Goulburn Waterworks: Revisiting Networked Technologies

Goulburn Historic Waterworks, 29 May 2022.

The Goulburn Waterworks is a fascinating heritage conservation project that is:

...the only complete, operational, steam powered municipal water supply, left in its original location in the Southern Hemisphere.

On a cold but gorgeous winter day on the Southern Tablelands, we visited the site of the pre-Covid Steampunk Festival.

The only Appleby Bros Beam Engine left in the world, decommissioned in 1918 after 32 years' service 

The first thing we noticed was the Fireman's Cottage. This house accommodated the fireman and his family. The boilers ran 24/7 and required constant supervision. The local CWA provided a warm cup of tea on a cold day at the Pumphouse cafe, an old school building from Taralga.

Horizontal engine by Hick, Hargreaves & Co., England, 1866 

The horizontal engine manufactured by Hick, Hargreaves & Co. in Bolton, England in 1866 is one of three remaining in the world. Apparently, the Museum of Historic Engines was the precursor to the Waterworks Museum, so this engine was moved here for restoration in 1970. The engine was still functioning when we arrived late in the afternoon.

I've always wondered what the Waterworks was about. It provided running (reticulated) water for Goulburn from 1886 using a steam-operated beam engine until this was replaced by an electric pump in 1918. The Waterworks provided water for Goulburn (via a filtration plant and a reservoir) until 1977.

I often feel we have lost touch with how much effort went into providing the utilities we now come to expect. But given the contemporary decarbonisation project we have inevitably embarked upon, I daresay there is much we can learn from the pioneers of networked technologies and their legacies that have fortunately been preserved in Goulburn.

For more information, check out the Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum website.