Board 3: Sheep to Tallow and Locomotives
Sheep to Tallow
Explorers in 1803 and 1835 noted the grassy plains, the river’s salty water, the lack of trees, except for she-oaks. From late 1835 men and sheep invaded the grasslands and the valley. Contact with the settlers brought great suffering to the Aborigines, especially the policy of herding them on to mission stations.
In 1847, at the first land sale in the district, Joseph Raleigh bought the land that is now Highpoint and Pipemakers Park. Here he built a large boiling down works. Sheep and cattle were boiled down for their fat to produce tallow. This was packed in casks or barrels and exported overseas or sold in Melbourne. With the gold rushes, the boiling down works ceased operations.
Australia’s First Locomotive
In August 1854, the Melbourne Newspaper, The Argus, reported…
‘Where formally stood a well-known boiling down establishment at which thousands of sheep and cattle were slaughtered to be converted into tallow instead of food there is now being erected a most extensive engineering establishment.’
This was the Victoria Iron Works of Messrs Robertson, Martin and Smith, two miles up the Saltwater from Footscray. The firm was given the job of building the locomotive for Australia’s first railway, from Melbourne to Port Melbourne. The engine was constructed in ten weeks, July to September 1854.