My involvement with a Barber-Greene bucket loading elevator started, when I bumped into an old acquaintance, and the conversation got around to how we were filling in our days. I told him that I had become involved with vintage machinery restoration as, at that time, I was helping with restoration work on an Aveling and Porter steam roller at the South Coast Restoration Society, at Heritage Park, Pimpama, Queensland.
^ The elevator section being readied to be unloaded at “Heritage Park”., Pimpama, Qld.
He informed me that he knew of a vintage machine that might be of interest to me, but it was in a local storage and was due to go to Sims Scrap Metal. He also told me that he believed that this machine had some World War Two history to it.
After finding out where it was, I went to have a look. It appeared as if the prime mover was mounted on crawler tracks and had a 6 cylinder sidevalve engine, sitting east-west in the chassis, with a ‘BUDA’ branded radiator and, what appeared to be, some sort of bucket chain elevating system, about 8 metres long. The entire machine was a bit rusty, and further investigation concluded that the engine was seized. We noted that this may be due to the exhaust pipe facing upwards, which left it open to the rain, which resulted in the exhaust manifold being mostly rusted away. The updraught carburettor was also missing.
The owner was contacted, and he said that it had been obtained as a prop for a War movie, but that he had no further plans for the machine. His only intention at that point, was to have it sold for scrap metal. He also told me that he believed that it did have military history, which included being brought out to Australia in 1942, by the American Air Force, when Australia was being attacked by Japan. It was used to quarry road base and gravel, to make and repair airfields and roads in northern Australia. Then, after the War ended, it was used by the Australian Air Force, for similar work by the 2nd, 3rd and 6th Air Field Construction Squadrons until the 1960s.
^ The screw orgers on the outer sides plus a couple of the buckets of the bucket chain elevator in the centre.
After that, it was used in several open cut coal mines further up the Queensland north coast, and finished its working life in a coal fired power station in Brisbane, until about 1980, when the power station closed down. The owner and I came to a financial agreement, whereby I purchased it from him, then had it transported via several trips on a tilt tray, to our club facilities at Pimpama. It took several years of weekend work to get the engine running again, as the pistons were seized in the block, the face of the block was severely rusted away (as was the exhaust manifold of which I was already aware), and most of the manifold studs were rusted off inside the block. All of this had to be repaired, then a replacement exhaust manifold had to be manufactured, a new headgasket had to be hand made, and a new water pump impellor had to be made. All of the inlet and exhaust valves were corroded and the seats pitted, but one of our club members supplied me with some new valves, which had to be reworked, and the seats re-machined. Many club members gave me great encouragement.
Getting the engine to actually run, was a problem all on its own. The loader was originally supplied with a 6 volt electrical system, which would turn the engine over with the head off, but once the head was on, and it had to crank over against compression, it gave up the ghost, even with a freshly fully charged battery. We had some suspicion over the strength of the starting system because we had already noted that the driving lugs on the crank handle, where they engage into the end of the crankshaft, were extremely worn away. The starter motor was removed and given to an auto electrician to investigate. He came back with some good news...and some bad news.
^ It was a bit of a battle to get the prime mover off the tilt tray, as the drive mechanism was completely frozen solid!
The good news was, the starter motor was in very good condition with no sign of wear. The bad news was that, the air gap between the rotor and the stator was too much, and required a 12 volt battery to make it work under load. We would have to convert the electrical system to 12 volt, including the ignition coil and generator. This would work, as long as the motor wasn’t cranked over for more than five seconds at a time, and it was allowed to cool down between runs. It worked very well for quite some time, until the 6 volt starter solenoid packed it in, and had to be replaced with a 12 volt unit, which then led to the amp meter casing collapsing. While trying to remove the power wire, the ignition switch disintegrated. While installing the new wiring, and getting to the ignition switch, the starter button fell in half. Now, this all works fine.
On the first test run, we found the primary drive chains broken inside the chassis, where they had rusted through, due to so many years of lying in damp coal dust. These had to be removed and replaced. Once the prime mover was mobile, we had to work out how to drive it, which included how to adjust the drive clutches and steering brakes. In the early stages of operation, there was a problem with the engine overheating. When the radiator was dismantled, we found most of the core tubes were blocked, but when we attempted to clean them, the tube walls collapsed. The most cost-effective option was to install an F100 radiator inside the original radiator casing, which seemed to address the problem, as it hasn’t overheated since.
The drive plant is a Buda, 6 cylinder, 4.8 litre sidevalve petrol engine, which rates 77bhp @ 2,700rpm. There was quite a bit of work getting the elevator working, as it was ‘completely frozen’, and the frame had some rust in it, which had to be cut out and plates welded in. We had to source a new elevator drive chain, and a new slew system for the discharge chute had to be made up, as the original one had almost completely disintegrated. It is now fully operational though it is still in its ‘working clothes’, with a bit of surface rust still obvious on it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the finances or the equipment to fully restore it. The machine is usually displayed running at our Tractor Weekend, as well as our Annual Rally, at the end of July, every year.
- Ray Johnstone
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