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Bertha Benz Run to Goulburn

August 2015

Peter Kunz

# Event - Bertha Benz 01

Bertha Benz before her run (recreation)

Attendees: Richard and Diane Jackson, Kerry and Lynne McPherson, Terry and Elaine Larkin, Barry and Rowena Sargent, Denis and Yola Murphy, Tom and Joy Charnock, Raymond and Diana Tomkins, Brad and Bernadette Aitken, Peter Kunz and Sophia Zimoch, Werner Binder.

Special welcome to new members: Geoff Hosey, John and Elizabeth Tracey.

Every year in August our club organises a Bertha Benz commemorative run. This run commemorates the intrepid trip that 39 year old Bertha Benz made with her two sons Eugen and Richard in her husband’s three-wheeler car (Benz Patent Motorwagen) without his permission, from Mannheim to Pforzheim to visit her mother and return in 1886. Leaving at dawn and arriving at dusk, this astonishing journey of 106 kilometres took 12 hours and is considered the first long distance motor vehicle journey. She returned the next day. Significantly, it was also this trip which proved to the sceptical public the utility of the first automobile.

Our Sunday August 2, 2015 our club members mustered outside an international burger conglomerate, off Northbourne Avenue, in Lyneham.

The weather was cold, cloudy and grey, but spirits were high as we departed in our own less historic (but less histrionic) Mercedes-Benz Patent Motorwagens, heading for Goulburn along the Hume Highway.  No wonder – compared to the hurdles faced by the intrepid Bertha Benz and issue, this trip was a doddle. Bertha had to buy fuel, called ligroin, from a pharmacy, have the chain of her Motorwagen repaired, fix the brakes (she invented a brake lining) and use a hatpin to clean a fuel pipe.

Upon arrival in Goulburn we made a bee line for the Roses Café which is opposite the town park. Within its snug confines we discovered that two couples from NSW, the Sargents and Tomkins were already ensconsed, adding to the healthy group of participants.

After a fortifying cup of tea or coffee we made our first cultural pitstop, the Old Goulburn Brewery. Our guide was an effervescent gentleman called Michael who gave us a fascinating lecture on the convoluted making of ale from malt.  It made me realise how much labour goes into preparing any ale, beer, wine or other beverage which we toss so casually down our gullets. Still, we seem to keep a lot of people employed so we shouldn’t feel too bad about it…

The buildings were designed by none other than Lachlan Macquarie’s favourite architect Francis Greenway, so the whole complex is a heritage icon. The Brewery is a massive complex which includes, a mews, tobacco kiln, flourmill, cooperage, art gallery, restaurant and workers cottages.

One puzzle that no one supplied an answer to was why a replica of a Viking longship was majestically marooned in one of the halls of the Brewery, but then again it was such a deliciously incongruous find that I think it is far more intriguing not to have a pat answer to hand. Let the mystery remain…

From the Brewery we progressed to the Workers Club for lunch. We were given a table removed from the general public, and best of all, we were blessed with the arrival of fleeting sunshine which bathed us all in a luminous glow throughout our wholesome repast. One almost expected the benevolent Swabian ghosts of Bertha and Karl Benz to waft through the cantilevered windows…

Coincidentally, awards were presented to all those who dressed in period costume a la Bertha or Karl Benz. Awards went to the newly anointed Presidential husband and First Lady, not simply as a result of the fawning of the multitude, but because they were worthy, if singular entrants in their respective categories. Nevertheless, their sartorial efforts were of note. Diane Jackson sported Olde Worlde couture topped off with a hat which had the whiff of Bertha making a quick detour to the Grand Bazaar of Constantinople about it, while Richard Jackson sported Edwardian car racing goggles and a dashing 1920’s style coat. Richard didn’t have a Blitzen Benz or Targa Florio Mercedes racing car to accompany his ensemble, but he did bring his faithful green  circa 1960 Finnie, which still was the oldest car to make the trip.

Next year let’s make a real competition of it! I made a mental note to make a goose of myself and enter the Karl Benz category of the competition. As they say, watch this space…

After lunch we made a short drive to the Pump House, operational from 1886, which sat in a picturesque location beside the local river. It is described as the only complete, operational, stream powered municipal water supply, left in its original location in the Southern Hemisphere. It looked neat and cute, which is unusual for an example of Victorian era industrial architecture.

The Pump House contained various pumps and engines designed to ensure that Goulburn residents of the late 1880’s didn’t lack for clean water. The Appleby beam engine and horizontal engine looked freshly painted and a tribute to British engineering prowess in the Victorian age.

If the spectres of Herr Dr and Frau Benz were not present at the Workers Club, they were certainly in evidence at the Pump House. By a coincidence which can only be described as eerily freakish, the Pumphouse had, as part of their regular display, a copy of the patent application for the Benz three-wheeler together with a meticulous scale model and associated information!

This happy coincidence permitted our official photographer (Kerry McPherson) to photograph our latterday Frau Bertha Benz holding the pertinent information.

After viewing the Pump House we were treated to a friendly afternoon tea by our host, Julie, in a tea house which had previously been an old school room from Taralga.

The tour culminated in a trip to the local War Memorial, a sobering reminder of the sacrifices of our forebears, which allows us today to cruise this country in peace and prosperity.

Thank go to Kerry and Lynne McPherson for organising such an interesting day tour. The number of participants was a record for a day trip and you can be sure that the Club Committee and other members will be working hard to keep the tours available on a regular basis.

Next up in October is a whale watching tour down Merimbula way. Can’t wait for that one...

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