One-and-a-half tonnes of printing history on the move

By John Lewis

Not many people spend their weekends hauling a piece of 19th century mechanical history, weighing 1.5 tonnes, on and off their trailer.

But that's what Lee and Adrian Holland do.

The couple from Talbot, near Ballarat, spent last weekend at the Emerald Bank Heritage Rally in Kialla demonstrating the wonders of their petrol-driven Chandler and Price printing press, made in Cleveland, Ohio in 1898.

"It's a hobby, we sell a few prints but not enough to really cover our costs. We just ask for accommodation and food," Adrian said.

Adrian and his son Aaron modified the press to run on belts driven by a Sundial petrol engine.

Lee said people love to see the printing press working.

"The older people want to know about the mechanics and the speeds, but the younger people are just fascinated by the whole thing," she said.

Lee said she uses modern comparisons when explaining to young people how a printing press works.

"I take it back to what they have in their home. So the engine is the power plug, the belts and the cords are the power leads and Adrian is the computer," she said.

Adrian and his engineer son Aaron took on the challenge of restoring the 120-year-old press when Adrian's employer, Maryborough's McPherson's Printing Group, no longer needed it.

"It finished its life there doing wedding invitations and it was covered in gold ink, so we had to clean it up a fair bit," Adrian said.

He said the press was originally treddle-operated, but it was adapted to run on belts driven by a 1946 Sundial petrol engine made by HV McKay, of Sunshine Harvester fame.

He said it now produces about four horsepower and needs a good 11 metre-long area in which to operate.

When Lee and Adrian are not carting their piece of printing history to rallies and heritage shows, they are scouring antique shops or swap-meets for good quality historic printing blocks.

Adrian revealed a framed print of a Ronaldson Tippet shredding machine printed from a metal block he found in a Warnambool antique shop.

"Look at that quality - it's pretty good," he said.

The Chandler and Price printing press still produces fine quality images.

He said early printing methods were making a comeback.

"It's sustainable and uses disposable materials. There's now a cottage industry growing around old printers. We can do short runs for niche markets and things like paper bags," he said.

The furthest Lee and Adrian have travelled with their printing press is to a heritage show in Biloela, Queensland. Adrian said it was a memorable trip for all the wrong reasons.

"It took three days to get there and the four-wheel drive engine blew up on the way back. We were in the middle of nowhere - thank God for the RACV," he said.

Lee said they had been coming to the Shepparton Motor Museum at Emerald Bank ever since the heritage show started six years ago.

"The people here are wonderful - they always look after us, and I love to share our passions with everyone," she said.

This weekend they are off to the Wedderburn Vintage Machinery Twilight Rally.