Old cranks firing up a blast from town past | PICTURES

A HEAVY lifting crane made short work yesterday of what a group of Beechworth residents say will be the town’s next big tourist attraction.

The 12½-tonne Crossley generator has been hidden away in the town’s old goods shed for many years.

But within weeks, tourists will be able to see this rare power generator and a mining battery stamper seven days a week.

Until now, visitors have only been able to see the machinery when members of the Beechworth Old Cranks Motor Club have been available to unlock the doors.

The generator and stamper were moved yesterday in a four-hour job that resulted in the machinery’s delivery to a site in Albert Road, in front of the bowling club.

A shed — now in kit form in Wangaratta — is expected to be erected early next week around the machinery on a concrete slab already on the site

The generator was originally used to power the Beechworth Tannery on Malakoff Road up until its closure in 1961.

It is believed to be only of its type — just six were built — in the world.

The project to relocate the machinery has been driven by the Old Cranks club and the Rotary Club of Beechworth.

The Victorian government chipped in $50,000 for the project, while the Rotary club raised about $25,000 in nine months.

Project co-ordinator Charles Mason — a member of both clubs — said everything went “according to plan” yesterday.

“We had the crane involved for about four hours, shifting the engine, the generator and the old stamper that was down along the creek,” he said.

Mr Mason said the machinery would get “a lot more viewing” at the new site.

“Our fellows will put some finishing touches to the shed by putting in windows and a few things like that, including plumbing,” he said.

Mr Mason said there were also plans to get the motor running again, for the first time in about 20 years.

“It came back to Beechworth in that condition, but of course 20 years have gone by,” he said.

“Pieces had to be taken off to move on so they’ve got to be put back on.

“We believe it will go all right.”

Mr Mason said the machinery had not really been on proper display before.

“It’s now going to be on display all day, every day,” he said.

“The shed’s going to have windows and viewing areas in it, though it will be secure.”

Mr Mason said the new site was also within a few minutes of the Beechworth post office.

“It’s in a very prominent position and it’s on the track taken by the town tour groups, which host 6000 to 7000 people a year,” he said.

“We’re delighted that we’ve got through that milestone now of moving it.”

Mr Mason said the link to the tannery made the generator in particular a significant part of Beechworth’s history.

“The tannery really kept the town viable at a time after the gold petered out and during the Depression,” he said.

“It employed up to 200 people and so most families had someone who worked at the tannery, which produced up to 1500 hides a day.”

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