~Kimberley Bush Mechanics~

~Written and published on-line 16th May 2011~

So you are driving along in the grader, grading a dirt track in the middle of the Kimberley 100’s of miles from nowhere when “BANG”, the front end of the grader drops down on her knees.

You can’t move anywhere and the wheels of the grader are suddenly crushed beneath the front end. “Bugger!!!” You have still got 20km of road to do another cut on and it is only 2 weeks until the tourist season starts when you need that road in good condition. Now what? What the hell do you do?

Firstly, you get on the sat phone and call for a lift home. Then, whilst constantly thinking about this latest dilemma...get cleaned up, have a feed and a good night’s sleep and prepare to deal with the grader the next day, because out here the most important thing to remember when something like this happens is that;

“Tomorrow is another day”.

Now like so many things Taffy has had to do at Mt Hart over the years whilst restoring, maintaining and preserving the heritage homesteads and gardens, most people would not have a clue how to fix this. In today’s plastic world, the immediate thought would be to call out a transport company with a crane to remove the grader to town on a low-loader costing 1000’s upon 1000’s of dollars. The grader would then sit in a workshop for weeks until parts became available and the heavy machinery mechanic could find the time to work on it.

On closer inspection we found out that the problem was a pin 1ft in length, 2 inches in diamater which had snapped, because some bolts and a bracket had sheared off. This rocky rangeland terrain is very hard on machines. This part would take weeks to locate and order in from the States, or some other hidden parts bin in someone's yard.

So what would you do?

Well, we called around the local town of Derby and luckily found someone who had a shaft lying around the same size. Good old Dags from “Derby Weld All” once again saved the day in this regard locating that shaft in his yard and cutting it to the right length for us.

Then we called on a very good mate to bring the shaft out to us and give us a hand. Now in this instance, Barry Beecham who has driven trucks and machinery his whole life in some very remote locations, also having worked at many mines including Kimberley diamond mines, was the most logical choice.

So at 10 am on Sunday morning the three of us loaded the trailer and cars up with all the gear we could carry to enable us to do a roadside mechanical "Mr-Fix-It" job in the middle of the bush, 100’s of klometres from nowhere and bring this giant leviathan of a machine back to life and off her knees.

Stage 1; Assess the situation and establish a game plan -

Stage 2; Make sure the new shaft is going to fit and clean it up with the angle grinder, powered by a portable generator

Stage 3; Get that shaft back in place through the center of the A frame using a sledge hammer and watch out for flying chips of metal.
Flying metal is always a concern when smashing it with sledge hammers and the back of axes etc and so you have got to be wary, because it is a long way to the doctors.

Stage 4; Manufacturer yourself some new parts using rio rod, angle iron and weld these new parts into place on the A frame;

Stage 5; Get the tractor off the trailer, then roll the tyres and the front axle of the grader (which weighs a tonne)back under the front of the grader, using the forks of the tractor, plus some very careful manoeuvring;

Stage 6: Align the A frame and front axle beneath the grader in the exact right position using the tractor, come-along chains and some seriously heavy duty jacks;

Stage 7; Do some roadside blacksmithing work to manufacturer yourself some more new parts and then get stuck into some serious welding work;

The End Game; 4;30pm in the afternoon, after 6 and ½ hours of work, the Grader is off her knees and ready to tackle the rest of Mt Hart’s access road

This is what makes Taffy and his mates so unique. This is the type of skill that has been required for Mt Hart to become such a well reknown and loved tourist destination, and a place DEC should be proud of today. This is what makes the battle of fairness and just term settlement leave such a bad taste in our mouths. This very story is the essence of Taffy and the epitome of where DEC fail to seriously comprehend the sacrifices and investments that have been made - not just by us but by members of the local community as well who have strong heritage, cultural and social values invested in Mt Hart.