Sydney Architecture Images- Leichhardt and area

White Bay Power Station




Victoria Road, White Bay (Rozelle).




Federation Anglo-Dutch




Government power station
White Bay Power Station is a heritage-listed former coal-fired power station sitting on 3.8 hectares of land. 
This power station was originally built by the Department of Railways to supply more power for Sydney’s growing Electric Tramway System in 1912 (and was later expanded for the City and Suburban Railway Electrification in the mid 1920s).The station was mothballed in 1970, but was retained for emergencies; its last operational use was during the power crisis of 1984. Though modernised and upgraded over the years since first constructed, its interior retains most of the equipment in place when it was finally closed (only 15 years ago). This retained equipment makes it a fairly unique and interesting survivor.
A popular venue for urban exploration groups (such as Cave Clan), photographers and, recently, film and television productions. Productions at the power station include The Matrix Reloaded, Red Planet and numerous Australian television series and advertisements.
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The disused White Bay power station, one of inner Sydney's oldest and most significant industrial sites, is likely to be redeveloped as the NSW Heritage Council reviews the plant's conservation plan.

The power station and the adjacent White Bay Hotel have been landmarks for generations of motorists, located on Victoria Road at the exit from the Anzac Bridge.

From 1917 until its decommissioning in 1983, the power station was the longest-serving of Sydney's four power plants. It was heritage listed at the urging of the National Trust. 

A spokesman for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, which owns the site, said White Bay's zoning meant it could not be used for housing. Expressions of interest would be called for, probably in the first half of next year. The site was "very much open to what people can come up with, but it will not be housing", he said.

Alan Croker, of Design 5 Architects, which prepared the conservation plan, said it set guidelines for new development and for adapting the buildings' interiors. 

All the main buildings and machinery were to be retained, but might be adapted. 

Architect Brian Suters said the power station was "the ugly toad which could be transformed to a thing of beauty". Its architecture was interesting, but minor "compared to the sheer scale of [its] spaces and structures".

Suters Architects prepared an initial report on the site in 1996 for Pacific Power, its then owner, and later drew up a number of other schemes.

These schemes included proposals to convert it to an international broadcasting centre for the Sydney Olympics, a headquarters for Channel Seven, or possible use by Opera Australia or the Powerhouse Museum.

The site has a tunnel which could link it to ferry access at Rozelle Bay, while there is space for generous on-site parking and for a spur line from the light rail.

The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority spokesman said reports that the site would be used for parking for a proposed upgrade of the old White Bay Hotel were incorrect. There were no plans to turn the site over to the hotel proponents. He said 900 people had attended an open day at the power station last June and that more would be scheduled, probably in conjunction with the exhibition of the master plan next year.

Mr Suters said there were other wonderful examples where similar-scaled buildings in Germany and Britain had been converted - notably London's Tate Modern Gallery - as well as in Brisbane, where a former powerhouse had become a "fantastic" cultural centre.

Leichhardt Council has been asked by the foreshore authority to exhibit a proposal to transform the 1916 White Bay Hotel as a pub with outdoor dining and a cafe.
The Station was built in a number of stages. However two are of major importance. The first comprising the first half of the turbine hall, the switch house and one boiler house, was built between 1912 and 1917, by the Department of Railways to supply power to the Sydney railway and tramway system. The second phase, constructed between 1923 and 1928, was built of steel framing and reinforced concrete rather than brick as stage one had been. In 1953 the power station was transferred to the Electricity Commission of NSW. A new steel framed boiler house replaced the 1920s block no.1 between 1950 and 1958. The station remained in service until 1984 when it was finally decommissioned. White Bay Power station was the longest serving power station in Sydney, with a maximum output of 186MW. SPECIFIC: As Sydney's tramways expanded, their power source changed from horse, to steam, to cable, and finally electrical traction (Godden 1989). Ultimo Power Station was built to supply the power for the tramways. It came into service in December 1889. Soon after, in 1904 the Sydney Municipal Council's Pyrmont Power Station was commissioned. Pyrmont supplied street lighting to an expanding private clientele. Balmain Power Station commenced operation in 1909. This was built by a private company, the Balmain Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation. Construction of White Bay commenced in 1912. At this time the Railway Commissioners metropolitan electric power supply provided the traction current for Sydney's tramways, the Railway and Tramway workshops, part of the city's lighting load and supplied other Government Departments (ie.. sewerage services, swing bridges etc.). The Railways Commissioners Station at Ultimo, by this time comprised seven turbo alternators (36,000kW) and six water tube boilers (total evaporative capacity 580,000lbs). The station was performing to its limits. The tramway system in Sydney at the time was much more extensive than that in Melbourne and was challenged by steeper gradients. By 1918 the need for a new larger, more flexible power station had been identified. White Bay Power Station was to fulfill this role and came into operation (partial) in 1913. At this stage the buildings had been completed but most of the plant had yet to be installed. It commenced operation with one 7500kW, 6600 volt, 25 cycle turbo alternator and associated boiler equipment on temporary foundations (the unit was later transferred to Newcastle). Between 1916 and 1919 two new Turbo Alternators and the No. 9 Alternator were installed at White Bay. These units were rated at 8750M 6600 volts, 25 cycles. In 1925 the proposed electrification of the suburban rail system heralded a further increase in demand. White Bay was as a result again extended through the installation of two 22,00OkW, 1 1,000volt, 50 cycle Turbo Alternators. The change to 50 cycle frequency was made because it was now standard in Great Britain and it was anticipated that it would soon become the standard for Australia. The Department had also now committed to providing bulk power to the general public. Favourable reports had been received regarding the operation of rotary converters on high frequencies under heavy traction conditions, so 1926 an additional 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 manufactured locally by the English Electric Company, were installed at White Bay to meet anticipated load growth on the 25 cycle system. In 1928 another 50 cycle unit was installed to meet increased loading arising from railway and bulk supply increases. In 1931 the 7,500kW frequency charger was transferred to Zarra Street Power Station (Newcastle) where urgent relief was required. This machine was no longer suitable to operate on the systems at White Bay which had grown substantially since original installation. It was not until 1939 (again due to load growth), that a 25,000kVA frequency changer was installed to tie the 25 and 50 cycle systems together. This increased the effective capacity of each system by reducing the amount of stand-by plant required. During the war years the system suffered as capital was diverted to the conflict. As a result, post war, load demand quickly outstripped capacity. New plant was urgently required to upgrade the system. Therefore in 1948 the 1 and 2 battery boilers were removed along with two 8750kW turbo-alternators to make way for a 50,000kW 50 cycle Parsons Turbo Alternator.
White Bay Power Station is located approximately 4km west of the Sydney CBD. The site is bounded to the south by Victoria Road and to the west by Robert Street, Rozelle. It is situated adjacent to a small inlet of Sydney Harbour. The White Bay Complex is composed of the following principal elements: (1) Two Steel Stacks (2) A Coal Handling Unit serviced by a spur rail line (3) Turbine Hall Building incorporating Administrative Offices, the old Laboratory and a Workshop (4) Boiler House (5) A Switch House and Substation (6) Ancillary structures including coal loading wharf and coal handling system. STEEL STACKS: The stacks are made of plate welded steel with guy wires and vibration dampness at top and base. Only the northern most stack remains, the other having been demolished. COAL HANDLING UNIT: The coal handling unit has a dumping shed immediately behind the stacks where the rail coal trucks deposited their load. Here it was crushed and sized in jaw crushers and then conveyed by belt and bucket to overhead coal hoppers in the station Boiler House. The whole of the conveyor line is in steel section sheathed in corrugated steel. The whole of the coal handling system is of considerable heritage significance and of high industrial archaeological significance. TURBINE HOUSE: The Turbine House (or Hall) was built in two stages as demand for power increased. The massive rendered brick and reinforced concrete building housed not only the generating equipment but also extensive administrative offices and a laboratory at the southern end. Electrical and mechanical workshops and some of the station circuit breakers were located here. This structure contains the most significant system in the precinct. The power generating system consists of the headers, gauges, condensers, steam feed water pumps, electric feed water pumps, the two 50MW Parsons Turbo Alternators and their salt water steam condensers. The system is the oldest complete system in NSW. The hall also has a viewing platform in the annex, a large overhead crane and the engine beds of a smaller turbo alternator which was removed and scrapped some time ago. The turbines and their associated artefacts have high significance as a system. The Turbo Alternators, gauges and valves have high significance in their own right. This building is an example of confident industrial architecture, with overtones of the Arts and Crafts Design Movement in the continuous vertical piers of the northern facade. The original prominence of the facade had been somewhat reduced by the 1950s Boiler House attached to the left, as well as the infill between the facade of the switch house to the right. However, the full impact would be restored if the later structures were removed. The volume of the Turbine Hall is an extremely impressive space. It is considerably longer, though narrower, than the Turbine Hall at Ultimo Power House. The construction of the first (southern) half is brickwork. It was always intended to extend the building, but by the 1920s concrete had replaced brick as the preferred material for buildings of this scale. The external walls of the northern part are of poured concrete. The machinery bases, and what were the internal walls to the second Boiler House (since demolished) are in unusual coke breeze blocks, of similar size to sandstone masonry. The lower galleries in the first stage are concrete over permanent corrugated steel formwork. Later additions are in precast concrete arched sections. The main steelwork is stamped with the names of British manufacturers. BOILER HOUSE: The Boiler House is a massive brick and reinforced concrete structure. It is the third and final Boiler House constructed at the station and stands on the site of the first. The second, formerly located to the south, has been demolished. The boiler house is in fair condition considering the time it has been 'mothballed' (Godden 1989: 19). This structure once contained four Babcock and Wilcox pulverised fuel boilers, the Boiler Control Room, twelve massive ball mills for pulverising coal and coal and ash handling equipment. Very few of the relics in the Boiler House date from the first phase of development. The building itself is a brick and reinforced concrete masonry structure in reasonably good condition although it is now showing the inevitable signs of age. The Boiler Control Room, which dates from the early 1950s is of high significance and is the most important item in the Boiler House. All relics within the Boiler House have high industrial archaeological importance.

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On the White Bay Power Station