Carlton Reach Pump Engine

This photograph was taken on the banks of the Ord River, at the former Kimberley Research Station, near Kununurra, East Kimberley, Western Australia, in November 2010. Research that followed over the next few days revealed some interesting facts which confirm that this was the first industrial pump engine to be used on the Ord for the irrigation of Kim Durack's agricultural research station.

The pump engine, a "Petters Atomic Diesel Engine" 36 BHP, was first used on the banks of the Ord, at "the biggest waterhole in the Kimberley," at what was known as Carlton Reach on the Ord River, at a place, referred to in Government records, as the "Ord River Experimental Station," but known locally simply as "Kim's Place."  It was in use at Carlton Reach from late in 1941 through to 1946. Initiallly a "fourteen acre" farm, on the site now occupied, partly by the Main Pump Station, Main Channel (both banks), part of the caravan park and part of the golf course, all within a few kilometres from Kununurra. Close to the current golf club-house, is where the homestead once stood.

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This first site was on alluvial river soil, while nearly all of the potential land for the Ord River Irrigation Area (ORIA) was on blacksoil, so a decision was made to move to the site, which had previously been selected in 1942, by Kimberley Michael Durack, further down river on the Ord, below Ivanhoe Crossing, at a place known as Dillon's Bottle Tree. In 1946 the Ord River Experimental Station was moved, lock, stock and barrel to the new Kimberley Research Station site, with the Commonwealth finally getting involved in this State initiated project which had been running for five years. .

Carlton Reach Pump site - Location (1941-1946)

Recent research on a new KHS archive (KHS-2013-80-H34-D - Members see KHS minutes - August 2013) from Michael Whiting is some correspondence he had when at KRS, with W.A. (Bill) Durack, which reveals Bill's belief, that the Carlton Reach pumping site was very close to where the Alligator float-plane (VH-WOG) operated from at that time (early 1980s? - check archive).

The concrete mounting block for the counter-shaft belt pulleys (shown on this page with Kim Durack standing on it with the Ord in flood on January 1st 1942), should, in theory, still be there under the waters of Lake Kununurra, so it would be interesting if divers could locate, gps and photograph the mounting block as it is today.

[Take matter up with Kununurra SCUBA Diving club if one exists, as a previous group once did in Kununurra.. - AB 23 X 2013]

See the Carlton Reach slideshow, embedded below the Contents of this Page.

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Dillon's Bottle Tree

"Dillon's Bottle tree" is a named Boab tree (Adansonia gregorii), most likely named after (for/by?) James Dillon, one time manager of Ivanhoe station (1899). The boab in this image is not Dillon's tree, however in 2012 it still exists and is just a hundred metres or so from this spot. See the KHS Dillon's Bottle Tree Set on Flickr from the embedded slideshow here (Once playing, click on the four cornered gadget in the lower right hand side to go full screen).

This engine was then used at the Kimberley Research Station (KRS) from 1946. It was photographed in 2010 at the former KRS, now known as the Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture (WA) and is base for the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA).

In 2011 it was 70 years since the first serious attempt at tropical agriculture on the banks of the Ord River was started by KM Durack and the WA Department of Agriculture, being set up with the assistance of the Public Works Department. Between 1942 and 1944 Kim's brother, Bill, also worked at Carlton Reach and in 1991 he wondered about what had become of this engine. Research has continued in the past year on the Carlton Reach Research Station and more recently, on this engine, which was photographed at the former (WA Dept of Agriculture/CSIRO - joint facility), the Kimberley Research Station (KRS), in November 2010.

Research has found that the Officer in Charge of Irrigation at the Dept. of Agriculture, A. R. C. Clifton, went to Carlton Reach, Ord River in November 1941 and was present during the lay-out of the experiments. Mr. F. H. Bottrell of the Public Works Department arrived some time later to “install the thirty six horsepower diesel engine and the five inch centrifugal pump and necessary piping. Kim Durack was appointed to manage the experimental site at six pounds per week plus one pound per week district allowance.

Above was gleaned from a thesis by Susan Graham-Taylor and is confirmed in writing by Russell Dumas, in a 1944 article published in the Australian Institute of Engineers journal, when he confirms that it was a 36HP engine.

All evidence points to this being the original Carlton Reach Research Station pump engine.

- "It had a huge fly wheel" (Bill Durack)


[ … ]

The Research Station was then set up by the Works and Agricultural Departments of Western Australia. The 14 acres were graded and fenced after mid 1941 and, the main channels formed. The pumping plant was installed, with diesel engine for power, to raise the waters of the Ord for irrigation, the first of significance ever undertaken in this area.

As I recall, it was a beautiful engine which had originally been in service for many years on the Kalgoorlie Water Supply Scheme.

[This has yet to be determined - KHS Research Note]

I wonder where that engine might be today? It had a huge fly wheel which had to be accurately positioned before starting with compressed air. It was the heartbeat for those early activities

Extract from a 1991 conference, 50 YEARS OF ORD IRRIGATION - REVIEW AND FUTURE PERSPECTIVES, from a paper presented by, W. A. (Bill) DURACK, FRAIA, MAPI - ARCHITECT & TOWN PLANNER, TOOWOOMBA, QUEENSLAND, on November 2 1991, one of several papers presented.

It has been related to KHS that this pump engine had been long forgotten, discarded well down the river bank, near the old pumping site at the Kimberley Research Station, about 15km from its original position at Carlton Reach.

It was rescued from the river bank several years ago by Murray Shiner with the aid of his excavator.

It is apparent in this 2010 photograph, that river loam soil is still lodged from when the engine was removed from the steep river bank, some years ago.

In use at Carlton Reach from 1941 to 1946, it was then moved about 20km to the new Kimberley Research Station (KRS). It is as yet unknown how long it was in use there, but photographic evidence shows it was in use until at least 1956 and in place until Murray Shiner's removal in [circa 2000 ? check year with Murray when he would have moved it - AB 23 X 2013].

An excerpt from an email written to the KHS by the late WA (Bill) Durack's son, Patrick Durack in October 2010, which adds some more information.


Pump Engine - "Petters Atomic Diesel Engine" 36 HP This engine was used by Kimberley Michael & his brother William Aiden Durack and was the "heart-beat" for early activities at the Carlton Reach Research Station, formed in 1941 at Carlton Reach, which was the largest permanent waterhole in the Kimberley, on the Ord River, held back by the Bandicoot Bar. ("Tharram" is the local language name), which forms the base of the Ord River Diversion Dam.

I would be fascinated to know if there is any trace or record of the original pumping engine. Dad described it as huge (my memories are from when I was very young!) with a flywheel rotated to just past top dead centre with a crow bar [This may have been carried out by placing the crowbar in the holes visible in the flywheel in the image above - KHS Research Note] before introducing compressed air from a cylinder to start it. If it didn't start then it was 24 hours pumping with a car pump to have another shot. He said its regular beat was a constant background to life and that if there was ever a falter then everybody would race to attend it. There was also a description of a series of flat belts and pulleys running down the bank to the pump. He said that the engine was one of the original engines from the Perth to Kalgoorlie pipeline.



[We were able to show these images to Bill's family not long after this email was written]

A close up of the Petters name plate.

Pump Engine - 36BHP "Petters Atomic Diesel Engine" Name Plate

'Read: "1st Jan 1942" (This is Prob'ly Bill's photo...?)'

"Kim Carlton Reach 1942"

This verso of an original print, found in a new KHS collection (2011) of Elizabeth Durack's personal photo collection, shows the same image (but not as clear) that was in a KHS display from the abovementioned 1991 conference.

This tells us that this was not taken at Ivanhoe Crossing (as the display from the abovementioned conference had stated), but was in fact taken at the Carlton Reach experimental farm.

This is backed up as in the new image of this photograph, Kim is standing on what would appear to be the concrete mount for an engine or pulley stand, as there would have been at the newly set up Carlton Reach. With the Ord rising the pump engine may have been moved to higher ground and what Kim is standing on may be the engine mount.

The new image information now dates this January 1st 1942 (Was 1940). - AB for KHS 1 VII 2011]

REAR - KHS-2011-11-PD-61

1942-01 Kim Durack at Carlton Reach - Ord in Flood (may be by Bill Durack) - REAR

These last two images appear from the Elizabeth Durack personal photographic collection courtesy of the Clancy and Durack families. - KHS Archive Number: KHS-2011-11-PD-61.

It can be seen that Kim is standing on a mounting block that is most likely for the intermediate lay shaft pulleys, that would take the belt drive from the Petters (above on the bank) then another belt down to drive a pump (which would be underwater in this image. An interesting image from a Department of Agriculture album, photographed at their South Perth library in 2010, shows the lay shaft pulleys in motion. Notice the distance to the line of trees in both images.

Also see most of these images embedded in the Carlton Reach Slideshow (below).

36HP Petters Engine Donated to the Kununurra Museum [April 2013]

 Since locating and researching the provenance of the 36HP "Petters Atomic Diesel Engine," KHS member volunteers have worked at trying to make the engine more accessible (to all! :-), for display at the Kununurra Museum, to help show the local, State and National significance of tropical agriculture on the Ord and in the Kimberley Region.

 This week (ending April 12th 2013), that research work has resulted in great success, when the 36 HP "Petters Atomic Diesel Engine" was donated to the Kununurra Historical Society by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA - Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture, formerly the Kimberley Research Station (KRS), where the engine was also in use until the 1950s. For detailed information go to the KHS Carlton Reach Pump Engine page.

Why is this engine significant?

 The engine was used for the first experiments with irrigation for tropical agriculture, at Carlton Reach, on the Ord River. pumping from what was the Kimberley's largest waterhole. It was used by Kim and Bill Durack, who also described and wrote of the engine, as "the heartbeat of activities" at the Ord River Experimental Farm. In 1946 the engine was relocated to the Kimberley Research Station, where it was in use until at least the time of the Ord in flood during 1956, when the engine went underwater, temporarily.

Where is the engine now and where will it go (and how)?

At the time the engine was at the old KRS site in view of the Ord River - You can see photographs of it as it was on this page.

KHS has plans to display this original Carlton Reach pump engine by the entrance gate of the Kununurra Museum.

What's That Thing? - ABC Kimberley - Web Page and Radio Interview [March 2013]

  Before the engine was officially donated to KHS, Vanessa Mills of ABC Broome did a radio segment, "What's That Thing?", featuring KHS research on the Carlton Reach Pump Engine - See the web page - ABC Kimberley Radio Interview in March 2013 - About the "Petters Atomic Diesel Engine and listen to the audio from there.


Moving the Petters Engine - September 3rd 2013

Neil Butcher visited the Museum on Friday, August 30th and discussed with Andrew the possibilities of moving the first industrial pump engine, used by Kimberley Michael Durack, for irrigation on the Ord. Neil said that all parties were now prepared for the move and advised it would happen during the following week. The 36 HP Petters “Atomic Diesel Engine” was moved once again, from the west bank of the Ord at the Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture (formerly the Kimberley Research Station - KRS), today, September 3rd 2013, after the engine was gifted to KHS by the Institute's Director, Mr. Noel Wilson, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA), earlier this year. With great appreciation from the Kununurra Historical Society, the engine was moved once again, by John McAuliffe (“Banjo”), of Argyle Engineering, with thanks also going to Kimberley Industries for use of their crane. Barry was advised of the move and took some photographs (See KHS-2013-102).

The Petters Moves Again

This engine is no new-comer to being moved, originally from the UK Petter plant it was shipped to Western Australia and was reputed to have been used, possibly for power generation, somewhere along the goldfields pipeline before 1941. Late in 1941 the Public Works Department (PWD) shipped the engine to Wyndham and flew up Mr Cook, a fitter from the State Implement Works to install the engine at Carlton Reach for the new experimental station, being set up to be run by Kimberley Michael Durack.

 With the realisation that most of the irrigable land in the Ord valley was blacksoil, the engine was moved from the alluvial soil site of Carlton Reach to the new Kimberley Research Station (KRS) site in 1946. In recent years the engine was removed by Murray Shiner, with an excavator, rescuing it from burial in the east embankment of the Ord. This was close to the KRS pump site, and the engine was placed by Murray, higher up to the top of the bank, onto an existing concrete pad, where it had remained until now.

 Today (September 3rd 2013) it was moved once again to the Argyle Engineering workshop, where they will make up a frame for the engine to be mounted on. The Petters will then be moved again to its new home by the front gate of the Kununurra Museum, once the new all steel base has been constructed by Argyle Engineering, with the base being engineered to be moved again (by forklift), for example to be displayed at the Agricultural Show or other events.

The engine, mounted on the new steel base, was brought to the museum on October 16th 2013, using Argyle Engineering's truck and forklift. Cracker-dust to fill the area was supplied by Guerinoni & Son on October 22nd, who also moved the engine into its present position, by the front gate.  Our great appreciation and thanks go out to all who have made this possible, including Noel Wilson, the Department of Agriculture and Food WA, John McAuliffe, Argyle Engineering, Kimberley Industries, Neil Butcher, Barry McKinlay, Steve Guerinoni and staff from Guerinoni & Son.

The Carlton Reach Pump Engine - 1941

The Petters 36 HP - Carlton Reach Pump Engine in place at the Kununurra Museum on October 24th 2013

KHS Archive Number - KHS-2013-124-P-BD

Note that the original river loam embedded in the fly-wheel and outer belt pulley wheel, from when from the engine was removed from the Ord River east bank at KRS, by Murray Shiner and one of his excavators, some years ago. A request was made when moving to leave this in place and amazingly this soil has remained in place throughout the various movements to get to the museum grounds.

[It was the intention to leave this dirt in place, to help tell this story, however, this may need to now be removed to prevent further rusting.If so at least here, that story is remembered, with photographic evidence. - AB 23 X 2013]

1943 (Dry Season) - 70 Years ago at Carlton Reach (Ord River Experimental Station)

 During the dry season of 1943 Kim and Bill Durack continued their work on the "Ord River Experimental Station," which had been set up by the State Government late in 1941 at Carlton Reach using the waters of the Ord. This was the fore-runner to the Kimberley Research Station (established 1946), which would involve the Commonwealth Government through CSIR[O].. More information is available about the 36 HP Petters "Atomic" diesel pump engine, used to raise the water for these first major experimental attempts at irrigation, at the twenty acre experimental farm site.

You can...

View the Carlton Reach Pump Engine Set on Flickr with these histories, image by image

or view the Carlton Reach Slideshow (embedded below).

(Once playing, click on the four cornered gadget in the lower right hand side to go full screen)