Iron Down In The Soul


How often do we pass construction sites, industrial machinery, or transportation equipment and really give a thought to what we see? I know I am as blind in many cases as if I were to wander through a jungle and miss the elephants.

Here are some images captured on a holiday trip that have caused some reflection.


A boiler casing? A water tank? The Incredible Hulk’s lunch box? I must take more notice of the placards at museums… This was the Powerhouse, Sydney in the permanent Age of Steam exhibit. I am guessing the broken edge was not a good thing at the time.

Note the detail in the heading shot of the iron plates. From the layering effect seen at the edge of the centre plate I think this is wrought-iron. You can still see the marks of the riveting hammer around the rivets.


Electrical power for Sydney. No hydro-electricity at the time this was in use – just coal dragged in from the mines and burnt to heat the powerhouse boilers. I would also be willing to beat that the fireboxes of those boilers were not fed by a mechanical stoker – every Btu that went in and came out passed over the shovel of sweating stoker. On one end of the supply chain a light bulb and on the other an Irishman.


What man would not give a week’s pay to have a chance to drive or fire a real locomotive on a real journey? These two are comfortable enough here in the museum, but speculate about the level of comfort they had in their daily working life behind the spectacle plates of this British-style locomotive. Dirt, soot, rain, sun, insects, cold…all in the day’s recipe for the locomotive crew. No babying them…

Yet, I’ll bet the designer of this engine footplate – we cannot call it a cab as it has no roof – drew up the plans for it in a warm, dry office somewhere in England, with a sound dinner at 1:00 and cups of tea at 11:00 and 5:00. The directors of the railway company who built it would have done the same, but in more sumptuous offices and dining rooms. But then, they were of a better class than the driver or fireman…


Pinchgut Island housing Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour. Said to be for inner harbour defence, it begs the question why someone thought that firing on foreign vessels all the way inside Sydney harbour was a good idea when the heads was where they had to enter and leave and was far better suited to catch raiders in a cross-fire. Apparently a singularly unuseful defensive fortress.

It hosts entertainment parties these days. Unfortunately the daily gun is a blank shot to enable timepieces to be set accurately. A little more imaginative use of the muzzle-loading ordnance on the fort against the office towers of Sydney or the cruise ships and ferries would be welcome. Many of us are willing to subscribe to the cost of powder and shells for this. For heaven’s sake don’t be shy – ask us…


2 thoughts on “Iron Down In The Soul

  1. The locomotive shown was designed by my ancestor JE McConnell and built by Stephenson and Co. One of the only surviving Bloomers 🙂


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