Tasmania - Duck Reach Power Sta.

Duck Reach Power Station, Launceston

Welcome to Duck Reach Power Station, the first public hydroelectric facility in the Southern Hemisphere and provider of Launceston's electricity from 1895 to 1955. It took water from just up the South Esk River, funnelled it through the hill, down the penstock(s) in the first photo (plural to be explained shortly), and into 5-8 generators depending on year. "LMC" stands for Launceston Municipal Council.

Coming off the suspension bridge (see link at bottom), the first building I come to is the cableway winding shed. People would cross the suspension bridge to commute to work, and the cableway was responsible for hauling equipment across the South Esk. The shed was built into the hillside, so part of the back wall and floor is solid rock.

I wouldn't say this is original to 1895, but this equipment transporter that would fasten to the cableway is definitely not a replica.

Alright, let's go into the power station and clear up the mystery from my first caption. In the last photo, you see a number of pipes coming out of the wall. Five of these are the original distributor pipes that brought water into the five AC turbines. The longer pipes (centre and far side) are the original 1895 pipes that fed two of the three DC dynamo motors. In the top right of the 3rd photo is a newer pipe that comes in over a cement patch. The cement patch was the third 1895 pipe, but as capacity needed to be increased to feed Launceston's growing electrical demands, and since DC was out of vogue by then, a new steel penstock was run through and down the hill and shoved into the wall in 1926 to feed a new alternator. So for half its life, the power station had one penstock, and then it had two.

Photos of stuff that isn't really interesting, but it must have been once. The overhead gantry had equipment on it that could be pulled across the power station to service each turbine.

Walking out the west side of the power station, the newer, 1926 penstock runs west of the original, even though it fed the alternator at the far east of the plant.

A convenient staircase lets you follow the 1895 penstock up the hill and ride it like a cowboy (not recommended).

Coming back down to the power station, there's a thing behind it. It may look like a space capsule, but its use becomes apparent by studying the previous photos. It's the same colour and material as the original penstock, has a larger hole in the top and smaller ones on either side. This, therefore, is the connection from the penstock to the distributor pipes, or at least one of the connecting pieces (since the outside piping is not intact, I don't know whether it fed down once or twice).

Walking back in the west side of the power station for one more photo...

The one generator that was powering the lights in the power station after it stopped powering Launceston has been preserved in place. And it's not just any generator. It's an original 1895 dynamo engine taking in water to a turbine (rear), feeding it past a rotational speed governor flywheel (centre left) into an alternator (front), generating DC power. DC power doesn't travel very far, which is why it only powered a handful of street lights in its original incarnation (booster stations would have been required all about town to do more), but it was perfect for just powering the station. The significant implication of this is that the station, and presumably the cableway winding apparatus, was powered by an original 15 kW DC engine for 60 years while the rest of the equipment was upgraded to progressively more powerful AC-generating turbines. So, that was the best for last, as always.

Head east through Cataract Gorge
See more of Launceston

Duck Reach suspension bridge

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