Carrington Road: So what is an assembly plant?

In the 1920s, the General Motors assembly plant in Marrickville was described an engineering marvel and fascinated Sydneysiders. Visitors to the plant included Charles Kingsford Smith, world-champion golfer Walter Hagen, singing organist Julia Dawn, the Master Builders Association, the Millions Club, the 2UW Radio Club, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Radio Movie Club. An illuminated scale model of the plant was a hit at the 1929 Sydney Motor Show.

But what is an assembly plant? It is a factory with an assembly line, where work is separated into a sequence of tasks. Henry T Ford developed a moving assembly line in 1913 and it cut the cost of automotive production. Cars became affordable so more people could buy one. Assembly lines made household goods cheap and readily available in the Twentieth Century, something we can still appreciate 100 years on.

General Motors on Carrington Road was possibly the first purpose-built assembly plant in New South Wales with moving production lines. Ford had only just opened its plants in Geelong, Adelaide and Brisbane (Sydney came later in 1936). Here’s a description of the General Motors assembly line from the 1930s:

Bodies are hauled by electric hoists into the body storage area, where they are fitted with electric wiring harness and dashboard instruments, later assembly begins with the riveting of the chassis frame. Red hot rivets are tossed from the furnaces to the riveters with seemingly reckless abandon. Each man is ready to collect and the hot rivets are hammered into place with pneumatic hammers. Petrol tank, axles, steering wheel, steering column, transmission and springs are then fitted, and the chassis moves on to a trestle. Mechanics fit spark plugs and prepare the engine. The chassis frame is treated with anti-corrosive, the engine lowered into the chassis frame, and the unit is ready for its journey along the conveyer line. Fenders and other parts are fitted and a body is gently lowered to the frame… An army of men swarms over the unit… the engines are started and the cars roll off under their own power to checking pits. Here every bolt and nut is inspected, steering and wheel alignment are checked, the ignition system is inspected to see that everything is functioning perfectly… The car goes on its first journey…

Speaking of nuts and bolts, we’ll bring you more on where these could have been made soon (hint: it’s just down the road!)

 

 

Speaker Series: The Catch: The Story of Fishing in Australia by Anna Clark

Bringing her personal passion for throwing in a line, local author Anna Clark celebrates the enduring pleasure of fishing. This book charts the history of fishing, from the first known accounts of Indigenous fishing and early European encounters with Australia’s waters to the latest fishing fads; from the introduction of trout and fly fishing to the challenges of balancing needs of commercial and recreational fishers.

Marrickville Library
Thursday 28 June
6:30pm-7:30pm
Book for sale and signing

Bookings open Monday 7 May.

Swamp to manufacturing marvel

NSW Manager for General Motors in the 1920s, Mr JF Potter, must have been looking for a site to establish General Motors as an industrial showpiece. He chose Carrington Road Marrickville. But why? How did this and other parts of Marrickville become a powerhouse of Australian manufacturing?

One thing you might know is that Carrington Road floods every now and again. There’s a reason for this. It’s built over the former Gumbramorra Swamp. The swamp drained south to the Cooks River, and in the early 1800s was a wild and dangerous place where escaped convicts and bushrangers hid. Later, some parts were turned into brickworks and farms, including dairy farms and market gardens around Carrington Road.

Continue reading Swamp to manufacturing marvel

Buicks, Chevrolets, Cadillacs & Oaklands: General Motors Cars of the 1920s

 

 

 Pontiac Six, Motor Progress, No. 1, October 1926

So General Motors actually made cars in Marrickville? Yes! When you think about the car industry in Australia, you probably think Victoria and South Australia but cars were made across Australia for most of the Twentieth Century. The General Motors Australia assembly plant on Carrington Road Marrickville supplied cars to all of New South Wales.

On opening of the plant in November 1926, a car could be completed in just 30 minutes. Then by May 1927, a car was rolling off the assembly line every ten minutes. On 23 August 1927, the plant celebrated its 10,000th car in just the first nine months. It was a Pontiac Six.

Convertibles, family cars and commercial trucks were all made at the Marrickville plant. We’ve put together a list of the vehicles from trade publications and newspaper articles (below). General Motors cars from the 1920s like Chevrolet, Cadillac and Vauxhall are still well known to this day.

General Motors’ extensive range was the part of corporate strategy by American millionaire William C Durant. Mr Durant started General Motors in 1908. You can read about how he did this here. General Motors maintained its brands’ identities and this continued when General Motors purchased one of its major Australian suppliers, Holden in 1931. But more about that another time!

Continue reading Buicks, Chevrolets, Cadillacs & Oaklands: General Motors Cars of the 1920s

Roads, rail and electricity

Remember Sydney’s flying photographer, Milton Kent? Here is a superb photograph taken by Kent over General Motors on Carrington Road Marrickville.

The gleaming General Motors factory is set against old Sydney with its brick pits and chimneys. A network of new power poles lines the streets. You can see General Motor’s office building, the big saw-tooth roof of the assembly plant and the distribution yard, full of new automobiles. (We’ll get to the cars in coming weeks.) The buildings under construction on the right include a new cafeteria for the factory’s workers.

The goods railway line from Marrickville to Port Botany runs just behind the factory. This line opened on 14 October 1925, just one year before General Motors, and made it easy for vehicle parts made in Australia and overseas to reach the factory by train. It even came right inside the factory’s storerooms, and is still there today.

And Carrington Road itself is a grand boulevarde. General Motors gave £5000 to Marrickville Council to build the road from concrete, as it remains today.

You might also like to explore other aerial photos of 1930s Sydney in the Royal Australian Historical Society’s Adastra Aerial Survey Collection

Carrington Road Let’s get to work!

General Motors on Carrington Road Marrickville was big – as big as Melbourne’s and around double the size of Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. When opened, the plant was designed for 175 workers producing 60 cars a day.

On Opening Day, a Chevrolet was assembled and driven off the assembly line’s rails under its own power in 29 minutes, considered quite a marvel by the fascinated onlookers! Equipment was strung from above and the factory had plenty of beams to support equipment as well as overhead pipes carrying oil and water as well as power.

In the 1920s and 1930s, cars were assembled in Australia from an imported chassis and many locally produced parts and materials. Holden supplied some of the bodies to General Motors. Australian leather and wool was used for seats, timber and lead for batteries and hardware was also locally made. General Motors wanted to showcase its links with Australian manufacturing, even producing a booklet on the topic. Discover Australia Builds a Motor Car (1928) for yourself.

This booklet also mentions another Carrington Road Marrickville business Duly & Hansford (we’ll come back to them another time).

Here is the assembly line in 1928. This photo was taken by commercial photographer Milton Kent. Milton Kent pioneered aerial photography after getting his pilots licence in 1926. We’ve found some photographs of General Motors taken by him in a plane which we’ll show you next week.

Carrington Roads Industrial Past – Marrickville

Carrington Road’s industrial past (and future?) Save Marrickville is campaigning against a proposed 35-storey residential development along Carrington Road Marrickville which includes the last Australian General Motors factory (listed by the National Trust: picture below), but I have found a much bigger history.

In 1926, the American motor vehicle firm General Motors (Australia) Pty Ltd established assembly plants in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney to produce motor vehicles for the Australian market. Sydney architects Ross and Rowe were commissioned for the Sydney plant (6-10 Carrington Road). The design was to comply with all the conditions of a modern assembly plant and to provide the best possible conditions for all employees, according to GM’s magazine Motor Progress. The NSW Premier, the Hon. JT Lang, opened the factory declaring:

Factories were the milestones along the road Australia must travel to become a self-contained nation whose secondary industries would absorb her primary products . . . there is no market like that created by the employment of local labour . . . and it will be a striking advertisement to the world of this country of ours.

General Motors – Carrington road, Marrickville

General-Motors purchased Holden in 1931 during the Depression (fearing it would be snapped up by a competitor) and continued to operate there until 1939. The factory then produced tyre cord until 1961 after being taken over by Davies Coop, a significant
corporation in the Australian textile industry in the Twentieth Century.
Other businesses were established close to General Motors. AH Peters (16 Carrington Road) made bodies for trucks and utilities including ambulances used all over NSW.

Continue reading Carrington Roads Industrial Past – Marrickville

General Motors Opening Day

General Motors – Opening Day 30 October 1926. Source: General Motors Australia

In our first post, we introduced the General Motors-Holden factory on Carrington Road Marrickville. It’s still here today but we thought we’d share more about this historic building on its opening day on 30 October 1926.

The building was opened in front of enthusiastic well-wishers. Staff, dealers and suppliers celebrated the future of Australia’s motor trade. Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets and Olds mobiles lined Carrington road.

Lang is welcomed by Innes Randolph, Managing Director of General Motors in Australia, and JT Potter, Manager of the Sydney Branch. Source: General Motors Australia

The crowd watched NSW Premier Jack Lang shake hands with the General Manager, Innes Randolph. Lang was not known for being cheerful, but photos from the day show him grinning with pride at the opening of the new factory. JT Potter is behind them – he chose the Marrickville site and oversaw construction.

Inside, Jack Lang officially opened the new plant. In his rasping voice, the Premier announced, “Factories are the milestones along the road Australia must travel to become a self-contained nation.” He continued, “There is no market like that created by the employment of local labour…the entire operation will all go to stimulate associated industries, and it will be a striking advertisement to the world of this country of ours.”

General Motors-Holden kept an album of photos from the day for nearly 100 years. Discover the 1926 Album for yourself.

Next time we’ll look at the factory in production.

General Motors establishes in Carrington Road

Have you heard about the old General Motors-Holden factory in Marrickville? It’s right here at No. 10 Carrington Road. You can still see it for yourself. But why Marrickville? What did it mean for Australia and our industry?

Well, we’re excited to bring you the story of how a thin strip of land played a big role in the Twentieth Century. We’re unearthing new information all the time, so join us as we reveal a fascinating history, full of people, their stories and hopes for the future. So let’s go!

Our story starts in 1926. The American motor vehicle company General Motors wanted to expand. Australia seemed perfect – a wide-open land to explore, a wealthy and adventurous people and a prosperous economy.

Their key rival Ford had just fitted out an old wool store in Geelong. But General Motors had bigger ideas. It planned five modern assembly plants: Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney (yep you guessed it – on Carrington Road, Marrickville).

In Sydney, General Motors hired well-known commercial architects Ross and Rowe to build the new factory, and they built fast. The Sydney Morning Herald marvelled at the “speedy construction” (the design was completed in just 10 days) but the feat was impressive: reinforced concrete floor, shadowless light, 1000 electrical points and a fancy office building and staff dining hall.

Discover the Herald’s article from 1926 for yourself.

And what happened to the other General Motors assembly plants across Australia? Gone. This is the last standing.

ANZAC Day 2018 – Inner West memorials

ANZAC DAY  2018 service

Annandale War Memorial – Johnston Street Annandale

The war memorial at Annandale is in the form of a hybrid obelisk / cenotaph that incorporates curved seating. The memorial was the result of an architectural competition drafted and judged by the NSW Monuments Advisory Board in 1920. The architect R. Keith Harris won the first prize of 15 pounds with second prize of 10 pounds going to John D. Moore.The memorial was unveiled in February 1921. The monument comprises a central obelisk / cenotaph rectangular in plan and flanked by seating curved forward in quadrant plan. The seats terminate in two pedestals upon which were mounted two electric lamps (now missing) in the form of eternal flames. The structure is built from Bowral Trachyte.

Names of the 87 local dead are inscribed on the front face of the central element with a bronze panel fixed to the front face below these names. On the rear face of the monument is carved in large letters ‘To The Immortal Dead’.

The memorial cost 1,250 pounds and was constructed by the builder F. Gagliardi. The memorial is unusual in including a ‘plot of remembrance’ near the memorial, this is a ersatz grave which allowed mourners to remember their dead at a more personal level.

The memorial includes the name of Private Robert Watson of 169 Trafalgar St, Annandale who enlisted at Annandale on 12th February 1917 several days after his 15th birthday. He was born in Annandale in 1902 and attended Annandale Public School. He was killed in action one year later on 24th March, 1918 aged 16 years and two months.

References; Architecture 20 April 1920, p.106; Construction 30 March 1920, p.3; Art in Australia, 2 May 1922, p.69.

Annandale, New South Wales. A WW1 War Memorial built in 1921.

MemorialAnnandale2

Annandale, New South Wales. A plan of a WW1 Memorial which was to built in early 1921.

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