Even before the Scarab truck swept onto Ripon Street South, it was the stuff of legend.
It took just five minutes with the Ballarat Council leaf-collecting team for it to assume near mythical status.
"It will suck the boots right off your feet," said Peter Thompson, Ballarat's long-serving street cleaning supervisor, as we stood beside "The Cage" - another old faithful of the council's leaf-collecting fleet.
"Much more powerful", said another in the team. "Great in wet weather" - and even, one said, "better for your back". The team of City of Ballarat leaf collectors were clearly fans.
A technical glitch had snagged The Cage's leaf-vacuuming pipe - known as the "sucker" - and so the Scarab was drafted in, bustling around the corner on a crisp autumn morning.
We were on these tree-lined streets, where the CBD merges into Redan, as Ballarat reached "peak leaf": the zenith of the autumn and the team's busiest time of the year.
Some years the leaves come down in dribs and drabs. This year, they've just all come down at once. Everyone has got to be a little bit patient. We'll get there in the long run.Peter Thompson, street cleaning supervisor
It had been, they said, a particularly challenging year with a deluge of leaves in a short time.
"Some years the leaves come down in dribs and drabs," said Mr Thompson - or Thommo as everyone calls him. "This year, they've just all come down at once."
It was, he said, not always easy to deal with expectations at times like this, with around 100 calls coming in every week. "Everyone has got to be a little bit patient," he said. "We'll get there in the long run."
And the Scarab chuntered down the street, rake-wielder and its high, sucker working in harmony, hoovering one pile of leaves at a time.
"Technology has moved on a hell of a lot," 'Thommo' told me, watching as leaves disappeared up the funnel. He recalled the time that big plastic hands were the main tool at his disposal and was involved in helping shape the design of The Cage 10 years ago. It was joined by the Scarab (its brand name), but both will be retired shortly with two replacement Scarabs now en route.
Within this cabin, there is a frankly terrifying panel, controlled by Keith Tauschke who has been on the street cleaning team for seven years. "It's pretty simple once you work it out," he said, pointing out buttons for brooms, water, lights, weed sprays. I point to another one. "I don't know that one," he said. "That's one of those ones you don't touch."
Once you've finished and you look back down the road and see what you've done, it's awesome actually. There's a certain amount of pride in that.Shaun Ware
The technology is key for autumn in the city. The number of deciduous trees may be unusually high here, at more than half the total - but it is the bluestone gutters dotted around the older parts of town that make this a peculiarly Ballarat task.
More standard streets - or "kerb and channel" as the technical term goes - don't need the attention of suckers, with street-sweeping brooms taking care the autumn. Incidentally, don't sweep the leaves into the gutter if you can avoid it, the team says - much better if they are piled up on the roadside.
For Shaun Ware, who has been on the street cleaning team since spring 2017, the gutters are just one of the obstacles, alongside the traffic, parked cars - and the notorious Ballarat climate.
First thing every morning, he checks the Weatherzone app, sussing out what gear to take for the day ahead.
"When it's cold you warm up really quickly," he told The Courier. "But you get rainy days where you get absolutely saturated - my top tip is always bring a spare pair of socks!"
He also has a view on the trickiest leaves: "Plane trees are a shocking leaf to pick up - they just just sit there. At least the elm and the oak leaves break down."
Even with the technology, the sheer volume of leaves does not allow for rapid progress. In around 90 minutes of raking and sucking, including a dumping run to Gillies Street depot (most of the leaves end up at an organic waste company in Bacchus Marsh), the team has moved around a block further south.
The tonnage is phenomenal, with several of the leafier areas, such as Webster Street, needing several collections throughout the season - and contractors coming in as reinforcements.
Despite the Sisyphean-like task, unpredictable conditions and physical demands, Mr Ware said he finds the job satisfying. "Once you've finished and you look back down the road and see what you've done, it's awesome actually," he said. "There's a certain amount of pride in that."
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