26 June 2022

Riverina Rewind - Wagga's infectious ward goes mobile

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old photo of a building

Wagga’s infectious ward being pulled by a traction engine on Sturt Street in 1910. Photo: Museum of the Riverina.

This week’s photo takes us back to 13 October 1910.

Here, we join locals gathered on the corner of Sturt and Fitzmaurice Streets opposite the courthouse to view a unique spectacle.

Boys on bicycles join the adults as we see a lumbering traction engine just beginning its slow turn onto Fitzmaurice Street pulling an oversized trailer.

On the trailer sits the infectious ward that stood on the original hospital site in Tarcutta Street.

Built by Messrs. C. Hardy & Co. in 1896, it was transferred to the new hospital site on Edward Street where the current Base Hospital stands.

READ ALSO ‘Apostles of Cheapness’: Fitzmaurice Street photo captures a Wagga institution in its heyday

The building was raised from its foundation by jacks, loaded on trailers and relocated by the same contractors that built it.

On the day, the Daily Advertiser reported that the transfer was an undertaking of some magnitude, requiring no small amount of engineering skill.

“Negotiating the various corners in the journey from the old premises via Gurwood Street proved a very difficult undertaking and the almost human struggle of the traction engine as it tugged at one end, and then at the other end, to get the huge load around acute turns,” the story read.

The event provided a great entertainment source to the scores of people who gathered at various stages along the route to watch the proceedings.

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The traction engine was an early, steam-powered version of the tractor that replaced the faithful draught horse in the late 19th century.

They were used widely across the Riverina well into the 20th century to move heavy loads and till the land.

While large and powerful, they were slow and cumbersome to manoeuvre.

Similar types of engines can be viewed at Wagga Wagga’s Steam and Vintage Engine Museum operated by Wagga Historic Engine Club.

The museum is open on the first and third Sunday of the month from 10.30 am to 3 pm, or by appointment.

Photo and information supplied by Wagga Wagga City Council.

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