When it comes to attracting grey nomads, country towns like Blackall have proved themselves more than willing to go the extra mile.
One of the key attractions in the western Queensland community has long been the steam-powered woolscour, which is effectively a wool-washing machine.
In recent times, however, the 112-year-old machine – the only one of its kind in the world – has not always been able to run properly due to a lack of qualified operators, so has often run on electric power for tourists.
But the president of the tourist attraction’s committee, Bob Wilson, acknowledges that it is not quite the same as seeing the Blackall Woolscour in its full steamy glory.
“It’s the last one of these left of its type, steam powered with the original steam engine, in the world,” he told the ABC. “When that steam engine is running it’s an extra bonus, so that brings that little extra people who want to come and see the steam engine run.”
Happily, the community has responded to the ‘crisis’ with four new locals putting their hands up to get qualified to run the steam engine.
One of them is aged care worker, Josie Schurmann.
“Probably more now I’m older I’m realising if you want a community, you have to put back into it,” she told the ABC. “If we don’t have young kids that want to do anything, then it’s the history that we will lose.”
If the new recruits pass the steam engine test to become fully qualified, the steam engine will run for four months next year during peak tourist season.
Back in the pioneering days when the wooolscour was at its peak, greasy wool would go into washing tubs where the oils and dirt were taken out. The clean wool was then run through a dryer and baled for export to England.
· Have you seen the woolscour in action? Where else have you seen a community go the extra mile to keep visitors happy? Comment below.