Definition of whim

  • A structure of strong timber keeping in position a large horizontally working drum, around which the ropes attached to the buckets working in the shaft are wound. Underneath the drum there is a long beam with shafts, to which the horse is harnessed.

– The Gold Fields and Mineral Districts of Victoria, 1869

What is a whim?

Horse-powered whim working at Tribute Duke Mine. Source: State Library Victoria.

A whim is a device used to haul ore up a shaft, similar in concept to the man-powered windlass and the horse-powered whip, but more complex and capable of lifting more efficiently and from deeper shafts.

A rope is wound around a vertically mounted wooden drum, with both ends passed over pulleys and then run down the shaft.

A horse is harnessed to the device and led around a circular track, winding the drum, which will lower one end of the rope (carrying an empty bucket down the shaft) while raising the other (carrying a full load up).

Example of a whim platform today

Whim sites, as they are found in the bush today, typically present as circular platforms of earth located alongside the remains of a mine shaft and mullock heap.

Unlike the circular remains of gold puddling machines, which can be found in abundance all over the Victorian Goldfields, intact whim platforms are fairly uncommon and are easily overlooked.

A well defined whim platform (pictured above) sits beneath Mount Tarrengower, alongside Cox Track in Maldon.

This whim platform still has its centre post hole for the whim drum, and the narrow path worn by the horse walking around the platform. The associated mine shaft and mullock heaps are present.

Where to see an intact whim

If you’re interested in seeing one of these machines for yourself there’s a complete whim located at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, along with lots more fantastic examples of mining methods and machinery.