Gift adds jewel to heritage collection

Returning home . . . Ivan Stratford (left) and Rick Ramsay inspect their newest acquisition, a Caterpillar 769 Watercart. PHOTO: CONNOR HALEY

A generous donation has kept the wheels turning on an evergrowing collection of heritage machinery.

The Twizel Heritage Machinery Group has been collecting, repainting and displaying various types of machinery used during the town’s hydro days as part of the Upper Waitaki Hydro Heritage Trail.

The group has now added a Caterpillar 769 Watercart to the already impressive line up found at Wairepo Rd.

The Watercart was initially advertised on TradeMe by Taggart Earthmoving in Belfast, Christchurch.

Machinery group co-ordinator Rick Ramsay said it was a real surprise to find the machine up for sale.

‘‘We saw it up on TradeMe and thought ‘whoa, hang on, if we can get them to agree to take it off TradeMe and give us a chance to raise some money, we can do it’.’’

After discussions by group member Tony Hodges and Taggart Earthmoving chief executive Paul Taggart, it was withdrawn from sale and offered to the heritage group for $10,000.

The group was then offered an 18-month interest free period in which to raise the funds.

They submitted an application to the Meridian Powerup Community Fund but before it could even be considered, TransNet New Zealand managing director Spencer Winn stepped in and fronted the bill.

Not only did he donate the money to purchase the machine, but to paint it also.

Mr Winn said he had been impressed with the heritage machinery display.

‘‘I’ve seen the setup of the old earthmoving machinery at the front of Twizel, it’s so well done.

‘‘Lots of our customers visit the display when in Twizel.’’

Mr Ramsay said he was blown away by the offer.

‘‘It’s not something that happens every day.

‘‘It’s amazing generosity to receive an offer like this, we had 18 months to raise the funds, and now it will be paid on the 20th of June and with funds in hand to purchase the paint and pay for painting it.

‘‘When people see others have donated a machine like this, to make it happen and to have it painted up and looking as good as the ones at the front of town, what more could you ask for?’’

The Powerup application had now been withdrawn.

The Watercart will be waterblasted and painted, and a concrete pad with gravel will be prepared for it to sit on.

Mr Ramsay said it was a very unique piece of machinery.

‘‘There weren’t very many that had a water tank on.

‘‘The haul roads were continuously used by machines and if you had dust on that it became a safety risk.

‘‘They had them set up as dust carts.

‘‘A key thing to lining the canals with the clay lining material was to make sure it had the right moisture content in it, or it wouldn’t pack down.

‘‘The Ministry of Works designed and built the tanks on the back, otherwise they would have just looked like the other dump trucks.

‘‘That gives us another piece of uniqueness.’’

He said it was important to save and display these machines.

‘‘The machines are getting rare.

‘‘There are people who get them and restore them into working order but we’re not quite in that game, so there is competition.

‘‘Some of them are displayed in museums but the beauty of our machinery display is it’s actually where they were used and out in the open.

‘‘It’s not behind locked doors.

‘‘It forms a unique frontage to the town that other towns haven’t got.’’

It was important to use the machines as a way to tell the story of Twizel and the people who built it, he said.

‘‘While the Ministry of Works might have had these, what we want to also do is tell the story of the contractors.

‘‘The contractors had as much plant as the Ministry of Works and we want to recognise the contribution that they made.’’

Mr Ramsay said there were still plenty of machines on his radar.

‘‘There are some other machines out there we’d love to have.

‘‘For example the Terex S24 scraper would look really good, because then you’d have the comparison between the 1950-1960 red international and then the big machines the contractors used.

‘‘None of the contractors used those old machines.

‘‘We’re still on the lookout, we know where some are and we think there might be a generous benefactor who might want to tell the story of the company he had.’’

The group are also currently working on displaying three other machines they had acquired — a 988 Caterpillar loader, a J5 Bedford flatdeck and an ex-MWD dragline.