredders.

Doug has a drag saw that cuts vertically, like most drag saws, but can also be swivelled so the blade cuts horizontally to fell a tree - a step towards the modern chainsaw.

Near it is a massive one-horse power corn cracker - the horse is harnessed to a wooden pole and walks in a circular path.

“It's an unusual bit of stuff- a Yankee machine,” Doug said,

“We got it from a bloke at Coramba - Norm Morton had it down the paddock, It is good old cast steel so it didn't rust away.

“They can make beautiful steel, but it costs.

“That is why the old stuff survives - it was made out of good materials.”

Other horse-powered machines had gearboxes which allowed them to be used for driving chaff cutters and other equipment.

The collection of stationery engines - mostly petrol engines, some diesel, were used to drive the farms' water pumps, milking machines and separators.

Most early Coffs Coast dairy farms did not sell whole milk, but cream, which was separated from the milk on the farm and sent to the local dairy factory to be made into butter.

Those dairies also had pigs, which were fed on the leftover skim milk.

Corn grown on the farms fed everyone from the family to the cows, pigs and chickens, with cornstalks and cow cane put through a chaff cutter for fodder as well.

Pigs and surplus calves were sold to the meatworks and a prize exhibit is a set of livestock weighing scales from Karangi Railway Yards.

“They used to weigh the pigs and calves and they would be sent on railway wagons to Riverstone Meat Works at South Grafton,” Doug said.

“They used to say when the bloke used the scales he used to lean over and had his foot underneath (the weighing platform), to stop it going down.”

The unfortunate farmer would thus be paid less for his animal than he deserved.

The railway yards were not used after about 1960 but the scales were left in the shed until rescued by the Museum volunteers.

Doug said bullocks retained on the farm and destined for team work were taught their trade as weaners by being put in collars and linked together in pairs with short lengths of chain so they became accustomed to walking, feeding and resting together.

Cutting and hauling timber went hand in hand with farming in the area, an association that continues today.

“There were 20 or 30 bullocks teams in the Orara Valley and Eastern Dorrigo and a couple of blokes had horse teams,” he said.

“The bullock chain had a swivel in it so if a log rolled it didn't roll the bullocks, too.”

The farm workshop had to carry out many functions - the museum includes the Stewart Hand Worker, a multi-function 1920s tool made by the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co.

The benchtop Hand Worker incorporates a vyce, an anvil, a grinder, a pipe vyce and a lathe.

Over in the tractor shed, it's a lesson in the history of the starter motor.

The hulking 1940s KL Bulldog tractor, 'takes half an hour to start because you have to light a fire under the front of it'.

Even then starting what Doug describes as 'an interesting bit of gear' involves disconnecting the steering wheel and attaching it to a huge flywheel.

“Once it starts it doesn't like to stop,” he said.

Doug said a later model tractor tried a different approach - it was started with a shotgun cartridge.

More typical of coastal farms than the large and powerful Bulldog is the smaller more agile 1950s Allis Chalmers 20hp tractor, widely used for ploughing, planting and harvesting.

Doug and his fellow museum members are not fond of meetings.

They prefer to gather with a handful of spanners, a wire brush and an oil can but they are desperate for a permanent home for the museum so they can put their machines on display and have them running for visitors.



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