Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Farm Powerhouse

I've never really thought about electricity all that much. Not since Grade 5 anyway. My Grade 5 Reading Book had a little aphorism (is that the word? I get it confused with the one for those tiny insect things that grow on roses) that said "Electricity is a good servant but a poor master". My 10 year-old self imagined Electricity dressed up in a butler suit serving me food from a silver tray without spilling any of it on my brand new school shorts.

Since then, I've not really thought about electricity, even when I've plugged in some important electronic item like my Foxtel box. Plug it in and it works. What more is there to know? But recently, the papers have been talking a lot about global warming and carbon footprints. Apparently I have a big carbon footprint because of my Foxtel box. "Crikey you've got big feet", my dad used to say. "I could use those bloody shoes as a canoe". So I don't need my carbon footprint to be any bigger, thanks very much.

Well, it turns out that I can't get electricity into my Foxtel box unless someone somewhere throws coal into a big furnace, and it's the resultant smoke etc that causes my carbon footprint to grow. Years ago, there were lots of power stations around Brisbane and electricity was cheap. Now we've only got one big one hundreds of kilometres away, and electricity costs a fortune. There's a possibility that we might even join a big grid with NSW and Victoria so that electricity can cost us even more.

Anyway, this is the power station that used to serve the trams (when we had them) and some parts of Brisbane, situated at the northern end of New Farm Park. The picture was taken around 1950, and that's the northern face of the building that we are seeing.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #74913) 

If you look closely at the picture (just click on it to see a larger image), you will see the huge stack of coal (and they didn't even have TV then, let alone Foxtel boxes!) for firing the furnaces, complete with a little front-end loader to get it to them. You can also see a conveyor belt arrangement that hauls the coal inside the power station. Notice also the large chimneys belching thick black smoke into Brisbane's atmosphere.

The power station has survived - partly. The taller building at the back has gone, except for two walls. The walls are seemingly used for circus performers and graffiti artists to practice their respective skills. Here is the modern Powerhouse, viewed from a slightly different position.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic) 

The smoking chimneys have gone, replaced by mobile phone network transmitters. (Will radio waves be the pollution of the next millennium?) The building is now used for cultural purposes such as concerts and plays. There really is a circus based there, and they teach people circus acrobatics and climbing techniques. There are also bars and restaurants which have excellent river views and funky interiors. Our friends recently had their wedding there, and the reception was in a huge room with graffiti-covered walls. It was absolutely terrific. In addition, there is a farmers' market held there every couple of weeks, and it enjoys quite a deal of support from the locals. Now they get organic provisions from the Powerhouse, rather than carbon emissions. 

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Submarines in the Brisbane River

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