A project from the National Trust of WA
A self-guided drive trail between the Perth Hills and Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields. Go with the Flow. Follow the water to discover more about the audacious goldfields water supply scheme and Engineer CY O’Connor.
“Future generations, I am quite certain will think of us and bless us for our far seeing patriotism, and it will be said of us, as Isaiah said of old, ‘They made a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert”
Norman Fernie (1898-1977) who followed John Parr as District Engineer at Northam, was the engineer who solved the problem of leaded joint corrosion by devising a method of relaying the Goldfields Water Supply Pipeline above ground as a continuously welded pipeline.
He was one of the first engineering graduates from the University of WA in 1920. On his own initiative he carried out experimental trials in which lengths of pipe were laid above ground with fully welded joints and the substantial forces generated by large daily temperature changes restrained by reinforced concrete anchors. In 1933 a decision was taken to reconstruct the whole pipeline as a continuously welded above-ground main.
To excavate 565 km of 30 inch diameter pipes, clean them, line them with cement mortar, weld them together and anchor them against thermal movements was a mammoth task. The work was carried out during the depression years by an army of the unemployed who were engaged for varying periods during any one week according to the size of their families.
In 1934 Norman Fernie, and his colleague R. J. Keating, were both awarded the R.W.Chapman Medal for advances in structural engineering by the Institution of Engineers Australia, following their paper on the Continuously Welding of Exposed Mains on the Goldfields Water Supply.
Norman Fernie had a distinguished career in the Public Works Department. In 1939 he joined the Department of Industrial Development and Employment and two years later he was appointed the first Director of Industrial Development. In this capacity he was largely responsible for the establishment of the Wundowie Charcoal Ironworks (1948) and the Chamberlain Tractor factory (1949). In 1950 he became Managing Director of Griffin Coal Mining Co. Ltd.
By Richard Hartley, author of River of Steel, and Don Young, both of Engineering Heritage WA
Click on any map section or place below to discover The Golden Pipeline.