A Brief History of Windmills Manufactured By Toowoomba Foundry
In 1871 Mr. George Washington Griffiths, newly arrived from Manchester, England, set up an ironmongery and mechanical repair shop in Ruthven Street, Toowoomba, Queensland. This was the beginning of what is now the Southern Cross Organisation. His brother John Alfred Griffiths, an engineering graduate from Manchester University, and the name of the Company became Griffiths Bros & Co. joined in due course Mr. G.W. Griffiths.
In 1874, the brothers bought land at the corner of Ruthven and Campbell Streets in Toowoomba for expanding. Sometime later, a Foundry was built. Additional land was bought from time to time and modern factory buildings now cover over eleven acres.
Griffiths Bros. & Co. built some of the earliest windmills in Australia. The first was called the”Economy”, followed by the “Simplex Economy”, the “Simplex”, and later the “Little Wonder”. In the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, Mr. J.A. Griffiths is mentioned as a world authority on windmill design.
In 1884, the name was changed to Toowoomba Foundry and Railway Rolling Stock Manufacturing Company Limited, in 1922, it was changed to Toowoomba Foundry Co. Ltd., and in 1932 to Toowoomba Foundry Pty. Ltd., and was the then name of the Manufacturing Company. The Southern Cross Sales Organisation comprised of a group of Companies spread over Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, distributing and servicing the products of Toowoomba Foundry Pty. Ltd., under the trade name of “Southern Cross”
Toowoomba Foundry sold its first windmill under the trade name “Southern Cross” in 1903. This windmill was of new design and was an immediate success. When well boring machines and other stock watering machines were made, they also were sold as “Southern Cross” equipment and so the trade name Southern Cross came to be adopted by Toowoomba Foundry.
Southern Cross was acquired by Tyco Flow Control Pacific in late 1999, then in 2002, Tyco relocated Southern Cross to a new world-class manufacturing facility at Withcott near Toowoomba, Queensland. In October 2012, Pentair Water and Tyco Flow merged to become a united business called Pentair. The iconic Australian Windmill brand returned to Australian ownership in 2019. This brand has been actively servicing the Australian and international water storage markets for 149 years and will continue to do so under the new banner of Southern Cross Water.
The first windmills manufactured by the Griffiths Brothers were produced around 1876. Four mills were built and were of the direct acting type and with wheels and towers constructed of wood.
These “Griffiths” windmills were supplied to Jimbour Station, Dalby, Queensland (on the Darling Downs). No detailed records of these mills remain.
The “Economy” windmill and later the “Improved Economy” windmill for which a Patent was applied for in 1885 were produced over this period. These mills were all direct acting and made in several sizes, probably up to 16ft diameter. Construction of the towers and sails was in timber. The turntable was located on top of the tower and incorporated large cast iron balls running in a cast iron race. Reference to the photographs shows that the wheel ran on the leeward side of the tower and the vane was fitted in front of the wheel, supported on a vane pole, pivoted parallel to the wheel. Photographs show the vane in the reefed and unreefed position. A small counterweighted vane fitted on a lever at right angles to the vane pole provided the governing action. Reefing was carried out by climbing the tower and hanging a weight on the lever arm.
The Simplex Economy Mills with wheels in the range of 10ft to 20ft diameter were introduced around this time. The basic form of construction being similar to the earlier Economy Mills, but the ball type turntable was discarded in favour of a plain one.
The Little Wonder Windmill was introduced around this time and a 10ft mill was on display at the Toowoomba Show in 1889. A photograph of a 12ft Little Wonder shows the basic design to be similar in concept to the Economy Mills.
GENERAL Up to 1893 mills were normally made to order and the design frequently modified to suit a customers particular requirements. The mills and towers were predominantly of wood, and with the wheel operating behind the tower.
The Zephyr Windmills were probably the first geared windmills to be produced in Australia. They were made with 8, 10, 12 and 18ft wheels, and they were the first built by Toowoomba Foundry in which the wheel ran on windward side of the tower.
The wheel was steel and of all riveted construction and were transported either completely or partially assembled. Initially the vane and tower was constructed 01 timber. Around 1900 a revised wheel and a steel tower was introduced. During the 10 years of manufacture approximately 300 of these mills were produced.
The “Eureka” windmill was a revision of the Zephyr mill but was quickly replaced by the 1903 mill. Initially the bearings were of wood but later changed to babbitt.
This range of mills initially known as the 1903 Pattern was the first of the Toowoomba Foundry products to bear the name “Southern Cross”. Prior to 1908 only the 8ft was available and this range was eventually extended to include 10, 1214 and 16ft diameter wheels. The mechanical design was similar to the Zephyr and Eureka with the exception that the gear was an internal one in place of the earlier external spur type. The bearings were of bronze and grease lubricated. Several thousands of these mills were produced in the period 1905 to 1911.
In 1911 “Southern Cross” windmills were first marketed under the name of “Enterprise” and had a 20ft diameter wheel. The mills were geared and used an internal gear system like the 1903 models.
A range of geared “Western Model” windmills was produced and included 18ft, 20ft, 22ft 6in, 25ft and 27ft 6in diameter wheels.
A range of direct acting windmills in sizes of 16 to 30ft were produced.
A few direct acting windmills were made with a wheel diameter of 35ft 10in and were normally called 36ft “E” Pattern.
A range of geared windmills was produced in sizes 7, 810 and 12ft. These were known as the “F” Pattern and “G” Pattern qeared mills.
A range of direct acting windmills was produced in sizes 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 23, 24, 26 and 30ft. These were known as the “A” Pattern mills.
A range of geared self oiling windmills known as the “H” Pattern geared mills was made in 8, 10 and 12ft.
A range of geared self oiling windmills known as the “Z” Pattern geared mills was made in 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14ft.
14ft AGE direct acting mill was produced, to be replaced in 1955 with the 14ft JAE direct acting mill which was discontinued in 1973.
A range of direct acting self oiling windmills initially made in sizes 14, 17, 20, 24, 28 and 30ft, but was rationalised to include only 17, 21 and 25ft.
A range of improved “Z” Pattern windmills which are known as the “IZ” Pattern mills in sizes 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14ft.
The Southern Cross Windmill received a Historic Engineering Marker from Engineers Australia as part of the its Engineering Heritage Recognition Program, and this 12ft IZ pattern windwheel can be found at the Toowoomba Visitor Information Centre on James Street.
The “IZ” Pattern mill is still the current range of Southern Cross geared, self-oiling mills manufactured in our Withcott facility.