The museum also boasts a number of model steam engines donated by the famous Thornycroft family. Allan Thornycroft, who came to Australia in the 1930s to start building engines here, made them. One that he built for his son is part of the display.
When it comes to models and artefacts of Australian origin the Museum has concentrated on Sydney and Melbourne for its fi nds as these were the two major centres for shipping and maritime activities.
“In Sydney it’s been the Australian version of what the British refer to as a pond yacht that has held much of our interest over the years,” McFall explained.
“These are model skiffs range from four inches right up to two feet in overall length between perpendiculars. Some are worth more than $5,000 today.
“In the fi rst half of the last century they were sailed in the main by the crews of the full size skiffs; when they weren’t out racing on the harbour in their skiffs they’d race the models either on the harbour, the lake at Centennial Park or on inland waterways.
“It was very competitive racing, especially for the twofooters, or Balmain Bugs as they were often called. They were the subject of a lot of betting. The bookmakers would be rowed along in pulling boats behind the models while they raced.
“The whole thing came to a grinding halt in about 1956 when two of the bookies took a distinct dislike to each other and one drew a pistol and took a shot at the other fellow.
The police decided the whole thing was getting a bit too dangerous so the scene evaporated until about four or five years ago when we started restoring these models and putting them back in the water once more for their owners.
“We are also building new models of these skiffs out of cedar and soon we will have radio-controlled 2ft models on the market. They’ll be exactly the same designs as were seen in the 1920s … with a modern little tweak in the form of control.”
The Maritime Model Museum’s main display of ship models, artefacts and nautical gifts has relocated to the Gowings Store at the Westfield Shopping Centre at Hornsby (adjacent to the mainline railway station). All enquiries to David McFall on 0419 287 140.