Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I have just returned to Canberra following a fantastic tour of the Snowy Mountains and the Snowy Mountain HydroElectric Scheme now called Snowy Hydro. My guide on this wonderful three day two night tour was Tony Hillier, who was himself, and engineer on the project and so was able to explain the whole project concept and make it make sense.

Tony came to Australia straight from the University of Southampton as a graduate of their Civil Engineering program. As he said, he flew out with his wife on the Thursday on Boeing 707 jet and started work here on the following Monday. I guess he was too young to have jetlag!! He eventually ended up in government. He was the Assistant Foreign Secretary with special responsibility for the establishment of Australian Embassies around the world, and finally finished his working life as a Deputy Foreign Secretary, which I believe is the highest rank one can achieve as a civil servant in a Ministry.

Suffice it to say that he and I hit it off immediately and we had great fun setting the world to rights (a new departure for me - not!!). We also discovered that our respective parents used to take us to the same little town in Somerset in England for our summer holidays, at about the same time, and we even stayed in the same chalets on the beach!! Amazing coincidence.

We left Canberra at about 10am on Tuesday and set out for Cooma, the town where Tony first began his life in Australia. It's a small town of about 7000 people, but when he was there it was the design headquarters for the whole Snowy Mountain Project, and as such was a very busy town with about 13,000 inhabitants. From there we made our way to Adaminaby, a new town which was built after the old town was flooded in the construction of Lake Eucumbene, one of the many lakes created for Snowy Hydro. It's a fairly unremarkable little town, but we could see that the lake itself was way down, maybe as much as fifty feet, because of the ten year drought which has affected much of Australia.

We went down to where the old town used to be and sure enough, the foundations of the old buildings were high and dry and quite visible. We then followed the road around until we arrived at the Providence Portal where water pours in from another lake in the system, Lake Tantangara, by way of an 11 km long tunnel.

After a short while we moved out of the forested areas and into an upland plain and to a place called Kiandra, where the wind always seems to howl. It was also the site for a short time in the middle of the nineteenth century, for a gold rush. Heaven knows how they survived while hunting the precious metal. Many of the gold-diggers were living in calico tents in deep snow with the howling winds!

From there, we continued along the Snowy Mountain Highway, past the Yarrangobilly Caves until we began our decsent into Talbingo where the Tumut 2 Power Station, the Talbingo Reservoir and Dam, and the Jounama Pondage are situated, and this was where we were going to stay for the night. Once we were checked in at the Country Club Motel, we decided to go check out the Tumut 2 Dam and Power Station which was just a couple of miles away. We were disappointed to learn that all of the power stations in the Snowy Hydro are now closed to the public, presumably because of the danger of terrorist action. As it happened, the Tumut 2 station is undergoing a massive upgrade which involves all of the turbines being replaced - a huge undertaking.

However, we were able to go and check out the dam and the spillway although we couldn't get close to the headrace. The headrace is the section where the massive pipes run from, down the hill and into the station to drive the turbines. The pipes are 18 feet in diameter and they were designed by Tony as one of the first things he did on arriving in Australia. They are big enough to run a double decker bus through!!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting… I might try some of this on my blog, too. It’s quite interesting how you sometimes stop being innovative and just go for an accepted solution without actually trying to improve it… you make a couple of good points.

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