The rush to Herberton’s tin mines was well under way by 1881, the year that the James Leffel Double turbine Water Wheel was installed at the Monarch Mine.
The turbine was fed by a water race 2.5km long, originating from a dam on Wondecla Creek.
The mine’s inexperience with North Queensland weather showed.
Reality hit with the arrival of the first dry season. The lack of water forced the mine manager to borrow a steam engine from Port Douglas.
When the wet season finally arrived the huge amount of water destroyed the dam.
A new steam engine was purchased and the Leffel turbine lay forgotten.
The majority of mines around Herberton were small and the miners didn’t have the funds to purchase such expensive machinery.
Instead, they became ingenious at using whatever they had to hand.
The water wheel displayed at the Herberton Mining Centre is constructed from steel fence pickets and 44 gallon drums.
Although relatively modern, it is a great example of how the miners could use their abundance of skills and experience to compensate for their lack of finances.
It was built by Eddie Burston in the 1980’s. It was planned to run an electrical generator on the Millstream near Ravenshoe.
The Leffel turbine displayed at the Herberton Mining Centre has a fascinating history filled with great achievements and bitter disappointment.
The owners of the Monarch Mine even ran a scam when they floated the mine on the Australian Stock Exchange.
Thousands of pounds worth of heavy machinery purchased for the Monarch Mine mysteriously disappeared, and then reappeared at Mt. Wells Mine in the Northern Territory.
© Herberton Mining Museum History Association 2023