Heritage Park Overview
Throughout the Heritage Park the historical places and interpretive displays are marked by three logos, green for the Women's Prison and Factory which dates from 1829 to 1839; blue for Hangar 7 where secret intelligence work was carried out during World War Two; and orange for the Allison Engine Testing Stands. Entering the building via the main doors you will see an enormous aircraft engine on display in a glass enclosure. This engine, on loan from Sydney's Powerhouse Museum was one of more than 70,000 Allison engines built for Allied fighter aircraft during World War Two. This actual engine was used in three different RAAF Kitty Hawks in World War Two. You can read about these aircraft on the display panel next to the lift. One such Kitty Hawk is pictured above the engine. The full colour advertisements flanking the engine were a common site in glossy magazines during the war, promoting the Allison Engine company and the war effort.
The 28 litre 12 cylinder Allison engines were overhauled in Brisbane at the nearby General Motors Holden factory on Sandgate Road in Albion, then tested here at the Allison Engine Testing Stands adjacent to the main runway of the Eagle Farm Airfield, Australia's World War Two aviation hub. Eagle Farm was at the centre of Australia's war effort under the leadership of General MacArthur, Commander in Chief of the allied forces in the South West Pacific. Taking the stairs you will pass by a large photograph of Camp Ascot and Camp Doomben, two of many tent cities accommodating thousands of Americans during the War. Between 1941 and 1945 more than a million Americans passed through Brisbane. The local population at the time was a mere 330,000. Camp Ascot occupied the whole of the Eagle Farm Racecourse, and Camp Doomben occupied the Doomben Racecourse – both next door to the airport. You’ll see many planes along the runways and around the hangars at the bottom right hand part of the image. At the top of the stairs you will see the entrance to the Interpretive Centre. Inside, you’ll see the display panels which will take you on a journey through history from early convict times of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, through to Eagle Farm's involvement in early aviation, its pivotal role in World War Two, and its renaissance as Brisbane's main airport after the War. In museums, there are three types of visitors, streakers, strollers and students. A streaker could get a good overview in about 10 minutes, a stroller might spend half an hour looking more closely, and a student could spend up to two or three hours absorbing all the content on the display panels, in the movie theatre, and on the touchscreens. The earliest times, at the right hand end of the room as you enter, feature display cabinets of real objects from convict times. There is a large interactive 3-D printed replica of the Women's Prison and Factory site. Press the buttons to light up the different buildings which were on the site. The first of the touchscreens covers the early history from exploration to early settlement. The second touchscreen combines the aviation and war histories, from the record-shattering feats of pioneer men and women pilots, through the history of Eagle Farm as an early airport, home for QANTAS and Australian National Airways, through World War Two and the story of the Allison Engine, and the post-war era of Brisbane's modern airport. In 1988 the new International airport opened just to the east of here, subsequently the Eagle Farm site became TradeCoast Central, a busy commercial and industrial precinct. The short film playing in the small cinema brings the history to life with sound and moving pictures. To the left hand end of the room from the entry, there is a door to an expansive viewing balcony, where you can see all three heritage sites. To the north the park is the site of the Eagle Farm Women's Prison and Factory Site. Women working the fields and doing other prison work are interspersed with a replica section of the prison walls and interpretive displays. To the east you can see the brick buildings and concrete blades of the Allison Engine Testing Stands, one of very few remaining structures from World War Two. This is where the powerful V12 Allison engines were tested. On one occasion a propeller flew off, taking a big divot out of the runway on its way to disappearing into the bush. To the south west, at the Backhouse Place end of the balcony, you can see the igloo-shaped Hangar 7 in the distance, where Clyde Gessel's team of aviation engineers rebuilt Japanese fighter aircraft, salvaged from wrecks recovered in New Guinea. The first of these was the infamous Mitsubishi Zero, Japan's almost invincible fighter plane, far exceeding the performance of any allied fighter plane at that time, a key factor in Japan's victories over China, and involved in the attack on the United States of America at Pearl Harbour in December 1941.
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