Golden Pipeline

National Trust of WA

Explore The Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail

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.

Discover The people and the Scheme

“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” – Sir John Forrest

The Scheme Pump stations


Like the pumps used in the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, the boilers were supplied, erected and commissioned by James Simpson and Co of London who signed a contract to that effect on 9 March 1900. One boiler was supplied for each engine, making 20 required.

The steam ends of the engines were all the same so that all 20 boilers and accessories could be made standard to save costs and reduce the number of spare parts required.

Pump stations 1 – 4 had three engines each with any two being in operation at any one time and the third on standby, hence three boilers each, while pump stations 5 – 8 had only two engines each, one in operation and one on standby, hence two boilers each.

Battye Library. Water tube boilers under inspection.

Charles Palmer succeeded CY O’Connor as Engineer and delivered a paper on the Coolgardie Water Supply Scheme to the Institution of Engineers in 1905 in which he included information on the Babcock and Wilcox boiler as having eighty-one tubes ‘18 feet long and 4 inches in diameter, a single drum 23 feet 7 inches long and 4 feet in diameter, with a superheater placed between water-tubes and drum’.

At each pumping station, in addition to the two or three boilers, a Webster Feed Water Heater and a Green’s Economizer were installed in the boiler house to improve efficiency. Steam exhausted by the engines went first into the Feed Water Heater and then into the Green’s Economizer. Not only steam used in the cylinders to drive the piston back and forth, but also steam used to insulate the jacketed cylinders. The suppliers described the benefits in a pamphlet they published about the scheme in 1904:

An ingenious arrangement for using the jacket steam has been carried out. As the steam passes from the jackets it is taken and used to drive the feed pumps, which are of the usual Worthington boiler pressure type. These feed pumps exhaust into the ‘Webster’ Feed Water Heater. By these means the feed water is sent forward from the ‘Webster’ Feed Water Heater to the ‘Green’s’ economizer at a very high temperature.

Battye Library. An economizer imported from Wakefield.

From the economizer water was pumped back into the boilers, so that it had already been preheated made the operation more efficient. Back in the boilers it was converted into steam and piped through to the engines only to be exhausted, pass through the Economizer and back into the boilers. In other words, water used to fuel the engines as steam was reused in a closed system.

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