Queensland Museum, Museum Development Officers recently assisted the Railway Museum in Bundaberg after ex cyclone Oswald caused widespread damage. The Museum, run by the Bundaberg Railway Historical Society, was badly damaged with over a metre of water in the bulidings. The Museum also suffered external damage with water tanks being washed away and their outside larger rail objects such as signals and wagons damaged. Museum Development Officers, Dr Jo Wills (Cairns), Ewen McPhee (Townsville) and Bronwyn Roper (Rockhampton) travelled down to assist Lydia Egunnike (Toowoomba) with a disaster response. Lydia and Helen Pithie (Ipswich) were fresh from helping Gayndah Museum which also experienced flood damage (Blog post to follow).
This post is a longer one, with lots of photos to show the extent of the damage and the recovery effort.
The water and mud entered into all of the exhibition spaces – the railway station building, signal room, railway carriages and other outdoor areas. These photgraphs show the height of the water and the number of museum objects that went underwater.
It is hard to believe the amount of silt that can be carried in the water and then deposited on surfaces. Every object that was below the flood line was covered in thick mud. Toolboxes were full of water, lanterns were half full of water, mannequinns dressed in uniforms simply floated around before being left in the mud.
Some of most valued records by the Society were held in a filing cabinet that was submerged to the third drawer. When the bottom drawer was opened it was like a bucket full of water. We prioritised these records and bagged them up for freezing immediately.
Many of the paper based objects and records did not survive – they floated off shelves and were quickly dispersed in the mud. By the time they were salvaged they were beyond the conservation means of the Society.
The “Mud Army” turned up on the Saturday and everyone pithched in to clean the buildings. The following is a summary of the clean up from Graham Hibberd.
“By Saturday evening we had cleaned out and mostly mud free couple of rooms. There are some corners that got missed in the combined help from my family members, especially my son for taking control of the volunteer gang to strip everything off the walls and all out of the rooms – in preperation for the two volunteer water gernie trucks from Gladstone and Boyne that came to pressure clean the floors and walls. The team from P.C.Y.C. “Blazers ” group young and old who only had about three hours to stay but put their effort into the job. Then the council officer arrived also with a group from their mud army to assist. My son and his brother-in-law returned on Sunday with a motor gernie and finished cleaning items on the platform and stacked these against the buildings. The council pickup truck came in to clear a load of rubbish and we are on the list for a bobcat to shift the gravel. The volunteer electricians from Brisbane have visited and checked the building and we are now waiting on ERGON to replace the meter box before continuing. I have been sifting through saved dry items and some not so dry and have had pleasant surprises in finding things safe. In all I have four freezers storing wrapped items and after my plea on ABC radio we finished with three more than required, also one chap prepared to go out and buy one for us.”
The Queensland Museum, Museum Development Officers will continue to assist the Railway Museum as it rebuilds.