The museum is located in the original Waterworks building on the banks of the Wollondilly River, at Marsden Weir. In addition to the museum providing an insight into the history of Goulburn’s water supply, the surrounding park area is a lovely location to enjoy a picnic and/ or a walk along the river. ‘Steaming days’ on which the original water pump can be seen in operation are held on an irregular basis (about six times per year) and an annual Steampunk Victoriana Fair weekend is held here, annually in October.

As I have covered elsewhere in this blog, Goulburn was first settled by Europeans in the 1820s and soon developed into a regional centre for the wool trade. By 1863, when it was recognised as a city, it’s population was approaching 5,000. During the city’s development residents would have collected their water from tanks or wells, or purchased it from a horse and cart carter. By the mid 1880s this had become unsustainable leading the opening of this steam operated pumphouse in 1886. The pumphouse pumped water from the river to a filtration plant and reservoir and from there it was gravity fed to the residents of the city.

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The most notable feature of the pumphouse (now museum) is its original 1883 Appleby Bros. steam engine, one of four installed, and the only one still operable, in pumphouses around New South Wales. The steam engine is referred to as a beam engine because of the large overhead rocking beam that transmits motion from the pistons to the cranks.

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1883 Appleby Bros. steam engine
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1883 Appleby Bros. steam engine

Beam engines were originally invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712 and drove the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and further afield. Originally used to pump water out of mines in Britain they were soon adapted for pumping stations such as this and to drive factory machinery in the 18th and 19th centuries, until such time as electric motors took over in the early 20th century.

From a technical perspective this engine is of medium size and produces 120 horse power. The fly wheel is 5 metres in diameter and at 18 r.p.m. the pumps could move 130,000 litres of water per hour.

The engine was powered by two Lancashire, Galloway boilers, located in the western wing of the building. Fired by wood or coal, they produced high temperature steam that was piped through to the beam engine in the central part of the building. Only one boiler would have been necessary at any one time.

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Lancashire, Galloway boilers – I do not know why the boiler doors are stamped Appleby Bros. London. Perhaps the original doors were replaced at some point

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The southern annex of the museum houses a ‘horizontal engine’ built by Hick, Hargreaves & Co., England in 1866. It is the oldest of only three left in the world. This engine, never used in the Waterworks, started its working life in Bell’s Creek gold mine near Araluan, New South Wales before being moved to Wright and Bruce Tannery at Botany, near Sydney were it was used until 1961. The then ‘Museum of Historic Engines’ (precursor to the Waterworks Museum) acquired the engine 1970 and in the mid 1970s it was restored and moved to its current location in the pumphouse.

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1866 ‘horizontal engine’
Exif_JPEG_PICTURE
1866 ‘horizontal engine’

While the pumphouse remained operational until 1977, when the operation moved to Rossi Weir, the Applebly Bros. beam engine was mothballed in 1918 when it was replaced by electric pumps.  These operated, with another steam pump, until steam power was abandoned and electricity took over completely in 1932.

The Applyby Bros. beam engine was restored in 1958 by Bruce McDonald, an engineer and steam enthusiast and, as mentioned earlier can still be seen operating from time to time. This pumphouse is the only complete, workable beam engine powered municipal water supply in its original location, in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Waterwork’s elegant Victorian building was designed by James Barnet of the Colonial Architects Office, though a couple of annexes were added in later years.

Up a slight hill from the Waterworks stands the original fireman’s cottage – a lovely Victorian building surrounded by very pretty gardens.

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To-day the cottage houses a research centre as well as an office, volunteer break area and a meeting room.

The cottage was built at the same time as the pumphouse to provide accommodation for the fireman (boiler attendant) and his family.  Nearby accommodation was required as the boilers were fired 24 hours a day seven days a week and required constant firing, observation and maintenance.

Robert Hebden Sidney Geoghegan became the first fireman in early 1886.  On his death in 1891 his son Robert Jnr took over as fireman. Robert Jnr remained in the employ of the Waterworks for 49 years.

Having had a look around the pumphouse do go for a wander along the river and or enjoy a picnic in the lovely museum grounds where you will find BBQ facilities and a play area for children.

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A great spot for a picnic
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A walk by the river
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Ducks by the river
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Marsden Weir on the river

Location: Marsden Weir, off Fitzroy Street, Goulburn

Museum Entry Fee: Gold coin donation ($1 or $2 coin)

Opening Hours (July 2020): Saturday – Tuesday 10.00am – 4.00pm


My next Goulburn review– HERE

Return to the beginning of my Goulburn reviews –HERE


5 thoughts on “Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum

  1. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea to visit a waterworks pumphouse, but I’ve been known to do exactly the same, In fact I seem to have visited lots of similar places, and I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that Thomas Newcomen was a native of nearby Dartmouth.
    I think I could enjoy a visit here with a picnic afterwards. Looks a decent place all round. Nice one Albert.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand, with your printing background Malc, how you would like places like this. To be perfectly honest (while I love visiting working factories) I am not a major fan of pump-houses and similar. When I write comprehensively about towns like this I visit them for the sake of presenting a complete picture though you are right a visit and picnic here is quite agreeable.

      Liked by 1 person

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