Matakohe Kauri Museum
Not a restoration for the faint-hearted
Another project that requires low level but constant attention is the Caterpillar Sixty built by the Caterpillar Co. in the US and used for dragging out logs in the bush. First used in the 1930s, it replaced the equivalent of 112 bullocks (between eight and 14 were used in a team), drivers, and jackers. She runs at 60hp (45kW) at 640rpm and weighs 9.3 tonnes.
Costing £2K, it landed in Auckland circa 1929, imported by AS Paterson & Co. Ltd. The petrol tank holds 44 gallons (167 litres) and uses 5½ gallons (21 litres) per hour. Measuring nine feet high (3m) and 15 feet long (5m), the Caterpillar carries a winch that can haul 25 tons (23 tonnes), and its winch drum holds 341m of wire.
Although there is an instruction panel on the machine’s side, Graham Murray says that these are more for the operator than the mechanic, and he is guided by common sense and prior practical knowledge and experience. Interesting to note is that one of the tracks has been installed back to front because of excessive wear, a cost-cutting exercise apparently.
The Cat is started up quite often and this is a job for the younger members of the team. With luck, it will take only eight turns of the crank, but it has been known to take 18–25. It’s a dangerous task as someone must stand on the tracks to rotate the flywheel. Care has to be taken to check that her radiator is full and that the exhaust manifold repair is holding up. That old standby, exhaust sealer, is applied, as recasting the manifold is simply too expensive. mechanic for Lovatt Sawmills in Whangarei and was sent into the bush to fix the Cat. Bashing away at a rusted-up nut, a piece of metal sheared off and flew into his six-yearold daughter’s leg. At 82 years old now, she still carries a piece of the machine.
The work of the volunteers is valued beyond price by the museum and ensures that these historic pieces of machinery continue to tell their part of Northland’s kauri story. The museum is open seven days a week and is an entrancing step back into our past. Come and visit or investigate in more depth by visiting kaurimuseum.com.