Unit 2: Travel and Transport

In this unit students will look at early modes of transports with reference to the families who lived and worked on the Duntroon Estate. This unit also explores students' own families and how transport has changed in the lifetimes of their grandparents, parents and themselves.

Read the background information for the unit, and then select which activities you would like the students to complete. Don't forget that some of the Photo Gallery pictures link with this unit.


Before engines were invented, people travelled by sailing ships, row boats, horse and cart, horseback, hot air balloon, bicycle, or they walked. The timeline below indicates some of the various methods of transport invented since 4500BC.

-4500 : Sailing ships are made in Mesopotamia
-3500 : Wheeled carts are invented
-3500 : River boats are invented
-2000 : Horses are tamed and used for transport
770 : Iron horseshoes come into common use
1783 : Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier launch the first hot air balloons
1814 : George Stephenson builds the first practical steam powered railroad locomotive
1862 : Jean Lenoir makes a gasoline-engine automobile
1903 : Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright fly the first motor-driven airplane
1908 : Henry Ford develops the assembly line method of automobile manufacturing
1969 : First manned mission to the Moon
1981 : First flight of the space shuttle

Bullocks and Horses on the Land

Text Box:    Riding ‘side saddle’  Riding a horse was a common way of travelling, especially in the country. Women often rode 'side saddle'. This means that both their legs were on the same side of the horse. Side saddle riding is becoming popular once again. A growing number of interested people are now competing side saddle, often in period costume.

In many parts of Australia, when people wanted to transport a heavy load they often used a team of bullocks. A bullock is a strong type of bull trained to pull loads and respond to commands. The wagons, or drays, they pulled were strongly built to carry large, often very heavy, loads.

The lead pair were the most experienced, whilst the polers (at the back, harnessed to the pole) were the strongest.

Bullocks had to be given names that would sound good and distinctive when 'sung out', so the driver could command the team. George Blundell's son Fred had the lead pair of Smut and Smiler.

A bullock team could only travel about 5 to 10 miles per day, compared with 12 to 18 miles a day with a horse and cart. Bullocks were better for long distance trips than horses as they fed off the land. Horses required quality feed of oats, and this would have had to be transported with them.

George Blundell was employed by the Campbells of the Duntroon Estate, which was located in the Canberra-Yass district. He would drive the team, pulling a load of wool bales, to Sydney and return with supplies. These supplies would be items not available to the rural community and would be chiefly for the Campbell family. Limited access to commercial outlets meant self-sufficiency was essential for most families. Many resources, such as building materials, came from the local environment and almost everything was reused. The trip from Canberra to Sydney now takes a little over three hours, one way, by car but took the bullocks three weeks.

As shown, the bullocks were harnessed in pairs of beasts that had proven to work well together. They often had matching names. Here are some examples:

Charles Frederick (Fred) Blundell in charge of the Blundell bullock team

In the main photo, are Charles Frederick (Fred) Blundell in charge of the Blundell bullock team and his lead bullocks called Smut and Smiler.


It was also common to name bullocks after political figures or after their colouring or markings – hence, Cherry or Plum (colouring), Saddle, Star, Spot (markings), Barton and Parkes (public figures).

The yoke was used to harness two bullocks to each other. The wooden beam rested across their shoulders, and was held in place by the ox-bows (the adjustable metal 'collar' piece) looping under their necks. The pair of bullocks was then connected to the rest of the team by attaching a strong chain to the large metal ring located in the middle of the wooden beam.

The bullock driver – or bullocky – might use up to 20 pairs of bullocks in a team, depending on the weight of the load they had to pull.

Carbide lampBicycles were a valuable form of transport for early pioneers. Travellers often rode late into the evening and needed lighting for their bicycle. Carbide lamps are known to have been used around 1897, but it wasn't until the 1920s that they became widely used. Light is created in these lamps due to the chemical reaction between calcium carbide and water. They were popular for their durability and economy. The carbide lamp was slowly abandoned as electric lights became more reliable and less expensive.

The lamp on display at Blundells Cottage is nickel-plated and has a clamping system on the rear to fix it to the bicycle. It was manufactured about 1924. Gallery link


Being able to make and repair shoes would have been a valued skill – especially in large families such as the Blundells. With no large cities or towns nearby, the people living on Duntroon relied on the bullock teams to bring items such as clothing and shoes from Sydney. However, the cost would have been prohibitive for many families so clothes and shoes were repaired or altered to make them last as long as possible and handed down from one child to another.

ShoemakingTo make shoes, leather was cut out using the curved blade. It was then shaped and stitched around the shoe last or mould. The sole was then nailed in place. This was made from thick leather and metal caps were also nailed on over this. These helped the sole last longer on rough roads.

Travel and Transport Activities

Download activity sheets (PDF:1.3MB)

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