Wangi Power Station – The Years Gone By | Lost Collective
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.