Adelong Reefs: 1870

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The following article is from the Australian Town and Country Journal, 5th March 1870, p. 12:

“THE Lower Adelong or Reefing District is on the Adelong Creek, 14 miles from Tumut. The country presents an eminently rocky and bare appearance, having been denuded of timber, which apparently was never very abundant. The township lies in a hollow along the south bank of the creek, and the principal reefs are in a high, bare, and rocky spur on the opposite side. They are the Victoria and the Old Reef. These are the reefs on which most of the work is now being done. I subjoin, however, a complete list, viz. : - The Victoria with fourteen parties working on it, N.W. of township; the Old Reef with six parties working on it, N. of township; the Camp Reef (tumbled into the creek) N.E. of township; Woolga (Woonga) one party working on it, E. 4 miles of township; the Fletcher’s Reef two parties working on it, N. 2 miles of township; the Caledonian between Old Reef and Fletcher’s, N. of township.

“The bearing of all of these is N. and S., and the two first named, being on opposite sides of the same hill, clip to its centre, and right. themselves perpendicularly at a depth of 200 feet. The stone is unusually colourless, yet full of sulphurets and pyrites. In fact more brilliant with htem than any stone I have yet seen - some samples being completely enveloped in iron and copper in a glittering disguise. It is exceedingly hard and difficult to break effectually - the Chilian mill after years of trial, having been found the best recoverer of fine gold. The width of what at present may be termed a main reef varies from 10 inches to 2 feet 6 inches, and is confined generally between hard dark casings of trap in granite dykes, and where the granite is forced into the vein or quartz reef, the latter runs out. All this may be clearly seen at certain parts of the creek where the section at the rocks is laid bare. The whole system of rocks is close and tough, and as much as L7 a foot has been accepted when tendered, and the contractor ‘couldn’t make salt at it.’ A depth of 260 feet has been reached on the Old Reef, and extensive underground works opened up in hargraves and Co’s. claim, which is a lease of 3a on the crown of the spur. Their shaft is spacious and on a slight incline to the hill, righting to perpendicular at 200 feet down. The gold is very fine and varies remarkably in value - Gibraltar gold going as low as L3 5s, and Victoria reef as high as L4. Some is painfully alloyed with native silver or sulphuret, e. g. - the Currajong, a very troublesome sample valued at L3 10s, while the Old reef gold runs from L3 12s to L3 17s. Most of the shafts are worked by the windlass, but one I noticed had attained a whim. In 1860 this locality had a population of 800 people - in 1870 it numbered 350. The Kiandra Rush drew off hundreds from Adelong, the majority of whom have been rescattered over the Lachlan and Lambing Flat, yet many are doing worse than those who have stuck to Adelong.

“No less than fourteen mills once pounded away on this creek, all of which, with three exceptions, have vanished from the scene. The survivors of the exodus are Messrs. Wilson and Co., Mr. Edwards and Messrs. Wellington and Co.’s Of these the last is on the south or township side of the creek, and is a private mill, crushing for the proprietors only; its motive power is a water wheel of 24 feet in diameter, working the machinery by an engaged segment, turning a large wooden shaft and 3 batteries of stamps with angular shanks; a Chillian mill and wooden amalgam barrel are attached. This mill was standing when I saw it, and some repairs seemingly going on. Mr. Edwards’ is a somewhat similar machine to the last named, and was likewise idle; but that of messrs. Wilson and Co. was hammering away with one battery only. This mill is working with an 8-horse engine and a water-wheel combined, but Mr. Wilson has resolved on moving his plant, a quarter mile lower down, and dispensing with the steam engine. Now Mr. Wilson has, with the modesty that accompanies merit, requested that his name may be mentioned as seldom as possible, but in as much as I can treat of machinery here without mentioning it, I will mention it as seldom as possible. During the last three years that Messrs. Wilson and Co. have been crushing on the Adelong they have perseveringly endeavoured to meet the difficulties that the peculiar nature of the Adelong stone presented to the mill. Almost every invention heard of has been here tried without regard to cost, and removed in turn to make room for the next, and, after all for hard stone containing abundance of disguised metal and very find [fine] gold the Chilian rollers have been found the best. The difference in the grit from the step ripples of the battery, and that from the Chilan [sic] basin is remarkable, the latter being so very fine. It is most probable that this mill would not have been in use in Chili for centuries if it had not some advantages. Messrs. Wilson and Co.’s new mill will be driven by water alone, and as long experience and mechanical skill have caused some special alterations to be made in the ordinary construction of crushing mills, it may be well to give a detailed description of it.

“The wheel is 26 foot in diameter and 4 feet 6 inches wide, over-shot and reversed, and driven by water brought half-a-mile above the township, and revolving in a trough excavated out of the rock, and built up in places with rock in cement. It is estimated equal to 30-h.p. The direct action is got from an internal toothed segment working a pinion and axle; and the second motion is got by a wrought iron diagonal shaft 60 feet long, supported at every 10 feet, and extending to the cam-shaft of the batteries (three in number) setting stamps, Chilian mill, and abolishing belts as uncertain in motion, liable to slip, and unfit for fine work.

“The batteries are set in the A frame, cross-braced, and tied by two stout purlins notched on to the back, and supporting a close lined feeding box, extending the whole width, and built up with stone underneath; this forms an additional buttress to the frame. The bed log that carries the boxes is not connected with the sleepers that carry the frame, being considerably higher than them - consequently the vibration is reduced to the minimum. The boxes themselves are put together very simply. They are flanged and screwed together so that the unscrewing of three nuts will take off the face or front, and they are inserted on the bed log so that the knocking away of two wedges will release the box, and allow its being removed bodily. The method is this : notch down the bed log one inch; admit the box into its place; fix a slip along the front, and, so far as the foot is concerned, the box is immovable; now fix a sideboard into a slot or groove in the guiding beam, and wedge it up; the box is then immovable altogether; but strike the wedge out and it can be lifted away. Simplicity is Mr. W.’s - I beg his pardon - I mean Messrs. ward and Co.’s motto. Again, the disc difficulty, which I have not yet seen got over, is here managed ‘simply’ and completely, by a perpendicular steel wedge, two inches wide, concave, to fill the circular shank, and tapered to a scale which which only repeated experiments have discovered. This wedge, eight inches long, is driven home in the disc groove by a sledge hammer, and nothing will stir the disc again until the wedge driven out. No worm screws or slots through them are required to weaken the shank by cutting through the surface. What I term twin-tappets are here used i. e. tappets joined together, and arranged alternate on the cam shaft, instead of occurring always between two shanks. To gather the oil which runs down in oiling the shaft, a flange, semi-circular in form, projects from each side of the bracket which supports the shaft, and catches the oil which would fall where it was not wanted. Another difficulty, the wearing away of the bottom of the iron feeding box by grinding quartz, is here met by a steel bar, 2 1/2 inches square, inserted and bedded between the two; and when the steel gets worn down, it is put to its ordinary uses. And lastly, to supply the batteries with water, instead of a lift or Chinese pump, an hydraulic ram will be used. Now most of us, by the difficulties of sight and smell, know what an ordinary ram is, but the functions and appearance of an hydraulic ram are not the same. The hydraulic ram works by the incompressible nature of water, and elasticity of air, and receiving water into it on one side, will discharge eighty degrees of the same water thirty times the height that the water fell on entering the ram. Its appearance I may state, is something resembling the the combined beauties of a tea urn, a fitter, and a calabash. A wooden trench in the stamper boxes conducts its water down the shanks, and on the stamp heads without splash.

“The river here falls thirty feet in eighty yards and there is a strong under-current in the rocks. This was the attraction in moving the mill lower down, for alluvial mining has destroyed the water-holding power of the creek, so that when the rain comes it runs away, soon leaving the creek dry as before. This also affects the surrounding land, operating as a continual drain. An excellent road has been cut to this rocky and uninviting looking spot, and the spot itself has undergone a large amount of blasting and excavation in order to find stand room for the slant. The falls, or rapids, of the Adelong are just below, and a little further on is Gibraltar and its reefs, where three claims are at work on narrow leaders and hard rocks, the gold varying between 10ozs and 2dwts to the ton. In 1857-59 the gold averaged 33ozs to the ton; in 1860 1 1/3ozs and downwards, as the cost of raising and crushing was reduced, so that 7dwts to the ton are now made payable with sufficient stone. The tubes for recovery of this fine gold are very complete. First copper plates (and sometimes blankets), then step ripples, next the Chilian mill, the copper plates again, step ripples, and the tub; then the tom and pans - or, with the pans, the revolving amalgam barrel. Forty tons of stone a week are now being raised at the various claims.

“As regards alluvial mining Shepherd and Co. have a lease of three miles (?) of the creek below the falls, and parties are working here and there for twenty miles up and down it. The Upper Adelong seems abandoned to Chinese. At the Middle Adelong there is a school, but, with the exception of the reefs the district wears an air of the past. It was one of the earliest fields, and the little township has seen a deal of life. It contains two chapels; two public and two private schools; five hotels, and five stores. But rhe Church of England and the Presbyterian bodies hold services on alternate Sundays in the court-house.

“The pride of Galway Hotel has a very fine room, dedicated in the most latitudinarium and liberal manner to every muse that will visit it.”