Our Central Highlands pastoral station life exhibit includes the Gordon Downs Woolshed and Station Store and Retro meathouse. Within the woolshed you can view the wool handling equipment from an agricultural industry sector that has all but disappeared from the district. Stationary engines that powered woolsheds, bore pumps and watering points have been restored to their former glory.
Gordon Downs Woolshed
After the original Gordon Downs woolshed burnt down, a large thirty stand woolshed at Old Gordon was dismantled, transported and re-erected at a site several miles to the west of the homestead complex in 1924. Peter Hansen disassembled the building which was then a little over a decade old. He marked each piece with roman numerals so that it could be more easily put back together again. The pieces were stacked onto wagons and moved to the new site by two teamsters for £10 per load. Peter then reassembled it and by all accounts was a very good Boss Carpenter.
In 1993, the then owners of Gordon Downs, United Plantations, donated the woolshed to the Pioneer Village and dismantling work began again. The chiselled roman numerals that aided in its first move were used again for this move to the Village.
Two thirds of the original woolshed length has been re-erected in the Village complex and houses displays of shearing stands and equipment (including working stands), wool presses, wool classing tables, stationary engines and horse drawn vehicles and harnessing.
The woolshed skillion houses a Clayton and Shuttleworth steam engine that is the same as the steam engine that originally powered the woolshed. The large, unrestored Hornsby engine inside the woolshed is the same as the Hornsby engine that replaced the Clayton and Shuttleworth engine. Here also is the Robey portable steam engine that introduced mechanised shearing on the Greenhills station in the late 1890’s - where it powered a 16 stand shearing shed. During the 1901 - 1903 drought this steam engine was also used by the Crombie family to drive a boring plant to sink sub artesian bores on Greenhills station and Beryl station to the west.
Contrary to common belief, the Great Shearers Strike actually began at Fairbairn family owned Logan Downs station roll call on 6th January 1891. Word of the strike was sent on to Gordon Downs and from there to other major sheep properties in the region (including Peak Downs and Retro). Only later was the Strike Headquarters established in Barcaldine (popularly misperceived as the origin of the Shearers’ Strike) because of its central location in the vast woolgrowing area.
The first terrorist act in Australia - a unionist attack on civilians and military during the Great Shearers Strike - occurred 10km north of Capella with the sabotaging of the Abor Creek railway bridge in 1891. Unionists sawed through a fifteen inch diameter column and a headstock of the bridge, with the intention of stopping the train carrying free shearers (Black Legs) and members of the Queensland Mounted Infantry from reaching its Clermont destination. Many lives could have been lost if the bridge had actually given way. As it happened the sabotage was not discovered for six weeks. The ringleader was arrested regarding another matter and when told what he was being arrested for, said ‘Oh, is that all?’ Picking up on this, the authorities went looking for what else he had might have done and consequently were able to show that he was the ringleader of the saboteurs.
Gordon Downs Station Store
Gordon Downs was once one of the largest pastoral holdings in the area and the station store protected up to six months worth of the station’s stock of foodstuffs and general supplies. The store was built in 1924, when Dick Small was the Manager. The ceiling is pine and the rest is spotted gum.
It was a well provisioned store. It sold clothing, bedding, soap and tobacco. Foodstuffs were kept on the shelves. The loose bins held flour, sugar, sago and rice. Tins of foodstuffs were stored in the shallow bins. Tents and calico sheep breaks were stored in the loft. The little room was for oil, paints, sheep dips and like things. The alcove behind the counter area stored saddlery. It also included an office and a bedroom for the Book Keeper.
During the time Dudleigh Easton was the Gordon Downs Manager (1926 – 1974), there was an Overseer and Jackaroo’s Cook and a Men’s Cook who would draw stores for their respective messes.
The bookkeeper’s table was on the left side of the entry through the split door, with his books kept on the shelves behind. The manager’s table was on the right with pigeon holes behind it.
There was a six foot high tank stand just outside the store with a rainwater tank on it and a climber growing around it. The ground underneath was concreted and there were shelves on this and the whole arrangement served as the cool room.
The Village holds the Gordon Downs account books and ledgers which date from the late 1800s to the 1950s and these provide some interesting insights into everyday needs of a working property in that period.
The Retro meathouse was moved to the Village in February 2003 and restored. It has the original exterior platform and interior chopping blocks.
The Blacksmiths Shop rings to the sound of hammered metal each Heritage Day, held on the second Saturday of September.