A pocket history of Commonwealth Engineering - Comeng

A pocket history of Commonwealth Engineering - Comeng

I was recently sent a magnificent book entitled A History of Commonwealth Engineering written by John Dunn published by Rosenberg for review on the site. While reading through the book, I jotted a few notes to make this short pocket history of this interesting and diverse organisation as covered in Volume 1 of the book - 1921 to 1955. This is just a bit of an appetite wetter for John's book.…

Read more: A pocket history of Commonwealth Engineering - Comeng

Recently Rob Laurent released his latest book from Blue Flyer Publishing, Southern Cross Engines An Illustrated History of Toowoomba Foundry's Steam, Internal Combustion and Windmill Engines.

Being in touch with Rob from time to time, and being interested in Southern Cross (mainly because I own and will restore a PB fig. 1081 4hp kerosene engine) I decided to buy a copy. Southern Cross information has traditionally been scarce. The company had an amazing and diverse history. Based in engineering, the company got into agriculture, industrial, irrigation, aviation, railways, marine and many other adventures. Following the traditional Australian model they would send employees overseas to work in foundries around the world to learn new skills and methods and more importantly "borrow" successful designs to make them in the land of the no patent rights Australia!

Rob has done an amazing job of researching the company, interviewing hundreds of employees past and present,  sifting what records are available, interviewing collectors and restorers. I cannot recommend this book more highly - I have to admit company history is a dry subject, but Rob has made it actually interesting. For each engine model there is vital technical information (invaluable to the restorer and operator alike). There are hundreds of photos of engines both in their current show status and as they were (and indeed still are in many cases) used. Rob has also reproduced the serial number records which will allow people to reliably date their machines.

At about AU$50 this book is just amazing value.
To purchase the book, you can contact Rob via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or you can visit their web site at

Chapter List

Chapter 1: Steam Engines 1876-1917
Chapter 2: Early Internal Combustion engines 1910-1926
Chapter 3: The Engine Makers - up until 1926
Chapter 4: The Large P-Type and Small P-Type Kerosene Engines: 1926-1944; The Farm Pump 1927-1959
Chapter 5: The Y-Type Diesels 1933-1938, The Y Series and Improved Y Series Diesels 1938-1954, The A Series Petrol Engines 1939-1952
Chapter 6: The B Series Diesels 1944-1955, The G Series Diesels 1954-1961
Chapter 7: The First Air Cooled Diesels - ET Series and derivatives 1951-1960
Chapter 8: Petrol Engines and Mowers 1958-1973
Chapter 9: The End of the Line - EF and ED Series Diesels 1959-1983
Chapter 10: Windmills engines 1876-1983
Epilogue: The Toowoomba Foundry and Southern Cross Today
Appendix I: Other Southern Cross Products
Appendix II: Engine Production: Dates and Serial Numbers

Thanks for all your hard work Rob - an amazing effort. I look forward to your next work!

Read more: Book Review: Southern Cross Engines

REVIEW Magazine The Blackstone Collection

Product Details

Product reviewed: Magazine: The Blackstone Collection
Reviewer: Paul Pavlinovich
Date Reviewed: 01 Feb 2002
Overall Rating (0 = Terrible, 5 = Satisfactory, 10 = Magnificent): 8

Product made available for review by: Michael Key
Product is available from: Michael Key (see end of review)
Price UK£12 including overseas postage.

General Comments

The Blackstone Collection is a new, independent, venture aimed at everyone who has an interest in the history and products of Blackstone & Co. Ltd., of Stamford. The company, which was founded in 1837, became one of the country's leading manufacturers, first of agricultural and barn machinery, then stationary oil engines. It still exists, as a successful part of the MAN B&W group of companies.

This A5 format magazine celebrates the firm's history and products, the familiar as well as the odd and the rare. Using mostly unpublished or rarely published photographs, drawings, sales material, etc., the articles within record over 160 years of success and failure. There will also be features on the current collection and restoration scene.…

Read more: REVIEW Magazine The Blackstone Collection

Chronicles of a Country Works by Ronald H. Clark, submitted by Ives Trading, Australia

Product Details

Product reviewed: Chronicles of a Country Works by Ronald H. Clark CDROM Book
Reviewer: Paul Pavlinovich, extra comment by Chris Henderson
Date Reviewed: 21 October 1999
Rating Key: 1 = Poor, 4 = Satisfactory, 7 = Good, 10 = Magnificent
Overall Rating: 8
Ease of use Rating: 8
Content Rating: 10

Product made available for review by: Cindy Ives of Ives Trading
Product is available from: Ives Trading This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ives Trading, PO Box 118, Burpengary QLD 4505, phone 0412 959 626 (from outside Oz dial +61 412 959 626).
Price for CDROM edition $A55 posted anywhere within Australia
Printed edition $A75 posted anywhere within Australia

General Comments

With the silly season just around the corner, we're always on the lookout for presents for fellow steam & engine nuts. I think Ive's Trading have come up with a winner with their new CDROM publication Chronicles of a Country Works which is a modern reproduction of Ronald H. Clark's monumental work documenting the rise and fall of Burrell.

A new book...

This is not the first publication of Ronald H. Clark's that I have had the pleasure of reading. I read another of his traction engine works when it first came out on CDROM some time ago. Whenever I get a new book I like to sit down and flick through just taking a look at the pictures and chapter headings to give me an idea of what I will find within the pages. The CDROM format lends itself perfectly to this by providing "hot links" (just like the links used on a World Wide Web page) from both the Contents and the List of Pictures and diagrams. To those of you not familiar with CDROM, it is simply a Compact Disc, which instead of holding music holds information in a form suitable for reading by computer. Today it is uncommon to have a computer which does not include a CDROM drive (the device which is used to read the CDROM by the computer).

As you might expect from the title, the book covers the chronicles of a country works focusing on Charles Burrell and Sons of Thetford. The book details the early days of Burrell, through their advances and setbacks, their patents, finalisation of their single and double compound engines, and goes on to describe the works and the firm itself then finally into the decline of Burrells. A full list of the engines, (including serial numbers, and dates) produced by the firm is listed in an Appendix. To a Burrell collector this alone is worth the price of the book.…

Read more: Chronicles of a Country Works by Ronald H. Clark, submitted by Ives Trading, Australia

What can I say about this DVD? It is absolutely amazing! Dick Collingridge has really pulled one out of the bag. There is something on this for every steam fan no matter what aspect they're into.

Along with the usual footage of steam events, there is informed theoretical explanation of steam topics by reasonably entertaining presenters.

To use the words from the cover "Australia's relationship with the steam engine has a long and rich history, spanning nearly two hundred years. From the sugar cane fields in Bundarberg to the majestic ocean-going South Steyne, steam played a vital role in building the nation. Finally, here is a deserving tribute to Australian steam, extensively researched and filmed, and told by the people who share the passion of keeping our history alive."

The presentation is in two parts on two DVD discs and covers:
Part One: Beam & Stationary; Steam Cars; Steam Ships; Paddle Wheelers; Model locomotives; Sugard Mill; 3801; Trams; Fire Fighting; Echucha Festival
Part Two: Traction Engines; Scale models; Farm machinery; Merry-go-round; Earth moving; Model boats; Wooden launches; Mining; Eveliegh Steam Workshop and Electric power.
Dick first contacted me to find out how he might advertise his DVD to the world and included a copy for me to take a look at. I was expecting the usual not terribly interesting presentation with the non-descript music background common to so many of this sort of production - boy, was I surprised. I started to watch the first disk about 11pm one night intending to just flick through and ended up watching both of them well into the morning. The presentation was interesting and held my attention. It is broken into distinct sections which segway easily from one to the next.  Each section has a presentation from a knowledgeable person on the areas covered in that section and loads of well filmed footage on the topic. Sometimes the presentation is teacher-student format, but is usually spoken during the filmed action.

There really is something for everyone on this one. In addition it is a great source for information for school assignments (my eldest did an assignment on steam locomotives partly based on what he learnt from this video). I was pleased to see so many people I know on this presentation - Dick went out to the collectors and owners who display their hard work in the preservation arena.

The technical presentation is also very good, this is not just a video transfer to digital format - this is a digital production from the beginning with stereo sound and it really shows.  The video is crisp and clear, even the smoke looks good (usually a problem on DVD). The sound is clear and rich. The absence of on overpowering "jaunty" music track is wonderful - I don't know about you, but I want to hear the machines not some boring stock musical track. From time to time there is music, but it is in the background allowing you to hear all of the action.

Looking for a present for a steam nut? This is it! Not to mention train nuts, car nuts, boat nuts, farming nuts... mixed nuts :).

You can pick up this video from directly
Dick Collingridge Productions
PO Box 120, Turramurra NSW 2074
It is also available from Australian Model Engineering Retail
The National Screen and Sound Archive

Read more: Review: Australian Live Steam DVD by Dick Collingridge.