ACT Heritage Library Manuscript Collection

HMSS 0269 Engineering Heritage Canberra Oral History Program - Special Projects Series Kingston Powerhouse Project

Scope and Content Notes

Call Number

HMSS 0269 Box 3

Collection 

Engineering Heritage Canberra Oral History Program - Special Projects Series Kingston Powerhouse Project

Date Range

1920-1998

Quantity

0.18m 

Access Conditions

open

Copying conditions

with attribution

Related Collections

HMSS 0269 Engineering Heritage Canberra Oral History Program

HMSS 0269 ... Professional Career Series 

HMSS 0269 ... Queanbeyan Age Project 

HMSS 0269 ... Cotter Water Supply Project 

HMSS 0036 Val and Don Emerton Papers

HMSS 0333 Babette Scougall Kingston Oral History Project 

The Institution of Engineers is actively engaged in documenting the history of engineering in the Australian Capital Territory.

In recognition of the historic value of the Kingston Power Station, Engineering Heritage Canberra resolved in 1998 to conduct a series of interviews with those who actually worked at the "Powerhouse" and experienced the ups and downs of providing reliable power to the nation´s capital. These workers´ oral histories from the 1940s and 1950s, describe their own experiences in working there and the challenges they faced in providing Canberra with reliable electrical power during a time of great expansion of the city and its electricity network.

This project is comprised of oral history interviews recorded between November and December 1998 by historian Matthew Higgins. 

Originally recorded on audio cassette tapes, the Panel had the recordings transferred to CD in May 2006.

Please note that there are no permission forms for this project.  The ACT Heritage Library is advised that the continued use and availability of the interviews was understood by all participants.  Brief interview logs have been subsequently created by Bob Dunn for the Panel.

The collection consists of 13 cds of interviews with twelve men and one cd of interview logs in Microsoft Word .docx files.

The audio cds have tracks of approximately 1 minute each.

Some of the interviews in this series have been sampled and are available on the Engineering Heritage Canberra (EHC) website  

INTERVIEWEE

QTY OF CDS

FILE FORMAT

RUNNING TIME

ASSOCIATED DOCUMEN-TATION

DATE OF ASSOCIATION WITH POWERHOUSE

Mick Ozerskis

1

.cda

62:49

timed summary  (printable pdf)

1949

John Carson

1

.cda

38:56

timed summary (printable pdf)

1947

Gordon Smith

1

.cda

62:18

timed summary (printable pdf)

1929

Barney McHugh

1

.cda

55:27

timed summary (printable pdf)

1950

Frank Dunshea

1

.cda

62:36

timed summary (printable pdf)

1942

Stan Goodhew

1

.cda

61:56

timed summary (printable pdf)

1948

Ron Hourigan

1

.cda

46:23

timed summary (printable pdf)

1950

Alan Christie

1

.cda

61:08

timed summary (printable pdf)

1950

Jake Zutt

1

.cda

48:48

timed summary (printable pdf)

1942

Harry Scheele

1

.cda

48:03

timed summary (printable pdf)

1949

Don Thomas

2

.cda

61:58
43:38

timed summary (printable pdf)

1920

Bob Box 

1

.cda

62:30

timed summary (printable pdf)

1941

TIMED SUMMARIES

MICK OZERSKIS - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction – job at Powerhouse – knowledge of steam married – refugee camp – first job at Powerhouse – feeding coal into hopper – sweeping coal -

5:00

Learning more English – sit for exam fireman – checking boiler – six months shift work – 3 boilers owned by ACT – 2 boiler by NSW Electricity Commission – hotter in engine room – pipes not insulated – 700F -

8:00

Promotion to work in engine room – “greaser” –

9:27

Talk of starting a diesel power station – 1956 – quick building – six months building – steam crain to build the diesel station – did not work on diesel – sitting exam for steam ticket – Bellose and Morcomb engines -

12:27

Starting the Bellose and Morcomb engines – easy to start – how to start – very quiet – also worked on BTH engines – characteristics of engines – hear whistle as far as Queanbeyan – (14:54) – special clock – synchronised manually at the ANU by him – need for whistle to blow after power station closed – keep the Canberra workforce to time

16:41

Coal consumption – 24 hrs – 50 tonnes – Lithgow coal best – Bulli worst – hard to keep alight – some from Berrima loaded by truck – two trips a day – 10 tonne truck only -

19:24

Ashes – taken to Canberra Racecourse and Duntroon -

20:16

Relation to NSW Electricity Commission – not enough electricity being generated to follow Canberra’s growth – 1944 – NSW boilers brought in “BL” boilers – 4 boilers – one in reserve – three in action – orders from Goulburn – often shut down at 23:00 hrs – on line at 05:00 hrs -

22:45

Living in two room garage in Queanbeyan and travelling to work by bicycle – started in Westridge – moved to Queanbeyan – good friends with George Sein(Saint?) – lot of friends jealous of his relationship with George Sein(Saint?) -

24:35

Question on discrimination because he was Latvian – not really – wanted fitters’ ticket – for small maintenance – agreed to go for test – Government refused – NSW Trades and Labor Council would not let him because he did not have technical college – very disappointed – made a mistake saying Latvia was occupied by Communists

26:46

Other people – Ron Hourigan (fireman) – Ron Wood (fireman) – relation with Italians – not much – he spoke Polish – Latvian – German – English – not Italian – joined Queanbeyan “Good Neighbour Council” – tried to integrate into community – nominated to become a Justice of the Peace (JP) by local member (1963) – became Australian citizen in 1958

30:09

Rates of pay – holiday pay loading – overtime – 73p / hr -

33:05

Small steam engine called “Rovi Hall”? – no – other small engines – safety? – accidents – had an accident with 2 cylinder steam shunting locomotive he was driving – man crushed between two trucks and killed – the man was not an employee at Power Station but a railway linesman – Ozerskis had to face Canberra Court – did not answer questions - no interpreter? – he was not charged – that was a terrible time – he had been moving some empty trucks to position a loaded one – bumped some empty trucks – the man was between the trucks

36:02

Hardest part of job –scraping paint boilers – hot and dusty – asbestos on lung – once a year – mop out water tubes – check with mirror -

38:30

Industrial disputes – none – overtime was key to happiness – but unrest started when overtime was being cut back 1957 – first showers at work – unions demanded dining and amenity and showers and toilets – but closed shortly after that – amenities room was added as a hut from Fairbairn – 12ftx12ft times two huts put together – near the entrance to workshops – before that lunched in the boiler room or outside if fine weather – engine room was so noisy you had to lip read -

42:06

Socialising amongst workers – Kingston Hotel was the gathering point – lunching at hostels at Eastlake Hostel – later hostel at Capital Hillside – had to lunch at where you lived – could get sandwiches – but if in engine room – could not leave premises for lunch – good tucker – Christmas parties at linesman’s building next to Power House – 200 people – Federal treasurer – lobster prawns chicken – Melbourne Cup do – could not understand the quick race caller

46:08

Swimming in Molonglo River below the Power House – swam himself – not too many people – afraid of chemicals in water – “norisen” – to clean the brass condenser tubes – residue washed into Molonglo – community views of workers and power house – many workers stayed only very short time – too dirty – too noisy – but good pay – so he stayed on – managed to pay tradesmen to build his house in Queanbeyan

49:24

Feelings about power house closing down – very sad – offered job at Tallawarra Power Station – NSW Electricity Commission – offered house there – beside Lake Illawarra – looked at on hot day – but wife wanted to stay in beautiful house in Q – then ACT Electricity Authority offered job on lines driving post hole borer – C class licence to drive big truck – also drove 10 tonne forklift -

52:02

Hand making welding transformers at Power House – handyman – made a welding set – got bare wire – insulation tape – wound a coil – to make welding set – taught himself how to weld – made more welding transformers – lasted for 10 years at Power House

54:44

Years born - 1921 – wife’s first name Elna – passed away in 1989

55:21

Lightning strikes the Power House – Turbines caught fire – so frightened he soiled his trousers – afraid boilers would blow up – smoke everywhere – chimney fans – induced fan pushing – suction fans – supposed to put smoke through to chimney – power stopped so Power Station filled with smoke – smoke like “in hell” - could not see – did not know what to do – then thought to start aux motor – at least got lights going – then started bigger pumps – aux not big enough to do much – but steam aux motor could drive big fan – “work around” solution – got smoke out of building – midnight – bosses decided entire station had to be cleaned – had to supply power after midnight – cleaned insulators in sub-station – new earth sticks – something went wrong – blew up the sub-station – lot of black-outs in Canberra in those days

60:37

Closing of Power Station – Snowy Scheme – did not need the Power House – 132 KV lines – fond memories – (emotional – composes himself) [INTERVIEW ENDS]

62:33

JOHN CARSON - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction – Glasgow origins – immigration to Australia – worked for foreman named Lamont – qualified electrical fitter (ship’s electrician) -

1:55

Worked all over Canberra – electricity supplier did everything – main problems sewage works – schools – public buildings – first project was Administration Building -

3:05

Powerhouse work – motors for conveyor belts, pumps, etc – some jobs required rewinding the motors – could be up to 3 tonnes in weight – hand crane was used -

5:30

Apprentice named Bernie Tregeallis (sp?) – could not recall – Graham Wortal and Artie Shields worked there – others mentioned – various “gangs” named after foremen – mainly divided on work types – say high and low voltage - Kelly gang worked on mainly cables and transformers and jointing and substation – his own gang took run of the mill maintenance work – BTH was very important for Naval transmitting – repair to the windings took some weeks

8:09

[Some background noise in recording] – describes other machinery they cared for – “Brush-Lundstroms” – Bellose and Morcombe (sp?) – worked in boiler room as well – motor for conveyors belts – old fashioned “white metal” bearings – Dick Quince would make new bearings -

13:05

Chain grate conveyor mechanism description – not aware of what ash was used for in Canberra – but in Sydney ash was used in concrete -

14:51

Could not comment on technology because it was first powerhouse he had seen – compared to ships he was familiar with it was pretty good – understood the boiler was state of the art at the time – made in Glasgow!

16:12

Economiser room – cut down from half its original size – forced draft – vague on details

16:50

Powerhouse whistle – 8 am 12 noon and five pm – bundy system – set with power house whistle – foreman of the day stated that is not good – checked with Mt Stromlo observatory and found the whistle was only 30 seconds out – man watched the clock and pulled the whistle – after shutdown used compressed air – could hear it miles away even Ainslie -

18:24

Living at Canberra Ave – called Kingston Flats – quite close – workers were pretty scattered around Canberra – Tom Trevillian lived close (supervisor) – good bloke – straight up and down – replaced by George “Seine” (Saint?) – approx 1950 when Tom retired – other names of people who worked there? – Harry Trevillian (Tom’s son) shift engineer – Mick Ozerskis – Billy ???? – Darcy McGee – Al Farrer was shocked in switchyard and was lucky to survive – John was in workshop when it happened – accidentally touched overhead wires -

22:35

Atmosphere in power station – good high building – a lot of airspace – did not find it too warm – often a draft in the place – did not worry about noise – pretty normal levels of noise -

24:10         

Other events – always something happening – most of time everyone cooperated – motivated workforce –

25:41

Relation to NSW power grid – not qualified to say – Bill Gray was shift engineer and would sometimes increase voltage to allow for heavy loads -

27:11

Powerhouse view from wider community? – just accepted as fact – only time they worried was during electrical blackouts – did not really feel anything when the station was shut down – machinery sold off in 1960s – he was not aware of what was happening – still a shame they huge engine was not left there for heritage value -

30:00

Condensers and pumps – had to fit a motor to one of them – open winding – could get dirt in it and was hard to keep clean – everything was kept clean – economics shut it down – just like Tamworth -

33:19

Staff structure – superintendant, shift engineer, boiler room (fireman) not many per shift – say three men – not a lot of people – about ten per shift total – engine room – included electrical operators (one per shift) – quite streamlines really -

36:08

Power transmission – generated at 5.5 Kv – then to transformers – which were 11Kv – later updated to higher voltage -

37:00

Other work with power authority – looked after sewage pumps, schools, etc – retired in 1980 (open heart surgery) -

38:46

GORDON SMITH -TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction - born in Melbourne - father electrical engineer with Department of Works– parents from Scotland – father transferred to Sydney then to Canberra 1935 approx – he went to Telopea Park School – then to Canberra High School (first class) – started apprentice ship with Canberra with Canberra Electric Supply (Department of Interior) -

3:12

Whistle on Power Station went off at 5 minutes to 5 PM which was signal to stop work and start getting cleaned up ready to knock off at 5 PM – also mentions whistle at 7:30 AM – ride to work and mentions landmarks along way

4:57

First 12 months – 1942 transferred to Power Station section run by radio engineer run by Mack Fallow – in charge of emergency bushfire council radio network and electricity meters – describes location of work area -

7:35

Other areas of training – lifts – shifted work area to back of power station – asked to go back to electronic section – spent rest of his apprenticeship there – actually made radios there – in-house designed radio telephone sets for bushfire and electricity authority – ways in which they could assemble components – all “valve” based circuits – wound own coils – built everything from basic materials because all factory made units were allocated to the war effort -

10:55

Describes power station alternators – good technical details – how he synchronised the Kingston power generation with the NSW network feed – In 1942 Norm McKee was one operator who threw the switch to connect the two grids

16:33

One alternator dedicated to Belconnen Transmitting Station – quite a big load – very powerful – keying morse was very tricky load – he listened to the morse code on the BTH machine – gives example of the sound the machine made in step with morse code – assumes the code was always encrypted

18:51

Dedicated lines to Parliament House and Cotter Pumping Station – pumping station was always activated in off-peak times – after generating stopped at the Power House talks of buying NSW grid and Snowy Scheme power and charging regime -

23:26

Did not have much to do with the boiler room – very dirty room – very fine dusty coal – did not associate with the boiler attendants – apprentices would often take coal to heat the workshop even though the Superintendant (Tom Trevillian) would try to make sure coal was not used they would manage to sneak past him – toasted sandwiches on the braziers

28:28

Talks of using power station condensate for “distilled” water for batteries for the lead-acid batteries for the radios -

29:40

Electricity switch yards in Queanbeyan and Yass -

31:54

Alternator hall was very clean and suited radio team – alternators were noisy -

32:29

Power station whistle – 7:30 and 8:00 AM – 12 noon – 12:42 PM – then 5:00 PM – first steam powered – then later compressed air – beautiful old clock was synchronised with Mt Stromlo time

34:31

Superannuation became available in 1945 – 46 – took leave without pay to work at radio work in Sydney – attended AWA night school at night – qualified to work on commercial radio stations or shipping – came back to Canberra to work in old section

36:59

Tom Trevillian – George Saint – previous superintendants – got on with George but could be tricky with some dobbing in of dubious practices being done -

 

Talks of shifts – possibly only one person on night shift – during day there was many more – cleaning staff – mechanical engineers – electrical person in switch room – perhaps a dozen altogether

41:01

No accidents while working there – but knew of accident with Al Farrer in switchyard – also fortnight before he started a fitter “Mr Melesh” was electrocuted at the Belconnen Naval Transmitting Station sub-station – his son Jack Melesh taught at the tech college where Gordon Smith did his apprenticeship – description of the accident retold – very sobering lesson for young apprentice

43:51

Tea making as an apprentice – put Epsom salts in billy – but foreman came out that morning – drank tea – and Smith was sent to work on aerodrome lights as punishment

45:54

Industrial unrest? – union rep was Dave Lamont – never any strike – not very visible compared to Sydney

48:49

Social aspects – not as apprentice – example of pay scales given – did form a social club – big ‘do’ at Christmas time – all took holidays at same time – was called on to help form a social club – films nights at Manuka Swimming pool – bowling nights – all for Kingston Power station staff -

52:02

Status in community – fairly ordinary industrial site – except that most of Canberra started and stopped by the whistle – importance during the war – shut down of the power station was “gradual” in that control of the system, switching, etc was still being done from the station – no regrets

58:55

X-ray machine at old weatherboard Canberra Hospital – had to maintain it – 11 KV feed – difficulty in getting accurate exposure times

61:46

BARNET (BARNEY) McHUGH -TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Intro – born 1923 in Glasgow – migration to Australia – worked as electrical fitter – worked next door to Powerhouse - shift electrician one day a week at Powerhouse – looked after meters and switchgear

2:58

Blowing the whistle – personal description of clock used and process he would use toturn on steam to whistle about 15 minutes early – various opinions about origin of whistle

4:34

Synchronising the generators – talks of generator room and the equipment in there – use of NSW power -

7:12

Cotter Pumping station – trouble with pumps – did not know how to ‘sweat’ bearings on to shaft – other maintenance issues – need for earth strap on bearings – memories -

10:28

Boiler room – did not go into room much – story about one worker whose wife would sometimes not let him come home from work – he had to sleep on top of one of the wagons – recollections of expansion pipe – good ventilation – not too hot or cold inside – not very noisy -

13:26

Other parts of complex includes economiser room – copper bus bars – draws diagram of three phase arrangements -415 volts difference between each phase – but 240 volts to neutral – cable arrangements – stray cats would sometimes get electrocuted on the cables or drown in open pits nearby -

18:26

Condensers – no recollection -

19:35

Shift electrician – one day a week – took over as head of “Kelly gang” – special skill was cable jointing – describes process of jointing a cable – used to sell the copper left overs for scrap but police investigated and confiscated copper

25:59

Switchboard – switchyard – power supply from NSW – transforming high voltage to Canberra low voltage – (had photos of Ainslie Avenue switchyard) – description of tunnel under Wentworth Ave -

30:50

Ash disposal – can’t recall – description of coal pilfering by workers and local residents -

32:26

Crack on floor of building – different vibration on each side of crack – eventually covered over

33:39

People descriptions – Tom Trevillian – Bill Brown and son Bert – Mick Ozerskis -

36:49

Accidents – no recollection

37:48

Industrial disputes – no recollection

38:20

Socialising – Hotel Wellington – and stories – chasing women was main pastime for him

40:36

Powerhouse status – no real comment – but talks of hostels – getting married 22 Dec 1952 – reception at Hotel Civic – honeymooned in Manly (Sydney) – talks of promotions and feeling satisfied with pay

44:11

Closure of powerhouse – no real feelings – but felt sad the materials were being sold for scrap – that was a waste – wants to revisit site -

46:11

Other matters – climbed inside one of the transformers – wooden electrical gearbox jammed – Frank Dunshea watched outside – took gearbox to Sydney for rebuilding – took 12 hours to there and back with repaired gearbox -

50:24

Relation with NSW power – no recollection – but talks of cottages for NSW linesman who checked the overhead lines which brought power to Canberra

51:25

Pie seller (Wilky’s pies) – very rough old bugger – swore at customers -

53:59

Powerhouse chimney and smoke – can’t recall smoke being intrusive -

55:07

FRANK DUNSHEA - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction – why he chose electrical apprenticeship – first as electrical mechanic then fitter -

2:05

General impressions of powerhouse – describes various rooms in Powerhouse – conveyor belts – remembers boiler room as hot and dirty -

5:36

Coal - Stealing coal to keep warm in unheated workshop – stockpiles – bunker for off-loaded coal -

7:44

Generator (alternator) Hall – description – some units owned by NSW – routine maintenance – division of labour between electrical and mechanical trades – damage to slip rings from shift engineer trying to slow machinery down – had to repair damage frequently -

12:50

Belconnen Naval Transmitting Station – 11 KV power to supply – hear keying of morse code from station – low impedance transformers -

16:08

Generator Hall - fairly quiet -

16:47

Chimney – various heights – unaware of details -

17:43

Switchboard – slate and marble panels – need for insulation -

20:19

Ash disposal – unware of details

21:00

Relation to NSW power grid – description of power connections to NSW – need for extra power to supplement in 1950s -

23:08

Cotter Pumping Station – describes 11KV transformers used for the pumping station – largest bulk load – used as load balancing for rest of system -

25:36

Brickworks – minor consumers of power -

27:06

Relation to Goulburn NSW authority – metering and maintenance required

29:18

Smell of place – coal dust – hiss of steam -

29:58

Staff hierarchy – shifts personalities – Tom Trevillian – George Saint (not very popular very authoritarian) -

35:33

Safety and accidents – early 1950s Alf Farrer resuscitated by Mick Gallagher after coming in contact with overhead wires – Harold (?)Melluish was electrocuted at Belconnen Naval Station -

40:42

Testing bus bars for overheating with candles –

42:13

Repair of cables under alternators –rush to bowling club before six o’clock closing while still wearing work clothes -

44:07

Social life -Normally drank at Kingston Hotel – many workers lived in immediate area – in 1960s had parties on Powerhouse once equipment was removed -

47:15

Felt it was a shame that the equipment was sold off – thinks now it was a gem worthy of retention -

48:43

Industrial disputes – recalls one but no details – never any strike – no amenity room

51:26

Water from Molonglo – no recollection –did see people swimming there in the offtake pondage -

52:42

Migrants – Mick Ozerskis remembered -

53:39

Status of Powerhouse in community – not particularly influential – mention of a few migrants working there

54:05

Description of accident - Harry Charleton – walked between two rail wagons – Mick Ozerskis was using winch to move some wagons – Harry was crushed between two cars – Dunshea came to his aid but Harry died from injuries in hospital

56:44

Pranks as apprentices -

57:54

Technical description of sorting problems with transformers – installation of syncroscope in early 1950s-

62:19

STAN GOODHEW - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction – born 1932 in Canberra – desire to become electrical fitter – post war disposal sales – learned on crystal radio sets – good recollection and details – started apprentice Dept of Interior

4:28

Coal supply to Powerhouse – description of coal stockpile – industrial trouble on coalfields in NSW – conveyor belt loader and process of getting coal into hopper – mention of coal stealing to keep warm in workshop – poor quality coal was very smoky and smelled of sulphur much different than rail coal -

9:05

‘Happy Harry’ and coal loading – lived in Queanbeyan – huge loud laughing – loaded labour to load coal onto conveyor belt and handle blockages – description of bucket and belt system for coal loading -

12:46

Boiler room – grubby and dusty room – description of moving grate feed system for boilers – adjusting the safety valves on top of boiler by Tom and Harry Trevillian -

15:59

Economiser room – worked on draft fans – sent to Sydney for major repairs – description of recycling steam and various components -

22:01

Generator (alternator) Hall – very clean very silent – smelled of hot steam and Valvoline oil – polished fittings with ‘blued’ metal parts – description of the steam engines and alternators -

26:43

Brush-Lungstroms – description of double-ended machines – turning the slip rings in-situ – very hard coating left by carbon brushes -

32:10

Pumps – rescuing the river pump from a flood – description of discharge pipe and swimming there

35:15

Chimney – 1952(?) new higher chimney replaced old one for improved draft – cinders in workshop rafters -

37:01

Transformers – description of earthing job - soldering

39:09

Relation to NSW power – description of various lines and voltages – Goulburn managed the distribution of loads – Kingston shift supervisor had to check with Goulburn to see if Cotter Pumping Station could turn a pump on – other ‘industrial’ loads – mention of few electrical appliances in average house – street lights went off at 10 PM

43:46

Personalities – Tom and Harry Trevillian were Cornish but many Scottish people – Rolly Duffy -

46:35

Accidents – Alf Farrer – running steel conduit and must have got contact with overhead wires – he did come back to work at the Powerhouse – comments on Occupational Healt and Saftey – hazard of rail trucks rolling length of yard without noise – steam winch for moving trucks – accident with chap walking on tracks and crushed between the cars - Sef Tucker gave first aid – saw the results of the accident – not big news in town -

51:50

Security – plot to bomb the Powerhouse? – no security at all – but during the war Dutchmen were arrested with alleged (and false) plot to steal a plane and bomb the Powerhouse and Parliament House -

55:39

Confiscation of camera by Tom Trevillian – Wally Pederson (Latvian?) keen amateur photographer – had a Leica camera but film was confiscated (overreaction to war years) -

59:10

Migrants in Powerhouse – description of interesting characters but not many migrants -

60:07

Lunch room – none available – lived close and went home for lunch -

60:43

Whistle – uncertain of how they kept the time – speculates that Mt Stromlo observatory

61:39

RON HOURIGAN - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction – born 1920 in Araluen – story of asking Trevillian for job – first job was ashman – then learned boilers – most of time spent at Dairy Farmers after Powerhouse closed

2:24

‘Ashman’ very hot job raking ash and shovelling into conveyors into hoppers – then Government trucks would come two or three times a week to haul the ash away – description of level where ash fell – division of boilers between ACT and NSW boilers –

6:07

Then graduated to ‘fireman’ which was a boiler attendant -12 hour shifts 3 times a week – Powerhouse would close at Christmas time – maintenance would take place once a year – description of the fireman’s work routine – 200 psi – feeding coal into boiler -

12:12

Coal supply – some problems with Berrima open cut mine – would leave big lumps of burning ash – very dusty conditions in boiler room - no protective clothing– up to 20 barrow loads of dust each day – did have a strike one day over the conditions – got a new shower room starting construction the next day!

16:15

Noise – was not a lot of noise – only when coal was dropping into bottom hopper – some pump noise from pumping from Molonglo River -

18:30

‘Trimmer’ for each boiler attendant – kept place clean and lubricate pumps – at lunch at the boiler – no lunch room – cleaning firebox at night – extremely hot -

21:16

Ventilation – description of sources -

22:06

Staffing – 8-9 per shift – description of who was doing what – comments on supervisors and other workers – Ashman were mostly new Australians -

29:46

Accidents – big clinkers came down the chute from PWD boiler - hit Italian (Calabrian) chap in face – ambulance came – no recollection of Alf Farrer electrocution -

32:41

Comments on nature of job – 12 hour shifts were very tiring – but had few days off to make up for it – pay – could not recall -

35:01

Socialising – all at Hotel Kingston -

36:07

Swimming in outlet waters – status of Powerhouse – very ordinary – he left before station closed (owing to Snowy Hydro Scheme power coming in) -

38:18

Whistle – times it blew – distance it could be heard was great because Canberra was a quieter place then -

41:02

Talks about period working at Dairy Farmers for 30 years as boiler attendant – was not very happy about being sacked after 30 years -

44:35

More on staffing at Powerhouse -

46:10

ALAN CHRISTIE - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Early cadetship – spent 18 months in workshops – one placement in Kingston Powerhouse – watch keeping (temperature and pressure) – mostly ‘hands-on’ as trades assistant – shifting coal wagons – disposing ash – building specialised brick shapes -

04:11

Repairing steam winch for moving rail trucks for unloading, etc

06:44

Repairing fire bricks for combustion chamber – making special moulds – relation to old ‘Admin building’ boiler -

10:30

Description of chain grate stokers – rationale – ash handling – use of ash around his time in Canberra

14:55

Use of ash around Canberra – as filler in non-load bearing concrete – East and West Blocks – Admin Building – Temporary Parliament House – filler for decoration of outside of houses Kingston and Manuka -

17:05

Reference to coke, how to make it, uses in steel, domestic heating, “coke berries” – ash was also used for landscaping, driveways, playing fields, tennis courts

18:55

Temperature, noise and smell – engine room, noisy - galleries around boiler room, very hot – sulphur smell everywhere

20:07

Moving from boiler room to engine room (Alternator hall) – like moving from outside to inside – pristine – painted – light and airy – relatively quiet – gantry and gallery around the machine – for inspection – reference to Brush turbine -

23:29

1950s – State of the art power station? – Christie thinks so, but at the end of that era – coal firing technology was up to date – pulverised fuel (not used at Kingston) was just being introduced to the power industry – discussion about the new pulverising technology – burned just like gas – did away with the steam interface – could be injected directly into turbines

26:49

Vibration – very little in turbines

27:24

Whistle – widely heard – is it still sitting on roof? – used as starting and stopping signal for whole of Canberra workforce – could be heard all over town – does not know origin of whistle – i.e. rumours came from well known vessel?

30:12

Does not have any recollection of relation to NSW power system – initially no interconnection – decision to power Cotter Pumping with electricity – high voltage line required – possibly a first application for Australia? – 22Kv – 15 miles

32:51

People working at power station – his uncle George Saint – superintendent at the time Alan was there – mixed team of “new Australians” – George was north country man – North Umbria – number of brothers enlisted in war – George was gassed then repatriated to UK – came to Australia in 1920s? – Commercial fishing – came to power station as switch operator? – married his aunt in 1940 – from then on working at KPS – lived in flat roofed house in Canberra Ave – walking distance to work – during war wife took his meals to him – essential power supplies for HMAS Harmon (Transmitting at Belconnen and receiving at Symonston) made for very long hours on shift – Alan thought George was quite popular as superintendent – reference to unskilled workers at the plant – George remained as superintendent until station closed in 1957 (40:57)

39:56

Reference to attempted “bribe” of home grown vegetables delivered to his aunt – worker then asked if there might be some extra overtime available? – aunt referred them to her husband

40:41

Other names? – can’t recall unless particular event

 

Saftey and accidents – no accidents while he was there – very safe working area – war experiences had impact on workers – everybody took a lot of care – small pop in Canberra -

44:32

Number of staff on hand for a shift – 3 on night – up to 10 on day shift – maintenance of wash rooms – experience of his brother – keeping hand basins clean – need to teach how to do

49:42

1950 – 1954 – Time when economiser was added – Menzies came in 1949 – pop of Canberra was going to grow – need to increase efficiency of the station – coal was in short supply – coal miners strike – army brought in – additional shed for economiser - also new diesel generator sets – Blackstone – in separate building – could hear them running from his family home in Forrest – ‘quiet country town’

52:36

Recalls how he heard the first jet airplane – right at end of war – Meteor – came in from Goulburn – full throttle – banked over Cooma – came back over City at high speed – set the dogs to barking

53:50

Status of powerhouse – Did people realise the importance? – yes had status – three whistle blasts – 7:30, 12:00 and 5:00?

55:14

Had no recollection of station closing – was overseas – 1956 – 1959 – in that time NCDC had started – John Overall appointed – his hometown had “disappeared” in rampant population growth – went to 56,000 from 8,000 – fortunate to get into redevelopment of industrial infrastructure – work on water supply and sewerage – building services – space tracking stations

57:27

Would he like machinery back again? – two esp. – very few operating steam engines – would be nice to have some examples – and brick making equipment – logistical problems of having working examples

60:51

JAKE ZUTT - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction – born 1920 Amsterdam – arrived at Broome on 3/3/42 – spent wartime in Canberra – worked with Canberra Electricity Supply 1949 – started at Powerhouse in 1953

3:09

First job at Powerhouse – log the instrument readings ever hour – cubby house across from main switchboard – 10 minutes work every hour -

5:10

Power interruptions and crises: description of what he did when alarms went off -

6:21

Description of alternators: description of outside supply and closing down of Powerhouse – account of rapidly rising power demand made it hard to keep up supply – opening of new switch station in Ainslie – new operations branch was created -

10:10

Synchronising the alternators: description of running generators up to speed and switching them onto load -

11:52

Boiler room condensers pumps – did not have much to do with it -

12:47

Clock – master clock – mentions times but some confusion on times at which it was blown – 46 minute on the face of the clock was marked wrongly -

14:39

Switchboard – replacing manual board with push button one about 1954 – unclear of functions – provided better protection for the circuits -

16:42

Relation to NSW: did not think Kingston took its directions from Goulburn – engineers were responsible for matching supply to demand – description of penalties imposed for using power beyond agreement -

19:20

Magnetron at ANU: used a lot of power – big load – ANU had to notify Powerhouse when they wanted to switch it on – mentions that he would sometimes cause the demand measuring instruments of NSW to ‘misprint’ to avoid charges -

23:07

Noise/temperature/smell – alternator room was not very noisy – did not smell to him – temperature was OK -

24:41

Other workers: 1953 – 57 – mentions other names – George Saint not liked by many but Jake got on well with him – Mick Ozerskis singled out for praise – talks of growing responsibility to his position

31:21

Safety, accidents and humorous stories: mentions Alf Farrer accident – once a flood of water in the lower rooms -

34:18

Social aspects: not every one drank at Kingston Hotel – fitters went to RSL club at Manuka -

35:12

Industrial disputes: pay levels – talks about only 5 being on operations team – and dividing time for each shift -

37:50

Mentions working from old Powerhouse as recently as 1983 -

40:18

Other stories/memories: increase from 66KV to 132KV – talks about handling complaints about outages in 1950s – flushing toilet caused radio reception to fail – turned out to be earth wire(!) – lonely job at night – and no security at all -

45:32

Swimming in Molonglo R – did not know

45:49

Status of Powerhouse and his position – not really -

46:35

Shift work – handled it pretty well – talks of ways in which he coped with sleep patterns – occasionally dozed off during night shift -

48:34

HARRY SCHEELE - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction – born 1933 Queanbeyan – apprenticeship began at powerhouse 1949 – 1954 – electrical fitter – story of how he changed from electrical mechanic to electrical fitter

2:58

Jobs at Powerhouse – 3 months rotation with Johnny Carson – worked on NSW generators – story of making key parts for them – description of lifting with gantry crane with hand ropes -

6:32

Description of economisers – design and function

8:15

Boiler Room – noise and heat -

10:25

Coal loading – description of hoppers – coal gang for unloading manually –from ordinary rail trucks -

12 13

Accidents – crossing rail line – got crushed and killed – description of accident

13:49

Machine room – fairly noisy – but very clean -

15:32

Diesel generators – coal strikes – coal stockpiles

17:44

Impressions of powerhouse – did not mind ‘old’ machinery -

18:44

People – descriptions – Tom Trevillian – Harry Trevillian -

21:24

Chimney – curiosity of learning things about Powerhouse – back in 1958 – 1963

23:39

Other accidents and incidents – none he could think of – one instance of slipping from a platform – Alf Farrer got burned on the back – showed it to Harry -

26:50

Industrial disputes – none – shift work – none – description of number of workers at various sites -

30:20

Whistle – description – mentions of volume better when steam powered -

31:16

Description of pay scales – need for parents help – marriage -

33:14

Social life – Hotel Kingston and Hotel Wellington -

34:58

Distinguishing features of job – nothing really – somewhat disjointed o- mention of Cotter Pumping station noise and heat -

36:41

Other stories – funny? – none worth mentioning – everyone was pretty happy – very few complaints

37:21

Status of Powerhouse – some status – everyone knew of importance – ‘working under the whistle” -

38:37

Talks of father – Charlie Scheele – timber merchant – mention of popular term “the Federal” for Federal Capital Territory

40:52

Closure of powerhouse – Marrs construction – Ned Stevens took charge of demolition – felled the old steel chimney -

43:35

More on whistle compressor – origin of whistle – not known -

45:30

Social activities inside Powerhouse – can’t recall details -

48:00

DON THOMAS - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction – migrated to Aust 1920 – at Powerhouse in 1930s – father associated with powerhouse 1921 or 1922 – worked on problem of Bellose-Morcombe machines running out of synch – more on father’s work – how Don came to Canberra – working with electrical firm in Melbourne – had a knack for working on motors and engines -

8:33

First work in Canberra 1935 – first job at Powerhouse – assistant in research section testing power meters– station not running – mentions cadet engineers that helped him there – description of meter section in Powerhouse -

15:29

Other things he did – oscilloscope – test elec motors – testing of Westinghouse circuit breakers – description of windings in certain transformers -

20:35

Was there for 2.5 years – machinery did start up once – could not determine why it was started – observations -

23:14

Whistle – names of some other workers there -

24:45

Various people who worked there – description of small hut facing switchboard – Ron Bisset and Tom Travillion – both betting men – changed clock settings in workplace – not sure about synchronising time – wired up radio speaker and Ted Francis did a perfect fake call of race -

31:52

Discussion of Tom and Harry Trevillian – father and son – description of them – their car -

36:03

Other people who worked there in 1930s – mentions a number and their cars – one was overhauled in the Powerhouse each year -

40:21

Other things they did – switch board – various types of circuit breakers – testing and near electrocution when he stood up under wires

44:11

Description of being in station when operating – various pumps – various alternators – boiler room – ways of unloading coal – not sure of details – describes chain grate stoker – conveyor belts -

54:34

Description of steam engines – triple expansion –double acting

56:58

Accidents – did not happen while he was there – describes one accident Friday afternoon – climbing a pole – forgot his safety belt had been released and fell from pole and died

58:22

Description of swimming at river -

60:06

Powerhouse status – studying while working -

62:58

PART 2

 

Cadetships being cut - Spoke about Bill Gray – technical questions – learned enormous amount from him – describes study and getting a job – refused clerical position – eventually Mt Stromlo assistant (left powerhouse to take up position) -

6:08

Superheaters (pre-heaters) – description of Babcock-Wilcox boilers – pipe insulation was asbestos – description of noise of safety valve blowing was very intense – some confusion of process

11:32

economiser room – description –steps – Ron Bisset’s job was to scrape out the condensed tars –well earned money

12:18

Murdoch Macgregor – description of conduit in Causeway Houses -

14:48

General discussion of things discussed – swimming in River below outlet – water was warm and was used for swimming – somewhat disjointed -

17:38

Fallout and smoke from chimney – wanders onto other motors and pumps – goes down list -

19:39

Cotter pumping station – description of pumps – not much detail – requires detailed editing – too disjointed and detailed -

27:57

Humorous stories – Andy Fraser – eating room – recording voltmeter from Burrinjuck Power Station – big roll of paper - chart changed every month – but Andy tied the recording needle with thread (cotton) so it drew a steady line – thus “eliminating” the varying voltage which had been the worry – only discovered when the chart was changed – needs editing to get pithy bits

31:51

Bill Gray and Don Thomas – rigged up a way to measure electromagnetic field on rabbits which were the subject of scientific study by Health Department- too disjointed and wanders – practical joke -

37:57

Reaction to closure of Powerhouse – disjointed conversation – really upset to see shell of buildings -

42:57

BOB BOX - TOPICS

TIMELINE (END)

Introduction –born 1924 Caulfield – apprentice at Powerhouse – especially from 1946 – helped build radios for electrical - other apprentices in the same intake -

6:18

Description of machine hall – comments on expansion of economiser room and chimney (1949) -

9:34

Humour - NSW power and peak meter readings – ways in which they would manage the load on system to minimise charges from NSW -

12:37

More on description of machine hall – description of noise – dust and dirt –rattles -

15:29

Work on switchboard – description of switches for each suburb – work space behind board -

17:58

Accidents and incidents – Bill Mitchell supervisor tested if switch was isolated by throwing a file across the contacts – it was live and the file was blown to pieces

18:49

Ash disposal – ash pits were used – some trucked out of Canberra – unaware of details

20:50

Relation with NSW Electricity Council – control was up to Kingston not NSW – arguments about what peak power really was – mention of power recordings of each suburb’s consumption -

24:12

Reference to Tom Trevillian – very self-important – very keen to minimise costs – talks of other Trevillian brothers that he went to school with – other names that he worked with while there -

30:29

Accidents and incidents – cleaner did not appreciate the need to avoid live power cables – Bert Hickling – had to be rescued from top of transformer where he had climbed

31:55

Testing bus bars – no recollection

33:02

Whistle – not sure of which story is true – describes air compressor and the way in which whistle was made and blown -

37:45

Accidents and incidents – Alf Farrer – NOT first hand account – some steam scalds – pretty safe really -

40:34

Industrial disputes – nothing serious – all related to working conditions and pay -

42:16

Social life – Kingston Hotel – Trades and Labour Day picnics at Cotter

44:24

Closing of Powerhouse during floods – truck in background noise – drifts onto standby diesel and its noise -

46:47

Humour - Air raid sirens in Canberra – testing of sirens – coupled five together and put on time clock as joke -

48:29

Incidents – phone line at Cotter Pumping being hit by lightning while in use

50:36

Warm water in discharge area of Molonglo R – nothing – mention of second dam downstream of Powerhouse -

53:56

Status of Powerhouse – not recognised by community – talks of some Westlake residents -

56:27

Change in Powerhouse after WWII – nothing noticed

57:20

Comments on sale of contents of Powerhouse – shame the equipment was sold off – talks of other lost icons of Canberra -

62:30