The Longreach Powerhouse Museum’s Electrifying Story

Powerhouse Museum - The School Room.

Longreach Archival And Historical Research Group Inc.

The Longreach Powerhouse and Historical Museum occupies a large area of land on the corners of Swan and Ibis Streets.

The museum is an outstanding social history museum – a home to local history, stories and artefacts.

It is unique in that it is the only preserved, intact example of a working powerhouse anywhere in Australia.

The Powerhouse has an electrical industry collection second to none and serves as evidence that the generation of electricity was formerly a local undertaking by the shire council as one of a number of services to the town and district.

The Longreach Powerhouse was constructed by the Longreach Shire Council in 1921, generating power for most parts of the town.

In 1966, the Central Western Rural Electricity Board (CWREB) took over.

In 1977, the electricity supply for the whole of Queensland underwent regionalisation resulting in the powerhouse’s operation being taken over by CREB (Capricornia Regional Electricity Board).

The Longreach power station continued to generate power until 1985 when it was decommissioned due to the town and district becoming part of the state grid.

From its closure in 1985 until 1991, the power station remained a Regional Electricity Board line depot.

During this time some demolition work was commenced.

Fortunately, it was never completed.

Certain items had been earmarked for a future State Electricity Board Museum and the complex was put up for auction.

In due course, the successful purchaser commenced cutting up one of the power station’s huge engines for scrap metal.

It was only when the purchaser asked to hire a crane from the Longreach Shire Council that the quick-thinking CEO at the time, Vince Corbin, realised what was about to happen, stopped the process, and the purchaser was bought out by the Council.

The complex had gone full circle and was once again owned by the Council.

In February 1994, a well-attended public meeting was held to discuss the advantages of setting up the complex as a museum.

This idea was enthusiastically embraced and the Powerhouse Museum was born.

A competition was held to design a logo.

Gary Deakin gave many hours of his own time collecting artefacts and preserving history and eventually became the curator and administration officer.

As the building had not been occupied for quite some time, imagine the collection of dust, dirt, cobwebs and redback spiders (which had a distinct liking for the place) that had accumulated.

The Apex Club which was very active at the time was the first to ‘adopt an engine’ and the Lions Club assisted greatly with general cleaning. The Zonta ladies also adopted an engine. Items were transferred from storage at the Shire Hall. These items had previously been on display at the School of Arts building which was destroyed by a severe windstorm in the 1970s.

The museum was officially opened in September 1994.

Since that time many and varied donations have been received.

There are displays of early Longreach history, a display of agricultural and road maintenance

machinery, a collection of office equipment circa 1908-1950 from local business houses, and household items and photographs from times gone by.

One display of great interest is the Boundary Rider’s Cottage situated at the western extremity of the block.

It was donated by the Avery family, then owners of ‘Nogo’ station.

It was a huge undertaking moving this building from its site on the riverfront at ‘Nogo’ and it took three years to raise sufficient funds to effect this task.

It is truly an authentic display of how people lived in the 1940s.

The Longreach Historical and Archival Group was formed in 1999 and has given many voluntary hours to try to keep the displays as authentic as possible.

The Powerhouse Museum is a fascinating and worthwhile place to visit, even for locals.

It’s a terrific place to get nostalgic and take in the lived experience of our past.

The opening times are 10.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday, from April to October.

(The volunteers of the Longreach Archival And Historical Research Group Inc. have used all reasonable endeavours to ensure this information is as accurate as possible.

It gives no warranty or guarantees that the information is accurate, complete, current, or fit for any use whatsoever.

If you believe any of the information may be inaccurate, please let us know.)

This article is proudly sponsored by Smith Bros., Longreach.