Civic Carousel

Civic Carousel 550



Herbert Thompson


Timber and steel






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The merry-go-round and organ were purchased for $40,000 for the people of Canberra at public auction in September 1973. After extensive restoration work, the merry-go-round began operating in a colourfully painted pavilion in Petrie Plaza in the centre of Civic during Canberra Day celebrations on 13 March 1974.

The merry-go-round started operating in 1914 at the St Kilda Esplanade in Melbourne.  It was designed and built by Herbert Thomson (designer of Australia’s first successful motor car) of Armadale, Victoria, for German showman Anton Weniger.

The organ and the fifty two hand carved wooden horses and two elephants were specially imported from Germany. The twisted brass upright poles were made in Scotland.

The German fairground 69 key pipe organ was restored to working condition by the Carousel Organ Restoration Group following its arrival in Canberra. Because of its fragile condition, the organ is stored separately from the merry-go- round.

Volunteers from the Australian National University’s Research School of Physical Sciences restored the steam engine in the centre of the merry-go-round. Because of its age, the boiler cannot be used. The merry-go-round is operated by a modern electric motor.

Others involved in restoration work on the merry-go-round included staff of the Australian War Memorial and of the Canberra College of Advanced Education who worked on the interior panels and fascia/artwork. Mrs Wendy Coley painted the elephants, the Master Painters Association undertook other painting, and the Canberra Gem Society restored the mirrors. The Model Makers Society restored various intricate pieces and machinery and the department store, J B Youngs Pty Ltd, provided a cash donation and materials. 

The horses are four abreast in 14 rows. There are also two hand carved wooden elephant carriages. One elephant is white the other is grey. 

The outside of the carousel roof is adorned with paintings of horses, elephants and tigers, whilst inside are paintings of more contemplative scenes.

For more information, visit the Libaries ACT website here External Link

Herbert Thompson
Civic Carousel, 1914
Timber and steel
Intersection of Petrie Plaza and City Walk, Civic