Up in the clouds on the side of a mountain overlooking
the Byrne Valley there is a place where you can do all these things
Malcolm Anderson's interactive museum of memorabilia
is a magical place for anyone who loves technology of any description;
machinery, equipment, engines, "things that go bouf",
call it what you will, Anderson is passionate about it.
He has been collecting "old, unusual things"
for about 50 years and has opened his extensive collection to the
The museum is a Natural Heritage Site and is situated
on Minerva private nature reserve. Anderson (62) lives on the property
and has several business interests in Richmond.
He does not know exactly how many artefacts there,
are in the collection, but there are several thousand items on display.
In a nearby workshop are another thousand or so being repaired or
waiting to be repaired.
"The oldest item in the collection is a jaw harp,
or 'Jew's harp' that I got when I was about nine.
Items are pouring in from people who entrust them
to the museum so that they will be enjoyed, appreciated and taken
"I like collecting things that have meaning for
people and remind them of times or events in their lives. There
was a young man here recently who saw a glass ashtray with a miniature
tractor tyre around it. His parents owned one just like it and it
brought back many memories for him. Every item has a story to tell
about the people who owned it and used it. Even if we do not know
the story, it gives me pleasure to know that it has one."
Anderson and a friend, Chris Tilbury, work with a
team of artisans to restore engines to running order before they
are put on display.
"The collection represents a lot of work, but
mostly a lot of fun. We get a great kick out of making things work
again. We have just restored a stationary engine that was submerged
in mud next to a river for 40 years. The man who brought it to us
did not believe we could make it work again, but we did.
The museum houses a collection of old vehicles, petrol
bowsers, woodworking equipment, dentistry equipment, water pumps,
steam-driven machinery, household items like typewriters, irons;
fans, lights, kitchen equipment, telephones and valve radios, agricultural
machinery, including a rare Rollo tractor built in Scotland, a winnower
and a potato sorter, both built in the 1800s, and engines of all
types and sizes.
Anderson and Tilbury enjoy going on "hunting
trips" to find items for the collection. "We have been
to Mozambique, Namibia, the Western Cape, the Karoo and the Eastern
Cape. We go to places like old trading stores, scrap yards, farms
and townships. We have never come back from a trip without something
interesting. In Prince Alfred we found an old washing machine with
a hand-operated mangle and a petrol motor that you kick-start like
a motor bike, and in the Karoo an engine used to pump water from
a borehole when there was no wind to drive the, windmill. It was'
built in Australia in 1917. "From an attic in Richmond came
an automatic soda water machine built by Flugel and Company of London
and from a farm near Cedara came a steam boiler. The iron lung built
by the German company Lubeck was found in Umkomaas and Anderson
found a pigeon-racing clock in a junk shop in Howick.
"Sometimes I buy things without knowing what
they are and then a visitor to the museum identifies it. That's
what happened with the pigeon-racing clock and a machine used to
grind glass lenses to fit spectacle frames."
Anderson uses the Internet to research items he collects
and to find information on how to restore them. The team is currently
working on the nine-cylinder radial engine of a Sherman tank that
was found in storage in Durban.
From a company in Ontario, Canada, he has been able
to source information on the engine's history and instructions on
how to repair it.
He and Tilbury are keen members of the Natal Vintage
Tractor and Machinery Club that has its headquarters at Baynesfield
"It is gratifying to see young people join the
club and find pleasure in making things work. We like to encourage
them to start their own collections by giving them an engine and
challenging them to make it work
It really gives us a thrill to see them display it,
in working order, at one of the club's subsequent open days."
Sharing this passion for "things that go bouf"
is central to the operation of the museum. Anderson is determined
that it should be a place where everyone is not only welcome, but
welcome also to touch the exhibits.
"We let visitors operate all the machinery, under
supervision, to see how it works. Our only rule is that children
keep away from dangerous equipment like fly wheels."
The museum has a pub housed in a converted railway
cattle car that includes the original "hole in the floor"
toilet. To facilitate visitors to the museum, there is also a self-catering
guest house on the 3 500 hectare nature reserve. It sleeps 10 people
and offers glorious views of the Byrne valley. To safeguard the
future of the collection, Anderson has created a trust, which will
eusure that the museum is open 'for future generations to enjoy.'
Anderson and Tilbury display some of their engines
at the Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club's Open Day at Baynesfield
Estate and at Cars in the Park.
- For directions to the museum or bookings
for the self-catering house, phone "Vossie" Vorster at
082 371 4425
Article by Julia Denny-Dimitriou