All hands to pump for fire project

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Engineering and coachbuilding expertise from Ashburton will be used to recreate a core piece of Ashburton fire-fighting history – a 22-man manual horse-drawn pump, the Wainui.
Engineer John Newlands will join fellow engineer Graham McElroy, who retired to Ashburton from Christchurch, and retired funeral director Roger Paterson, a woodworking expert, in making the replica.
Peter McQuarters, of the Ashburton Fire Museum, and a driving force behind the project, said the Ashburton brigade was formed in 1874 and in 1875, with money from provincial government, a Shand Mason manual pump was ordered from London.
It arrived in 1876 aboard at Lyttelton.
Mr McQuarters said the pump saw plenty of service until it was sold – and disappeared from sight – to a Mr J Cairns of Flemington.
There, the trail goes cold – though Mr McQuarters and the restorers are hopeful part of the pump may still lie in a shed or in the corner of a paddock out there.
‘‘It’s possible it is on a farm out there somewhere. I appeal to farmers who may have an unidentifiable pile of metal or a wooden body out there.’’
The unit had a cast iron pump, so it or parts of it may have survived.
What has survived is the maker’s plate.
Mr McQuarters said he recalled seeing something on a box in the fire museum, and found it – the maker’s plate.
Those involved are highly skilled.
Mr Paterson made a horse-drawn hearse, which is now in the Vintage Car Museum in Tinwald, and Mr Newlands has made a miniature fire engine and Mr McElroy ‘‘is also a gifted engineer’’.
Mr McQuarters said Mr McElroy had made a steam car and served time with New Zealand Railways.
He said when Mr Paterson was asked many years ago to build the replica of the hearse many said it could not be done – but the proof is in the car museum.
It is hoped the replica will join the collection in the Ashburton Fire Museum.
The museum is being redeveloped and expanded to accommodate the collection – regarded as one of the best – and details of a renewed fundraising drive will be announced soon.
Mr Newlands has already visited a wheelwright in Ballarat, Victoria, where it was confirmed wheels could be made – at a cost.
It is hoped someone or some group may step forward to help fund that part of the restoration.
Photographs and dimensions of a similar machine at MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) will be sought and used to create a new Wainui, the name on the original pump.
Mr McQuarters said that he had no doubt the project was achievable.
He said when the pumps were used brigades would send out teams to operate the pump – one stroke sucking the water out, the next pushing it out – and when they tired, members of the public helped. Mr McQuarters said there had already been strong funding support for the museum project. Photo: A Shand Mason pump similar to the one used in Ashburton