The Monegeetta Monster: not your average urban legend


Tim the Yowie Man


Tim the Yowie Man

Naturalist, author, broadcaster and tour guide Tim the Yowie Man has dedicated the past 25 years to documenting Australia’s unusual natural phenomena. He’s the author of several books, including Haunted and Mysterious Australia (New Holland, 2018). Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @TimYowie
By Tim the Yowie Man 18 November 2022
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Regular readers know this column is partial to a ripping monster yarn. So, when I first heard whispers about the Monegeetta Monster, to say I was champing at the bit to find out more would be an understatement.

Was it some incarnation of the feared bunyip? An inland denizen of the deep? Or was it a yowie emerging from the foothills of the nearby Macedon Ranges?

It turns out it was none of those, but was as equally titillating.

The Monegeetta Monster was actually an experimental fire tender (firefighting equipment) developed in the late 1940s by engineering bods at the Trials Proving Establishment in Monegeetta, about 50km north of Melbourne.

Talk about the unexpected.

According to Phil Vabre, vice president of the Civil Aviation Historical Society that runs the Airways Museum at what is now Essendon Fields Airport, the vehicle “was like no other fire tender before or since…looking more like a cross between an armoured car and a 1940s science fiction spaceship.”

Phil confesses he became fascinated with the futuristic fire tender when he first found out about it 25 years ago.

Fashioned from aluminium, the Monegeetta Monster’s state-of-the-art design allowed it to approach a burning aircraft while shielding the operators inside.

“The driver sat on the right and protective steel shutters could be lowered over the windows, leaving only a narrow slit for vision,” Phil reports.

“A second operator sat on an elevated motorcycle saddle and, when the shutters were down, looked out through an armoured cupola on the front left roof of the vehicle.”

It sounds like the sort of mid-20th century innovation that would have left Q from MI6 drooling.

The curious contraption was also fitted with asbestos curtains that swung out on booms and unfurled ahead of the vehicle.

“Together with the foam sprayed on the ground in front of the vehicle, the idea was that these would provide a protected area for the exit of survivors,” Phil says.

Arguably its most striking feature was an extendable circular saw that emerged from the aluminium body like a Dalek’s claw, cutting a hole in the side of the aircraft for survivors to escape through.

But the Monegeetta Monster never made it to operational use. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority gave the nod, instead, to more conventional firefighting appliances.

“Built on a commercial truck chassis, the monster lacked the mobility required by a fire tender because it easily got bogged on soft ground,” Phil says, adding, “and you wouldn’t have wanted to be inside a burning plane when that saw cut through the wall.” Ouch!

By the late 1950s the monster had faded from the limelight. It was sent into storage at Essendon Fields Airport, where, according to Phil, “engineering apprentices used parts of its aluminium bodywork to make chassis radio equipment”.

It was an undignified end for any monster, real or imagined.