A “Very Trifling Exercise of the Imagination,” Asked by a 150 Year Old News Story, or, One Model is Worth a Thousand Words

(originally posted November 11, 2009)

from: The Argus (Melbourne, Australia) – March 30, 1859

via Trove: http://trove.nla.gov.au


“An acquaintance with the peculiarities of

our gold-mines, and the mode in which the

precious metal is won from their depths –

whether it be from the quartz veins, from cement,

or from “wash-dirt” — no longer neces-

sitates a journey to the diggings, or an expen-

diture of any considerable portion of time.

A resident in Melbourne in an hour may

become versed in all the mysteries of quartz-

crushing machines, of whatever construction

they may be. The new chum may gratify

his “itching palm” by taking a turn at

cradle or long-tom. One may lay in a stock

of mining lore which would fit him for the

editorship of a mining journal, or afford

materials for an elaborate work — to be pub-

lished in England — on the gold-fields of

Victoria. The aspirant after knowledge in

this department of science may, in an incre-

dibly short space of time, become conversant

with the difference between a Chilian mill and

a Chinese pump, between a donkey-engine and

a donkey “drive;” he may be able hereafter

to describe with accuracy all about reefs and

“spurs,” “surfacing and paddocking ;” he

may know exactly what it is to be “dead

on the gutter,” and may even within the

hour descend a two-hundred feet shaft in a

bucket, traverse galleries and drives, and come

again to the surface with clean hands, and

possessed of a profound knowledge of the modus

operandi at the bottom of a quartz reef. How

is this to be done? By inspecting the models

in the Museum of the University of mining

machinery and implements, and also a num-

ber of exceedingly accurate miniature repre-

sentations of our gold mines. One of these is

especially worthy of notice. It is a large

model, about 12 feet by 5 of the workings of

the Clunes and Port Phillip Gold-mining

Companies, and is a work which, for the bold-

ness of the design, minuteness of detail, and

beauty of execution, is not to be surpassed

by any other similar production.

To the Museum this model is a great

acquisition, and if a fac simile of it were

exhibited in Europe it would do more to

illustrate the features and extent of our gold

mines, the nature of the machinery employed,

the characteristics and vicissitudes of a

digger’s life, than the best written of the

many volumes which have been published on

the subject.

To attempt anything like a descrip-

tion of the minute details exhibited by

this model would be extremely tedious. Its

chief beauty is that it presents, at one view, a

complete sketch of every day life on the gold-

fields, and strictly in accordance with reality.

There is nothing new in the fact of an

accurate model of a mine or of a machine

being produced ; but the artist must have had

considerable courage and confidence in his

own powers who ventured to represent, with

overy accessory, the works of the two largest

and most wealthy mining companies in the


A very trifling exercise of the imagination,

especially with those to whom the gold-fields

are familiar, is sufficient to infuse activity

into the whole scene. The pigmy men begin

to ascend the shafts in which they hang

suspended; the uplifted axe falls upon the

log ; the cradle rotates ; the saws re-

volve ; the smoke and steam issue from

the engines; the stampers begin to clat-

ter, the tables to shake; the hitherto

stationary bullock-team, influenced by the

magnetic communication established between

the driver and their ribs — with the butt-end

of his whip — and the incantation proceeding

from his lips, known only to the ini-

tiated in bullock-driving, proceed upon

their way. In short, the “lucky vaga-

bond,” grown respectable In Melbourne,

may visit again a truthful life-like scene of

his past career, when he donned the blue shirt

and wide-awake, and grasped in his hard,

horny fingers the mighty engine which has

untombed Victoria’s wealth – the pick.

The model represents the crown and

western side of the hill upon which the

works of the two companies are situated,

the observer apparently standing by Cres-

wick’s Creek, which flows at its southern

base. On the summit of the hill, which

forms the north-eastern corner of the model,

are seen the shafts of the old Man’s,

Robinson’s, the Eastern, and the Western

Reefs, and, immediately above them, a shaft

intended to cut all the above reefs at three

levels. The side of the model exhibits the

strata through which the shafts pass, and a

portion of the workings below, also a number

of unworked quartz veins, or spurs. The reefs

appear to have been followed in their almost

vertical descent, and removed bodily, the

yawning mass on each side being prevented

from falling in with props. Drives penetrate

in every direction, from the recesses

of which the miners are soon amongst us

with barrowsfull of “stuff.” Returning again

to the surface of the hill, where nothing but

four narrow shafts give any traces of the

gigantic workings underneath, there is a large

steam-engine, with all the necessary ma-

chinery and “gearing” for the working of the

main shaft. Descending the declivity of the

hill is a tramroad of two lines, which the

tracks traverse, on the usual principles adopted

on an incline plane. The drum, rails, ropes

&c, are minutely shown, while the descending

loaded truck by its momentum appears to

force the empty one up the incline. Exhi-

bited also, on the upper portion of the hill,

are the calcining kiln, water reserves, refuse

heaps, and the whole of the process by which

the quartz is conveyed from the mouth of

the mine to the crushing machines. It

must be understood that the operations

of the Clunes Company are exclusively di-

rected to mining, the quartz being

handed over, after burning, to the Port

Phillip Company, whose extensive machinery

for extracting the ore occupies the lower

portion of the ground. A fence, ran across the

middle of the hill, and parallel with the creek,

divides the property of the two companies.

Crossing this fence, then, the attention is

directed to a line of five large stamping

machines, the two centre ones being worked

by one powerful engine, and the other three

each by an engine of its own. Into the

hoppers of these machines the quartz may be

seen, apparently falling from the trucks,

and emerging from the feet of the stampers,

reduced to powder. It is needless to explain

the elaborate and varied processes through

which the quartz passes ; but in the model it

is accurately shown, even down to the

operator standing over a tin dish, forcing the

globules of quicksilver through the pores

of the chamois-skin containing the amal-

gam. The construction of the machinery

is minutely exhibited, and driving-belts

are observed to connect pumps, saws,

and other accessories with the engines.

A Chilian mill is also shown, but the

description states that it is seldom used.

Groups of persons, on foot and horse are

scattered about, and, according to the cata-

logue, one is Introduced to the personnel of

individuals to whom, in visiting Clunes, it is

necessary to be known. The patterns of some

of the physiognomies are perfectly unique, and

if in this the model be correct, it is to be

hoped that they are peculiar to Clunes.

It would be useless to attempt an enumera-

tion of all that this model presents, offering

as it does a truthful picture, touched with

the lively imaginings of an artist. The

model is the work of M. Carl Norstrom, who

has also produced several others of a some-

what similar character which are exhibited in

the museum.”


About negxl1

Rocks interest me; some fascinate me.
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