Pressure Lamps International

Austramax (Aust.) Pty. Ltd.

153 Melville Road, West Brunswick, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

©AWMoore 20016


Many enthusiasts would argue that the Austramax is the only enduring Australian pressure lantern. It is true that the likes of Coleman and Aladdin have allowed manufacture of their products under license in Australia, and that others such as Gloria and Handi have manufactured their own products with some limited success, and that Kopsen & Nettlefold produced very capable clones of most of the pre-war Tilley Australian export range. However, these have all fallen by the wayside, leaving the Victoria family-owned Austramax company as the last operational manufacturer.

Production of Austramax lanterns began in West Brunswick, Victoria, during the early 1940s, at a time when importing goods from other countries was fraught with political and practical difficulty. There was a clear need in this period for Australia to reduce it's dependency on England, and to become much more self sufficient.

austramaxTA18061941p4

From "The Age" (Melbourne) June 1941

The advert above names the Austramax Lantern, but it does not give a name for the business operating out of 153 Melville Road. In the 1930's the address was already home for an "Engineering factory" which for some reason did not give a name in any their adverts. There is no reason to suspect that there was a change of occupier, and it seems likely that the unknown engineering factory ultimately went on to produce lanterns. On the other hand, there seems no proof at the moment that this was the case, and owners, products and names may have changed. There are several references to  the premises at 153 Melville Rd Pascoe Vale South, and although these days the two districts of Brunswick and Pascoe are adjacent and the same Melville Rd runs through both, it appears the advert contents are unrelated. Austramax (Aust) Pty still operate from the same Brunswick address at this time in 2016 having undergone several small variations in name. The most interesting "change" occurs between 1946 through to 1950 when the name Estee Austramax Pty was used following some kind of business association between the Austramax factory and the Estee Trading Co (of the somewhat aptly named Hardware Street, Melbourne). It seems entirely likely that Estee Trading Co either took over or absorbed the already functioning manufacturing factory because the name changed accordingly in their adverts for workers.  Some, if not all, lanterns from this period are marked "Norman", probably after the patent holder Norman Grummet (the Grummet family in Melbourne included men with trades such as blacksmith, mechanic, and engineer.) The evidence for continued production through these years is there in the advertisements, and collectors around the world continue to discuss the relatively small variations in the actual lanterns that have survived.

 austramaxTA31081946p23

 1946 Advert for workers, giving the "new" name Estee Austramax

Records show that a patent application related to the Austramax Co. was made and granted in 1945/6 for lantern components. In the years following WW2, the company also produced a range of domestic products, including small kitchen-appliances and floor cleaning machines, following on into industrial electrical equipment. All the lantern parts were hand made at that time, until purpose designed tooling was brought into use. The family that took over as owners at the end of the Estee period around 1950 still own the company today.

The lantern range is small - apparently only one basic design was produced. This was a single mantle kerosene lantern, similar in shape and style to the Coleman single mantle range, and was indeed produced at the same time as Coleman lanterns such as the 247 and 249 were being made under license. The Austramax was and still is a 300cp lantern, and has remained virtually unchanged over the years. Modern lanterns are slightly different to the originals in that there is more plastic, a common trend in almost all manufacturing industries! Particularly disliked by Austramax users is the plastic pressure release valve, which makes a really nice lantern feel rather cheap. On the other hand, the reflector and guard is a real Aussie masterpiece - strong enough to withstand a gravel onslaught from a road-train!

As far as I can tell, the progression of model numbers has remained very simple, 1/300, 2/300 and the current 3/300. Colours have varied over time, with black, blue, red, and green hoods over a plated brass tank. Some variants with mottled grey porcelain hoods have been reported as well, and there are slight differences in hood shape between models. Peak production was in the 1960s, with over 50,000 lanterns made each year, but by 2000 it was less than one fiftieth of that.

Austramax 2/300 lanternred4Austramax 3/300

Selection of Austramax 300 cp lanterns

 

There is some disagreement between collectors regarding the glass globe, should it be straight or bulged? It's unwise to trust too heavily in artistic license in adverts, but sometimes that is all there is to go on. However, the boxes of recent Austramax lanterns show bulge globes, whereas a large proportion of these lanterns in Australia are found with straight glass. Maybe both styles were used! A good source of information shared by collectors can be found at http://www.classicpressurelamps.com

Today there are several Austramax companies operating out of the address at 153 Melville St,  dealing with truck rental, electric lighting, and switch-gear as well as lanterns. Austramax (Aust) Pty, Austramax (AU) Pty, and Austramax Pty. Some clarification would always be welcome, so please use the contact form to contribute.

References:

Personal Communications, collectors and suppliers.

Strong G (2002) Historic lamp lights up 50 years of family enterprise. Extract from "The Age". Melbourne, May 2002.

"The Age", Melbourne, 18 June 1941 p4

"The Age" Melbourne, 31 Aug 1946 p23

 

 

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