My Time at Engine Works
The Commonwealth Government Marine Engine Works was a recognisable landmark on Port Melbourne foreshore since it was built during World War II until the development of the Beacon Cove residential area.. In My Time at Engine Works, Glen Stuart details the making of marine engines during his 29-year career at the works.
My Time at Engine Works is available for purchase via the Society.
Hello. My father worked at the CMEW in Port Melbourne in the 70,s
His name was Peter James Scott. Sadly he passed away aged 62 ten years ago this year. He died of mesothelioma. I just wondered if you may have known my father or anyone following this site.
As his son aged around 8 or 9 at the time, I recall the Xmas functions where the families cam e along and the kids all got a present.
I know he had friends like Mick Grubb, Michael Mallett , Bobby Brown.
I do remember going inside this massive warehouse and seeing the size of these engines.
Thanks for information regarding your father and his time at Engine Works. I’ve spoken to the author Glen Stuart and in the 1970s, Glen was working in the separate Administration building. He recalls the “open nights” when the public could attend the test runs of the massive engines and as Secretary of the Social Club he did a lot behind the scenes to help organise the christmas functions.
I worked with Peter, he was a tradesman and I was an apprentice. I used to love his deep barreled laugh and the pipe hanging from the side of his mouth. He and I both became Tech School teachers.
I was an apprentice at Peacock an Smith in Flinders Street Melbourne between Jan 1977 and Jan 1980 before going to sea and remember the Government Engine Works in Port Melbourne well.
Yours sincerly John Toms.
Thanks Tom, haven’t heard of Peacock and Smith before. What work did you do there? Did you ever visit Engine Works?
Hello Janet, we have met at princes pier a few times.
Peacock and Smith were melb ship repairers with workshops in Flinders St and at Kensington. The politician Andrew Peacock’s family business. They were members of the Aust Ship Repairers Group ,as was my family’s business , V F Harris pty ltd .
I served my apprenticeship at the Engine Works 1959-1964 before going to sea as a marine engineer . I returned from the sea in 1966 to take over the Business because of the early death of my wonderful Dad, Victor Frank Harris (52), due to asbestos exposure during WW2.
I am now retired aged 74 ,living in beach st p melb about 200 metres from the old CGEW. Warm regs Ian Victor Harris.
You probably won’t remember me, but i started at your ship repairers about 1972 as a unskilled student.
Your company gave me the opportunity to progress my skills.
Kevin McShae took me under his wing, the rest is history.
Worked for John Beever Eng for many years.
Spent my last ten years at Mobil Altona Refinery, as quality control, welding inspector (Maintenance)
Thankyou so much for the wonderful opportunity you gave me.
My late father, John Cunningham, was the accountant at V. F. Harris in the day.
The Cunningham girls were also blessed with Mrs Harris’s company on picnics at the Gardens.
Dear Susan, I remember your father John well through my Mum, Gwen Hatherly who worked with your Dad and Mr Harris from 1959 until the 1970’s. She was very fond of and respected them both. I would have a day at V F Harris in the school holidays doing little jobs in the office and dear Mr Harris would always have a pay packet for me at the end of the week.
Dear Ian, I have just found your post while looking up V.F. Harris where my Mum worked with your Dad from about 1959 to the 1970’s. You may remember Gwen Hatherly. I have also replied to a post on this site written by Mr. Cunningham’s daughter Susan. Your Dad was much respected by my Mum, as was Mr. Cunningham and I recall well the times I spent in the office during the school holidays when I would do little jobs and be rewarded by a pay packet from your father at the end of the week.
Haven’t read the book but very interested to know what is NOT in the book. Started my apprenticeship in ’69 – what a bunch of reprobates! Greatest time of my life. A great learning place. Everyone wanted to teach you something – including older apprentices but that cant be written here!
I can still scrape a whitemetal bearing and still have all the tools were made ourselves under supervision of magnificent tradesmen.
Thanks for dropping by Paul. I’m sure there are stories from workplaces all over Port Melbourne that can’t be written here.
I just heard about this book today whilst talking to Russel Elbers. Apparently ther is going to be reunion on the 9th July at Port Melbourne
Dennis Crowley – I am also ex CGEW, still in the business (i.e. at sea). I do remember you, but was junior to you. How do I get in touch with Russel Elbers??
Hi Chris & Dennis,
It is great that interest in Glen’s book is reconnecting a lot of CGEW people however I would suggest that it is not a good etiquette to put personal contact details on a public forum such as this especially without that person’s permission.
Chris, we can pass your contact details onto Dennis if you want and ask the question for you.
Or Dennis, you can pass Russell’s details to us, with his permission, and we can pass it on to Chris.
Our email is pmhps@localhost.
We just want to respect everyone’s privacy and keep it safe.
Volunteer, Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society
To whom it may concern. My father Renato Libardi and his friend Marino Jachin also worked at CGMEW. I have a photo taken on the 1st December 1966 of the engine with all the workers surrounding it. I can email it if someone contacts me.
It sounds very much like a photo that is in Glen’s book. We’ll contact you by email. It’s certainly worth checking to see if they are the same photo.
Dear Laura, i worked with Merino and Renato ,learned lots of skills and lots of fun with naughty Italian. Many great memories, warm regards Ian Harris apprentice at CGEWfrom 1959 to 1964
Ditto with Paul Leslie.
I was in the same year with Paul.
When asked by people where I did my apprenticeship, not many people had heard of the Marine Engine Works.
When explained what we created, built, repaired and the machine we operated they are amazed and disappointed they did not have the opportunity to see our work place.
Beside that out of all the years in the industry there has never been a better bunch of work mates that you could ever work with.
Someone said that one could write a book about the characters that worked at this establishment. It was a league of nations, and an eye opener for me as “new Australians” were a rarity in the Sandringham district where I lived, and attended school. Some were magnificent tradesmen, and willing to pass on their skills to apprentices. I worked with Glen at CGEW, and his brother Geoff at the Eastern Treatment Plant Carrum.
To Andrew Scott. Send me an E-Mail address I think I’ve got a couple of photos of Peter in the London Family pub in Pt Melb. circa 1974. I can pass them on to you if you’re interested. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I served my apprenticeship at the CGEW,before going to sea.As mentioned it was the greatest bunch of reprobates and ratbags ever – but the work we turned out was THE BEST. I saw Doxfords, those bloody Napier Deltics, and the first of the Sulzers run, and the engineer from Winterthur said he had not seen better when asked about the quality of the work in the engine. I saw foreign built engines run, and you had to be careful where and what you grabbed when the sea was a bit rough as plate had been oxycut and painted over, even engine parts.
It was a wonderful place to work, you learned so many different skills, and in later years the name CGEW just opened doors of opportunity too
CGMEW apprentice – fitting & machining 1966/7 to 1971/2????
First engine lentz compound steam with exhaust turbine which sat on North side parallel strips.
Last CGMEW engine I worked on was 76 LBD 4 Doxford for Mt. Kembla. (????)
Which sat on the South side parallel strips….. Then – came the Sulzers…..
Later on ship with Bob McKimm, chief. Lot of hard work, lot of experience gained with seriously overloaded engine! ( Wrong propeller fitted during construction! )
Did I have much fun?…. Yes!…. On original M.V. Bass Trader! LOVED the Deltics!
Never a dull moment…. Some engines ran well, until o/h was due…. Some did not!
Main problem? Cracked liners – at the air start ports, ( which were threaded ) which is a No No! With nitrided or chromed cylinders…
We often ran “gassing” engines for several crossings, when no “spares” were available – all the “spares” were at CGMEW – waiting for cylinder liners, and various other spares, then, rebuild & test run.
IF we had access to the Navy specification engine parts, especially cylinder liners, I suspect we would have had a better record, regarding engine failures…… We shall never know!
Can someone tell me if the concrete engine test beds are buried under the “parkland” at the Engine Works site in Port Melbourne? I cannot find them with the metal detector, but expect they must be there. I refer to the South side parallel strips, the huge concrete base, ( mounting block ), which I suspect was never removed….. ?
My only relic of the Engine Works, I have, is a small block of white metal – rock crusher grade – which was used on the Mount Kembla, centre crosshead bearings, which were shattering under excessive overload, and which we repaired at sea, puddling the metal with Oxy torches, then filing and scraping by hand, to fit the pin.
( Wilsons Promontory – anchored at Refuge Cove! )
Small Doxfords 56 L.B.4 in M.V. Iranda, M.V. Inyula……faultless!
Big Doxfords in Lake Maquarie, Lake Colac….. Faultless!
“Don’t drink and drive”… ?….. T.S. Lake Illawarra!…..
Worst built – designed? – ship – Talinga and Timbarra! But, had best recip steam plant – poppet valve, triple expansion, reheat, North Eastern Marine!
Best running ship? Original “Spirit of Tasmania” 1….. Nohab Polars….. Never failed!
Best running large bulkship?….. M.V. Lake Maquarie….. Faultless!
Hi Ian, you may or may not remember me or our surname, Clark. Both my father and I worked for V F Harris as plumbers, I saw it out to the end and then started a business with your bother Bruce, also killed off the union, shame. Harris family should be proud that it started so many engineers on there path in life. I have fond memories of working there.
My father remembers you Russell.
My father is Phil Gosney
My name is Wayne Gosney.
I’m the son of Phil Gosney.
He still talks about the many job he done V
F Harris. I myself have fond memories
of the time my dad worked with you all.
I’m always searching for anything related
to Harris.. I would be awesome if you or any
of the guy’s that remember Phil Gosney get in
contact with me SO I could pass on your info
to my dad. It would really make his day,and
then some.. Thank you
I did my Apprentice ship at Repco as a Automotive Machinist and every time Commonwealth Marine ran a new finished engine we went down to a open night we also did some training days there as well i remember seeing the Napier Deltic engines and the big engines at that time where Sultzer I believe Great days indeed the size of some of the Lathes and horizontal borers had to be seen to be believed I wonder where they are now probably just sold for scrap value
Now long retired, I found that The Engine Works created lots of interest when you were looking for a job and lots of people were interested in the work there and, my experiences there. I ran the Services Department at Peters Icecream during the 70s, and a bit each side, and during that time ran into several ex Engine Works apprentices. I believe Jim Stevens had a similar position at Streets Icecream. Kel Hobby was running a subsidiary company of Repco and advised us on which brand of air compressor NOT to buy, , and Roger Beanland was selling mechanical supplies like packings – I think it was his own company but time has dimmed a few memories. I also ran into Ian Watts, and Ian Harris, and kept in loose contact with Brian Muldoon for many years until his death in 2016. Brian had gained his green card and had lived and worked in the USA for many years Does anybody else have contact with any of this group of ex apprentices?
Thanks for sharing your story Ian
Thanks for your kind thoughts David – just a couple more for you
In the Royal Victorian Historical Society’s book Victoria 1850 to 1960 the Engine Works has an article all to itself. The book is very interesting, but the one on CGMEW is very good.
Also if anybody is interested former employees of William Doxford have an appreciation site so that memories of these magnificent machines do not fade too quickly. Some very interesting reading, and I was able to give them some info on the engines we built C/O Glenn. they had known they were built here but had no idea about where or when
Good morning David. I have just visited a site called Comm Engine Works located at Evans Road in Brisbane.
Firstly it has an attribution to me for information, which I did not supply, but seems to have been lifted from Glen Stuart’s book.
Secondly it seems to be a mixture of information about the two sites and implying that Doxford engines were built in Brisbane as well as Melbourne.
It was written by one Peter Dunn OAM
My first full time job was at Engine Works. I started in 1977 as the receptionist in the little gatehouse at the front. After 12 months I promoted to secretary to the CEO.
I met so many wonderful people in Administration including Glen Stuart, and others.
Approx. 12 months later I was made redundant along with others when the government decided to make it ‘surplus to their demands’!
One of the Marine Engineers working with Engine Works recommended me for a job at RMIT and I was there for the next 30 years.
Hi,David could you please tell me when the marine engine works closed down.my father worked there he was a boiler maker was it sold ?or sold off by the government any info would be great thanks .Alex.
Good questions Alex. I don’t have that information at my fingertips but I’ll do a bit of digging and see what I can come up with.