The Maraekakaho Woolshed was built in 1883 and has 28 stands.
One of the distinctive, and possibly unique, features of the Woolshed visible from State Highway 50 is the large (1.8m) wheel mounted high on the front of the building.
This wheel is part of the lifting tower that was used to lift wool bales from the ground floor to be stored in the extensive storage loft.
How It Works
A rope was wound around the large wheel which was then run vertically to a pulley fixed to the ground and then pulled (in an easterly direction) by horses or a traction engine, thus turning the wheel in a clockwise direction to raise the elevator platform.
Behind the large wheel is a steel ratchet. The gear wheel teeth of the ratchet were engaged by a pawl (locking tooth) which stopped the elevator platform falling down. The pawl was on a pivot and could be disengaged by pulling on a rope for the descent. Connected to the large wheel is a wooden drum which was connected by ropes to four points on the top of the elevator frame.
At each of the four corners of the elevator frame are linkage points which were connected by cables to four large counter weights, one on each corner of the tower. The counterweights would have largely neutralised the weight of the elevator platform and frame so that it was largely the weight of the wool bales that had to be lifted.
What Can You See
If you stand at the double front doors (at ground level) you are standing on the elevator platform.
Look up slightly and you will see the top of the elevator frame with the four linkage eyes in the corners for linking to the counterweights with the remaining four linkage eyes for connecting to the drum.
Look straight up and you will see the matching double doors of the storage loft, the four pulleys that would take the cables to the counterweights, and the drum connected to the large wheel.
Three of the four counterweights are still in place at the bottom of the lifting tower.
If you go up to the loft (taking extra care on the steep wooden stairs and avoiding banging you head at the top of the stairs) you can see more of the lifting tower. If you look out the loft doors into the elevator shaft, you get a closer look at the wheel and the drum and you can see the ratchet system.
This pre-1891 photograph, when shearing was done by hand blades, shows the lifting tower before it was enclosed.
M J Wenley
11 March 2013