'Twix Horses and Conveyors

Conservation and preservation

Tags

Eyre Peninsula,
railways,
jetties,
horses,
tractors

From the opening of the Port Lincoln railway in 1907, Clydesdale draught horses were used for shunting rail wagons on the Port Lincoln jetties. These magnificent creatures worked in teams of two or three, manoeuvring in the confined spaces of the jetties and rail yard. Progress caught up with them in 1952 when specially modified Fordson tractors were introduced, allowing the horses a graceful retirement. These tractors were fitted with heavy buffing plates front and rear so that they could safely push rakes of wagons along the tracks.

The jetty environment was not always safe, and at least one tractor found itself taking an unplanned dip in the harbour waters. It was retrieved by the railway breakdown crane and returned to service. The tractors were in turn forced into retirement when the transition to bulk loading of grain in the early 1960s eliminated the need for wagons of bagged grain to be shunted alongside the ships. The tractors were eventually sold off.

Amazingly, one of the now sixty-year-old Port Lincoln shunt tractors has survived in virtually original condition on a farm near Karkoo. The owner very kindly donated it to the Port Lincoln Railway Museum, and it has just been delivered to the Museum. One of the members is now tackling the task of refitting wheels and cosmetic restoration for display, preserving another link to the bagged grain handling era in South Australia.

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