Historical information

A Dray is a type of dead axle wagon that was used to transport heavy loads or objects. They had a flat level floor and while some had no sides, others had box bodies and sides. Tip Drays (also known as Tip Carts, Muck Cart, Scotch Cart, Tumbrel or Putt in different parts of England) were smaller than other drays as their loads were heavy and usually only pulled by one horse. Their basic design included two wheels, a tipping body and shafts. The Tip Dray has a unique mechanism that allows the top to tip backwards to tip the load out of the back of the dray. The tipper was activated by a handle at the front allowing the driver to operate it while still having control over the horse.

A Tip Dray was an indispensable piece of equipment in the days before tractors and mechanical trucks. They were used by farmers and carters to transport hay, rocks, bricks, gravel and rubbish etc. and because they were useful for dumping loads, they were favoured for use in road and railway construction. A photo in the collection of the Lorne Historical Society shows a tipping dray being used during the construction of the Great Ocean Road. They were part of the daily street traffic in towns and cities around Australia from the early days of settlement.

In Australia in the early 1900's, carters began to join unions to protect their jobs and pay. N.S.W. had a "Trolley, Draymen and Carters Union", Queensland had a "Tip Dray Men's Association" and in W. A. the "Top Dray Driver's Union" had a "cessation of work" in 1911 when they were fighting for an increase in their day's wages. In 1910 a meeting of Tip Carters was held in Geelong at the Trades Hall to discuss the formation of a union (The Geelong Tip Dray Carters) which was a success and a schedule of rates for all carting, whether by contract or day labor, was fixed. By 1912 they had "labelled" more than 50 drays and had representatives on the "Trades Hall and Eight Hours Committee".

By the mid 1930's and early 1940's, tip drays were being superseded by mechanical trucks and utes. However tip drays continued to be used in some circumstances. They were a practical solution to the problem of petrol rationing during W. W. 2. It was noted in a letter to the editor in the "Sunshine Advocate" in 1938 that a positive argument for continued use of Tip Drays for rubbish collection related to the idea that a horse drawn vehicle involved with lots of stops and starts at different houses (very like a milkman's delivery route) often involved the horse "driving itself" while the driver picked up the rubbish - something a motor truck was unable to do!

Another article written in August 1935 and published in the Age in a parliamentary report into the rubber industry noted "tip drays had almost disappeared and in their place, metal was carted in 5 ton motor trucks" but the report went on to say that as a part of the Government relief work (during the Great Depression) the Government had "to some extent reintroduced the tip drays so that a greater number of men would be employed".

This particular tip dray was owned by Mr. Oswald (Jack) Bourke. He used it to deliver dry goods from Sunbury to the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne several times a week in the 1930's and then (between 1945 and 1962) Mr. Bourke used it on the garbage round in Springvale Victoria for the Springvale Council. The Council owned three drays and the "No. 3" painted on this dray is in recognition of its original number. After the death of Mr. Bourke in 1990, one of Mr. Bourke's sons (Andy) found the dray in a shed and restored it. The sign writing on the back and side panels were added during the restoration.


This Tipping Dray is a significant example of a horse drawn vehicle that was used by workers from the early days of white settlement through to the 1940's and even into the early 1960's. It was used in a range of "working class" occupations - road construction, railway construction, carting goods, rubbish collection etc. and would have been found in cities, country towns and on farms.

Physical description

A wooden and metal tipping dray with a box body and four sides. It has two iron and wooden wheels (with 14 spokes), two wooden shafts and a metal tipping mechanism. The back panel folds down to allow loads to be dumped out. It is painted in green and cream with sign writing on one of the sides and on the front and back panels. It features decorative painted lines and designs in burgundy, cream and light blue on most of the wooden parts. The tipping mechanism is on the front of the dray's left side and consists of a metal pin secured with a metal ring, and a lever.

Inscriptions & markings

Front of dray -
"No. 3"
Side of dray -
"A. & M. BOURKE / Contractors / LONGWARRY"
Back of dray -