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White Bay Power Station

White Bay Power Station has been a well-known landmark in Sydney’s Inner West for over 100 years. The site played a vital role in the development of the economy of Sydney and New South Wales.

The NSW Rail Commissioners established the Power Station to supply electricity to Sydney’s ever-growing rail and tram network. It would later also supply electricity for general private consumption, along with the other nearby Power Stations in Ultimo, Pyrmont and Balmain.

White Bay Power Station was built in the Federation Anglo-Dutch architectural style in two stages. From 1912 to 1917, the first stage of construction took place. This phase saw the completion of No.1 Boiler House, the southern end of the Turbine Hall and Switch House.

Most of the construction of the buildings had been completed by 1913, but permanent plant equipment needed to generate electricity was yet to be installed. As a stop gap, electricity generation commenced with one 7500kW, 6600 volt, 25 cycle turbo-alternator and associated boiler equipment on temporary foundations.

Between 1916 and 1919, two new Turbo Alternators rated at 8750M 6600 volts, 25 cycles, were installed.

1928 saw the completion of the southern end of the Turbine Hall, Switch House and Boiler House No.2. This second phase utilised steel framing and reinforced concrete construction for the new buildings, rather than the brick used in the first phase.

In 1925, a proposed electrification of the suburban rail system meant the generation capacity of White Bay Power Station was again extended. Two 22,000 kW, 11,000 volt, 50 cycle Turbo Alternators were installed to cope with the load increase.

In 1926, another 22,000kW, 11,000 volt, 50 cycle Turbo Alternator and a 7,500kW frequency changer were installed to meet increased loading and bulk supply to the Sydney Municipal Council.

Between 1927 and 1928, two additional 18,750kW, 6600 volt, 25 cycle Turbo Alternators were installed, followed by the installation of another 50 cycle unit in 1928, thereby meeting increased loading arising from the railway and bulk supply increases.

The Second World War diverted funds required for upkeep and modernisation of the Power Station. As a result, the Power Station was struggling to meet its demand and in need of significant upgrades.
In 1948, No.1 and No.2 battery boilers were removed along with two 8750kW turbo-alternators. This enabled the addition of a 50,000kW 50 cycle Parsons Turbo Alternator.

The 1920s designed Boiler House No.1 was demolished and, from 1950 to 1958, the existing steel framed boiler house was constructed in its place. It was during this period, in 1953 ownership the Power Station was transferred to the Electricity Commission of NSW, which became Pacific Power in 1995.

During the latter half of the 20th century, higher efficiency Power Stations were built outside of Sydney. These newer and larger Power Stations gradually filled the demand needed by the cities. The inner city Power Stations such as White Bay, which often caused pollution problems, became unnecessary.

In the 1970s, a significant drop in demand for White Bay Power Station led to Boiler House No.2 being demolished. Furthermore, the associated turbines were removed and sold. The power station was operational from 1917 until Christmas Day 1983. Finally, the site was decommissioned in 1984, thereby bringing the end of an era.

White Bay Power Station was the longest serving power station in Sydney. It is now the only surviving example of an intact, coal-fired power station from the twentieth century. It is the only coal-based industrial structure, dependant on a waterside location remaining adjacent to the harbour in the Sydney Region.

Consequently, due to public safety and the ongoing cost of maintaining static equipment, most of the plant and equipment was removed. Although, a complete set of machinery demonstrating the process remains intact as an example of the technology from the period.

The buildings remaining on the site consist of the Coal Handling Shed, Ash Handling Tower, Chimney Stacks, Boiler House No.1, Pump House Turbine Hall, Switch House, Control Room, Administration Building and Staff Accommodation.

In August 2000, White Bay Power Station was sold by Pacific Power to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority for around AUD 4,000,000.

The Power Station is a highly recognisable industrial landmark to the local community. It has been a visible presence on the Inner West landscape for over a century now and is fondly regarded by locals and visitors alike. The iconic site faces the hundreds of thousands of daily commuters who pass from Anzac Bridge, Victoria Road and City West Link.

The cultural significance of the White Bay Power Station is enormous. The site is still in exceptional condition considering the amount of time it has been sitting idle. A testament to the effort that has been made to preserve this iconic part of the inner west landscape. A big round of applause for Steve, the long-serving security guard.

White Bay Power station was the longest serving power station in Sydney, with a maximum output of 186MW.

On a personal level, White Bay Power Station is an incredible sight to behold. Walking through the monolithic structure feels like being transported to another era.

This collection of photos is the most significant in the entire Lost Collective catalogue. To be given such a rare opportunity to photograph this fantastic industrial relic is something I will always cherish. I will always be watching closely to see what the next 100 years hold for White Bay Power Station.