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Maryborough plaque recalls struggle for town power

Published: 25 May 2018 4:10pm

Ergon Energy designers have put a new spark in Maryborough’s electrical heritage by preserving an 80-year-old brass plaque which tells a story about the struggle for a reliable power supply after the Great Depression.

The large plaque has been rescued from a decommissioned transformer in Bazaar St, which had stood in a brick building between the heritage-listed Queens Park and the historic post office in the town’s commercial district since 1936.

When the transformer was being decommissioned earlier this year, Maryborough electrical system designer Hayden Byrne identified the plaque’s significance and contacted cultural heritage officer Donald Kerr to try to preserve it from destruction.

The plaque was attached to the original 300kVA ON transformer installed in 1936 at a time of turmoil in the electrification of Maryborough between the end of the Great Depression and World War II, when local electricity suppliers such as councils were being replaced by large distributors, the forerunners of Ergon Energy.

The large transformer was built in Australia by the English Electrical Co. of London, and contained 122 gallons of oil and 1.13 tons of core and windings, with a total weight of 2.04 tons.

The name of the original customer is simply recorded on the plaque as Customer No. 1913, which is likely to have been the post office and the telephone exchange.

The post office, opened in 1866, is the oldest surviving masonry post office in Queensland. Adjacent to it is the site of the first country telephone exchange, established in 1882 with 32 subscribers.

According to the guide, A History of the Electricity Supply in Queensland, the 1930s were a turbulent time for electricity supply in Maryborough as the town’s electrification was still in its early stages.

Plans for a central generating station at Howard were judged economically impossible by the State Electricity Commission in 1938, which left Maryborough without a reliable electricity supply.

“The desperate need of Maryborough for a power house and the impending expiration of the Childers Order in 1939 left the Wide Bay area in obvious need of some new scheme,” the publication says.

Ergon’s cultural heritage staff are now searching for a permanent home for the plaque and many other items significant to company history, which have been collected over the years and are now stored in boxes.

“Maryborough staff have done a fantastic job to protect an important part of the town’s heritage,’’ Mr Kerr said.

“Ideally we would be able to have the plaque displayed in Maryborough, but we don’t currently have a suitable site to store historical items such as photographs, plans and records that preserve the company’s history,” he said.

“So the plaque will be placed in the display cabinets along with other historic items at one of Ergon’s Rockhampton sites, so staff and visitors can learn more about the company’s history.”

Media Contact: Rod Rehbein
Phone: 4153 9813 or 0407 031 072

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