ACT News

Gang-gang: 19-tonne road locomotive coming home

Rejoice, Canberra! This 19-tonne juggernaut, a Fowler 16161 road locomotive used in Canberra between 1925 and 1927 in the building of the infant city, is coming home at last, to live here.

And when on display it will be put through its spectacular clanking, smoking paces. Here we see it smoking and clanking while at work in very early Canberra.

Fowler Road Locomotive used to build Canberra in 1920s.
Fowler Road Locomotive used to build Canberra in 1920s. 

Thursday's announcement by Senator George Brandis, the federal Minister for the Arts, of some funding for ACT matters from the National Cultural Heritage Account, included $180,000 to the Canberra Museum and Gallery towards the purchase of this beautiful monster of huge Canberran significance.

A spokeswoman for ACT Arts Minister Joy Burch said it really was a matter of the locomotive coming home (from Sydney) to where, in its heyday, it helped in the construction of Canberra, including brawny work done at the site of the first Parliament House.

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She tells us us that after 1927, the locomotive stood around, idle, for some 20 years before embarking on a career where it was used at Lanyon, and then at various farms and mills of our region before being bought by a Cowra steam enthusiast. At Cowra it displayed at least one feat of brute strength when it was used to haul a railway locomotive out of a turntable pit.

In 1976, it was bought by a Sydney collector and it has been in Sydney ever since, pining for Canberra. Now it is coming home, albeit after a sojourn at Goulburn where some restoration will be done.

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The spokeswoman says no decision has been made where the bemuscled Fowler will be housed and displayed. But the engine’s early links with the Kingston railhead and Canberra Brickworks make these sites front-runners. Wherever it is it will, from time to time, be stoked up so it can strut its stuff.

''It is a real thrill to secure this important piece of Australia’s heritage,'' Ms Burch said on Thursday.

Lisa Berriman's Questacon!
Lisa Berriman's Questacon! 

''This Leeds-manufactured engine was used between 1925 and 1927 to haul materials from the Kingston railhead and Canberra Brickworks for the construction of Parliament House, and from Mugga Quarry to build the Cotter Dam.''

Out Of The Blue 

The "selfie" is an overrated art form, but here's an excitingly surreal, op-art selfie taken by Lisa Berriman. She's called the picture Questacon! and it captures her in the senses-bombarding embrace of Questacon's popular Rototron. It is a kind of neon tunnel that turns LEDs on and off to generate the visual illusion of movement.

And we're using this picture to begin at last to sing the praises of the website The Human Brochure, an initiative of ACT Tourism by which 101 carefully recruited social media savvy gadabout Canberrans are invited to take pictures and to rejoice about the city they encounter on their peregrinations.

Berriman is one of the favoured few, one of the living brochures. She's a young mother, is married to a clergyman and curates an entertaining blog called Mummy's Undeserved Blessings at mummysundeservedblessings.com 

We commend The Human Brochure to you. If you love this city then it's second nature to you to enjoy it being celebrated as the diverse, buzzing, quirky little metropolis it is.

Of course, The Human Brochure being a creature of social media, a lot of the content is narcissistically trivial (inevitability there are portraits of riveting cups of coffee people are about to drink, and of sensational meals people are about to eat, even some portraits of hamburgers!). But on the other hand, the gallery is so immense and the variety so great, that there's a lot to enjoy and a lot to gladden Canberra hearts.

But the magnificent 101 are all supposed to be tourism-generating "advocates" for the city and this does make for a little overall blandness and does portray a city lacking in the grunge and the warts that of course the city does have, thanks be to God!

One looks in vain on The Human Brochure for any of the bogans and ice hockey fans and tattooed and pierced people who contribute so much to Canberra's diversity. Too many of the people photographed for The Human Brochure look like Young Liberals.

One theme that emerges in the pictures is a kind of implied idea that Canberra may be meteorologically unique, with its own sorts of sunrises and sunsets. And so The Human Brochure offers pictures of remarkable Canberra clouds in remarkable Canberra skies that are called "Cloud porn", and in my naivety I looked at the clouds for ages, trying in vain to find something suggestive in their shapes.

But our language is ever-changing and it turns out that the word "porn" can be used now of anything that excites or infatuates us. For example, "real estate porn" is pictures of fabulous chateaus of celebrities, mansions that create cravings in us. "Cloud porn" portrays pleasing clouds. Photographs of CBR Brave players scoring goals must be "ice-hockey porn" for those of us who are infatuated Brave fans, and flattering pictures of native plants must be "flora porn" for those of us who are gardeners.