HOLIDAY AT THE BEECH
13 July -
Our intrepid holidaymakers meet on the footpath outside
Ken's house to pack "Austral the Truck" with bucket and
spade and everything else except the kitchen sink and associated
plumbing and to make final arrangements for the torture
recovery trip. Ken Woodrow, Clyde Ashton and Austral will
depart at 0600 Sunday. Cliff Robinson, Bob Bean, Ian "Kiwi"
Collins and Mick Hinsbey will depart in the Falcon station
wagon at 0800 Sunday with a scheduled meeting in Miles for
14 July -
Ken, Clyde and Austral depart on schedule. Cliff, Bob, Mick
and Kiwi and the Falcon depart at 0700, one hour ahead of
schedule. Consequently they meet just west of Oakey where
various rude signals are passed in an attempt to get Clyde
to stop turning right. After the Falcon passes, the truck
decides to throw some rubber. Consequently a perplexing
wait is made at Miles by the Falcon crew while Ken and Clyde
grovel in the dust changing a tyre and a crow pinches Ken's
sandwich. The tyre is duly changed and a replacement case
purchased (a rare occurrence on a Sunday afternoon). We
press on again into the sunset with Bob blinded by a setting
sun on the road to Morven where we arrive thirty minutes
after dark. The Morven camping ground is rudimentary to
say the least and we have the first example of alfresco
sleeping by Ken and Bob following a visit to the thriving
metropolis of Morven for tea.
15 July -
A crisp (frigid) morning which causes Bob to wander in the
dark and Ken to throw rocks at the caravan (he claims it
was possums). The two vehicles depart separately, the truck
direct for Longreach with Clyde and Bob and the Falcon following
strange directions along dirt roads generally north-west
finally finding a co-operative property owner who is prepared
to give us two Wright Whirlwind engines ex Grant tanks.
We also visit by devious route the remaining Grant tank
complete with bush-bashing superstructure, lost somewhere
in the wilds of the property. Later we visit Tambo where
we are shown two tyres and peculiar hubs as well as two
fuel tanks which we will pick up later. After a long drive
into the dusk we meet the truck at Longreach where we all
16 July -
The truck departed direct for Mt Isa with the Falcon going
to check out one of David's rumours at McKinlay without
success. At Mt Isa Ken and Clyde swap the front left wheel
with the spare, later to prove a wise decision. An a la
carte dinner was enjoyed by all. Everyone retired except
Bob who prowled Mt Isa until the wee small hours. Palm trees
were seen to burst into flame after his passing with pipe
alight! He swears innocence.
17 July -
A reasonably early departure for the truck left time for
the others to do some last minute shopping in Mt Isa for
bread and meat and catch up with the truck at Camooweal.
They proceeded in convoy until some 200 km into the N.T.
when the truck shed some more rubber - the one we had expected
this time. We changed to the spare only to find it was leaking
so had to travel to Barkly Homestead for repairs. This wasted
two hours and after setting off again we made only 10 km
before shedding some more rubber and losing the Falcon windscreen
to a road-train. After another tyre change we pressed on
into the night with the truck apparently boiling. The truck
pulled up at the Cresswell Downs turnoff while the Falcon
did a 20 km dash to Walhallow to report in and check on
the location. Back to the turnoff where we had to pass through
three gates and 35 km of paddocks to arrive on site even
though we could not recognise it. Rude camp was made in
the middle of the paddock and all retired alfresco at 2300.
18 July -
Morning revealed a derelict area with no immediate evidence
of an aeroplane but after a visit from a group of station
hands we were led 1 km away to the dump spread over 1 km
of scrub and largely invisible. There we discovered the
forlorn fuselage cut off aft of the rear cabin bulkhead
and with only one wing. Camp was shifted to the dump to
be in close proximity to the aircraft. The rest of the day
is spent setting up camp properly and looking through the
dump to find sundry bits of aeroplane spread over half a
kilometre and buried.
19 July -
Awake at dawn with everybody keen to attack the problem
of the tyres on the truck. With Clyde and Mick in the cab
and Cliff, Kiwi, Bob and Ken hanging on for grim death on
the back, the intrepid group set off on a short cut to Walhallow
to replace the shredded tyre and to chase up the tailplane.
On arrival Walhallow we were led to the dump to be pleasantly
surprised by the sight of an almost complete tailplane and
rear fuselage section. This was loaded using the "Armstrong"
method without drama. It was then back to the homestead
to inspect the resident aircraft (2 Bell 47, 1 C182 and
1 R22) and to replace the tyre with our last spare. We can't
do any more tyres until we get back to civilisation. A hair-raising
ride back to Cresswell with the tailplane finished off the
morning session. Kiwi sat in as tail gunner for this trip.
After lunch and a rest period due to the heat, the pile
of aircraft components was sorted and work commenced removing
the broken starboard wing section and separating the port
wing at the joint outboard of the engine. Later in the afternoon
the group trucked off to a billabong on Puzzle Creek to
obtain two 44 gallon drums of water for washing. Steak barbecue
followed at dusk with everybody in bed by 2200.
20 July -
This morning Kiwi's grumpiness was in evidence as the days
stretched ahead in a fog of depression owing to the lack
of a McDonalds nearby. Trouble developed however when we
found that the gas refrigerator had gone out during the
night and our best efforts could not make it run on gas.
As we had to run the generator for work during the day we
plugged in the frig as well. The morning saw the removal
of the remnants of the starboard wing while the rear pin
was removed from the port wing. After lunch the lower main
spar pin was removed and after disconnection of the aileron
cables the wing was swung upwards to reveal the top pin.
After spraying and heating the pin it came out on the fourth
clout accompanied by the usual heart attack from Kiwi who
was underneath and expected the wing to fall on him. This
was carried off, again using the "Armstrong" method. Later
the cabin was partly re-skinned with galvanised iron so
that it would retain the myriad bits of aeroplane we were
picking up. We now have a Junkers-Beech 18. Is this unique?
We have decided that all future recoveries be conducted
on dumps because of the apparently endless supply of bits
and pieces useful to the job. Because of the problem with
the frig we had to abandon the last of our steak and settle
for beef patties and the standard spuds, carrots, onions
21 July -
We slept in until 0745 (45 min after dawn) but this did
not improve Kiwi's grumpiness, nor did snags for breakfast.
The morning was spent in a comb search of the dump area
which turned up a few more bits of aeroplane but not the
mangled starborad wing we were hoping for. The afternoon
was spent in transporting the wing to the loading point
selected for the semi and filling two more drums of washing
water. (we are a dirty lot, and that applies even after
we have washed in dam water!). Bob tried unsuccessfully
to bring down a duck or two and in penance made a damper
for tea to have with saveloys. (Is this on the menu at Maxims?).
While we were away, the tents were downed by a gust of wind
and confusion ensued. We rolled the fuselage on to its side
with the stub wing in the air as this is the way we plan
to transport it. Later, after tea, we did a trial lift with
the crane on the truck. This was so successful that we left
it loaded on the truck for the morning. A strange phenomenon
has been observed, probably due to the nightly walks, Mick
has been getting shorter. His overalls now have more and
more folds at the bottom end. He will probably be only four
feet high when he gets home. Ken has complained that the
truck step is getting higher. In his case it is probably
an effect of old age. Kiwi is having hallucinations of multi-layered
McDonalds hamburgers and fountains of Pepsi.
22 July -
The morning started slowly after a hot evening. The sky
was clouded and raised the spectre of the need for a dash
to the road if rains came, but the clouds continued to blow
over. A run to the assembly area with the fuselage left
it unloaded at the "rocket range" but we decided to bring
back the tailplane and dismantle it from the rear fuselage.
This was accomplished in a couple of hours and the dismantled
sections returned to the pile. An easy afternoon was followed
by compote a la Irish stew with the obligatory vegetables
followed by pears and cream. My we do it hard!
23 July -
Everything is ready for the truck but we have two days to
spare. This morning the Falcon made a trip to the junction
to post direction signs for the Brambles truck while the
rest of the troops picked over the dump both for personal
trophies and to decide if one of the abandoned Southern
Cross engines would be worth the transport to Brisbane for
possible sale to antique machinery buffs. However we decided
against this and so an easy day was enjoyed with the flies.
24 July -
How do we fill in another hot day? Rob the dump again? Get
some more washing water? The onions have run out, the biscuits
and bread have run out. At least we have carrots and potatoes
and spam and fruitcake. We take the truck to the pile and
load the fuselage ready for the semi.
25 July -
Action at 0200. The earth shakes as a cattle train rolls
by, but he has led in our road train and a dust-covered
Kiwi is there to observe it all. Back to bed until dawn
when we troop off to wake the driver and begin to load the
dog trailer. This did have its moments, but eventually after
two hours we have it loaded and another two hours are spent
securing the aircraft and restacking his other load of broken
glass. We have lunch and break camp and so are ready to
depart by 1315. The convoy - semi, Austral and Falcon then
went off to the Barkly Homestead some 260 km away where
we left the semi and stayed the night. The first hot shower
for a week and we begin to feel semi-human again.
26 July -
We have a leisurely drive back to Mt Isa with the usual
stops to re-tie the tarp, but it is good not to feel any
pressure about keeping to schedule. Back to our previous
van and an obligatory dinner at the Irish Association Club.
27 July -
Tourists abroad! Today we have a surface visit to the mine,
through the underground museum and a wander around the town.
The washing is completed. We can face the world again.
28 July -
Everybody awake early for a delayed crack of dawn departure
for a full days driving to Longreach. Clyde and Bob set
off in Austral with the Falcon crew following after picking
up a spare universal joint just in case the noisy joint
fails completely. Ken takes over from Clyde at McKinlay
Station with a stop at Winton for lunch. A small problem
has shown itself with Austral consuming radiator water at
a higher than normal rate. The weary crew arrived in Longreach
at 1830 and decided to look at the radiator problems in
29 July -
After breakfast it's all hands on deck to check the thermostat
and to remove and clean the radiator. This is completed
and all is loaded and packed for a visit to Qantas Park
and the Stockmans Hall of Fame. On the road again after
lunch the radiator problems are getting worse. A small leak
has appeared in the top of the core and this explains the
consumption of water. The decision is made to drive on to
Barcaldine with the radiator cap removed to buy some "stop
leak" compound and try it out. This works successfully and
we have the situation of Austral outpacing the Falcon on
the leg to Blackall for our overnight camp in Jackie Howe
30 July -
Bob and Kiwi depart ahead of the Falcon for it falls on
the Falcon crew to pick up some pieces of roadside rubber
to be used as padding for the items to be collected at Tambo
later in the day. This trip is plagued by rubber. We shed
it on the way out and pick it up on the way back! Apart
from road rubber there are numerous "road rissoles" with
a dead pig or kangaroo being spotted every fifty yards.
At Tambo, aircraft tyres, wheels and fuel tanks are collected
and after some rearrangement of load we press on to Woolga
Station to collect the two Whirlwind engines. On arrival
at Woolga at 1300 a hasty lunch of spam sandwiches and "Tang"
is prepared (memories of Sentosa). The work of changing
yet another wheel because of a puncture on the truck is
started by Bob and Cliff. Clyde and Mick unload the truck
while Kiwi and Ken clear the dump to gain access to the
engines. These are loaded easily and the gear is then reloaded
with everything ready to roll by 1500. On the road again
at a slow but steady pace stopping to check the load we
head for Morven via Augathella. After about 40 km, the radiator
in Austral finally packs up in a cloud of steam. The small
hole is now a large hole, but luckily it is in the top of
the core, so after a refill and without the cap fitted the
crew plod on over dusty roads back to the bitumen at Augathella.
After a refuelling stop, we continue to Morven being forced
to travel at dusk with the Falcon leading because of better
headlights. About 20 km out of Morven, with Kiwi driving
the Falcon and Ken in Austral, the small convoy takes violent
evasive action to avoid a kangaroo. This action is unsuccessful
with the Falcon confirming a kill and thankfully no damage
to the vehicle. With slightly tingling nerves we proceed
on to Morven to return to the same van we had on the way
31 July -
Everybody awoke early to continue the drive on what could
be the last day on the road. With Bob and Ken in Austral
and Cliff, Kiwi, Mick and Clyde in the Falcon we head off.
No problems with a driver change and refuelling stop in
Roma then off again, hopefully arriving Oakey for a visit
to the Museum of Australian Army Flying. Arrival at Oakey
at 1530 gives us time for a one hour inspection before closing
time. All were suitably impressed with the short visit.
We press on for Brisbane only two and a half hours away.
The tired but happy crew arrive in Brisbane at 1915, satisfied
with the achievements of the past 16 days.
team members one year older (Clyde & Bob)
Kangaroo (Eastern Grey male confirmed)
universal joint (Falcon)