I really can’t think of a better introduction to Australia’s “City of Light”, but the sign in the gardens of the Tamworth Power Station Museum makes a great start.
It is well documented that Tamworth was the first Australian Town to install municipal electric street lighting. These early street lanterns originally contained carbon arc lamps, and were designed in such a way that the lantern could be lowered to a safe working height for servicing. The carbon rods gradually eroded away over time and required replacement. The glass visor seen on the lantern below is manufactured of German-Made Schott glass (the same glass that beakers and test tubes in laboratories are made from). Schott glass can withstand very high temperatures making it ideal for use in close proximity to the arc rods.
Above: A reproduction street lantern as used in Tamworth, circa 1888. This lantern stands in the front courtyard of the Tamworth Power Station Museum, and is fitted with a 250W metal Halide lamp. The lantern is sometimes used during events at the Museum and during the famous Tamworth Country Music Festival. There are a number of replications of the lantern throughout Tamworth, maintained in working condition by the local power authority in conjunctions with the Peel Cunningham Regional Council.
It is worth a trip to Tamworth to see the Tamworth Power Station Museum. Mr Ron Greer, a retired council engineer, is one of the Museum’s key conservation staff. The museum is quite literally packed to the rafters with quality examples of Australian industrial history. Australian Lighting is featured prominently in the Museum, but also of great importance is the historic steam engine driven dynamos which are fired up on a regular basis.
On my first visit to the TPSM in 2013, I called by on a Saturday morning to meet Ron, and see the engines operating. This was an amazing site, with engineers at hand loading fuel into the engines. Another feature of the engine room was a working replica of the Crompton Dynamo, reproduced 1:1 by Ron Greer and his team of engineers. All of the dynamo’s working parts including the heavy body castings, were reproduced from original plans that Ron had procured from the UK. This was a major project for Ron and his team and the science behind the system is absolutely fascinating.
The TPSM is housed in the original Municipal building, which had been carefully restored by the borough council and opened on the 9th November 1988 – 100 years from the date the first electric street lights were switched on at the site.
The museum has a large repository of historic written material, and there is a vision for expansion of the site in future years. Fin Stewart is a significant benefactor to the museum and has been involved with it’s development since it opened. When I spoke with Ron in January 2015, several new display cabinets had been built to house exhibits and to make room for exhibits previously held in storage. I have donated a number of street lights and small appliances to the Museum in recent years and know that they are in safe hands. I certainly look forward to my next visit.