After World War 1, returned servicemen were granted land at Cobdogla for farming, but demand for water increased so much that a pumping station with two Humphrey pumps was installed in 1927. The pumps lifted water 34 feet from the River Murray to an irrigation channel, which then distributed water amongst farms in the Codogla Irrigation Area. Only one pump was used at a time, with the other being a stand by - an arrangement which continued until 1965.
For more technical background about the unique Humphrey pumps - the only two operable pumps left in the world, see this page.
After being replaced with newer equipment, the Humphrey pumps fell into disuse until 1986, when the then Engineering and Water Supply Department (now SA Water) restored one as a major project commemorating the South Australia's 150 year Jubilee. The grounds were landscaped, a Fowler Traction engine and Bagnall locomotive were restored, and the Cobdogla Steam and Irrigation Museum was born.
Free Activities for Kids at Cobdogla Steam and Irrigation Museum
For 30 years, volunteers from the Cobdogla Steam Friends Society and the Barmera National Trust have lovingly maintained the museum and its equipment, which still belongs to SA Water. The Cobdogla Steam and Irrigation Museum has grown to be a local landmark and Riverland tourist attraction. It's important not just to Cobdogla, but to the entire Riverland region.
However, things are set to change very soon. After 30 years of operation, SA Water has announced that funding for the museum will stop at the end of June. This is a devastating blow for the volunteers and for the town of Cobdogla. The Cobdogla museum attracts tourists, who bring income to the town - and in the current economic conditions, all small country towns are struggling.
The Cobdogla Steam and Irrigation Museum is fighting for its life now. They have launched a petition asking the state government to reverse SA Water's decision to cut funds, and need your support to sign it.
The museum holds aregular Open Days when all the equipment is operating, with heaps of fun things to do. You are invited to come and see the museum and its many attractions - and to sign the petition if you wish. Entry to the museum costs $15 for adults and $40 for a family ticket, so don't miss this opportunity.
Unfortunately, the Humphrey pump is not currently operating, but the museum boasts a working 3km railway with a Bagnall steam engine. The railway was originally used to transport pipes for the Loveday pipeline, but on the museum open day, the steam engine will be one of the fun things to do for kids with free rides available all day.
Unlimited free rides are also available on the huge Fowler traction engine, which put in an appearance at last year's Royal Show. Kids love to roam the spacious Cobdogla museum grounds, and there are plenty of shady trees and lawns to relax with a picnic.
The Cobdogla Steam Museum also has numerous working stationary engines and a log splitter to see, as well as National Trust displays on Riverland themes including village settlements, the Loveday Internment Camp, and irrigation.
Enjoy Fresh Pies and Pasties From Barmera Bakery or Devonshire Tea From the National Trust
After driving to the Cobdogla Irrigation and Steam Museum, you will be ready for some refreshments. Luckily the museum sells freshly made local pies and pasties, tasty steak sandwiches with meat from the local butcher, cool drinks, and ice cream for the kids. The National Trust also have Devonshire tea on offer, if that's your cup of tea.