Apr 03, 2017 News
– famous ‘walking dragline,’ Mackenzie railway sold off
By Enid Joaquin
“What happened here is a real travesty, because certain items that tied into the history of the town, should not have been touched” -Former IMC Chairman
Tons upon tons of scrap metal were ‘harvested’ from Linden over the past two decades from derelict machines that lay dormant in the graveyards of mined out sites.
The famous Bucket Wheel Excavator, the 13,000 (volt) Walking Dragline, and various other machinery could not escape the tentacles of the voracious scrap metal dealers, whose insatiable appetite they fed.
Even the famous railway that extended from the bauxite plant at Mackenzie to mining sites at Three Friends, Yararibo and Maria Elizabeth were not spared, or those on the west bank at Wismar, which led to Rockstone.
The relic of the famous Hope Bridge at three Friends – that too was plundered and unceremoniously sold off.
Former IMC Chairman of the Linden Town Council and former bauxite executive Orrin Gordon in reflecting on the ‘plundering’ of these historic artifacts, posited, “What happened here is a real travesty, because certain items that tied into the history of the town, should not have been touched- but there was no supervision of what took place with regards to the harvesting of scrap metal.” Gordon said that no mechanisms were put in place, and as such, there was no proper monitoring of the trade.
He pointed out that while former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds had approved of the removal of certain derelict machines for the scrap metal trade, those persons ‘on the ground’, who were tasked with overseeing the trade did not implement measures to safeguard important and historic artifacts.
Gordon further acknowledged that even though some items had to be gotten rid of through the sale of scrap metal, some unscrupulous persons took advantage of the situation, and the community would have lost as a result, both in terms of financial returns and historical artifacts.
Kenneth Simmons, the senior vice President of the Region Ten Tourism Association said that he is saddened that the mining town has been deprived of certain items that could have been exhibited at the Industrial museum, located in the old railroad yard opposite the Watooka Club.
The centennial of bauxite mining was launched at the site, which was also officially declared open.
But at present, the only artifacts to be seen at the facility are two locomotives that were used to haul both the bauxite ore trains and the Pullman, a few scooters that were used to transport worker’s meals to the various mining sites, and a huge dragline bucket.
A derelict carriage from the old workers train lies in the nearby bushes at the mercy of the weather.
An old bauxite worker in alluding to the demise of the bucket wheel excavator (wheeler) lamented, “It’s really sad the way these things just end up as scrap metal, because the wheeler was still working when it became obsolete-I remember working on it just before retiring from the company and it was in tip top shape; nothing was wrong with it. I believe these things should have been saved for posterity, so that the young people today could have seen what a wheeler looked like- the real thing, and how it worked. But instead it was cut up and sold as scrap metal.
Paul Jones, a welder/ fabricator who in an earlier interview expressed interest in rehabilitating the old train carriage, echoed similar sentiments with regard to the 13,000 dragline.
“The dragline could have been put in some area set aside, where people could go and view it, so that they could really appreciate how these huge machines worked and how they benefitted the bauxite industry.”
Many more sentiments were echoed regarding the relic that was left of the old Hope Bridge.
Residents of Three Friends and even visitors, decried how the lone column that was left standing and had been considered an important landmark by many, had been unceremoniously ‘cut down’ and sold off by scrap metal dealers.
The Hope Bridge was reportedly the first bridge built across the Demerara River. It was built at the famous Three Friends and Hope Mines to facilitate the transport of bauxite across the river.
It was later dismantled and some of the components used on the present day Mackenzie/Wismar Bridge.
But one of the columns was left standing at Three Friends. Unfortunately that did not escape the scrap metal dealers. Today, all that is left of the famous relic is the foundation that lies embedded in the dirt.
Many have cried shame over the ‘fate’ of what was considered a historical artifact.
Last year, during the centennial observation of bauxite mining in Linden, three centennial stamps were unveiled at Three Friends Mine, in proximity to where the last vestiges of the old Hope Bridge once stood.
Scrap metal trading was suspended on June 15, 2015 to facilitate a forensic audit which was completed in December of the same year. The audit which was done by Chartered Accountants Ram and McRae had recommended that the legislation governing the local industry is in need of an update.
However, last month, Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced that the trade would recommence for three months to allow dealers the opportunity to market what would have accumulated over the past 19 months, when the trade was suspended.
Harmon had made the announcement during a post cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency. He said that Cabinet granted its limited approval for a limited restart of the trade across Guyana.
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