The heritage listed Wakes Garage has a long and colourful history which commenced in the early 1900’s. Some people never throw anything away and at Wake’s Garage on Richardson Street they kept every single thing. You’ll find a never-ending collection of stuff from the past that “just might come in handy some time”. It was established in 1938 and has the only dirt floor left in WA. It’s also the home of the first orbital engine invented, which sits on its original workbench.
Wake’s Garage History:
Recollections written by Eric Wake (son of Lindsay Wake)
and edited by Arthur Todd.
Morgan Stanley Wake and his wife Poly Anne Wake came to Western Australia from South Australia. They lived on land now boarded by Great Eastern Hwy/Perth airport/Belmont Forum shopping centre.
They farmed the land growing vegetables for those living in Perth and transported produce over rough roads by horse and cart with wheels often broken in this process.
Morgan was Mayor on the Belmont City Council at the time the Council was asked its opinion about rail/trams going to be extended out from Perth. Morgan wrote to the city putting his case that the Belmont land was Perth’s food bowl and, as too many eggs were broken going to market, the tram should run towards their farm.
There must have been a heated discussion because Morgan resigned over the issue and went to Dalwallinu where he ran a garage and the town power house.
He then put an advertisement in the West Australian newspaper; “is there a town that needs a motor mechanic, please telegram #34 Wongan Hills.”
Someone must have replied from Katanning so he moved the family there where Eva Caroline, Raymond, Fergus, John, and Lindsay made up the family.
The large newer section of the garage is interesting historically.
The span of the roof unsupported was a first. They created the TRUSS from different size pipe, bent by hand, and welded to form the truss. The structure was engineered by the brothers and sent to WA university to get the mechanical engineering certificate to allow it be created and, at the apex it would lift 15 to 20 tons’ dead weight. This was the weight of some tractors and machinery being worked on. The design proved to be so good it was copied to build P L Bolto’s new garage additions then spread everywhere. It is still being used in principal today by shed builders and engineers. There is still little or no rust and the tin roof is still original from when built about 1956/57. The floor is up to 10″ thick concrete. There were mixers going with all ingredients to make this solid floor by hand.
The hoist is a twin ram set into a large floor cavity and is very much one of a kind having been bought in from Germany. In the older days, the garage was left unlocked, petrol bowser left unlocked… just turn the power on if you needed petrol, and the safe was unlocked. Some persons, one night, thought that Wakes was a good break so they went and got the oxy set from the workshop and proceeded to cut up the safe to get into it. No money. Just mess and damage that can still be seen.
How did the Orbital Motor idea originate?
Sunday for the Wake family was church in the morning and roast lunch prepared by Kathleen Wake as a routine event each Sunday.
This Sunday, Kathleen was a little late on serving up so two of the Wake brothers, John and Lindsay, along with Lindsay’s son Eric were sitting at the table awaiting service….!
On the table were two tobacco tins, Blue Capstan and another ready-rub tin, both empty. Eric put one inside the other and started to make the smaller tin rotate inside the larger tin. The noise annoyed Eric’s Mum. She said stop that noise. It was annoying her on the amines table. Lindsay told his son, “no keep going”…! There was a bit of a heated minute or two then Lindsay said; “can’t you see that the outside of the inner tin was moving but the centre the tin was not moving at all”. He said that’s the valle and then the gap that moves is where vague piston/chamber is to be and a motor can be made.
Monday came and Lindsay went over the garage with his tobacco tins so he could demonstrate to his brother, John Cecil Wake, the concept for a motor.
The rest is history…. They used what they worked with and crafted/created an orbital motor made from Volkswagen crank casing metal melted and cast into the outer engine casing . The furnace was made by them using a steel container about 5 ft wide and 4 ft tall lined with white clay from Page’s brick pit and some fire furnace bricks. A diesel injector atomised diesel to get the heat. Other parts were from a Field Marshall tractor for the crankshaft. The concept was shown to the government requesting help and funding, but nothing happened.
The family lived a very good but meaner life with money going into this and many other projects. When there were a few spare hours, due to workshop being slow, they worked on the engine. The motor rested in its glory just covered up by a wheat bag on the jarrah bench.
WHAT THE WAKE BROTHERS INVENTED
in no particular order
- Orbital Engine
- Furniture made of water pipe.
- The first metal station wagon.
It was made of a Morris coupe that had a wooden box on the back was converted to the station wagon by using aluminium skin from off a World War Two plane.
- Bag grain sealer
It was made of two whole 2″ rings coupled to two half x 2 ” rings that were used to close sheet bags up instead of sewing them up by hand. This invention was patented.
- Bulk wheat and grain bin.
The first metal bin with auger to unload the grain. The augers flights were made totally by them too.
- 200 hydraulic press
Used to bend metal and also do changing of pins and bushings on tractors.
- Welder from diesel/kerosene engine and generator
The engine drives a generator that was used in the war for powering spot/search lights; it burns a #4 rod with ease.
- Track roller automatic build up machine.
This machine was used for repairs to used track rollers. It was made from a motor cycle gear box, shearing cutter drive, plough disc, and other bits. It feeds continuous wire through a funnel filed with flux pebbles/powder in what’s known now as submerged arc welding.
- Jack to jack up VW cars
A single trolley structure made it easy to jack the front end up in seconds.
- Portable Welder
A stand-alone Volkswagen engine coupled to generator for welding up anywhere using up to a #8 stick.
- Alterations to Chamberlain tractor
Alterations to model 9G or 6G tractor gear box that went into production as standard by Chamberlain.
- Alterations to first 513R model rear end final drive/differential lock.
- TURNTITE Gate.
This was a gate post that used winding up method of closing a cocky fence/gate that was up to 60 ft wide allowing large farm machinery through. Patented in about 1958/59 and painted red.
- Single coat paint for brick and cement walls
By adding baby powder and plaster-of-Paris to a water based paint used for painting raw brick/cement block walls allowed the pools of the bricks to be filled. This meant one coat was enough and not several coats as was previously done.
- Wood fired steam boiler for tyre retreads
The boiler was made by the brothers and it passed all government test with flying colours. This drove two tyre retreading moulds. They found that doing a normal cook of the retread, then letting it cool down, and then completing another two cooks, that a tyre on a VW Beatle would last more than 100,000 miles.
- Rubber Lugg Machine
This was used to replace, or repair, damaged lugs on a tractor tyre that would have been made useless and discarded. This machine was purchased by Beaurepairs and Dunlop tyre companies.
Some of the workers:
- Freddie Moncaster was welder
- Hector ?? the swede welder
- Reg Maris. Fitter/turner
- Fred Monck. Mechanic
- Peter Toress, the Italian mechanic
- Frank Amato mechanic
- Gabrielle ??. Mechanic
- Valda Roberts, the first female apprentice mechanic
- Derris ??, Office
- Joy Drage. Office
- Julie Hanna. Office
- Grahame Wake.
- Eddy Wake
- Stanley Wake
- Brian Sheehan
- John Lamont
- Ric Wake
Information from other sources.
Wake’s Orbital Engine
Wake’s Garage houses a prototype orbital engine, Australia’s first, invented in Katanning by local engineers, the Wake Brothers, who ran the garage. John Wake, having first conceived the idea of an orbital engine during his teenage years, worked for many years with brother Lindsay on the design for a prototype orbital engine, which they finally built in 1960, pre-dating by ten years the orbital engine developed by Ralph Sarich at his Morley home in 1970-72, after he had been in the Wakes’ workshop.
The brothers later built a second prototype of their orbital engine at the Garage, at which period 13 men were employed there. The Wakes unsuccessfully applied to the State Government for financial assistance to further develop their invention.
Wake’s Garage has little aesthetic or architectural significance but high historical and social significance. With the large amounts of original machinery and equipment and records, the place is a time capsule of events and activities since it first opened it doors. There could be some scientific significance, with some of the machinery and equipment (some of which is still used) demonstrating the needs of automotive repairs.
The site of Wake’s Garage was originally used as stables and evidence of the stable floor still exists.
Since 1938, the site has been Wake’s Garage, the workshop still containing much original machinery and equipment. As well as the workshop there is also office space, with some records going back to the beginning of business.
The premises are a collection of iron and concrete block spaces with concrete and earth floors. The place is filled with machinery, motor parts, records and inventions. The architecture is unimportant; it is the contents and activities of the owners that gives the site its significance.
Click link below for full historical information:
State Heritage Council : Register of Heritage Places : Wakes Garage
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