Gold Fever

Made a trip to Sovereign Hill, Ballarat.  Never been there before (having not gone to school in Victoria), and was thoroughly impressed with the whole place.  Thought it’d be interesting to have a brief look at the wagon making in this post.  It is only superficial – I’d need a whole day there just looking at that one topic to do justice to what they have there.

Visiting Days of Old

Started the day with a ride in one of their stagecoaches – they work hard – leather shocks, heavy brakes (particularly down-hill), a significant amount of unsprung weight and no pneumatic tyres.

Touring the Diggings

They sure do look the part.

Belt Drives

On site there is a fully fitted workshop, and fully functional including the overhead belt drives (which are very cool)


What they drive are some incredible machines, massive linishers, auto lathes etc.  I took some video which I’ll edit up in a week or so.

Wheel Shop

We’d all kill for workshops like this – both their size, and capabilities.

Drilling the Bore

When manufacturing a wagon wheel, you can do so it all by hand (as it would have been early on), but the processes were improved and refined, and automation increased. I was very surprised just how sophisticated it had become.

Machining the Hub

This unusual looking contraption took the shaping of the hub from a process that could produce about 8/day, to one that could turn out 600. It peels the outside to the right diameter with a veneer knife, then a couple of shaping cutters to form the ends. (Video to come for this and the next machine)

Power, Auto Indexing Mortiser

This one absolutely rocks – it is a mortiser, but not only does it form the mortise in quite an impressive method, but the operator sets it up and walks away – it indexes to each position, predrills and mortises the entire hub.

Steam Timber Bender

Around the rest of the workshop, there are plenty of other interesting machines including this steam bender.  In the foreground are a bunch of wheel hubs.  I guess they are there because there a heaps of demos, and not so many wheels made, so these hubs feed the steam bender boiler.

Wood Store

Lots of stock, and it is all racked properly for drying (and more hubs!)

Wagon Shop

From the wheel manufacturing area to the wagons themselves, we see more traditional woodworking areas. (Traditional as far as what we would expect that is)

New Wagon Under Construction

They only use traditional machines and techniques here – wonder how easy it would be to do something like this in a modern workshop.

Finished Wagons

By the end of the day, there were a few changes.

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