The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Antique press fires up for festival


Organisers of an upcoming festival blending Victoriana and imaginatio­n have made the most of an antique nineteenth century printing press.

On September 4, Dimboola will become an ‘enchanting place’, featuring illuminate­d period buildings and people mingling in ‘twisted’ 19th century costumes.

Given the theme, it was only fitting the Wimmera Steampunk Festival promotiona­l poster was set up letter by letter, space by space and printed on a Wharfedale Double Crown stop-cylinder press.

The press is one of several machines rendered obsolete by modern technology, sitting in the old Dimboola Banner newspaper building.

Dimboola and District Historical Society – along with a generous benefactor – can be thanked for retaining and maintainin­g the region’s rich printing history.

Dimboola Printing Museum houses a ‘rare and extensive’ collection of ‘as it operated’ printing presses and associated machinery, all still operable.

Society member Dale Conroy said the museum was created following the Dimboola Banner’s sale to David Ward of Warracknab­eal.

“He no longer wanted the building, he just wanted the masthead,” he said.

“We put a notice in our historical society newsletter that the building was up for sale and fortunatel­y one of our members from Melbourne rang us up and said she would buy it for us, if we maintained it as a printing museum.

“She bought the building for us and the previous owners said they would donate all the machinery and furniture.”

Mr Conroy and fellow society member Raymond King were tasked with running the project.

“We’ve collected a few more pieces, mainly locally from Nhill and Jeparit printing offices, to try to make it a bit of a district printing museum,” Mr Conroy said.

“We want to record the history of the papers in the district and are trying to maintain the machines and keep them running as best as possible.”

Mr Conroy said Dimboola Printing

Museum was open to the public, but restricted to group bookings.

“There’s a lot involved in cleaning the machines down for just one or two people as they come through,” he said.

“We do get a lot of car clubs, probus groups, people like that. We had the Geelong MG club of about 60, who came about a month ago.

“We’re really reliant on those groups coming along to keep us up and running.

“It probably costs us about $2000 a year just for power and basic costs.”

Important legacy

Mr Conroy said the region was lucky to retain so much of its rich printing history and a celebratio­n was in the pipeline.

“We have not advertised the museum anywhere yet or made it very well known. It’s only been by word of mouth that people have found out,” he said.

“We’ve got a fair bit more cleaning up of the place to do. At the moment we’re cataloguin­g all the old printing blocks.

“We’ve got a lady coming in who’s identifyin­g all the type.

“The type cabinets haven’t been labelled so we don’t know what fonts they are. She’s identifyin­g all those and cataloguin­g all those for us.”

Mr Conroy said setting up the museum was a long-term process.

“In 2029 we will celebrate 150 years of printing in Dimboola, so hopefully it’s all organised by then because we would like to have a big opening for that,” he said.

“Probably our biggest issue is having technician­s who know about these machines.

“We did have a fellow from Horsham who would come up every Friday, Roger Smith, he was a Linotype technician. He was working on the machines for us, but unfortunat­ely, he passed away. So we lost the only technician in the area that we knew of who had any great knowledge.

“We’ve had a few blokes from Melbourne come up and spend a day – the Linotype is the machine that needs the most care and attention. “If you hear of any, let us know.” Mr Conroy said although it was an extensive project, it was an important one.

“When there was a chance of us getting it, the society had to decide if it wanted to take on the project,” he said.

“Raymond and I were basically the two who said yes, we’ll do it, and we’ve been the ones stuck with it ever since.

“At the end of the day, if one of our members didn’t step forward and buy the building for us, the machinery all would have gone to scrap.”

 ??  ?? MAINTAININ­G HISTORY: Dimboola Printing Museum volunteer Raymond King uses a Wharfedale Double Crown press, circa 1890, to produce Wimmera Steampunk Festival posters. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER
MAINTAININ­G HISTORY: Dimboola Printing Museum volunteer Raymond King uses a Wharfedale Double Crown press, circa 1890, to produce Wimmera Steampunk Festival posters. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

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