ONE of Fort Scratchley's original 80-pound guns will fire on Sunday for the first time in a century, after a restoration that took more than seven years, cost more than $120,000 and required more than 250,000 man hours.
Fort Scratchley Historical Society president Frank Carter said the organisation had been overwhelmed with the level of public interest in the restoration of the gun, which will be one of at least six to fire at 11am, 1pm and 3pm on Sunday, Australia Day.
"We think it's very significant," Mr Carter said.
"On our big open days we always fire the 80-pound in the casemate [fortified gun emplacement] and people can hear it and feel it but not see it, because we can't fit 500 or 600 people in the casemate.
"Now people can see it being pulled into position, loaded, fired - they can truly experience it. It's living history."
Mr Carter credited volunteers led by John Rodham and Bob Pritchard for bringing the gun back to life.
Mr Carter said four 80-pound guns were installed in 1882 - three in the casemate and one in the western barbette [a platform in a fortification from which guns fire over a parapet] to protect the harbour from attack.
"They were one of the last lines of defence," he said.
"They required a crew of 10 and would fire a round every 1.5 minutes, but for the day they were very efficient."
He said the society had understood the guns were in commission until 1887 when they became redundant, but recently discovered one wasn't removed until the 1920s.
He said the guns were taken to the state dockyard to be used as counterweights and then disposed of as scrap metal.
A sole gun was displayed outside BHP's administration building in Mayfield before it was returned to the fort with the other three.
Mr Carter said two were placed on either side of the main gate and one in the casemate, with the fourth barrel placed on the barbette floor.
"About 7.5 years ago we decided to see what we could do to rebuild and restore it and bring it to sensible exhibition," he said.
"It started a long line of us chasing our tails.
"We got in touch with England but there were no drawings or specifications of what the gun carriage would have looked like."
He said volunteers travelled several times to Smiths Hill Fort at North Wollongong to photograph and measure its two 80-pound guns to build their own carriage.
The society received $9000 from the National Maritime Museum to build the concrete pad the gun sits on, as well as $37,000 from the Premier's Department, with assistance from then-Newcastle MP Tim Owen.
He said Hunter Water provided "in-kind support and made available their workshop at Tomago to do cutting, welding and machining".
"Their mechanical engineer Steve Jordan will be the first person to fire it officially.
He said 'This is certainly something' and was so fastidious."
A Sydney engineering firm made the track for the gun carriage.
Other parts, including the cradle atop the carriage that supports the gun, were either made or found.
Mr Carter said the 80-pound gun in the casemate would be retired, apart from special occasions.