Gold Dredge, by Mr. Blake Huffam of Ikamatua
If you are ever traveling along the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand make a point of stopping at Hokitika and find the greatest Meccano Model of the Twentieth Century built in New Zealand. The model was first revealed to the rest of the world in the January 1956 Meccano Magazine, which showed a photograph of the nearly completed model. A second article on the model appeared in the May 1957 Meccano Magazine. Click on the image to the left, taken from the 1957 Meccano Magazine if you wish to see a larger image.
The West Coast Historical Museum in Hokitika houses the model. The prototype operated on the gold bearing flats of the West Coast's Grey River between 3 December 1937 and 14 September 1954. This dredge used a chain of eighty manganese steel buckets, each weighing 1.7 ton and with a capacity of 16 cubic feet, to scoop up the gravel. During its years of operation the dredge covered 1,378.5 acres of ground, treated 61,459,000 cubic yards of gravel and recovered 164,230 ounces of bullion.
The model was built in the 1950s by Blake Huffam, an oilerman sitting his dredgemaster's qualification, who was employed on the dredge. It took him around 3000 hours to assemble the 45,000 parts. The buckets are not standard Meccano parts, each having been fashioned by hand from tins which originally held condensed milk. The model has a number of working parts which museum staff will demonstrate for you on request
I was fortunate enough to be given a personal demonstration of the model by Peter Read, the Collection Manager, in March 1995. Normally the museum operates all six motors: the bucket chain, the bucket arm, the revolving gold screen, the conveyor belt, the elevator arm and the sand wheel. To prevent rusting the model has been repainted, over the nuts and bolts as well unfortunately, but the model has been preserved!
The model is situated in the Hall of the Pioneers, which is currently dedicated to goldmining, industry and transportation themes.
|Length||14 feet 1½ inches|
|Width||3 feet 6 inches|
|Height||3 feet 10 inches|
|Weight||over 4 cwt.|
|Nuts & Bolts!||14,000|
|Number of original motors||10|
|Number of stairways and walkways with fitted handrails||26|
|Construction time||3,000 hours|
If you wish to know more about the West Coast Historical Museum, they may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Photographs courtesy of West Coast Historical Museum.
There is also an article reproduced from the October 2001 NZFMM Magazine which has a much larger and clearer image of the model. See it...
Part 131 (1929-1940)