Preserving Goldfields Pipeline heritage

A community research project will help guide CY O'Connor's Goldfields Pipeline heritage preservation.

A community research project will help guide CY O’Connor’s Goldfields Pipeline heritage preservation.

Memories and stories of the Goldfields Pipeline are being sought for a major community-led research project to help preserve the 120-year-old pipeline’s heritage and tourism value.

Commencing late August, the ‘Stories in the Pipeline’ project aims to record a history of the public’s interactions with CY O’Connor’s iconic pipeline, which conveys drinking water 566km from Mundaring Weir to the Eastern Goldfields.

The project will span pre-colonial to modern times and, in liaison with Aboriginal consultants, will have a strong focus on exploring Aboriginal people’s role in the pipeline’s development. It will also examine the impacts on Aboriginal lands, culture and heritage.

Other anticipated story themes include the establishment of private and market gardens. Other story themes seek to cover Muslim cameleers and their transport routes linking with the pipeline, the arrival of abattoirs, the management of diseases and hygiene, and the contributions of immigrants.

Goldfields pipeline preserve heritage

As well as helping identify heritage and tourism-related opportunities, the project will inform where the original pipe will be retained for heritage purposes. Old sections are progressively replaced with a modern below-ground pipe over the next 70 years.

These long-term upgrades are essential to secure a safe and reliable water supply into the future. The above-ground pipe is reaching the end of its service life, enabling more efficient and cost-effective operation and maintenance.

Responses to the ‘Stories in the Pipeline’ project will be collated via online surveys, interviews, focus groups, school and community outreach, and story collections via written submissions.

Once finalised, the project will inform the preparation of a heritage interpretation strategy and management plan that will be open for public comment, expected by early 2024.

Stories, memories and photos of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme can be submitted via Water Corporation‘s project partner: hharchitects.com.au/pipeline-stories or by emailing pipeline@hharchitects.com.au.

For further information on Water Corporation’s plans for renewing the Goldfields Pipeline, visit watercorporation.com.au/goldfieldspipereplacement

Comments attributed to Water Minister Simone McGurk:

“Water Corporation’s project is important to help preserve CY O’Connor’s Goldfields Pipeline heritage value. This includes prioritising areas of original above-ground pipe for preservation and ways to reuse the old pipe.

“While we rightly want to preserve the pipeline’s rich heritage, it’s also important to acknowledge the pipeline. We need to ensure population growth and land clearing has hugely impacted Aboriginal people and their ways of life.

“Water Corporation will be able to present a more holistic and accurate legacy of the pipeline by recording these stories. It also marks its contribution to the development of our State.

“I encourage everyone with a personal connection to the Goldfields Pipeline to share their stories, memories and photos.”

Comments attributed to Kalgoorlie MLA Ali Kent:

“For more than 120 years, the heritage-listed Goldfields Pipeline has served the Eastern Goldfields. It requires long-term upgrades for a continued safe and reliable water supply and supporting future population and economic growth.

“The ‘Stories in the Pipeline’ project will enhance our understanding of the pipeline’s legacy by engaging with the community. It will also allow Water Corporation to deliver vital operational upgrades.

“I look forward to seeing how this fantastic project helps us convey the story of one of Australia’s greatest engineering achievements for years to come.”

Goldfields Pipeline heritage fact file

  • It was designed and built under the supervision of WA’s first Engineer-in-Chief, Charles Yelverton (CY) O’Connor. The goal was to supply fresh water to the arid Goldfields.
  • Between 1898 and 1903, it was constructed to pump fresh water 566km east. The pipeline started at Mundaring Weir and travelled east to Mount Charlotte Reservoir, Kalgoorlie.
  • The pipe was designed over eight separate sections to overcome the difficulty of pumping water uphill (390m) over such long distances. It included two main reservoirs, the main conduit of the pipeline, eight pumping stations, holding tanks and regulating tanks.
  • The 28-foot (8.5m) long pipes were manufactured in Perth from American and German steel. The locking bars and joint rings were shipped from England.
  • More than 39 per cent of the original locking bar pipeline from the early 1900s remains in use.
  • The pipeline was built alongside the railway line route for easier transportation. The 60,000 pipes were laid underground to avoid temperature-related expansion and contraction issues.
  • It was officially opened at Mount Charlotte, Kalgoorlie, on 24 January 1903. At the time, it was the longest freshwater pipeline in the world.
  • Original pumps at the eight pumping stations could deliver 5 million gallons (22.73 million litres) of water per day.
  • The pipeline is one of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme elements that was included on the National Heritage List in 2011.
  • In December 2022, the State Register of Heritage Places included a collection of 22 sites. It included steam pump stations, reservoirs, tank sites and other equipment.
  • In 2009, the scheme was recognised internationally by the American Society of Civil Engineers as an international Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Source: Extracts from the National Trust of Western Australia ‘The Golden Pipeline’ information sheets.

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