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Working model quarry delights young and old

The miniature quarry operation, which will be on display as part of the Seniors Week Expo in East Devonport, Tasmania in October, features scaled-down replica models of heavy machinery that can mimic the workings of their real life counterparts.

Over the past six decades, the detailed and fully operational model has expanded to fill a 5.5m x 2.2m trailer and includes plant such as an excavator, dump trucks, a rotary screen, bucket elevators and even a train. However, current owner Barry Blenkhorn told Quarry that the exhibit had started from a single model of a crusher, built by his late brother, Noel Blenkhorn.

The 78-year-old Blenkhorn explained that he and his brother had picked up model-building as a hobby in their early teens, taking inspiration from their surroundings.

“Our father and grandfather had a crushing plant that we used to drag around the north of Tasmania, crushing metal [aggregate] for roads,” he said. “Noel thought that if a big crusher could work, why not a little one? So he scaled it down to [a model].”

The crusher, which Noel built at age 18, became a life-long project, with ideas for new models drawn from the quarry located across from the brothers’ childhood home as well as from the local cement works.

“Once you build a crusher, you don’t stop there,” Blenkhorn stated. “It’s got to be added to, and hence the quarry evolved.”

Continued expansion

Blenkhorn acquired the model from Noel in early 2010, a few months before his brother passed away. He carried on his brother’s work, adding some of Noel’s railway models to the replica quarry, along with a painted mural of rock benches as a backdrop. However, arguably one of the most significant additions was the trailer.

“The model used to be packed away in boxes and it used to take my brother a couple of days to set it up,” Blenkhorn commented. “With the trailer, it’s a lot more mobile. We can now have the model running in 10 minutes, and it’s getting more exposure now.”

The model also features contributions from local quarries. The painted backdrop was based on photos a local quarry operator allowed Blenkhorn to take at its site, and when operated, the model crusher’s 8cm jaws crush actual quarried stone sourced from a site near the Don River.

The model has been exhibited a number of times throughout Tasmania and Blenkhorn said it always generated a lot of interest. He explained that he hoped to inspire younger people to “do something with their hands”, adding that this sometimes offered an opportunity to promote the industry.

“I ask [the kids] to find the Tasmanian devil in the model and when they do, I say, ‘Well, you tell everybody that devils can co-exist with mining and forestry.’ I get quite a response from the crowd when I say that.”

Blenkhorn has also received positive feedback from industry, with quarry professionals expressing their appreciation for the model’s accuracy, and companies such as Atlas Copco offering to donate their own model machinery to add to the display.

Blenkhorn’s niece, Fiona Blenkhorn of Baptcare Orana, which will be hosting the Seniors Week Expo on 12 October, told local newspaper The Advocate that she hoped the model would encourage people to explore their own creative projects.

“The Seniors Week Expo is all about being active,” she said. “Just because you are in your 70s, 80s or 90s doesn’t mean you have to be inactive.”

Blenkhorn showed no signs of slowing down, telling Quarry he planned to exhibit the model at local events in October and November this year as well as March next year, and that he was considering creating a DVD on how quarries operate to sell alongside the exhibit.



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