After 20 years transporting grain, Bell resident Kaye Whitbread is helping research consultant Jess Jennings learn more about the grain milling industry for the Australian first museum at Tremains mill in Bathurst.
Ms Whitbread’s story and knowledge on grain mills will be of vital help to the museum which will house artefacts, milling equipment and a library that will tell the stories of those who have milled flour throughout the nation’s past.
After Ms Whitbread’s husband came to Bell station as station master in 1974, the couple became fascinated with grain and in 1987 bought their first truck to transport it.
“In the 20 years I think we travelled about five million kilometres all up,” Ms Whitbread said.
Ms Whitbread said that they would help load the grain as it could take up to three hours.
“We would aim to do five trips a week, because otherwise you couldn’t make a profit,” she said.
“We could be away three weeks at a time, so it was quite a tough job.”
Ms Whitbread did several different routes during her trucking days, including Forbes, the Riverina, Griffiths to Point, Narrandera to Sydney, Tamworth and Narrabri.
Different mills would test the grain first and make small loaves of bread to check everything was fine, Ms Whitbread said.
“They would leave out bread for us truck drivers after they tested the grain, which was nice,” she said.
The truck would carry 24 tonnes of grain in one load, but as technology got better the truck got lighter and the grain got heavier.
“In the end I think the truck weighed 14.8 tonnes and we could take around 28 to 29 tonnes of grain,” she said.
In 20 years that is around 43 thousand tonnes of grain, according to Mr Jennings.
When the couple finished driving the truck in 2007, they took to travelling around New South Wales taking photographs of old flour mills, which have come in handy for Mr Jennings.
Part of Mr Jennings’ research is to travel around and document and describe what it is like to have worked in a flour mill.
“It is a great result to have Kaye come out, so that we have more information,” he said.
Mr Jennings said that they were still interested in old equipment, personal stories, flour mill employees, family descendants and knowledge on mills in the local area.
“The milling industry was a critical part of every rural town and now they are largely forgotten because they are gone from daily use, and we hope with doing this, they won’t get forgotten and we can bring them back into current consciousness,” he said.
One local mystery that Mr Jennings hopes to solve is if there was a flour mill at Eskbank House .
“It is right near a train line and the buildings are quite similar to those that would have housed grain,” he said.
Ms Whitbread has decided to continue her research of flour mills and volunteer her time at Eskbank House museum.
If you or anyone you know has any information about local flour mills that would be of interest, then head to tremainsmill.com.
The museum is expected to open early in 2020.