My first memory of engines was as a small boy living at Boundary Bend, North West Victoria, Australia. I used to sit for hours watching Ted O'Bree operating a steam engine that drove a 10" pump on the Murray River. I also liked to watch the 8hp Pitt oil engine my Dad owned driving a 2" Billabong pump on what is now known as Hopcroft Billabong.
Many years passed, and while visiting a steam rally at Echuca I became interested in engines but it was too late to restore the Pitt as it had gone for scrap and the Sundex. was also gone. The last owner of the Sundex was Max Vane at the Boundary Bend Store. Maybe a reader may know of the fate of the Sundex. I spent some time looking for an engine to restore. A local, Tom Story, had an 8hp Austral, but didn't know the engine number as the name plate was missing and it didn't have a number stamped on the crankshaft.
Tom said that I could have the engine if I restored it and I soon borrowed a tractor and towed the engine home. But times were hard and I couldn't afford to start restoration, so I towed it to a mates place and left it. In 1973 we left Boundary Bend for Robinvale, a larger town 30 miles along the river. Over the years I refused many offers for the Austral as I remembered my promise to Tom Story to restore it. In 1992 I decided it was time to keep my promise so we returned to Boundary Bend and with the help of two fork lifts, the engine was loaded and returned to Robinvale the next day.
We spent some time cleaning and oiling the engine and after a couple of hours we had the piston moving. This we removed, cleaned the rings and replaced. As I hadn't any experience with Australs I contacted Peter Wificock of Merbein, and with his expert advice and a copy of his Austral book, we soon had the engine running.
After having a name plate cast and a paint job, I was so pleased with the result that I started looking for more engines to restore. I have now completed with the help of my son Shane, over 28 engines including Sundials, Internationals, Cliff & Bunting, Wallabies, etc.
One day when visiting my sister and family at Boundary Bend, I was showing photos of engines to their son who was visiting from Melbourne when he overheard me say that I owned Tom Story's Austral. l was amazed when he said that when he was a small boy, he souvenired the nameplate and still had it in his father's shed. We couldn't wait to find it! Out to the shed, and after rummaging through years of collected parts we found it, No. 2672. The engine was complete at last, approx 23 years after it was given to me.