Much-loved rocket returns to Blackheath

Lift off: Andrew Hancock (in cap) with Danny, Richard and Ross West, sons of Dick West, the Blackheath engineer who built the original.

Lift off: Andrew Hancock (in cap) with Danny, Richard and Ross West, sons of Dick West, the Blackheath engineer who built the original.

Twenty-one years after the popular rocket was removed from Blackheath because of safety concerns, it is back.

In a precise operation last Friday, council workers, crane operators and helpers atop a cherry picker manoeuvred a new rocket into place in the town’s Soldiers Memorial Park.

The project was the dream of former Blackheath Rotary Club president, Andrew Hancock, who wanted to something which would “excite” the community, as well as leave something lasting.

Responses on the Gazette’s Facebook page as the operation was live-streamed showed the excitement is real, with many joyfully reminiscing about their childhoods climbing the old rocket.

The new one is the result of a major fundraising campaign by Rotary, with rocket T-shirts, badges and even rocket biscuits sold throughout the community. There were also mini-rocket money boxes strategically positioned around town.

The first rocket was built in the early 1960s by Blackheath engineer, Dick West, after then council engineer John Yeaman (after whom the Katoomba bridge is named) sourced designs in America.

The late Mr Yeaman was Mr Hancock’s grandfather.

The original was also funded by the Blackheath Rotary Club and installed by council.

Mr West went on to create many other metal playground pieces, including a coach, shoe and plane which are in Blackheath. He also built rockets for parks around the state.

Mr West’s son – Danny, Richard and Ross – were on hand last week to see rocket mark II installed.

It has been built by RKR Engineering to meet current safety standards.

A beaming Mr Hancock said the Rotary club was delighted the rocket was back.

“Rotary and council have worked closely together on this project and it has been a very positive experience,” he said. “Council have been very supportive in order to return the rocket to the park.”

The slippery dip was attached on Monday. More landscaping will have to be done but all should be in place for the official opening on Sunday, March 25.