Porter Press Extra: Warwick Sandstone

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Nathan Duff

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Excavators

[SPONSORED CONTENT] When you’re supplying hundreds of tons of sandstone to clients from Queensland to Victoria every day of the week, you need reliable machinery backed by a proactive sales and service agent. That’s why Warwick Sandstone puts its trust in Hyundai heavy machinery and its Australian distributor, Porter Equipment.

Warwick Sandstone has grown to become the biggest sandstone supplier in Queensland

If there’s one thing John and Wayne Rhea of Toolburra-headquartered Warwick Sandstone can’t afford to do, it’s stand still.

Warwick Sandstone has grown to become the biggest sandstone supplier in Queensland. With a client base that now stretches across Queensland, New South Wales and even down into Victoria, the high-quality output from the family-owned business’s 650-acre sandstone quarry is in hot demand right across the east coast.

In order to keep up with demand, consistency, reliability and fuel efficiency are key attributes required of any machine that joins the busy company’s fleet.

"We’re operating 12 hours a day, six days a week here, with six rock saws going flat out in order to produce between 800 and 900 sandstone blocks per day," says John.

"We need all of our machines to work as expected, because we’re pushing up to 25 truckloads of rock out the gate every day. One machine down could represent a $10,000 loss for every day it isn’t working, so having a tough machine that also has a good service provider standing behind it is crucial for us."

This Hyundai R290LC-9 excavator is a recent addition to the fleet


Warwick Sandstone – now managed by John and his wife Jill and son Wayne and his wife Wendy – was founded in 1998.

John says the core samples drilled at the Toolburra site back then revealed both the quality and quantity of the area’s sandstone to be exemplary.

"Our very first customer is still buying from us today," says John.

The product is used for landscaping and retaining wall construction primarily. Numerous new housing developments along the east coast feature elegant sandstone structures and landscaping details, all mined at Toolburra.

The company mines sandstone blocks in three grades and three basic sizes, with custom sized blocks available for special projects. Warwick Sandstone also specialises in tumbled sandstone (in smaller rockshaped sizes) for feature gardens and other centrepieces.

From the outset, John wanted machinery that he could trust to saw and break rock all day, as well as load trucks for local and interstate supply in a timely, efficient manner. Before long, he decided to purchase several Hyundai machines; examples of which remain on the fleet to this day.

"We started with a variety of ‘dash 7’ excavators, including four Hyundai R290LC-7s and a Hyundai R320LC-7.

"One of the 290s, which we purchased back in 2005, is still going strong with 14,000 hours on it.

"We’re operating 12 hours a day, six days a week here, with six rock saws going flat out in order to produce between 800 and 900 sandstone blocks per day," says John

"Today, we also have Hyundai R290LC-9 excavators and a new Hyundai HL780-9 wheel loader on the way.

"We’ve remained keen on Hyundai equipment because of what the individual machines offer us, but also because of the back-up service we get from distributor Porter Equipment."

John cites an occasion where he called Porter Equipment on a Tuesday to come out to the quarry – located around 160km south-west of Brisbane – in order to make some machine adjustments. A field service technician from the distributor was on-site early the next day.

John says that consistent parts supply and the speed of service from Porter Equipment has been excellent, with the company’s Queensland territory manager, Wayne Reichow, coming in for praise for his attentiveness to the family firm’s requirements.

"Wayne is really on the ball and pops in regularly to see how the fleet is performing. He also helped us organise some fuel efficiency testing we did while we were researching which new machines to go for," says John.

Helping illustrate the improved efficiency from Hyundai’s Cummins-supplied QSB6.7 six-cylinder turbo engine in the real world, John and his team ran the Hyundai side-by-side with a new machine from a rival brand, putting the two excavators through the exact same everyday task list. While the rival machine finished the day with an average fuel burn of 25-litres/hour, the Hyundai managed an impressive 16-litres/hour across the same time span.

"That sort of fuel saving looks good straight away," explains John. "But actually, it’s when you measure out the difference in performance across a year, for example, that the cost savings become much more apparent. The Tier 3 engines are very, very good at measuring out fuel usage, despite the long hours we require the machines to be working for."

As with any good quarrying operation, safety is paramount at Warwick Sandstone


As with any good quarrying operation, safety is paramount at Warwick Sandstone. John says his excavators and wheel loaders run external air cleaners in order to help mitigate silica dust entering the machine cabs.

The dust from sandstone is very fine, so anything that can be done to help prevent it being tracked inside machine cabs is important.

The sandstone quarries here is mainly used for landscaping and retaining walls

"We have 13 operators on staff here. They work hard for us, so it’s only fair we give them machines which are safe and comfortable to use. We like to keep on top of that sort of thing, because a happy workforce is a loyal workforce, and we have a great team.

"There is over a hundred years’ worth of activity left on site here. We’ve developed a very solid business base over the last 22 years, but there is plenty of business for the next generations of the family to be getting on with.

"Having a company like Porter Equipment partnering with us for our frontline machine requirements means we’ll continue to operate consistently and efficiently for the foreseeable future."


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