Thursday, 4 February 2010

Street Manhole Covers - Hydraulic power

THe SHPC Pump House, located adjacent to the Entertainment Centre, is now a bar and grill.
Following the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference to produce any practical actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Australia has entered a period of public debate comparing Cap & Trade systems with incentive systems and whether 5% is a sufficient reduction or should our economy and our taxpayers endeavour to aim for a greater reduction. Similarly, at the end of the 19th century, industrial smoke and smog was choking cities. With gas powered engines, petroleum and electricity still in the future, the solution was the development of centralised steam powered pumps producing high pressure water.

The pump house is wedged in by flyovers and gaudy entertainment venues. This manhole cover is immediately outside the pump house.

The Sydney Hydraulic Power Company commenced supply of hydraulic power in January 1891. The reticulation system comprised a series of cast iron pipes with control valves outside the customer’s premises. The system covered the area between The Rocks, Woolloomooloo, Pyrmont and Ultimo. It was used to power cranes on the wharves, public and goods lifts in department stores and commercial buildings, orchestra lifts in theatres such as the State Theatre, wool presses, bullion lifts in banks and a variety of machinery such as forges. By 1919, there were 2,369 lifts alone connected.

Down at the beginning of Kent Street in Millers Point is the old wool Bond store, where a hydraulic powered lift can still be seen on the outside of the building with yet another variation on a manhole cover.

Over its lifetime, the SHPC had laid some 80 kms of pipe throughout Sydney CBD. However, hydraulic lifts tended to be quite slow in operation and faster electric lifts over time replaced the water powered ones. Hydraulic lifts also had height limitations due to mechanical combinations. The peak period for hydraulic power was in the mid 1930s, with the break-even point being reached in 1965. By 1968 there were no more than 150 customers on the system which ceased operation in 1975.

The Bond store is adjacent to the Lord Nelson pub. These two manhole covers are in the courtyard that houses the hydraulic lift.

I am indebted to the NSW Department of Education & Training, and Charles Sturt University for the basic material for this summary.

26 comments:

Rinkly Rimes said...

You should write an illustrated book called 'Little Known Sydney'. A real work of scholarship!

James said...

These buildings and covers are wonderful! Great finds.

Tulsa Gentleman said...

I don't think I have ever heard of a central hydraulic power arrangement like this. I don't think Tulsa ever used a system like this. But then we are a relatively new city.

lizziviggi said...

Julie, you amaze me not only with your photography, and not only with the time it must have taken to put this together, but with your ability to captivate me with something I never would have found interesting on my own. You really do find beauty and interest in unlikely places-- thank you for sharing it with us!

Mirela said...

I learned something completely new. I have never heard of hydraulic power lines! :-O Great photos, as always :)

Julie said...

This post has been coming together over the last three weeks! It has been engrossing to track it all down. I believe that similar systems were developed (at about the same time, late 19th C) in London, Boston and Melbourne. My greatest challenge was to keep the text to under 300 words!

Eleonora said...

Julie, this is a FANTASTIC post. You *should* write a book!

I love the manhole cover that looks like a face. And the Bond building sign.

Lovely, thank you for putting this together for us all.

Ciao
Eleonora

Bill said...

Sydney has some fabulous old buildings. Who said, we have no history in Australia?

Ann said...

That used to be a micro brewery, made good, very strong beer.

Re your comment on my post - I suspect they have a traditional Japanese wedding then buy a western wedding/honeymoon package.

J Bar said...

Great piece of history here, Julie. Well researched and good work tracking down all those subjects to photograph. Great work.

ρομπερτ said...

If i remember it well, it was Jules Verne who said, that water will be the power of the future.

Would like to join the canon, and mirror of being amazed by the photography, wishing you a wonderful Thursday.

Pat and Bruce Caspersonn said...

My father's office building in Reiby Place, near the Quay, had such a lift. Sometimes it leaked and flooded the basement(if it was the weekend), the Fire Brigade people would pump it out. The building also had DC electric current.
Bruce.

Julie said...

Really? Can you remember the address? Name of building? Name of company? It just may be still standing ... This is the street where The Basement, jazz club, is located!! What years are we talking?

Shelle said...

wow some great architecture there.

Pat and Bruce Caspersonn said...

It was R.Towns & C0.(founded by the man who started Townsville) I think it was # 31, a 3 story building.It was pulled down about 20 years ago to make way for some glass monstrosity. It had it's own loading dock which meant I always had a parking spot in the city.Across the way was Grimes Garage,which was on a very sharp corner.
The last time I remember the basement filling with water was,,,probably 1949.
Bruce.

Hilda said...

Fascinating historical post, Julie, thank you. The old buildings and manhole covers are beautiful too.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I've never heard of hydralic power (didn't realise that was what the pump house was on about) ... very interesting and entertaining ... you are an absolute wonder what you find out about Sydney. I'm waiting for your tour of the sewers.

Julie said...

'Tis coming, m'dear. Never fear ...

Lindz said...

thanks for a very informative post,

Té la mà Maria - Reus said...

very good blog, congratulations
regard from Reus Catalonia
thank you

Davine said...

More great shots - the other day I found myself walking down the street checking out the manholes.

Julie said...

*chuckle*

That is what happened to the friend that I stayed with in Melbourne for the tennis!

Dina said...

I never heard of such things.
Great that you had someone to ask when collecting all this information.

Three Rivers, Michigan said...

Beautiful photos and a really interesting story - I wonder how many other major cities had such extensive hydraulics systems? I know that here many factories ran on hydraulics and had their own power plants during that time period. Another part of the story is how beautiful the buildings dedicated to power are, the old power plant in the first photo is lovely. Not something you would see in the modern utilitarian age.
Three Rivers Daily Photo

Nishant said...

covers are wonderful! Great finds.

Work from home India

A.J. said...

There's a page about 'Hydraulic power in London' at http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/h/hydraulic_power_in_london/index1.shtml.

You can actually have dinner (with 'an all Australian wine list') in one of the old power stations. Their rather odd website is http://www.thewappingproject.com/.