Ken Aberdeen at work in Maryborough
Ken Aberdeen at work in Maryborough

Manufacturing hub has left its mark on Heritage City

IN 1869, Walkers Ltd opened its doors in Maryborough and a manufacturing hub was born.

Today the business, which was acquired by Downer in 2001, is celebrating it’s 150th anniversary, looking back at its origins and the role it has played in Maryborough’s industrial history.

From manufacturing countless sugar mills to building ships for the Royal Australian Navy, the factory helped put the Heritage City on map.

Australian Navy, Maryborough is known for producing the equipment that keeps Australia running.

Rail has always been a core capability for the site, which built Queensland’s first locomotive – the Mary Ann – in 1873.

The pioneering steam locomotive was just the start for Maryborough, and the factory would go on to manufacture over 900 locomotives and 1000 rail cars, the most recent of which was completed earlier this year.

“The Maryborough factory is an icon of the Fraser Coast community and Downer is proud to play a part in its 150-year history,” Tim Young, executive general manager of Downer’s Rollingstock Services, said.

“With upgrade work on the New Generation Rollingstock fleet well underway, and fourteen apprentices starting in the new year, now is the perfect time to celebrate our proud history and bright future.

“It’s an especially important time for our more than 250 employees on site.

“Some of them have worked here for over 40 years and their contribution to our business is undeniable.”

For employee Ken Aberdeen, working in rail runs in his blood.

His father Malcolm worked at the Maryborough factory for nearly 50 years and today Ken and his brother both work on site.

“I finished school in grade 10,” Mr Aberdeen said.

“ The next year was 1971. I started here at Walkers as a boy labourer in the pattern shed with the pattern makers helping them out and in 1972 I got an apprenticeship as an apprentice fitter working in the shipyards in Maryborough.”

Today, Mr Aberdeen is a fitter in the bogie shop, working to overhaul train components that come in for refurbishment.