Murtoa  Inland  Freezer  Works 

The Dunmunkle Sumpoilers Engine Club ~ Murtoa Inland Freezing Works
Open Day - October 1998

Murtoa is a small rural community of 1000 people located in the Wimmera Region of western Victoria, Australia. Murtoa is approximately 30 kilometres east from Horsham and300 kilometres north west from Melbourne, the state capital. The Wimmera Region is primarily a farming area, producing wheat and wool. Murtoa is the largest inland grain receiving centre in Victoria and the site of the controversial 1940s 'stick shed' grain store.

The Murtoa Inland Freezing Works was established in 1908 through each farmer in the district taking out the equivalent of AUS$50 in shares. A New Zealand expert was brought in to manage the works with the aim being able to transport lamb to distant local markets and possibly for export. Regrettably the venture failed in the early 1920s.

Four single cylinder Ruston gas suction engines were installed in the works between 1910-1914, ranging in size from 59 to 115 HP, The engines were situated side by side with the two smaller engines (54 and 65 HP) being used to generate electricity. The two larger engines (95 and 115 HP) were used to drive an ammonia compressor and another compressor.

The engines drove their loads via approximately 2-inch diameter rope belts with between 6-8 belts per engine. There was a great mass of spare rope belts, all neatly wrapped in canvas, piled up all over the shed.

The 'Dunmunkle Sumpoilers' have worked on the engines and have managed to have them all running on petrol with various home made adaptations (including one very strange looking carburettor. See below). The engines do not run under full load at this time and the staring procedure is quite unique.

An electric air compressor is used to simulate the air start and one of the attendants pours a trickle of petrol from a soft drink bottle down a funnel through a plastic hose which feeds the carburettor, once the engine has made a few revolutions. With a resounding "bang" and a small sheet of flame, ignition is achieved and the engine (generally) runs happily from an auxiliary fuel tank! It is worth watching...

Murtoa Inland Freezer Works engines

View of the four Ruston Gas Suction engines.
Note the 65 HP engine just visible through the nearest flywheel.

Ruston Gas Suction engine

115HP Ruston Gas Suction Engine
used to drive the ammonia compressor

On the day the 115 HP engine with a home made carburettor was backfiring badly and 2-3 feet of flame could be seen from the top of the unit! This was quickly shut down!!!! One local told me that they had unsuccessfully tried to use a tractor carburettor the engine but found that it bad been sucked 'inside out' by the engine on its first suction stroke!

Once started the engines ran very quietly - even without the original exhaust and air intake systems in 2 cases. In fact, even with 3 of the 4 running they were quieter and more pleasant to listen to than many modern 2 and 4 stroke engines!

The works has lain derelict for many years and is located adjacent to a local highway. Despite not being fenced, the site has remarkably not suffered from much vandalism. Recently a part of one building has been converted into a furniture factory. Unfortunately the engine shed is made of corrugated iron and is in very bad condition, allowing the elements to take their toll. Although the engines show signs of surface rust much of the original paintwork and garnishing is still clearly visible.

Apparently all 4 gas producers were intact on site as recently as 15 years ago but only one remains today and that is not operational. One unit was apparently relocated to Lake Goldsmith and is being used there.Over the years parts of the works have been gutted and little remains of the electricity generation although the compressors are still in place but not operational.

Ruston Gas Suction engine

95 HP Ruston Gas Suction Engine.
Note the green home made carburettor.

This engine is the furthermost one visible in the group shot above.


Drive wheel

Drive wheel for the ammonia compressor.
Note the remains of the compressor in the background.

Drive belts

Drive belts for the ammonia compressor made of 2"diameter rope.
Note the spare belts still rapped in canvas in the background and the guides where the belts ran through.

The running of the engines occurs every two years and was supported by a small display of club member's engines, which included engines such as Lister D, Ronaldson & Tippet N Types, Bamfords, Coopers, Villiers etc. Lance Altmann of Horsham had his four hand built A.H. McDonald Imperial Super-Diesel scale engines (opposite) on display. A radial aircraft engine and a RR jet engine from a Canberra bomber were also on running. A number of vintage, veteran and classic cars completed the outside attractions!

All in all it was a very impressive and enjoyable way to spend a morning - and all just for $2.00 admission!

Model A.H. McDonald ISD engines

Model A.H. McDonald Imperial Super-Diesel engines

As a -side note there are two single cylinder 160-190 HP Ruston gas suction engines coupled in tandem, totally complete and operational - including the gas producer, at an open cut gold mine site in Castlemaine near Bendigo in Central Victoria. They are being returned to working condition as part of the Forest Creek working goldfields museum. The engines were initially installed to drive cold store compressors in an orchard in Melbourne in the 1920s but were moved to Castlemaine and used to power a Thompson's pump to operate a water cannon for hydraulic sluicing. The water stream was used to remove the topsoil to expose veins of gold at a distance of 0.5 mile. A practice which is prohibited today for understandable environmental reasons!

This page prepared by Mark Kennedy
Last updated on 14/08/2001