I have been bush camping for a few days on the Murray River. About 550km from home. Ki Bend, Hattah-Murray National Park. I might write about it in a later post.
On the way home I visited a shed at Murtoa, a small, pretty town in the wheat belt of the Wimmera. It is called the “Stick Shed”. Sometimes called the “Wimmera Cathedral”.
The exterior is large, but drab and rather boring. Rusting corrugated iron roof with some repaired sections.
It IS large. 270m (870′) long, 60m (196′) wide and 20m (65′) high.
Australia is a grain exporting nation. During WW2, shipping exports were dangerous, and limited. For obvious reasons there were no exports to Japan. And we had some bumper harvests. Anticipating a large harvest in 1941, 26 of these huge storage facilities were built. This one at Murtoa was the first, and is the only one remaining. It covers 4 acres. The largest facility covered 10 acres. The Murtoa facility has not been used since 1989 and it was falling into serious disrepair. The owners wanted it demolished, but activists lobbied to have it preserved and in 2014 it was placed on the National Heritage Registry. Substantial repairs have been undertaken.
The interior is awesome.
There are 560 mountain ash tree trunks up to 20m long, supporting the roof. Many have been repaired with concrete bases, steel supports, bolts and trusses. Some have been replaced with steel posts, because suitable tree trunks are difficult to source. Lighting is through skylights and some wall windows. The floor is 4″ thick concrete.
Wheat was piled high, up to 92,500 tonnes, right up to the top of the roof. The roof angle was determined by the “natural angle of repose” of the piled wheat. Delivered by truck or train. The wheat was elevated by conveyors, powered by a steam engine. Initially the facility was vermin proof. Workers could walk on the surface of the wheat, despite sinking up to 500mm and vermin sprays and ventilation prevented infestation.
Some old photos were on display.
The construction was completed in 4 months. The facility was full within 6 months.
If you have the opportunity to see this amazing building, just go.