Long-lost Sunshine radiator found

16 September, 2009

Ken Galloway and the Sunshine A Model tractor
Ken Galloway and the Sunshine A Model tractor at Scienceworks.
Source: Museum Victoria

A mid-year holiday uncovered an agricultural treasure for Trade Literature Collection Officer Ken Galloway. While visiting the Gayndah Museum in central Queensland, Ken identified an original radiator from a Sunshine A Model tractor – the only known surviving radiator from the tractors manufactured by H. V. McKay’s famous Sunshine Harvester Works. Only two such tractors remain - one held by Museum Victoria at Scienceworks, and another at the Gayndah Museum.

Ken’s mission to visit Gayndah Museum was to see their tractor and share copies of trade literature held by MV relating to the machines. Ken has worked at Scienceworks for almost 20 years on the Trade Literature Collection, which comprises tens of thousands of brochures, pamphlets and manuals from products made and sold in Australia between 1850 and the present. The collection is uniquely diverse and comprehensive and represents an invaluable resource to museums, historians and restorers nationwide.

Ken was simply pleased to share the trade literature with another museum and never expected to find an original tractor radiator among their vast agricultural collection. The radiator came to the museum after being found half-buried on the same farm from which the Gayndah A Model was acquired some decades ago. “We’ll never find any more because there are no other tractors around,” said Ken. “No one knows where they went to… it was the find of the century as far as we’re concerned!” Ken also enjoyed a brief drive of the Gayndah A Model and was featured in the local paper, the Central & North Burnett Times.

For decades, both the MV and the Gayndah tractors languished in paddocks as they were replaced by newer and better machinery. Since then, both have been restored to working condition but neglect had taken its toll – neither machine had a radiator, thought to have rusted away over the years. New radiators were reproduced from patent records but certain details were approximate. 

Studying the original radiator corrects some assumptions made during reconstruction. Contrary to previous belief, the inner and outer tubes of the radiator vary in diameter. Furthermore, we can now determine which metals were used. These new details fill some of the gaps in knowledge about an important moment in Australian agricultural history.

The Sunshine Harvester Works produced less than 20 A Model tractors around 1918. They had a transverse or east-west engine, something common in vehicles today but technologically advanced for the time. This allowed a belt to run across the engine to drive the mechanism of a header-harvester pulled behind. Disengaging the header-harvester also allowed general use of the tractor. While ingenious, it appears that McKay's harvesting equipment was more lucrative and the company ceased manufacuring tractors not long after it began.

Comments (0)

Write your comment below All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.