The Rushworth Wizard

[picture of Steam Traction Engine]

Click here for historical and new photos of The Wizard

The Rushworth Wizard or Fowler Steam Traction Engine was built in Leeds, England, in 1907. George Risstrom of Rushworth purchased it 7 years later from the Dwyer family in Murchison. George used it mainly to for hauling firewood out of the forest to the Rushworth Railway yard. During the off season it was used for chaff cutting, threshing and house removals. The house on the corner of Old Tatura Road and Abeckett St in Rushworth is one of those moved from the Waranga Basin to Rushworth.

During the mid 1930's the Steam Traction Engine was used as power for milling fence droppers in the forest. This was continued until the late 1930's when a permanent Sawmill was established at the rear of a property in Murchison Road. On leaving school, Ron and his brothers Doug, Jack, and Roy all worked with their father George on the wood with the Steam Traction Engine.

This engine was one of about 9 Steam Traction Engines working in the area in the early part of the century until the 1930's. These all had to be registered with the Country Road Board to allow them to be used on the roads. When the Steam Traction Engines were going between Rushworth and Whroo they would blow their whistles at the Whistle Post on the Whroo Rushworth Road to warn horse teams of their approach, as the Steam Traction Engines had right of way. Only 2 whistle posts remain and the Whroo Road one is classified by the National Trust. In those days there were no weight restrictions signs and the Steam Traction Engine often accidently crashed through small bridges on local roads, causing many nervous and anxious moments. Particularly nerve racking was crossing the Waranga Western Channel. Ron knows of at least seven bridges the Steam Traction Engine broke through. From the 1930's and for many years later, a great joy for school children each year was to be taken by Steam Traction Engine out to the Waranga Basin for their annual Sunday School Picnic.

Ron Risstrom had been offered many thousands more for this Steam Traction Engine from overseas buyers. But because of his love of the Steam Traction Engine and his desire to keep it in the town of Rushworth, he sold it to the Rushworth Museum for only $30,000 which we believe was an extremely generous donation to the town and its Citizens. Keeping this wonderful Steam Traction Engine, which is such a great part of Rushworth's unique history, in the town, depends on the many volunteers who keep the Rushworth Wizard running. Today there are 3 Rushworth men who have certificates to enable them to operate the Rushworth Wizard and it can be seen taking a part in the Annual Rushworth Easter Parade as well as market days in Rushworth.