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The Sunshine Harvester Works

Sunshine, Melbourne, Victoria

For 80 years, Sunshine, in Melbourne's industrial west, was home to the major agricultural implements factory, the Sunshine Harvester Works. In 1906 industrialist Hugh Victor McKay relocated his Sunshine Harvester Works from Ballarat to Braybrook Junction, a small village outside Melbourne. Many of the local Ballarat workers followed. By 1907 McKay's Harvester Works had come to dominate the area. Braybrook Junction was renamed Sunshine, after the factory.

Colour photograph of a street intersection in Sunshine.
Sunshine streetscape. Photo: Lean Bartsch.

As well as building a successful factory, McKay established a housing estate at Sunshine. Here his employees could buy houses and enjoy community facilities such as gardens, tennis courts and a church. The streets were lined with trees and electricity was supplied to the housing estate from the factory.

Sunshine harvester

This Sunshine stripper harvester was one of 2161 made at the Sunshine Harvester Works in 1911. It is a horse-drawn wood-framed harvester with a five foot (or 1.5 metre) comb.

Wood-framed harvester with comb at front and 'Sunshine' stamped in metal at the top
The Sunshine harvester. Photo: Lannon Harley.

McKay did not invent the idea of a stripper harvester, a machine which could strip, thresh and harvest crops in one operation, but his Sunshine model was among the first commercially successful stripper harvesters.

By the 1920s the factory was the largest agricultural implements manufacturer in the southern hemisphere, employing over 2500 workers. As well as the Sunshine harvester, the works also manufactured other agricultural implements, supplying to farmers across Australia and the world.

The exhibition also includes a steam whistle which signalled the start and end of the factory's working day.