Backward Glance – Industries of earlier times
  • Friday 29 November 2019

If we started talking about the Wax Works in Nambour during the 1940s you could be forgiven for thinking of a local Madame Tussauds.

However, in March 1943 Maroochy Shire Council gave approval to build a place to manufacture wax from cane filter press cake in Howard Street, Nambour. 

Mr H Gilmour from North Queensland was the originator of the idea, wax was extracted from the waste matter of the filter presses of sugar mills. This wax was very valuable commercially as it had a high melting point.

As detailed in its promotional leaflet, “Chief cane wax polish provides a perfect finish for linos, leather goods, wood floors, furniture, cars etc. – it is hard and durable, safe to walk on, shows very little marking, easy to apply, dries very quickly and polishes brilliantly.”

However, it was not without its dangers. In July 1954 two heavy explosions occurred in a large vat at the company’s treatment plant. The top of the vat was blown off, smashed the roof and scattered debris more than 100 feet into the air. The works manager, Mr W English, was working near the scene but escaped with only a covering of wax, despite debris falling all around him.

Nevertheless, in the 1950s the factory continued to be profitable, producing 25 tons of wax per year. By 1959 it was encountering problems due to competition from new products, the introduction of new cane varieties and other factors. As a result, the factory ceased operations in 1961. It was dismantled and sold for scrap.

In 1923, the inventor of the Morton Efficiency Dehydrator (Mr JH Morton AMIE) became the organising manager of the Beerburrum Co-op Company and directed the installation of his patent dehydrator in a factory at Nambour. 

During a lecture given at a public meeting in March 1923, Mr Morton spoke on the origin of modern dehydration and its recent development in connection with the Great War, making clear to his audience the great value and efficiency of the machinery now being erected in Nambour.

The first output of dehydrated pineapples and bananas from the factory was sold to the Health Company of Brisbane and Mr Whalley of Nambour tendered an order for six dozen glass jars of bananas to sell for 2 shillings per jar. In July 1923 the company’s first overseas order to India was shipped.

The company however was overburdened with debt and discord among the shareholders and in 1927 the building and site was sold to the council for a new electric generating station.

In 1927 a new secondary industry was being established in Nambour. The Manly Preserving Company acquired the Olympic Hall in Howard Street and transported its whole plant to Nambour.

The Nambour Chronicle reported, “not only does it save the farmer a considerable amount of cases, but it also saves a considerable amount in railway freight and handling.” 

In August 1927 the Nambour Preserving Company commenced operations when the first batch of pineapples was canned as part of an order of 300 cases for Western Australia. Unfortunately fire destroyed the factory in 1928 and it was not rebuilt.

In 1945, Nambour’s new clothing factory, a two-story building, was officially opened. Mr and Mrs A Frost were host and hostess to the staff and a large number of friends. It was reported that dancing was the principal attraction, music was played by Hawkins’ band with extras by Mr John Foreman. The building was decorated with vivid fronds of poinsettia. The factory was relocated to Ann Street in the early 1950s and sold to George Parmenter who moved the business to Parklands.

In 1959, Cr DA Low MLA, Chairman of the Maroochy Shire Council officially opened the Queensland Egg Marketing Board depot in Nambour in premises formerly occupied by North Coast Truck and Tractors on the Bruce Highway. Eggs from producers were received and graded at the depot which also handled the wholesale distribution of eggs on the Sunshine Coast.

Another early industry fondly remembered, is Frank Wimmer’s Cordial Factory. Frank Wimmer came to Nambour in 1909 and established Wimmers Cordials in a small cordial factory previously owned by George Pitman in Bury Street. The location had been initially chosen due to the high yield water spring on the site. Cordials were initially made using a small hand operated plant and the drinks were delivered by horse and cart.

Frank Wimmer achieved many awards for his aerated water, securing 1st prize in the cordial and tonic water section as well as 1st prize for ginger beer and hop beer in the brewed section at the 1923 Brisbane Exhibition.

In 1926 it was reported that the proprietor of the Nambour Cordial and Aerated Water Factory, Mr Frank Wimmer, added to the honours already brought Nambour, when he gained the same merit for his vinegar, recognised by connoisseurs as equal to any other on the market.

The cordial factory was also the scene of a unique incident in 1930, as reported in the Nambour Chronicle, a black snake of about 3 feet in length was the subject of a commotion.  When a Mr Warren handled a particular case, lifting up the lid he was amazed to notice a snake coiled up in a corner. He immediately closed the case and sought assistance, the case was taken outside and the venomous passenger placed beyond danger.

It would be amiss to not include the Moreton Sugar Mill. In 1893, the Sugar Works Guarantee Act was passed. This provided capital for the erection of central sugar mills in districts with many small farms by offering loans to incorporated companies, so that growers could develop their own mills. The Moreton Central Sugar Mill Company was formed in December 1894. Land bounded by the North Coast railway line on the west and Gympie Road on the east was purchased for a mill site at the small settlement of Nambour. Erection of a mill by Caskie and Thompson began in late 1895.

In order for the mill to be successful, it was essential to establish an efficient means for bringing the harvested cane in from surrounding farms to be crushed. Tramway networks carrying wagons drawn by steam locomotives had been used effectively in other Queensland sugar districts since the 1880s, so possible routes for a tramway network were surveyed as part of the planning for the Moreton Mill.

A two-foot (610mm) gauge was chosen for the sake of economy, speed not being an important factor in the running of the tramway, though the wagons were at first pulled by horses. In 1897 the first tramlines were constructed east to Perrin's Barn and west to the foot of the Perwillowen Range and the first harvest was crushed at the mill.

The mill continued operation until ending crushing operations in late 2003 and was demolished in 2006.

It’s wonderful to reflect on early industries on the Sunshine Coast as their history and their contribution to our way of life should not be forgotten.

Thanks to the Heritage Library staff for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images