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  • Llewellyn Schilling’s “Rise over the Rainbow” dream. Turning the silo art trail inside-out.

Last Updated on July 26, 2021

Llewellyn Schilling’s “Rise over the Rainbow” dream. Turning the silo art trail inside-out.

Making A Real Change

The old Flour-Mill was demolished in 1964, however the Concrete Silo remains on Bow Street Rainbow, and now has an exciting new story. 

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Please share this story with your family and friends so that they can read about the Rainbow Township, its history,  and what it has to offer tourists. 

Thank you very much, Don...

Foreword by Don McKenzie

This post kicked off because of an article that Catherine Gosling posted to "Rainbow - the Famous Australian Town" Facebook group.

 

The information in her post was certainly new to me, and must be new to others also. I immediately fell in love with the idea, and wondered what can I do to help Llew and the town. I didn't realise that in fact, the project was very well advanced.


I thought it would be nice to interview Llew myself, and get some photographs of him and the silo. Doing an article myself means any changes in the status of the project can quickly be added in and the website content updated.

 

Llew being 85, I automatically assumed "this silly old bugger won't be computer savvy, or have a smartphone" so I put out a request for a family member or friend of his to assist me. (Mind you, I am 78). I later quoted this to Llew and we had a good laugh about my false assumption.

 

Minutes after putting in my request, I had two young Rainbow ladies offering to assist me, and Llew trying to ring me.

 

This was followed with a phone conversation with Alison Ey. She managed to sort out what it was that I wanted, and offered to complete the job for me.

 

I then spoke to Llew for a good 45 minutes. He was very interested in my connections to Rainbow. We rattled through the McKenzie and Hutchins kids of our Grandparents, all 21 of them, and it appeared we had much in common.

 

We spoke about the three phase motor that Bill Strauss installed in the 1970s. I was amazed at Llew's knowledge of this and other items, as well as his interest in restoring the original motor that drove the silo.

 

Llew then gave Alison all the information that I needed for this story.

Llew couldn't praise Shire Mayor Councillor and friend Ron Ismay highly enough for the assistance with his Silo project.

Llew couldn't praise Shire Mayor Councillor and friend Ron Ismay highly enough for the assistance with his Silo project.

Llew was a delight to chat with. Two silly old buggers, just having a good chat.

Don McKenzie

Llew and the Rainbow Silo

Ron Ismay and Llewellyn Schilling in front of Rainbow's prospective art silo. Photo supplied and used with the permission of David Ward - Rainbow Argus.

Rise Over The Rainbow

I coined the phrase and added it to the title of this page: "Rise Over The Rainbow" which is a play on words from the mention of "Over The Rainbow", the theme song in the Wizard Of Oz movie, as well as a reference to the original township of Rainbow, that was located approx. 1.5 miles southwest from the current location.

I felt that this lift ride to the top of Llew's Silo was very much in-keeping with rising over the Rainbow.

There is a reference on the old maps of Rainbow. This is in the form of a hand written note pencilled onto one of these old maps.

The Rainbow Silo Project

At the western end of Bow Street in Rainbow right beside the railway line, sits Llew Schilling's silo. It has recently received funding of almost $2.1 million to paint a mural on the inside and install a lift to take people to a viewing platform at the top.

The view from the top of the Silo will give visitors a wonderful outlook over the town and the surrounding district.

This funding has been allocated to Hindmarsh Shire Council as part of the State Government’s $510 million spend to restart Victoria’s tourism industry.

During his childhood, Llew lived in a house close to the silo.

We thought it a great idea to get the history of the silo directly from Llew. He can share its story from the beginning, right through to the present day, and we'll include the progression of the project to its completion.

Here is Llew's story in his words recorded and transcribed by Alison Ey.

Moving into Town

When we were kids, the 5 of us grew up here and the area surrounding the silo was the ‘backyard’ where we played. I was around 9 or 10 when we moved from Pop Schillings farm into Edward Street, Rainbow. 

The back of our place looked right into the back of the Abattoirs. I didn’t like it much cos’ you could hear the pigs screaming as they were being slaughtered.

When we lived in Edward Street. George Small, the local engineer lived right opposite us. 

When we moved in, the Flour Mill was here and operating. I found it really interesting to see it going. The smoke coming out of the big chimney, which was about two thirds the height of the silo. There was a bloke throwing big logs of wood into a furnace because the whole Mill worked on steam power.

The Running of The Flour Mill

The Mill actually started off in about 1929 and went right through until 1965. There were 20 people employed at the mill at one stage. 

The silo itself ran on an old diesel oil engine and there was a big underground tank where the diesel oil was stored.

We found it interesting that there was an area of about 200 metres long for the wood they used to fire the furnace in the flour mill. There were about 6 stacks of wood that were each about 12 feet high.  

They had contractors going out and cutting the wood. Each piece had to be 8 feet long and around 6 inches in diameter. You couldn’t just get any old wood from the bush, they had to go out to Wyperfeld National Park (which you could do in those days).

If you go out to Wyperfeld now, you can see all the trees that they cut down. You can see the stumps still there. That was one of the reasons why the mill ceased, they ran out of wood.

Why They Built The Silo

The Flour Mill was built before the silo. Before the silo was built, grain was bought from farmers from around the whole district. They would then run the train up here and empty it out into the Flour Mill and of course they were charged for the transportation.  

Rather than do that, they thought, why don’t we put our own silo here, buy the grain direct and have our own storage.

What Happened Next

Llew left Rainbow in 1957, and by that time the Mill had stopped running full time. 

The silo was owned by Thomas Flour Millers. They hired it out to a fellow called Billy Strauss, who used to store grain in it and at one stage he stored peas in it.

It was Billy Strauss who converted the silo from diesel oil to electric.

It was after Llew left for Melbourne that fire occurred and the Mill burnt down. This left the silo still operative.

After Billy Strauss decided not to use the silo for storage anymore, the Grain Elevators Board used it for a couple of years.

Llew Schillings Silo - Going Up in History, Literally!

Buying the Silo

Whenever I visited Rainbow with my boys, we would walk past the silo and think "gee what a mess".

I decided to purchase the silo around 1979. It took quite some time to track down the people to negotiate a sale with. Once I did, I discovered the owners were winding up the company, and it was actually the last piece of property they had to sell. 

They said make us an offer. Llew then made a ridiculous offer and they accepted it, the silo was now his. The surrounding land also came with the silo.

They said make us an offer. Llew then made a ridiculous offer and they accepted it, the silo was now his. The surrounding land also came with the silo.

Llew bought the silo directly from W.C. Thomas’s but the Grain Elevators Board asked if Llew would allow them to use it. They eventually decided it wasn’t very cost effective as it wasn’t fully equipped for what they wanted. They only used it for two years. 

Then one day, one of the Heinrich boys (who was a relative of Llew's), asked if he could put some grain in the silo and hold it then until it was to be sold. Llew agreed as it was better to be used rather than just sitting there. He used it for a number of years.

When Llew bought the silo, he thought, "What am I going to do with it?" He just liked it because it was so cheap and it was costing him nothing to have it here. It sat there for a long time. 

Taking Care of the Block

I would bring my boys up to Rainbow to ride their motorbikes out in the desert, and they would made the silo their base. l had a key for the door to the silo and I stored some of my ‘junk’ in there. The kids used to love going in there to climb up the ladder to the top. It stayed like that for a long time.

Each time I came up to Rainbow, I would tidy something up. I could see it was going to be a big job.

It was just gravel on the block. In the past, the trucks had been coming in and out all the time and pressed the gravel down into the ground. So much so, that you couldn’t really grow anything there, except the weeds growing around the silo itself. Sometimes the weeds were even up to waist height. I used to whipper snip the weeds each time I visited.

I started receiving notices from the CFA / Council regarding mowing the 3 acres out the back by a certain time, otherwise I'd get a fine. So then I used to slash the block every year until my slasher broke down. 

Over time I had become friends with Mike ‘Spike’ Sluggett who offered his tractor / slasher for me to use, which I did each year for about 5 years. Of course Spike wouldn’t take any money for its use! I got around that by servicing his tractor for him as I not only used it for slashing, I also used it to develop the block of land: putting rocks and soil around where required.

I happened to notice that at the back of the 3 acres grass used to grow quite well, so I went down with the loader and carted the beautiful soil up to make the garden. I probably put about 18 inches of soil around to make the garden all around the silo and started growing plants.

Planting Up The Garden

There was a lovely young lady in Edward Street named Lisa, who had a really nice garden. I could see she was a gardener and she had one of the most intricate gardens around. 

I was used to growing all the exotic plants like they do in the city. I was in the nursery game and I was growing azaleas, rhododendrons in the city and I didn’t really know what grew well up here, except Peppercorn Trees.

I tried a few different plants, then one day Lisa came up with a wheelbarrow load of cuttings of all the plants she was trimming back. She said these would grow very well in my soil. She was correct and I was amazed at how well things grew.

Photo was supplied and used with the permission of Alison Ey.

Over time, I planted things that would grow well here. Gradually, bit by bit, and with the help of Canna Lilies and a lot of water, I now have a garden. I put the water on from across the road which is great, even if it’s expensive.

What to do with the Silo?

I always hoped that one day things might develop with the silo to make it a tourist attraction.

The years went on and I eventually had a mobile home put out here but it was a couple of years before I could get the sewerage put on. I used to use the toilet at the Mecca and the shower at the caravan park in the meantime.

I thought that if the silo was ever developed, that on the north side in between the two silos could be a toilet block. So with that in mind, when I did put the sewerage on I put a Y-piece in to make it easier to extend it to a toilet block. 

I’m mates with Councillor Ron Ismay who is the Mayor of Hindmarsh Shire. We used to walk around the inside of the silo and talk about things that could be done. We came up with all sorts of ideas. 

One idea was to put an observation deck on the top of the silo. When you get up there you can see pretty much right into both Lake Hindmarsh and Lake Albacutya, and you can follow the line of the desert around quite clearly.

We Have An Over Engineered Silo

Back in the late 1970’s or 1980’s there was a plan when I first bought the silo to develop it into 10 units, 5 units on each side. The Council liked the idea.

I have a friend in Melbourne who is a high rise builder who took a look at the silo for me. He said, that the silo is so over engineered that you could put a restaurant up the top if you wanted to or you could go twice the height.

The foundations are good and the structure is still strong because it was built under Government supervision at that time, between the two wars. At that time, they were looking for work for people who didn’t have jobs. A lot of blokes worked on this silo, even blokes I knew, such as old Bill McLeod who used to have the local milk bar in Rainbow.

Those fellas had a lot to do with the structure of it and everything was done well and strong. Done slowly, bit by bit and all done with scaffold.

When they got to the last couple of rings from the top, they put a tree on top. It's an old European custom that when you get to the top of your concrete pour, you get a green tree and attach it. (This is still done at the completion of many buildings today.)

There were a couple of German blokes who got some long neck beer and went up to the top after the bosses had left. After they had a few beers, they bet one of the blokes who was a bit of a scallywag, to be game enough to walk around the top of the silo, which was 9 inches wide.

He had no problem at all and walked right around. He won 10 quid or so for doing it.

There is a lot of history in the silo.

Where the Idea of an Observation Deck Came From

On one visit to Rainbow, one of my sons had a mate with him. They were only about 12 years old at the time and wanted to go out into the desert riding their motorbikes and camp overnight.

I was concerned about them going out into the desert on their own in case they got into trouble. I wanted to go with them in the four wheel drive, but they were determined to do it on their own. I wasn’t very happy about it and not sure it was a good idea.

My son said to me, "I’m pretty brave Dad." What do you mean, I asked? 

With that, my son climbed up to the top of the silo. He yelled out to me to watch as he threw a rope out the window at the top of the silo and abseiled down the side of it!

I was pretty impressed and he’d proved to me that he could do things, however, he'd frightened the daylights out of me.

I agreed they could go out and camp overnight, but this is what they have to do: 

  • Go out to this spot that they knew near the rock and when they get there prepare some dry wood and have some green leaves ready.
  • Light the fire at about 5pm so that it was burning well and at 6pm exactly, put the green leaves on. I will see the smoke from the top of the silo and know they are okay.
  • I’ll never forget it, I looked out and spot on 6pm this big plume of smoke comes up. I said I wanted them to do the same in the morning at 8am before they head in towards home. Sure enough at 8am, another big plume of smoke.

Getting Tourism Victoria Involved

Rainbow is on the road to a Dead End. Tourists go on other highways to see things and don’t get to travel to Rainbow and Jeparit.

I have to hand it to Ron Ismay, he’s an ideas man who knows the right people to talk to. He contacted Tourism Victoria and asked them to come up and have a look at the silo. Representatives came up and were very impressed with it. Within a few days they rang back and said they were interested in developing the site. They suggested a figure that they wished to spend. 

I had already talked to my boys about leaving the silo to the town in my will. 

My son Pete, said, "Dad you’ve got the wrong idea there. We are really glad you are going to leave it to the town 'cos that will save us having to come up and sort out all your junk, but you won’t get the chance to look at it and you don’t want all this to happen after you are dead."

So with that in mind I gave the okay to develop it.

Getting the Professionals On Board

The Hindmarsh Shire has been really good about it. The CEO Greg Wood, rang me and suggested that the Shire look after the management of the project as they have experience in looking after properties, which would mean insurances etc. would be covered. I thought was a sensible idea.

When the people from Tourism Victoria came up to visit, so did the Hindmarsh Shire people. We had a meeting together at the Oasis. We sorted out the details such as the size of land that will be required to do the work and what part of the property would be required for car parking, etc.

Greg Wood suggested, "Rather than us take the silo, we believe it would be better if you lease the silo to us on a 30, 60, 99 year (peppercorn rent - $1 per year) lease."

It was also suggested that we get a Construction Management Engineer to look at the silo and manage the project. By the time we have an Engineer’s Report and an Architects Report and whoever else is involved, it will be quite a costly project.

The Shire also suggested having an Artistic Director. This would be someone who would come up with some ideas or collate the ideas that are suggested from the town and then present it back to the town.

I agreed to this and the details are currently being worked on and documentation is being drawn up.

Keeping the Town Involved

I made it clear that I didn’t want things done to the silo without the town’s permission.

I think the town has the right of permission for it to proceed before anything is done. I think we should have a meeting and let the people know what the plans are, so that they can either approve or disapprove of the project.

I have had some comments from people that ask me, why the heck do you want to do something like that in the town, when you have nowhere to put all these tourists that are going to come?

I have had some comments from people that ask me, why the heck do you want to do something like that in the town, when you have nowhere to put all these tourists that are going to come?

Well, the caravan park is being looked at as we speak, and the Rainbow Trail Blazers idea of trails and walking tracks around the town would come right past this place, which is fabulous.

There is another idea to run picture shows on the front of the silo which is flat, for tourists and families to come to at night.

The Time Frame & Total Costs

At this stage there is no real time frame for the development, or how much we would get done for the money that has been allocated. The money may not go as far as we would like and it will be important to sort out the most feasible ideas that are value for money.

One of the biggest problems will be dealing with the height of the silo and making it safe.

I can imagine that out the back of the silo very tall cranes will be needed to get up to the top,. These are expensive to hire.

It is a big job, so we have no idea at the moment how much time or how much money is going to be spent.

So getting it all there is going to be quite a big job, but it’s going to be worth it and I want to see it happen.

A Glass Lift and Observation Deck? 

We have to make sure the things that are most important are done first, so that we don’t half do something of everything that you want.

Ron Ismay and I have talked about the artwork. Ron’s idea is to have a spiral staircase on the inside. I’ve spoken to my boys about the project and they have all come up with different ideas that could be done. One idea is to have a central glass lift that is completely glass all the way around.

It would take 4 people or 2 people and a wheelchair. It’s very important to have access for people with a disability to be able to go up the top and take a look.

A spiral staircase is alright for the young people but older people will find it too difficult.

I think by law there has to be two means of escape. Perhaps a staircase on the outside, a simple one and then a really nice glass lift in the middle.

When they get up the top, they can just push the wheelchair out onto a platform that I’ve designed. The platform would go out about 2 metres and encircle the little house that’s right on the top of the silo. It will be enclosed with poly glass, so that people don’t jump off and they are protected regardless of the weather.

The top of the lift could be used by the artists to stand on. There could be a safety rail around the top of it. The artists could then put the lift exactly where they needed it to do the artwork.

The lift might be pretty expensive but maybe the people at Otis Elevators would be able to design something.

Honouring a Bit of Our Local History

My great grandfather came out from Germany and went to Dimboola. When the family started to grow they didn’t have enough land. So my great grandfather said to Pop Schilling, my grandfather, here’s a horse and here’s an axe. Now there’s some land up there in the Mallee, near this town they are going to build. 

So Pop Schilling came up before the town was built as a lot of blokes did, and pegged out the block of land. He physically cleared the land with the horse, some rope and an axe. It was pretty hard going.

In memory of those fellas, who were the real pioneers (back in the 1800’s) who did a great job to get this far, I thought I would put a bit of history on the silo in an insignificant place, say near where that little roof goes out at the front. 

In memory of those fellas, who were the real pioneers (back in the 1800’s) who did a great job to get this far, I thought I would put a bit of history on the silo in an insignificant place, say near where that little roof goes out at the front. 

I’ll put the discs that are around 2ft 6 inches in diameter of a plough and have them colour bonded. Then I'll find an artist who is good at drawing faces, draw old great grandpa on one disc, grandpa on the next one and then his three sons – my Dad and his two brothers on the third, fourth and fifth discs. 

So that would be their bit of history. That would be something to honour those blokes and draw attention to all of those pioneer settlers whose grit and determination brings us to where we are today.

Gallery of Silo Photos

Click on any image below to see it in full size. 

All of these photos have been supplied and used with the permission of Alison Ey.

The Rainbow Silo Project

It will be well worth it when it’s done.

Everyone I have spoken to about it, especially the tourism people and the Council are very interested in the project and they all seem to be quite excited about the prospects.

In a FaceBook Private Group? Then you won't have a share button.

Please share this story with your family and friends so that they can read about the Rainbow Township, its history,  and what it has to offer tourists. 

Thank you very much, Don.

Last Updated on July 26, 2021

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  • Well done Don, and all of the “Rainbowites” involved in this project. Keeping Rainbow alive 🌈🌈🌈

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