The Remains of Otto’s Kiln in 1951
The Works in 1930. The building to the right was their office in Charlesworth Street. Mr Heathcote is standing on the verandah. The wooden buildings to the centre-left were destroyed by fire in 1936. The Works Manager, Mr W.E. Grey is in the centre of the group (the one with the tie). Very few of the others are identified.
These rollers are on display at Brickmakers Park, Stamford Road in Oakleigh
2. The mixed clay was stockpiled to age the material.3. The clay was then blended by an apron feeder, a series of steel pans attached to a chain drive that drew the crushed clay from the stockpile at a controlled speed and thickness.4. The blended clay was fed into a wet pan where it was extruded through a perforated floor.5. The clay was then crushed through differential rollers set about 1.5 metres apart.6. The clay then went through a second set of rollers about .75 metres apart.7. The now powdered mixture was then fed into a store mixer.8. The clay was then extruded through a pug mill and cut into lengths to form batts.9. The batts were fed into a mechanical press that formed them into the required shape and size.10. These “green” tiles were then stacked in a stillage. (A pallet or skid with a cage or sides or some form of support tailored to the material it is intended to carry. Some designs are stackable.)11. Tiles were air-dried until the moisture content was significantly reduced.12. The downdraught kilns fired the tiles.The fired tiles were sorted and stacked.
The Firing Area of a Tunnel Kiln Installed at the Colac Brickworks
Evans Brothers Tile Works, Oakleigh, Late 1940s
These are two segments of an Acid Resistant Ceramic ring made by Eureka during the 2nd World War for making Gun-Cotton. This also known as Nitrocellulose which is a highly flammable compound formed by treating cotton wool (cellulose) with a mixture of concentrated nitric acid and sulphuric acid. The resulting material looks like ordinary cotton wool but it burns much more fiercely, in a sudden flash. Only gaseous products are formed, so the combustion is ashless.
Another initiative taken by the Board in 1949 was to apply for an allocation of timber from the Forest Commission and establish the company's own sawmill to produce hardwood battens for the construction of tile roofs, as it was company policy to install the complete roof to new buildings with the specialized staff employed for that purpose. The demand for hardwood timber for house framing from the sawmills was such that 2" x 1" battens were in short supply. The mill was built, commissioned and managed by Cr A E (Alex) Mills who became sales manager in 1959.
The Board of Directors, under the chairmanship of Mr. L H Vernon, continued to increase the capacity of the plant and in 1959 extended the building, and installed two additional oil fired kilns, each with a capacity of 25,000 tiles, tile making equipment and a larger capacity extruder for building accessories with a major update of the clay grinding and screening plant. At this time, the manager Mr. W R Lewis, who commenced with tile company in 1923, resigned through ill health. Mr. L T (Len) Izard was appointed general manager in 1960.
The severe recession in the early 60's, (known as the “credit squeeze”) and the competition from concrete roof tiles resulted in a build up of stock and it was at this stage, as suggested by Mr. Vernon, products for the domestic market were designed. These included sill tiles as an alternative to bricks on edge for window-sills in brick veneers, and capping blocks and capping bricks for brick fence construction. These products were sought-after as brick manufacturers turned from pressing solid bricks to extruding perforated bricks, a technology which had been mastered and used by the Eureka Tile Company more than 30 years previous.
Under the management of Mr. lzard to combat the increasing acceptance of the cheaper concrete roof tile long-term employee Mr. Alex McNeiI was given the task of visiting builders in country Victoria to promote the company's product, as the company never had the need for such representation in the past. The company streamlined the production to meet the sales forecast and introduced a bonus scheme based on volume and quality.
Unfortunately the use of the railway for delivering the company's products to intra and inter state became too expensive because of the double handling and was dispensed with in favour of road transport which could deliver direct to the building sites. Palletization of the products and forklift truck loading of transports followed. Further improvements were made with the installation of an “humidity dryer”, using the latest technology of heating the products through in a humid atmosphere before-extracting moisture. With this method the tiles could be dried from the time of pressing and racking in 36 hours compared to the previous time of up to seven days, depending on climatic conditions.
The latest method developed in Europe for the production of "quarry 'tiles” for floors was to extrude the tiles in pairs, back to back cut to length automatically by a machine developed in Switzerland for that purpose, and separated after firing as part of the grading process. The Eureka Tile Company was one of the first to purchase the extrusion dies from Germany and introduced the "split tile" as an Australian made tile for the Australian market.
To keep abreast of the-latest developments in the clay industry a de-airing extruder was installed in 1967 for the production of building accessories, Mr. Gratton Shiel, the Chief manager of Brick and Pipe Industries, Melbourne was appointed to the Board and on his recommendation two gas fired shuttle kilns were installed in 1969/70 for the firing of floor tiles etc, and two additional de-airing extruders in 1970/7. The grinding equipment was up-dated with the latest technology in "multi-deck"' screening to double the prepared raw material output.
The Eureka Terra Cotta and Tile Company Pty Ltd still maintained its position with the best-equipped factory in Australia for the production of all types of clay roof tiles and clay building accessories with the further ability to manufacture world-class floor tiles. In 1970, Mr. Izard resigned his position as Manager to return to the Country Roads Board in his position as a Civil Engineer. The installation and commissioning of the new plant was left in the hands of factory management headed by Works Manager Mr. S A (Syd) Robinson, who retired in 1971 after fifty-one years service.
A modern equivalent of the de-airing extruder produced by the same company that made the machine in 1967.
After this time, things started to change. This article appeared in the Melbourne “AGE” newspaper on the 7th of March 1973.
This article appeared in the Melbourne “AGE” on the 30th of November 1972.
Hebrides Equities was a company registered in Gibraltar No 01594) now defunct. Soon after this takeover, the new owners began to sell off the assets. On the 2nd of April 1973, PGH Industries Ltd purchased the property and equipment and began trading as “Eureka Ceramics.” In 1974, Eureka Ceramics and PGH Quarry Tile were merged and combined with their Sydney PGH works at the outer suburb of Woodcroft. This new entity was named “PGH Eureka Ceramics.”
The next act in this part of the story took place on the second of May 1974 when the Eureka Terra Cotta and Tile Company of Australia Limited was de-listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The name was changed to Eureka Australian Assets Limited. This company was also de-listed, this time on the 30th of June 1976. P.G.H. Eureka Ceramics was deregistered as a business on the 5th of November 1985.
In 1982, their parent company was taken over by ACI (Australia) Ltd who were taken over in 1989 by the English company, BTR Nylex Ltd. They sold off most of the ACI holdings but kept PGH Eureka Ceramics. On the 3rd of July 1991,a notice appeared in the Victorian Government Gazette stating that Eureka Ceramics had abandoned their application for a mining lease.
In 1992, the Woodcroft plant closed and was their bathroom products division was relocated to Ballarat where Eureka Tiles Pty Ltd once again became a privately owned company. Eureka Tiles was majority owned by an Australian private equity company, Catalyst, following a management buyout in 1997. Eureka Tiles, which had two plants in Ballarat employing about 90 people, was Australia's largest tile producer.
This continued until May 2002 when the company was bought out by Brickworks Limited. They combined with the Austral Tile Company and continued under the name “Eureka Tiles Australia.” Austral Tiles Pty Ltd, wholly owned by Brickworks, paid $12.75 million for Eureka, which has an annual production capacity of one million square metres of unglazed and glazed floor tiles and more than 200,000 units of bathroom fittings. The acquisition includes $9.6 million in land, plant and equipment and $4.7 million in inventories.
Eureka Tiles Australia Limited closed on the 23rd of December 2009 citing cheap Asian imports and the strong Australian Dollar as reasons for the closure. There were 24 employees at that time, an indication of how automation had impacted the industry.