During the past couple of years running Lost Collective, I’ve received all kinds of correspondence, good and bad. One of the most rewarding things would have to be when people drop me a line to share their connection to the places I photograph. Not long after I shared the original Wangi Power Station gallery, a former worker named Cliff was kind enough to share some amazing pictures from his personal collection, taken around the late 70s and early 80s while the power station was still operational. If you have any pictures of your own prior to the closure of Wangi Power Station, please drop me a line.
The hydrogen-cooled 60 MW Parsons generator, viewed from above the operating level. This is the favourite photo from Cliff, the gentleman who was kind enough to supply almost all of the pictures you see in this blog post. This is turbine number 6, sitting just outside the “B” mechanical workshop, the supervisors’ office, and the meal room above that. If you look carefully, you can even see one of the supervisors in his office through the window. The metal stairway near the centre of the frame leads up to the meal room, where Cliff can remember sitting with his colleagues and listening to the radio as Australia II won the America’s Cup in 1983. You can clearly see the high-pressure, intermediate-pressure, and low-pressure manifolds on the drive end of the turbine. Modern designs would never plan to have a generator spinning at over 30000 RPM this close to a staff area. On Monday 9th December 1957, turbine number 2 burst from its housing, flying 25ft through the air, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and rendering the generator inoperable for about six months while repairs were carried out. It’s very lucky the office wasn’t next to that one.
Cooling water screens for the condensers in “B” Station filtered out the aquatic life and other solid objects which would otherwise interfere with the pumps. This screened salt water could then be pumped to the condensers to cool the steam after it had been spent in the turbines. Once the steam had been cooled back to a liquid state, it could then be returned to the system and reused in the boilers.
The image on the left is a view through the dividing area between the turbine and boiler house, during the construction of Wangi Power Station. Photographed by Sam Hood for the Newcastle Morning Herald. This image is from the Hood Collection part I in the State Library of NSW . The second is my own photograph taken from approximately the same spot December 2015, 61 years later and 30 years after closure.
A photograph from the coal stockpile beside the coal plant, looking towards the “B” Station lift tower. The openings on the right side of the frame are where the bulldozers would push coal onto a conveyor where it would begin its journey to the top of the power station and into bunkers. The building on the far was the main store of Wangi Power Station.
This was a steam driven feed pump used to supply boilers with the water required to generate the steam which drove the turbines (to the rear of where the photographer was standing). Rather than being electrically driven, this pump used steam bled from the turbine for energy. In the background is part of one of the pulverised fuel boilers, meaning this photo was taken somewhere inside “B” station.
The image on the left is looking from “B” Station over the length of the entire turbine hall to the far end of “A” Station. Wangi Power Station consisted of six turbines in total. “A” Station contained three 50 MW Parsons turbo-alternators, while “B” station had three 60 MW Parsons units, giving the power station a total generating capacity of 330 MW. Comparatively, Australia’s largest power stations, Eraring and Bayswater , are still operational at 2,880 MW and 2,640 MW respectively. You can see an operator and a supervisor (going by the uniform) to the far left of the frame, looking at a turbine control panel. The image on the right is my own, taken in 2015. When viewed against that on the left, it makes me think of a jaw with all of the teeth pulled out.
A shot from the “B” Station end of Wangi Power Station, looking over the switchyard. The outlet canal can be seen running from the power station into Lake Macquarie . You can see the main car park to the right of the frame, and a domed building on the furthest side of the switchyard, which was the new apprentice workshop. Before this had been built, apprentice training took place inside the power station itself, in a workshop, off from the main workshop area.
This was part of a trial feeding system that was being tested at the power station. I have limited information on this, so if you have a better understanding of what was happening here, please leave a comment. Supposedly, this trial was being developed to test the use a coal slurry to as fuel in the “B” Station boilers. The overall shot places the scene between the coal plant and the end of “B” Station. A large hopper looks to divert some of the coal being fed via the main coal feeding conveyor down to a green hopper. From this hopper, the coal feeds to a ball mill before passing through what appears to be some cleaning tanks. The top level of the furthest structure features what appears to be an orange centrifuge which might have been used to separate the water from the pulverised coal particles. Perhaps it was part of a trial to determine if washed coal had a higher efficiency rate than that of the dry, raw processed coal. As I mentioned, I’m hypothesising, but I’d quite like to know the story behind this, so please do get in touch if you know.
Boiler no 2A was one of the six spreader stoker Babcock and Wilcox cross drum boilers, used to heat steam to a temperature of 840ºF (449ºC) which drove the Parsons turbines. Rapidly rotating blades would fling coal, between the size of a marble and a fist, onto the grate via a gravimetric feeder. Coal fell onto the feeders via the four chutes seen on the front of the boiler. The coal would then pass through the boiler, over the grate, and then fall to waste removal at the end. On at least one occasion, this boiler was re-ignited after a shutdown by throwing an oily rag onto the coal already inside the boiler on the chain grate, with the hope of it catching alight. I’m not sure if this was standard practice, but hey, whatever gets the job done in an era where safety was still negotiable. The access hatches at the base near the floor were used to unjam the grates. You might also notice that one of the hatches has been left slightly ajar, showing the glow from inside the boiler. The specifications of the boiler were sign-posted on each unit, seen above the nameplate near the top centre of the frame.
Another shot of the high-pressure end of turbine number six. You can just see a couple of operators hiding in the far left of the frame.
What a classic shot. Taken just past the main car park with a Mini passing in front of the tennis courts, which lie between the roadside and the power station itself. This photo was taken looking towards the “A” Station end of Wangi Power Station.
The outlet canal took water recovered from the condensers and returned it to the outlet canal, which ran the length of the entire power station before returning to Lake Macquarie. You can see the roadway of Dobell Drive passing over the far end of the canal.
The “A” Station screens don’t look to have fared as well as their newer “B” Station counterparts. The same requirement for filtered salt water was needed for the “A” Station condensers, although the mechanism to filter the water for this side of the power station was of a completely different design. A series of buckets would be pulled up using a chain drive, and then passed over filter screens before being pumped back to the condensers. I’m told the cast iron rollers used in these screens were great material for making engine piston rings.
Looking down the main coal feeding conveyor and over the coal plant from the roof of “B” Station roof. You can just make out a coal delivery truck coming in at the far side of the stockpile. Coal would also be delivered from Awaba Colliery via the rail line you can see coming into the plant from a distance. The transfer towers in the middle of the frame were sets of conveyors which joined, allowing coal to be fed to the main conveyor up to the bunkers.
One of the Parsons Turbines that generated the electricity at Wangi Power Station. The blue, white and chrome colours are from a bygone era in the colour coordination of generating equipment. The generator sets of most modern power stations tend to be one solid colour (and much larger). All the valving and asbestos lagged pipework makes up part of the control system. On the left end of the generator set, you can see the turbine speed indicator on the governor.
The main entrance of the power station is at the bottom left. The ground floor consisted of the apprentice workshop on the left, with nurses station around the corner to the right. The first floor was an electrical workshop. Further up the building was the canteen, which had its own unique Wangi Power Station currency. Executive offices also occupied the higher levels of the building at the end of “A” Station.
Scanned documents from induction packs of the era, which were given to new starters. The first document is a brief overview of the history of Wangi Power Station as well as some technical details including the functions, equipment and generating capacity. The contents of the document are transcribed below.
Wangi Power Station was one of five major stations built on the coalfields by the N.S.W. Electricity Commission . It has a capacity of 330 000 kilowatts.
The station was originally designed, and its construction begun by the Railways Department and was completed for the Electricity Commission, formed in 1950 as the State’s major electricity generating and bulk supply authority.
Situated near Wangi township on the western side of Lake Macquarie, the power station is the fourth largest in operation on the northern coalfields and it provides power for the State supply system.
Experience shows that it is cheaper to transmit power considerable distances from a power station than to carry fuel to it. Wangi Power Station, therefore, is well situated, being only 7 kilometres from the Commission-owned Awaba Coal Mine. Cooling water, also, is readily available from the nearby lake. Wangi Power Station comprises three 50 000 kW and three 60 000 kW generating units installed at a cost of $60 million.
Like the other five main stations at Liddell (Hunter Valley), Munmorah (Central Coast), Vales Point (Lake Macquarie), Tallawarra (near Port Kembla) and Wallerawang (near Lithgow), Wangi station is part of the Commission’s interconnected generating system which supplies most of the electric power in N.S.W.
There are important economic advantages in such large-scale operations, one of them being that the Commission is able to supply all retailing Councils with electricity at a uniform tariff.
The three 50 000 kW units have two boilers per unit, each boiler having a steam-raising capacity of 113 500 kilograms per hour at a pressure of 4 478 kilopascals, and a temperature of 450°C.
These first units use the spreader-stoker system of firing, coal of the required grade being fed by chute to a mechanism which throws it across the furnace on to a travelling grate.
The second section of the station comprises three 60 000 kW turbine generators, each with a single 249 700 kilograms per hour boiler, 6 545 kilopascals at 500°C.
These boilers use pulverised fuel. No grate is required, the fuel being reduced to very fine particles, and fed into the furnaces as an airborne coal dust.
Operation of the older “A” section has declined in recent years. The more modern “B” section makes a substantial contribution to system requirements and consumes up to 1 500 tonnes of coal a day.
Water for cooling purposes is brought in through a horseshoe-shaped tunnel under the hill at the rear of the station and returned to the lake by a 3.5 metre deep open canal.
The chimney stacks are of reinforced concrete, 76 metres high, with an internal diameter at the top of 6 metres.
The station has exterior walls of red brick, rows of— glass windows, and a precast concrete roof.
The main power station building, 228 metres long, takes up the central portion of the site, with the control room and switchyard in front and a number of stores, workshops and office buildings nearby.
For the whole job, 76 500 cubic metres of concrete, 3 000 000 bricks and 10 000 tonnes of structural steel were required.
A general information document for new starters relating to the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, as it was in 1977.
The present day view from across the former switch yard of Wangi Power Station.
This blog post is more or less a transcription of that presentation. But, I also wanted to expand a little on some of the things I had to cut from the presentation to be able to fit into the allocated time (which I still ended up exceeding by about 20 minutes).
The reaction to my Callan Park gallery had had a significant influence on what Lost Collective is today. In a sense, it was a catalyst that contributed to the creation of the project itself.
I’ve lived in Sydney’s Inner West most of my life and often walked my dog in Callan Park; I think I probably shared in the curiosity of quite a few people as to what is beyond the walls that you can see when peeking through some of the windows.
Callan Park was the first time I’d ever tried to obtain permission to access an unused building for the purpose of photography.
When I first posted the gallery to Facebook in late 2015, I didn’t expect the reaction that followed.
I honestly had no idea how much the site affected some people. I mean, I’d heard all the stories and the urban legend, but none of that had ever really had any personal impact on anyone I knew (or so I thought at the time).
Until you hear that raw version of events coming from someone’s personal experiences, I don’t think it really sinks in just how much Callan Park affected some people in such a way that has stayed with them for their entire lives.
This works both ways too.
Not every story about Callan Park is bad. Undoubtedly quite a lot are, but part of what I learned from publishing this gallery was the importance in presenting some balance in the written component, and trying to keep as neutral as possible in what I present.
Before Lost Collective was even an idea, I would just photograph abandoned buildings without giving much thought to a written accompaniment.
There certainly wasn’t any historical write-up. The individual photos didn’t have any captions. I don’t think I even gave titles to the galleries, let alone the pictures.
They were just mindless posts on my personal Facebook page.
Even with this collection, the initial introduction I wrote was admittedly, quite lazy. It was a quick run-down of the history of the site and finished up with me saying that I don’t know much about the history of Callan Park, then inviting those who did, to share their stories.
Still, though, the gallery received quite a strong reaction, both directly on the Lost Collective Facebook page, and on a couple of other Facebook Groups groups where the post was also shared.
There was quite a mix of people who interacted with the post; the bulk were Nurses, then families of people who were patients, historians, paranormal investigators, urban explorers, and locals who frequent the grounds.
Understandably, some people who worked in Callan Park were upset that the site, as was depicted in the pictures was being related to something from a ghost story. The general feeling was that this diminished the value of the roles they played here in helping people.
I have often mentioned that I realise a lot of my photos have an underlying sadness, an almost horror movie like quality to them.
It’s difficult to explain that I am not trying to make the photos look depressing or frightening. I know they do though, and of all my pictures, those taken in hospitals reflect this more than any.
The photos are what they are; I don’t think too much about how I make them look the way they do; I just do it. It’s all just what comes out of my creative processes.
I can’t change the way I do this. So, I think that because of this aspect alone, more than anything emphasises the importance of a balanced written component.
Contrary to the many stories that exist about Callan Park, not everyone had bad times here. Some people did for sure, don’t get me wrong! But, if that’s the only side of Callan Park that I share, it’s not very fair to those who didn’t suffer either.
Some people, whose family members were former patients, had some stories that were incredibly sad to read and tough to sit back then imagine going through something the same.
After publishing Callan Park, I realised that if I was going to share photos in this way in future, I really had to have the photos accompanied by a balanced presentation of the history, taking as neutral a position as possible.
I do my best to try and research so that my writing is as accurate as possible. I want it to connect on a personal level, and often I reach out to people who have first-hand involvement in the places I shoot.
It’s a constantly evolving process that takes enormous amounts of time. I have completely re-written my introduction to the Callan Park Gallery three times, and I am still to correct the many errors that remain and to try and put some more context into the captions.
Some of these rooms I have photographed, I cannot even remember where they were taken. Getting accurate information about what I’ve shot is incredibly difficult.
Looking back at the photos without being able to retrace my steps, and having to rely on direct approaches to complete strangers through social media, really has very variable rates of success.
But on occasion, some people can draw on such a wealth of excellent first-hand information. Those stories of personal connections are what I find to be the most valuable contributions of all. It’s really what Lost Collective is all about.
I try and follow this with everything I do to this day. There are times when it borders on impossible to dig up any past on some of the places I photograph such as Kuwashima Hospital and most of the Home gallery, and I’ll freely admit that I let the imagination take precedence in those cases. Otherwise, I do my best to try and learn as much as I can and add that into what I publish.
So, having said all that, I thought I’d show some of the photos where people left comments which had the greatest influence on what Lost Collective is all about, and why.
“Creepy, but there’s something about this photo I like, but I’m not sure why.”
I suppose this is one of the “creepiest” photos I’ve posted. I noticed many comments along this line for this picture, not to mention the rest of my work.
This particular shot does have something unsettling about it, I think this element exists to a degree in all of my photos, but there is something about it that is probably a bit stronger than my other pictures.
“I had a few ice baths there in the late sixties.”
Then when I couple the imagination with the picture with being subjected to an ice bath in a mental health institution, the scene in my mind seems to become a bit darker.
“I remember evening socials and union meetings in this hall.”
I’d always wondered what this room was. It’s one of my favourite photos visually too, because of the detail in the broken parquetry.
This building seemed like one of the more peaceful spaces of all those that I photographed, and even after all the years passing and the onset of dilapidation, the area seems to have still held onto the mood of it’s past.
“I worked in A-Ward during my training, and I’m almost sure this is the dining room. Such mixed memories but incredibly thankful for my experiences there.”
What an interesting comment. I’m sure there’s an interesting story within “mixed memories”, but he does mention being thankful for the experiences there. So I can assume that the overall memory in this instance was a positive one.
This picture inspired the “Nature always finds a way 🌿 ” tagline.
“Yes, both are A-Ward. People used to sit out the back and admire the view; it was very peaceful.
There was 2 DVA units side by side A and H-Wards.
I remember there was a beautiful old gentleman named Jim there who used to regale us with stories about Changi Prison on the opposite side of the river.
He believed that the nurses had been flown over to Singapore from Australia to look after all the sick servicemen.
Great memories, I met my beautiful wife here!”
This was such a lovely comment to read! I feel as though I can almost picture this wonderful gentleman speaking to me. If his comment doesn’t warm your cold dead hearts, nothing will.
Another of my favourite photos. There is a certain sense of majesticness in this room with a beautiful view of the surrounding outside environment. It really helps to conveys how much of a Park it really is.
“This part was the dining room of aged care later. It was so lovely. Old people loved it, and so did staff.”
“The McKinnon detox centre used three different locations, and this was one. I was a detoxer at all of these locations. It was a peaceful place.”
“I remember when this room was filled with residents and nurses.”
These were some of the more pleasant memories of Callan Park.
“It was a terrible place. People drugged on medications, dribbling, imprisoned by drugs such as Serenace, an absolute torturous drug. Filthy dirty lounges.”
“Lucky there were a few good nurses, the rest had hate issues and took it out on certain patients.”
“There was a lovely Catholic Priest Father McCallum. Thank God for the good people.”
Sometimes with a subject like Callan Park, you need to be able to distinguish the urban legend from the truth.
In this instance, the tone of the comment seems to be coming from a first-hand experience that is vastly different to the three previous ones.
“OMG! Can anyone else see the face of a man above the right-hand side heater!”
“There is also a man standing between the two black marks above the right-hand heater.”
“Three girls are above the left-hand heater.”
“There are many faces to the left.”
“There are faces everywhere!”
This was the first of many comments that come through Lost Collective regarding ghosts.
It continued for some time, and to this day it continues to appear in comments of many of my other galleries. I feel that it diminishes the legacy of the places I photographs.
“On the far-right corner of the lower back wall, there is a man’s face.”
“Under the window in the next room, there are at least two people against the wall.”
This ended up continuing into late night private messages; I had to ask her to stop.
“All food came in via service tunnels that link to RPA.”
Interesting to hear there are tunnels to RPA. That would be interesting to explore. I’m sure the likes of The Cave Clan are acutely aware of their existence.
“It hasn’t changed much; I remember one male patient that use to drive me mad. He just wouldn’t leave that bloody fire hose on the right-side wall alone.”
I got a laugh out of this comment she talks about it like it’s a happening from earlier today.
“This reminds me of Nurse Ratchet’s station in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’.”
‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ is the first thing my mum drew comparisons with when she saw this album. Many people have said the same thing.
I still haven’t seen it, but I probably should watch it, so I understand what everybody is talking about.
“I can see in the middle window at the bottom part two faces one person with glasses and the other person above looks like he has a rocker style hair do. He has a chubby face!”
More ghosts. Quite a detailed description too. Clearly, everyone has their own unique way of looking at the pictures. I guess for photography, that is a good thing.
“The only image so far that doesn’t look like from a horror movie (great photos by the way!)”
This was funny to read, but it also helped make me aware of the inherent disturbing nature of the pictures.
The context of this comment was a spelling correction. I got a lot of them. It made me feel I really should be giving writing copy the same effort I use to create the photos.
Somewhat a given when you consider that I never actually spell checked my original copy. It was typed directly into the Facebook post, without any proof read or draft.
Below are some of the general comments that weren’t specific to any one picture, but for one reason or another, I found them to be important, moving, or interesting in one way or another.
“Through researching the family history, we recently discovered that my great-great-uncle had been a patient at Callan Park.
He came home front World War 1 a ‘Mental case” and was sent to Callan Park, where he lived for 40 years until his death in 1059.
Sadly, none of his family ever saw him again when he returned from the war, and no one was even at his funeral when he died.
We found his war grave in Sydney only last week and have now have been to visit it.
I’m sure Callan Park most hold some very sad, sometimes fascinating stories such as this.”
What a sad life story. Although, it has a happy ending of sorts.
I certainly agree there must be a lot of fascinating stories such as this out there that are likely to be forgotten.
I think this is an important aspect of what drives Lost Collective; unearthing these small bits of history. While it’s just a short story, it’s an entire known lifetime for someone else that’s been condensed into a comment.
It’s the only glimpse into the past of someone that would otherwise never be realised again.
“My father was a produce merchant working out of Sussex Street in the city.
About 50 years ago when driving past Callan Park, he informed me that his business used to provide the straw for the cells at the asylum.”
Admittedly, when I read this, I pictured inmates on the straw covered dungeon floors.
I’ve since come to understand that straw-covered floors weren’t so much about treating people like animals as they were about hygiene, given the limited access to absorbent material in that era for patients with involuntary bowel movements and the like.
“When my grandparents moved to Sydney, they set up in Rozelle; I grew up in Drummoyne, and Callan Park was always used as a threat.
I remember my Gran used to say “you’re sending me to Callan Park” to my grandad. He used to take me to the Callan Park Hotel all the time.”
This ‘threat’ was something I’d never heard of before posting the gallery. But since then, dozens have brought to my attention that is a commonly known used disciplinary tool from days past.
“I remember walking through the grounds and hearing the screams.
My dad spent time there for shell shock (or PTSD as it is known today) and he was stabbed by another patient.
I have awful memories of that time. I was glad when he came home, but the whole experience made him that much worse.”
Quite a horrific comment to read. I struggle to imagine experiencing an ordeal like this.
“My Nan spent 35 years in Callan Park, admitted when she was 33 and pregnant.
She died in there when she was 64 from being bashed by another patient.
It happened all the time. That’s why a lot of the patients had to wear a camosile (Strait Jacket).”
This sounds even more horrific than the previous comment. I don’t know how I’d cope with an experience such as this.
The same person also expanded on this story in the comment below.
Mum was only 17 months, and her brother was three when their mother (my Nan) was admitted.
My grandmother’s illness all started when she gave birth to mum. She suffered from Post Natal Depression, but unfortunately, back then Dr’s knew nothing about it.
When mum was old enough, she would Visit her mother every Sunday at Callan Park, rain hail or shine.
Mums sister was born in Callan Park in 1934 and taken home the next day to be raised by their grandmother along with mum & her brother.
How on earth a 60-year-old woman took on three kids including a newborn, I don’t know.”
I don’t know how she did either. Quite a sad life story, but at the same time, it gives a real appreciation for the advancements in modern mental health care and awareness.
“It states that some of the rooms have been taken over by cats, shame on our government when so many are homeless and sleeping in Central Park and the station tunnels.
Take a walk through central park and see the homeless bloody disgrace.”
I think the most, if not all of the places I photograph are unsuitable to safely house people.
Most were never designed for residential use. They’re almost always in a state of disrepair, have no essential services and contain hazardous materials.
Homelessness is something I believe we need to address better as a society, but there are better opportunities to act on this such as The Addison Project.
The building overrun by cats are the Convalescent Cottages. There is somewhat of a story behind the cats too. I was hoping to be able to shoot that building, but it was deemed unsafe.
Callan Park is not the answer for homeless people.
“My brother was 19 when he was admitted. He was physically & sexually abused as well as being given electric shock therapy, and god knows what else.
It wasn’t until years later & treatments for schizophrenia had improved & my brother had become verbal again, that the family found out the cruelty he had endured.”
Such terrible degree of suffering on such a personal level.
“My Great Uncle lived here from the end of WWI until he died aged 79, he was placed in Callan Park as his brain was affected by war.
So sad they didn’t know back then that the boys were suffering from PTSD.
I remember visiting him as a child in the 60’s, his smile when we arrived was so broad, he didn’t talk much, just sat beside us kids & coloured in with us.”
There is just something about this comment I find so sorrowful without it even really saying anything about what happened.
“If Vic was alive what he could say?
If memory serves me correct, dad said he hated it there so much he jumped into the water and swam away.
A cruel, horrible place for a mental health patient.”
Not a positive story. Well, he escaped his torment by the sounds of things, so I guess there is a silver lining.
“Callan Park was always a fearful place to walk by as a young girl, and yet school excursions and swimming took us from Leichhardt Girls High to many of the back streets.
The ‘cat woman’ that at times would escape always carried a cat in her arms hence I guess why the cats are there now. She would scare the bejesus out of us as kids.
The stories we would listen to were horrible like the inmates attacking each other and ripping chunks of hair, biting, etc.
I don’t know if these stories were true, but this was the late sixties early seventies.”
The ‘cat woman’ I believe is who I referred to a few comments back. From what I understand, she returned to the site after being discharged to feed cats in and around the Convalescent Cottages. To this day the buildings and the area surrounding is overrun with stray cats.
I guess there is a reason to believe the stories this commenter refers to at the end.
“I did a research paper on Callan Park grounds while studying there. I think it’s in the SCA library collection.
There is also a very good Conservation Management Plan that I used at the time, also in the library.
Contrary to urban myth, the patients were allowed to wander through the grounds, and their treatment was very much to do with the theory of nature being the great healer.
The ‘ha-ha’ wall that surrounds Kirkbride allowed patients to admire the view and not feel confined.
The ‘sunken garden’ in front of Kirkbride (SCA) was for the patients to garden in, and surrounding that was ‘A Pleasure Ground’ which in its day had animals such as deer wandering through.
Broughton Hall is in the far west of the site. It was the first gentleman’s estate in the area before being used for war veterans suffering PTSD after the wars before a fire went through the building.
Dr Evan Jones designed the garden on this western side, built in the 1940s, and it’s a great example of Gardenesque Landscape Design.
I am sure bad things went on there, particularly in terms of our modern-day standards.
In the 80s a school without walls ‘Wawina’ was located in one of the now vacant buildings which my sister used to go to.
We grew up in the area and as kids used to explore the abandoned buildings which were easy to get into. Your photos are really special, thank you.”
A very detailed and well-researched comment that taps into the rich history of the site.
‘Nature being the great healer’ is a concept I discovered in my research about Queen Victoria Sanitorium.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that healing can be conducent of a natural environment. The old saying ‘You become a product of your environment’ probably points to this.
“I feel sad that these images are being described as creepy old buildings which have a haunted feeling.
I have many happy memories working here, and I think we need to be careful that we aren’t further stigmatising mental health and people who used these services, as well as the dedicated, fun staff that worked in this area. There are also Kookaburras, beautiful gardens, open spaces, the pool.”
This comment was really the one that made me realise I should take a more neutral approach to my writing.
It’s not so much that I think my previous writing was particularly unbalanced, but it was perhaps a bit lazy, and I thought it needed to touch on all aspects, especially given the mood of the pictures.
“I was a patient at Rozelle back in 2006. Best place ever it was a terrific facility, staff were unbelievable they helped me a lot with my recovery and to whom I am today.
I was very sad to hear that it had closed. Words can’t describe my experience there. A true blessing.”
The more good stories you hear, the better they feel. By this point, they really cut through some of the darker stories of the past.
“My great grandmother was a patient at the hospital for the insane. She died there shortly after her baby died.
She probably had septicaemia and was having hallucinations that angels were calling her.”
So sad. Imagine what stories are out there which people don’t talk about or know of. There must be such a huge amount of suffering in silence with no closure.
“My mother was Institutionalised in the old part of the building from 1952-1957 when I was born.
Sadly, she had schizophrenia and had many admissions.
I worked there in 1969 and again in 1971-72.
Mum’s last admission was to Rozelle Hospital when she was 84 years old.”
That comment shares a pretty extensive living history of Callan Park.
“These beautiful, haunting photos make me feel quite sad, as my Aunty was there also (I think in the 70’s, from memory).
My Aunty had had a minor nervous breakdown (don’t know what year that was) and was treated with deep sleep therapy at the infamous Chelmsford Hospital by Dr Bailey.
She was one of the ‘lucky’ ones that escaped with their lives but was never the same again.
She was in and out of mental hospitals for the rest of her life, tortured by ‘evil voices’.
I remember her as a beautiful, intelligent, kind young woman before it all. It was very sad.”
So incredibly sad. I didn’t know Dr Bailey until this comment. Some people were experiencing a real-life horror movie.
“I once met with him about a minor problem I had, and he suggested electrocuting me.
He was very convincing, but after speaking with some other medicos, I never went back to him.
One of his victims was Stevie Wright from The Easybeats.”
Then this person talks about their own near miss with Dr Bailey!
When this gallery was going viral, I found it to be quite emotionally exhausting to read all of these messages in one day.
I did find some of it upsetting. For some reason, it made me think of my late grandmother.
I knew I needed to do something with all this information, but I wasn’t quite sure what. I’m still not sure, but I guess this blog post is a good start.
A couple of photos even made the cut for the UrbanGrowth NSW Reception area.
Beyond the walls of the Victorian era building is a team of dedicated volunteers who contribute their time to the restoration of some of NSW past rolling stock.
You might have noticed this building yourself when making your way into the city on the train. It can be seen on your left (city bound) just before arriving at Redfern Station.
Some of the trains such as the iconic “Red Rattler” hail from the recent past, others date back over a century. The team volunteering here at the Eveleigh Paint Shop painstakingly restore these amazing examples of railway history back to their former glory.
They also build incredibly detailed scale models of former NSW rail sites, such as the old Punchbowl Maintenance Depot pictured below. Look at the attention to detail!
Anyway, back to the real trains. Seeing the vast changes in the design of public transport over the years, particularly the interiors was quite an eye opener.
When you can get close enough to see those hand carved, hand-turned pieces of wood of the armrests, decorative carving in the chair frames and the wooden shutter blinds, it gives you an appreciation for the level of craftsmanship that’s long since been lost in the design of modern public transport.
The trains are some that live in the memories of my childhood, others which ceased operation many decades before I was even born. The centurion pictured above is 103 years old!
Pictured below is the workshop where the team overseeing the restorations tinker away, bringing the rail cars back to their former glory.
This shoot was created over two initial visits for photography, then about three more visits for research by talking to some of the restoration crew. More about this later.
I’ll be publishing a new Lost Collective gallery in the near future with lots more photos and a detailed essay on the historical importance of the Paint Shop.
Eveleigh Stories is building an archive from the rich history of the locality, and presenting that through this great online resource. You can even submit your own story if you have something of your own that you’d like to contribute.
ATP’s heritage volunteers, both conservation volunteers and volunteer tour guides, play an invaluable role in conserving, enhancing and communicating our heritage to interested members of the public, ATP tenants and visitors.
If you’d like to get involved, you can register your interest here .
I’d like to give special thanks to Dave Fox (above) and Geoff Moss (below – Pic: UrbanGrowth NSW), both of whom helped immensly by taking the time to teach me about the background of the train cars and carriages, as well as the site itself. This gallery wouldn’t have been possible without them.
Dave and Geoff are part Historic Electric Traction , a group chaired with managing the preservation of the Railway’s suburban and interurban carriage collection
I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest blog post. If you’d like to stay updated on what’s coming, including the upcoming gallery of this site, make sure you sign up to the Lost Collective newsletter at the bottom of this page.
UrbanGrowth NSW leads the transformation of surplus or underutilised government-owned land to create vibrant and connected urban spaces, close to public transport.
As a state-owned corporation, they collaborate with government, industry and community to facilitate complex projects at different stages – from planning to place making, to deliver better outcomes for the city and its people.
Their work enables much needed new housing choices, community facilities, jobs in growing centres and facilitates a globally competitive and resilient state.
A day before we arrived in Sapporo , I had no idea what we were actually going to do to build content, other than heading to Nippon Rent-a-Car at Sapporo Station, and hiring something to drive from Sapporo to Yubari for the four days in the hope of finding something.
I guess we could have just stayed at Yubari’s Mount Racey Ski Resort instead of doing the drive, but it was a bit out of our budget, and I don’t think it’s really the experience we were after either.
While on our way to Hokkaido, I learned about the Shimizusawa Project . A group of historians, aficionados, advocates and volunteers who dedicate their efforts around the historical preservation of Yubari.
Yoko, our fantastic Air BnB host/translator, gave Shimizusawa Project a call and helped us arrange to meet Sato San in front of Shimizusawa Station the next day.
As it turned out, Sato San can speak much better English than I can speak Japanese.
After a short and friendly introduction, we all jumped into the same car, and Sato San showed us the sights, from the old mining infrastructure, abandoned hamlets, right up to being taken through the Shimizusawa Thermal Power Plant , which until a few years ago, had been scheduled for demolition..
Shimizusawa Project was able to halt the planned demolition of the remaining power plant and found it a new lease of life, through public through guided tours and art exhibitions .
The photograph below, courtesy of the Yubari City archives shows the Shimizusawa Power Plant still active in 1955, viewed more to the south-east.
Sato San asked if we’d like to come again the next day for a tour around the Shimizusawa slag piles which Shimizusawa Project built and maintains. How could we refuse?
These slag piles were built over decades from combustion byproduct of the power plant. There were mountains of it, and I mean such mountainous slag piles, that they have their own walking tracks!
One of the things I enjoyed most about this trip, was the opportunity to see some of the beautiful Japanese countrysides beyond Japans huge cities and sprawling urban areas.
I’d never seen the side of the country without all the neon lights and noise and pachinko parlours other than from a Shinkansen cruising through the countryside at 350KM per hour.
One of the highlights was definitely Blue Pond, in Biei which was pretty amazing to see.
I have to admit, I didn’t exactly expect what I saw in the outlying towns. I mean, it is certainly beautiful, even in places which have undergone massive declines, the scenery is still amazing. Snow capped mountain ranges and volcanoes, unlike any landforms we see in Australia.
But, the state of decay in parts is unmistakable. Villages with 90% of buildings either empty, boarded up or collapsed, some looked to have been that way for decades. Here’s Sally pictured below in an abandoned school in Yubari.
I didn’t expect there to be so much ruin. I’d always pictured Japan as this vibrant, techy society, but the further out you get from the cities the more you get to see the contrast of society.
Small villages and towns dotted all over the place, where the elderly generations are the only ones who remain. In some cases, you could be forgiven for thinking no one is there at all.
After what is easily the longest blog post I’ve done to date, I feel like there is so much I’m leaving out so I think I’ll wrap part one up for now and work towards more of the same as it comes to mind.
I’ve still got more galleries to share, more to shoot, more blog posts to publish and an evergrowing list of projects in the works, so, If you’d like to stay up to date, be sure to sign up to the newsletter.
The area is teeming with life. Wombats, Bandicoots, Rabbits, Possums and Wallabies were running around everywhere. I remember shining my torch into the bush at one stage to see a dozen or so eyes reflecting back at me!
Conditions were perfect. Totally isolated from any light pollution, clear skies, an awesome subject for the foreground and nothing to do the next day.
Inside the prism of the lighthouse:
I checked The Photographers Ephemeris for the position of the milky way, then from about 10:30 PM on a Wednesday night I set up the shot and let the interval timer do its thing.
What was expected to be a pretty uneventful night quickly changed when I noticed the lighthouse becoming illuminated from the other side (about 9 seconds in).
I looked over the keeper’s cottages of the lighthouse to see multiple flashlights waving around in the night.
I started to panic that the two hours of photos I’d already taken were going to be ruined.
So, I ran over to where the torches were coming from, In pitch black, with my phone screen lighting the way so I didn’t ruin the time lapse myself.
Image: Green Cape light station – The newer, solar powered steel tower took over duties from the 133-year-old concrete tower in 1992.
As I got closer, I realised the people with torches were NSW Police looking at a solar panel array, still totally unaware of my presence.
From about two meters away In my most unconvincing possible tone; I said “hello”. The two police and keeper promptly swung around with flashlights.
I followed this with “I’m trying to do a time lapse, and you’re kind of ruining everything for me. Can you please stop shining your torches on the lighthouse?”.
In one of the worst cases of wrong place at the wrong time ever, the police then proceeded to tell me they were investing the theft of tens of thousands of dollars worth of solar panels.
I was then asked who I am, and why I am at a lighthouse 45KM from the nearest rural town at midnight on a Thursday.
Image: Looking South from the old Green Cape Lighthouse.
After a bit of conversation, identity checks, pleading for the torches to be turned off, and showing the police my Nikon D750 with AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED setup taking photos automatically, I was able to go back to my business with the result not being too much of an issue in the end.
A couple of hours later while walking back to the car for a new camera battery, I met the Green Cape lighthouse keeper who was sitting on the porch of his cottage.
Image: Keepers Cottages
He apologised for the what had happened. I said to think nothing of it. Let’s face it; It looks pretty suspect if you take the camera out of the equation.
We got to talking about the history of Green Cape lighthouse, which then turned into conversations of the ghosts of shipwreck victims who haunt the Green Cape lighthouse cottages, in particular, a thickly-bearded sailor who has also been reported by guests of the cottages.
Image:My beautiful daughter and little shoot helper, Heidi. Heidi now want’s to live in a lighthouse. I told her it’s a big ask but we’ll find all the other lighthouses to see just in case there is one.
So, I go back to monitor the camera at 2:30 in the morning, slightly shaken from the police encounter, hoping the time lapse isn’t ruined amongst the sounds of all the nearby scurrying animals I can’t see in the dark bushes, while hoping I don’t meet the vengeful ghost of a sailor I’ve just been warned about.
Here’s an exceptional example by Soviet Innerness, of how, just looking at the way you approach an idea, and changing your perspective can produce fresh and elegant results.
I love the way how Elena Amabili and Alessandro Calvaresi have shown with their beautiful project, Soviet Innerness , sometimes a unique idea can be right under your nose if you are willing to be adventurous enough in your thinking and rule nothing.
They’ve managed to create these beautiful images of simple close-ups that offer a full spectrum of entirely different structure but, when joined into a complete set, create this amazing display of unique and surprisingly colourful scenes from an abandoned environment.
When I’m photographing abandoned buildings, I tend to follow a formula of wide-angle compositions. It tends to rely heavily on the architectural and physical features of an entire scene.
Sometimes, especially when shooting large rooms or expansive spaces, and becomes easy to lose sight of the smaller details while in the hunt of just trying to capture everything once.
Just looking at their work makes me want to go and do close ups.
It reminds me of this artist I saw in Centre Pompidou when we visited Paris in 2008.
The moment I saw this artwork I loved it, I can’t quite put my finger on it, It’s something do do with the mix of paint and paper and the way one overlays the other.
I can somehow see the same thing in the artwork by the artist and the inadvertent artwork created by the former residents of these homes.
“Soviet Innerness tells about the places where wallpaper is torn, and Pravda peeks out; where coats of the paint layer, dilapidate, and eerie flowers blossom; where time stands still and the unheimlich is comfortable.”
While exploring dilapidated buildings in Latvia for a photographic project, Elena Amabili and Alessandro Calvaresi found other quieter, more personal remnants of Soviet design.
Originally, the duo was attempting to take impressive wide shots of everything, but in the end, the little details on the walls were the unintentional, stand out feature – so the focus of the shoot changed accordingly.
Smith Journal , is a quarterly, Australia-based publication that takes unexpected, interesting, funny and sometimes complicated stories and tells them the way you would to a bunch of friends at the pub.
I came accross this article in Popular Mechanics, featuring these hauntingly beautiful images of Soviet-era buildings, infrastructure and vehicles by Russian photographer Danila Tkachenko . Part of his project “Restricted Areas”.
The images offer this sense of solitude, as though you’re there and can hear the howling, snow-filled wind.
I find the quality of the imagery and the environments they are captured in is amazing.
The pieces of infrastructure themselves are such powerful subjects, but the environment surrounding them, the sheer look of freezing and loneliness amongst the ice and snow.
This has Danila’s distinct style wrapped up beautifully.
I love how Danila uses the highlights of the snow, to camouflage the surrounding environment making the buildings and objects appear almost as if they float.
The simple fact that these items in the image are such poignant reminders of a forgotten past.
Unheard of technology that harks back to the collapse of the USSR.
There is radar arrays, observatoris, oil pumps (pictured), an unusual seaplane looking vehicle and even a submarine.
Wouldn’t it be an amazing adventure, trudging along, through the snow in search of something like this.
The journey itself would be worth it!
I think Danila is a very talented artist and I look forward to seeing more of his work. You can too, if check out his work here.
When we visited Yubari in Japan, Family School Fureai was the first abandoned building we photographed.
It’s interesting to notice the difference of the condition of abandoned buildings in Japan to Australia. Mainly the fact that they have an acute absence of graffiti minus some kanji scrawled on a chalkboard.
Coincidentally, this was also Sal’s first time in an abandoned building. Exciting!
I don’t think the same affinity for actually going inside abandoned buildings is as prevalent with Sal, but she still makes good company.
There was also a massive seal in one of the Family School Fureai corridors. Probably one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen while shooting an abandoned building.
The scenario there with Sal having not seen this seal was to as gently as possible, saying “Hey Sal, there’s something in this next part you need to see. Now, just remember when you see this, it’s not real, but you gotta see it!”.
So technically it was real. But to be more specific it was really Taxidermy. In all honesty, I had no idea that seals are even capable of growing this big.
You see something new every day.
I have to admit that when I first turned the corner and saw this, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing, but I think my internal panic response was suggesting a bear!
“These haunting photographs offer a glimpse into a once-bustling Japanese school building, left to crumble into ruin after being abandoned.
The derelict classrooms and corridors of Yubari’s Asahi Elementary School were once filled with children of all ages, but now they are left waterlogged, vandalised and riddled with decay.”
There are lots of good memories around the making of this feature. Not least the fact that the article in itself was written and published superbly by Collective Hub , but it was also an adventurous time in our lives.
I’d just decided to make the switch from my trade of 17 years to pursue Lost Collective full time, and we were on our way to Japan, intentionally what was planned as a holiday but somehow became hijacked and turned into a search of abandoned buildings.
Three weeks trekking into the unknown!
On our way to Japan, Collective Hub asked if I had any Japanese related content, for part of an upcoming segment in the next run of the magazine.
We were literally at Hong Kong airport on my way to Japan when I received that email.
As far as planning the trip across the countryside goes. I had a rough idea of places we ‘could’ go, but nothing was firm, apart from the fact that the first five days would be in Tokyo.
As it panned out, we managed to build a lot of content quickly. The first place we went specifically to seek out abandonments was Yubari.
We drove back and forth from Sapporo where we stayed to Yubari where we shot for four days straight.
There was only a couple of places in Yubari that were predetermined to visit, the school and the power station
When you drive into Yubari, you can almost feel the vacuum that has resulted in a bankrupt city that has seen a 90% decline in its total population.
The sense of abandonment is overwhelming. There’s a distinctive sense of stillness as you enter Yubari out of the tunnel from the highway
So in the midst of our three weeks in Japan, after I’d managed to build up some decent content, I worked through this article with Collective Hub.
It’s an adventure I won’t soon forget. I want to go back!
This gallery was the product of four days wandering the streets of Yubari, taking snippets of occupied and abandoned buildings from those and joining them into this gallery.
Before this trip, I always envisioned Japan as a sprawling tech hub where everything is illuminated and busy. It can even become an assault on the senses. I’ve been four times now. I won’t be surprised if we go four more. We love Japan. It’s an amazing culture to immerse yourself in.
So, as we travelled further from the city centres to the regional towns and rural areas found withing an hour or two of the city centres, I saw a very different Japan to what I’d seen before.
In smaller villages and hamlets, instead of continuations of the small family businesses, the younger generation abandon the store or farm in seek of better work opportunities found in more populated places.
The communities begin to fade away and the buildings that they lived and work from become abandoned.
Our excellent tour guide for a day in Yubari was Sato San.
Sato San is part of a group of volunteers, historians, aficionados and advocates called the Shimizusawa Project , who work to preserve the history of Yubari and its importance in the story of the Japans industrialisation.