Home - Chermside & District History

Mystery Boiler - 7th Brigade Park

GPS Co-ordinates S - 27.3801 E - 153.0376

The thin white lines denote walking paths. Access to the boiler site is largely dependent on the height of the grass, which is not mowed.

Finding the Iron Cylinder

The cylinder is 2.5m long and 1.6m in diameter with iron or steel plate walls 6mm thick. It is rivetted to seal the plates together which indicates a considerable age.

In September of 2011 a gentleman was walking his dog in the western end of 7th Brigade Park when he came upon a large metal cylinder. It lay on its side in an area that is lightly timbered with secondary growth native trees.

He photographed the object and sent copies to the Chermside and Districts Historical Society asking us to identify it and explain its purpose.

Three members of the CDHS following the enquirer's directions and map found the cylinder lying in a copse of saplings.

At present it is impossible to tell how long it has been on this site and there is no indication that it was used here. The alternative is that it was dumped here and the state of the cylinder supports this hypothesis as it is long past its usable life judging by the rust holes at the base.

It appears to have been dumped here before the saplings grew but after the old growth had been largely cleared. The area was used for cattle grazing from the 1860s and was Alonzo Sparkes' slaughter yard till 1931 when all the slaughter yards were replaced with the abattoirs at Cannon Hill.

Working Posture

By rotating the photo the cylinder would appear to be in its working position with the funnel opening at the top.

The vessel could be as old as the 19th Century or as recent as the early 20th Century before welding replaced the rivets for holding the steel sheets together. The Queen Mary built in the 1930 s had more than a million rivets and welding in ships did not start till the 1940 s.

If the cylinder was used to raise steam it would have been divided into two sections by a horizontal steel plate. The fire box was in the lower section and the water tank above. The water would be heated directly by the fire heating the steel plate and indirectly by a series of pipes in the water which carried extremely hot air from the fire box. The hot air would exit through the funnel in the dome above.

The steam would be sent under pressure to drive a steam engine which would drive the machinery in a saw mill or factory.

But the cylinder does not show any sign of a division. Therefor it is not a boiler.

This cylinder shows a possible hinged fire door opening at the base where fuel, most likely wood, could be inserted, There would have been fire bars inside to hold the fire and let the ashes drop down. There are no signs of such items but the severe rusting could indicate the presence of fire which would accelerate the process of rusting.

The upper hole could be an inspection opening to examine something, but what?

Could it be some sort of a source of smoke for curing bacon or hams for Alonzo Sparkes slaughter yard?

Inside the Cylinder.

The diameter of the cylinder can be judged by this photo taken from inside with two members of the CDHS framed by the open base of the cylinder.

There is nothing inside, clean as the proverbial whistle! There is nothing to indicate any item to hold the fire but the rivets at the base look as though they held a flange which could have held fire bars.

There is some sort of white cement like substance on parts of the remaining base.

Dome and Funnel

Dome of Cylinder
This photo of the Dome and Funnel shows the detail involved in bending, cutting to shape and rivetting of the steel.

The dome had to be formed by skilled boilermakers. Each piece of steel had to be cut to the exact wedge shape, then bent to the exact curve and holes punched for the rivets. Then the the red hot rivet had to be inserted and while one man held a steel block against the domed head of the rivet another man flattened the red hot tail of the rivet with a hammer. As the rivet cooled it contracted and pulled the plates together with immense force.

In later years compressed air was used to power the riveting 'guns' but both men would probably finish up deaf.

So, where did it come from and when was it dumped here?

The short answer is we don't know. However it could have been made in Brisbane and used by any of the local tanneries, saw mills or slaughter yards in the days before electricity became available.

Electricity was installed at the Chermside State School in August 1930 and in the School of Arts about February 1925. These dates would have marked the end of the steam engines in the local industries.

The most likely owner would have been Alonzo Sparkes as the his paddock covered this area. His slaughter house was in the vicinity of Corrie Street, Chermside which is not far from the boiler's present location. He was here from 1909 till his death in 1923 but his firm continued owning the area till 1941.

In the 1950 s there was the great house building boom when about 1,000 houses were built on Sparkes' Paddock so one of the developers could have moved the boiler from the Corrie Street area. Or maybe the army dumped it when they moved into the area in 1941.


A North Queensland Made Vertical Boiler Steam Locomotive.

The Emma Ruth vertical boiler steam locomotive used by John Spiller on his Pioneer Estate, Mackay. Constructed by the Victoria Foundry, Mackay in 1880. (Photo courtesy of Robert Olds of Wm. Olds and Sons Pty Ltd Maryborough Qld.)

Our Mystery Boiler is much larger than the one in the photo of the locomotive Emma Ruth but it could be of a similar date.