Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another MOTAT Sunday

I've been to MOTAT lots of times over the years. Sometimes just to head to the Walsh Memorial Library, other times to attend special events (where I can). I didn't think, on heading there today, I'd see much there that was new and interesting (and which I'd photograph to add to Timespanner). Have digital camera, will be proved happily wrong ...

Modified waggonette-turned-mail coach, built in 1908 in Whangarei by Siddall Smith & Woodman. According to the interpretive panel: "It was driven by 'Joker' Harris who ran the Royal Mail run between Mangonui and Kaitaia. The coach continued to be used until 1923." 'Joker' Harris looks like he was Charles W. Harris (c.1882-1977).

Edison -Dick Mimeoscope, or drawing table.

This object's a bit ... shocking ... Take note of the silver handles.

I have no idea what this really is (suggestions and information welcome). You put in a sixpence, press the timer full in then release. Then take hold of the handles (!) "and electrical impulses will be felt. To increase power move right handle up. Important - for the most benefit, stay on Level 1 or 2 several times before attempting higher levels." (!!) This was powered by a 6 volt battery.

Early "Vacuette" vacuum cleaner.

The hairdryers just fascinated me.

1928 DeSoto, with taxi livery added.

Invalid carriage. Mobility for the not-so-mobile, late 1940s.

Above is what is believed to be what is left of an engine built by Jimmy Paskell, an Invercargill scrap dealer, from parts of an engine built Herbert John Pither (see image below, from the interpretive panel.) The airplane built by Paskell didn't fly, and his son found these remains down a well on his father's property. For the record, there are no records proving that Pither's plane flew either.

This is one of two wicker seats removed from the Aotearoa, prior to the first attempt to fly across the Tasman by Captain Hood and Lieutenant Moncrieff. The Aotearoa took off from Richmond, Sydney, 10 January 1928. They were expected at Trentham Racecourse, but never arrived. No trace of the plane or her crew were ever found.

Richard Pearse invented more than candidates for first manned flying machine in the world. He built the above bike in 1912.

Buchanan's bakery cart. I've included both images just out of interest, taken with and without flash.

Stormont's baker's van.

1926 Model T truck, used by Winstones, Auckland.

Small, but potentially deadly. From the interpretive panel:

"Ransomes Market Garden Tractor
The tractor was produced between 1949 and 1954 ... The tractor was advertised as being easy and safe to drive, but it could be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. The tractor has a "centrifugal clutch" feature. The engine is started using a crank handle. It starts at slightly above idling speed, and if it is accidentally put into gear, the tractor can take off at great speed."


The staff use this truck to maintain the overhead fixtures for MOTAT's trams. I remember watching it one time as they were up fixing things, and just stood fascinated, watching them.

The very cool logo on the side of the truck.

These are kiddies' building blocks from the 1880s, according to the card.

I still have rulers and pencil cases just like these. If these are included in a museum display -- I think I'll go off somewhere and feel quite old, now ...

What every early schoolroom had to have. "Navy League Map of the British Empire." From when Brittania still ruled the waves.

I have vague memories, from a school trip to MOTAT when I was in primary school in the early 1970s, that the shopping street was grander than it is today. I did think I was imagining that feeling -- until I had a look at what seems to be a MOTAT souvenir booklet in my collection from the 1970s.

Ignoring the horse (this was probably taken during a special "live day") -- I was right. Things did look different when I was a nipper. The draper's shop, while it's still there, no longer has a front rail and seat, and none of them have fancy verandahs. Some of the shops are missing, as well.

"Adjacent to the [Pioneer] Village is a shopping street of a later era. A bank, a jeweler's shop, butcher's shop, general store, drapery and chemist's shop rub shoulders with a barbers shop advertising shaves for ninepence, haircuts sixpence and shingling and bobs for ladies. Also, visit the "lolly shop" which dispenses genuine colonial-type confectionery to modern youngsters. A functional vintage post office caters for postal services and philatelic needs." (Old souvenir booklet)

The bank, jeweler's shop and the lolly shop are no more. I remember, from earlier days, there was some sort of an automaton somewhere there, too. Can't quite remember what it did. It moved its head and we kiddies watched, fascinated. I might be misremembering, though. I've learned never to completely go by memory.

Things are more static, today. The butcher's shop shows an example of what folks would see in the front window. You can still see such in some shops today -- but it's a vanishing sight.

There used to be a small butcher's shop at the top of Crayford Street in Avondale in the 1970s, close to where I live. Part of Weston's Corner. I still recall seeing a pig's head in the window. Now, that shop is long gone, and is today part of the furniture shop. This model reminded me of that.

The general store. Quite a good display.

Same with the chemist's.

And the draper's. Odd -- this sight is part of my past memory too, also from a shop in Avondale, called Tomlinson's. Glass counter, what seemed like a million and one little bits and pieces involved with sewing etc. Not really odd, I guess. I'm in my fifth decade of life. Time does move on, even for youngsters like me.

Below, these ship's cannons were apparently retrieved from the Manukau Harbour and donated to MOTAT by the Onehunga Borough Council in 1967 (according to a metal plaque attached to the one on the right).

Bring back the stocks! Nah, I'm kidding ...

This is a wagon used at the Mangahao Power Station, made in 1923. With Australian hardwood construction and iron-banded wheels, this was built to carry the really heavy stuff during the building of the station. The detail from the panel below shows the wagon used at the Tuai Power Station as well.

One of my favourite things at MOTAT -- the Baldwin Steamer, No. 100. Built in Philadelphia for the NSW Government Tramway in Sydney, it was brought to Wanganui in 1910. It was restored at MOTAT from 1971-1996 (I have some photos of it from its restoration period.) When they let the steamer have its voice, it's like a siren's call as far as I'm concerned. I was around the back of the buildings of the Pioneer Village when I heard it this afternoon. I headed over as soon as I could, just to have another look. I've smelled the steam -- and it's a wonderful smell.

A forge table, from c.1902, otherwise known as a "blacksmith's slab."

A current restoration project at MOTAT, No. 47, a double-decker called "Big Ben" (1906) from Wellington. This will be a gorgeous addition to MOTAT's fleet when finished.


  1. Wow! great page, I started as a volunteer when I was a eleven and left when I was sixteen between 88 and 93, I have a photo collection of my own personal experiences while I was there and nobody has ever seen, I will have to post some of them up, many stories to go along with them, the funny and weird thing is when I saw the pigs head and sausages thats when the memories came back, probably bacause I walked past it every day foe five years but also I learnt to make lollies in the lollie shop next door!!

    Paul Morris

  2. PS the horses name is either Salt or Pepper they both worked there and I used to walk them in the morning from Keith Park to Pioneer Village, I thinks that one is Pepper!


  3. Hi Paul,

    Thanks. When you do post up your photos, do let me know -- I'd love to link to their page. Never can get quite enough of MOTAT, even after all these years. Definitely one of my favourite places. Cheers!

  4. Now I see what you mean by the horse -- outside the shops at the live day, in the early days pics, right? Okay, okay -- I won't ignore the horse, then! :-) Must be Pepper, 'cause it's dark. Very cool.