Volunteers pull on their boots to mop up after floodwater inundated steam shed at Maitland

Volunteers at the Maitland Steam and Antique Machinery Association Shed are counting the cost of four feet of floodwater which went through their shed in the last fortnight.

The rally ground is still underwater just off the New England Highway where the steam shed keeps all of the machinery and train parts that are put on display during Hunter Valley Steamfest.

Volunteers run the shed, repairing historical machinery and keeping it up to scratch so it can be put on display for the public to see every year.

President of the Maitland Steam and Antique Machinery Association and Chairman of Hunter Valley Steamfest Peter Garnham said the volunteers have been there since Sunday morning emptying the shed.

“Four-foot of flood water went through the shed and went into all the motors and floated all the oil out of the motors and deposited it all around the shed. As the floodwaters went down the oil went down with it on all the walls and through engines and everything else that was in there so it’s all being degreased and high pressure cleaned,” he said.

“Normally we have enough notice but this flood, we were here at half past six in the morning and it was a long way off flooding. I drove past at half past ten in the morning and there was still six feet and no one could have expected all that water, six feet in three hours. We just couldn’t get it out.”

“But that’s what we get, we live on the floodplain.”

“Good chance to give it a good clean-up!”

It’s another blow to the group after Hunter Valley Steamfest was cancelled twice this year due to flooding and won’t be back until April next year.

“Things are looking slim but we’ll get there, we’ll beat it,” said Peter.

Peter said the shed has really become a men’s shed for the metal trade for many in the Maitland area, with retired ex-power station workers, engineers, fitters and turners and welders all pitching in on Tuesdays, Thursdays and most weekends.

“Most of the men here are retired and enjoy the fact that they can get away and talk to the blokes again.”

At the moment though, the volunteers have been lending a hand every day to get the clean-up job done and so have many in the community.

“All of the community and businesses that we deal with, they’ve all contacted us saying what can we do to help,” said Peter. 

“It’s a very close community in Maitland and the hunter valley. Everybody helps people in times of need which is good.”