12-ton 2-speed steam road roller, manufactured by Cowley's Eureka Ironworks Pty. Ltd., Ballarat, Victoria, circa 1939. Double-crank-compound overtype 5 nominal horsepower 5 3/8" & 8 3/4" bore x 10" stroke two-cylinder double-crank compound engine, locomotive-type firetube boiler with arched crown firebox, original working pressure 180 psi. Open spur-gear 3-shaft 2-speed transmission, 3-tyne scarifier and three-quarter length canopy. The roller bears a prominent maker's plate reading "Cowley 1939" on the front steering yoke, although it is believed to have been built up to ten years before this. Formerly owned by Rockhampton City Council, it worked as their No.4 roller, and retains the label "R.C.C. No.4" painted on the motion gear side cover plates.

Built by Cowley's Eureka Ironworks of Ballarat East, this compound steam road roller is believed to be the last steam roller produced in Australia.
Cowley's Ironworks was originally established in 1882, to manufacture and repair steam boilers for the Ballarat gold mines. With the decline of mining in the early 20th century, the company diversified into a range of other products, producing about a dozen steam rollers between 1927 and 1939. This roller was sold to the Rockhampton City Council in mid 1939, entering service in December of the same year.

It remained in use as the council's No.4 roller until the early 1960s, with a major overhaul and re-tubing undertaken in 1952.

Physical Description

Specifications: Engine Type: double-crank-compound steam road roller Serial Number: 3924 Bore x Stroke: 5-3/8 & 8 ¾ inches (136.5 & 222 mm) x 10 inches (254 mm) Power-Rating: 5 nominal horsepower Transmission: 3-shaft 2-speed cycloidal spur gear drive Steam Pressure: 180 psi (1240 kPa) Fuel: black coal, coke or wood Weight: 12 tonnes


This steam roller was manufactured by Cowley's Eureka Ironworks Pty. Ltd., of Ballarat, the same firm that manufactured the museum's steam traction engine, the restoration of which was completed in 2001. Significantly Cowley's are the only Australian manufacturer of both traction engines and steam rollers, from which examples of both products survive.

The rise of the motor vehicle as the primary means of both personal and commercial transport during the 20th century, is a technological change that has had a major impact both on the lifestyle and built environment of all Australians. Steam rollers played a significant role in this revolution through their contribution to the early development of Victoria's modern road infrastructure. Although first introduced in 1872, it was between 1900 and 1950, that steam rollers were most widely used in Victoria as the early road system was upgraded to provide permanent sealed surfaces suitable for modern motor transport. Interstate the steam roller had a sinmlar transformative effect on the development of road transport, including the construction of the first sealed highways and suburban streets in regional Queensland. During World War II, Australian-built steam rollers played a significant part in the war effort being deployed on the urgent construction of airstrips for number of military airfields acress the 'top end' of Australia and through New Guinea and the pacific islands.

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