This is an image of The Flat betting area at Eagle Farm Racecourse. This photograph was taken when the Julius Tote was still in operation. The Flat is unusual in that it existed in the infield area in the centre of the track. Obviously, access to and from any infield area is prohibited when a race is being run. Neville Mitchell informed me that The Flat areas on racetracks were for the "working class", they had small admittance prices 2/6 or 5/-, with usually meagre facilities or shelter. The reason I have presented this image is because I mentioned the Flat in the text associated with the first image of the Queensland Racecourses section of the Photo Gallery. I referred to it in the context of the historic buildings at the track giving the impression that nothing much changes when in reality a lot of changes do take place. In the second and third image pages of the Queensland Racecourses section of the Photo Gallery, I have presented main tote houses that I saw demolished and this image is an example of change prior to my time at Eagle Farm. I inherited the engineering staff who used to work on the Julius totes prior to the advent of the computer totes that my team and I introduced at Queensland racetracks. I recollect some of these ex Julius Tote engineers telling me about The Flat which no longer existed.
More after the image...
I think the Indicator in this image is a combination of two types of indicator. The Win and Place odds are a blind-type indicator and the Double Will-pays, or what some call Double Approximates, part of the indicator, is a lamp-box type. Both these indicator types are names derived from the method of displaying the digits. The new lamp-box indicator was considerably longer and taller than the one in this image. Having mentioned the Double Will-Pays, the previous image in this section of the Photo Gallery shows the paper-tape equipment on which the doubles tote of this era was based.
My staff and I looked after all the computer tote equipment including the new lamp-box indicator. I can remember being involved in a few difficult to identify problems with the Lamp-box indicator, which resulted in significant overtime to repair. One of them I found rather amusing, being related to wildlife. After quite a lengthy analytical procedure, I discovered a data bus cable, that supplied character data to 24 lamp boxes, had half of its conductors severed. A semicircle of cable with a radius of half the width of the cable was missing from a segment of it. The edge of the semicircle looked serrated looking like it was done with small teeth. I presumed it was a small animal probably a rat. The rodent, if that is what it was, had not bitten the cable out in one bite, as the semicircle was too large, but gnawed at the cable moving his head from side to side forming a nibbled out arc. The cable lay in a cable tray buried in other cables concealing it from view, when performing a quick examination of the mass of cabling.
This new lamp-box indicator stood in the infield near the winning post. When this new indicator was installed and my staff and I spent time working on this indicator I noticed remnants of the flat. To the east of this new indicator were some cement foundations where The Flat used to be. There were some stairs leading down from ground level into a long trench which possibly aligned with and lay below the indicator in the image. It was reminiscent of a large vehicle inspection trench for working on the underside of road vehicles if you did not have a hydraulic hoist.
During one of my visits to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Matthew Connell, who was Curator of Science and Mathematics at the time and now is Principal Curator, was showing me over the Museum's Automatic Totalisators Limited archive. We were wading through voluminous piles of documents and photographs. I came to a photograph, and at a glance it appeared somewhat familiar however I quickly categorised it as not particularly interesting and moved on in the pile. Matthew stopped me and suggested I take a closer look at the photograph. Now I recognised the location of the photograph, which was the western entrance stairway into the Eagle Farm lamp-box indicator building, which piqued my interest. My next thought was I should know the person standing on the stairway as my staff were the only ones working on the equipment inside. Next I had the impression the person in the photo looked extremely geeky, in such a wide long outdated tie. The next inspiration was to look at the face to identify the person. Revelation at last, it was a young me! I found it curious that I had not immediately recognised myself as Matthew obviously had done. He must have found it quite amusing how long it took me to realise who it was. After I commented that a photograph of me was in the Museum's collection Matthew uttered to me Ah, you are a matter of public record now!
Now my old friend, having regard for your fascination with the happenstances of synchronicity, let me tell you of a curiously (and extraordinarily remote!) association between said Foster Fyans and your present day interests.
In 1829, a Capt. Logan established a satellite of the Moreton Bay penal colony as a farm some 8 miles from Brisbane. At the beginning, women prisoners at Moreton Bay were separated from the males and housed in Queen Street, Brisbane. However, the proximity of all this desirable flesh to the local barracks, police force and other male institutions created the predictable problems. Of course, these liaisons were contrary to regulations and they much annoyed the penal governor, one Foster Fyans, who personally apprehended the Chief Constable who late at night was trying to climb over the wall into the women's quarters. Thus it was decided to move the female prisoners from the Queen Street facility to the new satellite farm where various crops were grown to supplement the local food supply. This agrarian enterprise now lies buried under what used to be the Brisbane airport and the forbidden liaisons continued, but now in the long grass.
There's a lot more to this tale but what might be of interest to you, if you do not already know the story, is that this peripheral penal settlement was known as Eagle Farm.