It stands proudly outside the huge cutting and packing sheds of the Canowindra Pro- duce Company in Clyburn Street – one of the region’s finest surviving examples of early industrial farm machinery.
Long-time residents know it’s there right next to the old railway lines. But how many newcomers and visitors get to see this magnificent commemoration of our past – a Britannia Engine boiler manufactured by Marshall and Sons in Gainsborough, England, and shipped out here in the late 1880s?
Canowindra Produce’s managing Director, Ian Brown, says the stately antique has been in his family since his father started the business in the 1930s. “I keep it outside the plant in recognition of him,” he says, and that’s one reason why the boiler hasn’t been moved downtown as a tourist attraction.
“You’d be surprised, though, how many people come out here to the factory to take pictures of it,” Ian says. The boiler’s technology is simple – a firebox fed with wood that heats water in the boiler itself to provide steam power that drives pulleys and belts that in turn operate a chaff or lucerne cutter and feed the product through to a bagging machine. It had no mobility of its own, however, and it had to be dragged about with a water tank by a horse.
Ian Brown says that at one time there were five Britannia boilers operating in the district, going from farm to farm to cut and bag fodder. That’s all they were used for,” he says. “They provided cereal or lucerne for horse feed.” The horse era’s long gone, but Ian’s still running a flourishing business providing horse feed for studs, riding schools, polo clubs, the racing industry and other customers across Australia and also to places like Malaysia and the famous Hong Kong Jockey Club in Hong Kong, with the old Britannia boiler as his company’s crest.
Ian Brown and the Britannia Boiler.