by Michelle Goldsmith

Visitors to the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales have the perfect opportunity for an interesting pump-related daytrip; a visit to the Goulburn Historic Waterworks to see the 1883 Appleby beam engine.

The engine, which passed its 130th birthday in 2013, is in full working order and is demonstrated around six times per year for a public audience.

This makes Waterworks the only complete, operational, steam powered municipal water supply, left in its original location, in the Southern Hemisphere.

About the Appleby Beam Engine

Beam engines such as the Appleby model were named after the large overhead rocking beam used to transmit motion from the pistons to the cranks.

The Appleby beam engine is a six pillar compound condensing engine based on the design of Arthur Woolf, who took out a patent in 1804 on compound engines after improving on the previous designs of Johnathan Hornblower from 1781.

In 1883 the NSW Public Works Department had four beam engines installed in “the colony” to supply municipal water. They were located in Goulburn, Bathurst, Wagga Wagga and Albury. Each was supplied by Appleby Bros of London and varied only in the dimensions of the pumps.

Although the Goulburn beam engine was considered to be only of moderate size compared to other beam engines of the era, it embodies the height of steam-powered ingenuity. Its beam measures over six metres long, and is composed of wrought iron plates with steel gudgeons. Its flywheel is 17 feet (around 5.2 metres) in diameter. Minimal wood was used in its construction due to fears of termite damage.

The beam engine used two single stage pumps of the ‘ram and bucket type’ and operated over a pump well of around 12.8 metres in depth.

When fully operational the beam engine generated a steam pressure of 60psi and operated at 20 strokes per minute, delivering 120 horse power. It was capable of pumping 30,000 imperial gallons of water per hour (130,000 litres).

The engine operated for 32 years until 1918, with the introduction of electricity to pump water and sat abandoned until it was restored by Sydney engineer Bruce MacDonald and his family in 1958.

The Goulburn beam engine is the only Appleby Bros Beam Engine left in existence.

The Hick, Hargreaves Corliss Valve Steam Engine

The Waterworks also house the Hick, Hargreaves Corliss valve steam engine, although Goulburn was not the site of its original operation.

This engine was manufactured in Bolton, UK, by Hick, Hargreaves & Co and is the oldest of only three left in the world. The single cylinder horizontal engine measures 9 metres in length and weighs 17 tons with the flywheel being 4 metres in diameter.

The engine came to Australia in 1867 and was used to pump water at Bell’s Creek gold mine near Araluan, NSW. When this venture was abandoned around 1896, the engine was relocated to Botany, near Sydney where it was used at the Wright and Bruce until 1961.

The engine eventually made its way to the Goulburn Steam Museum (precursor to the Waterworks Museum) in 1970. It was during this period that a grant was made available under the Regional Employment Development Scheme (1975) for the installation and restoration of the Hick in the annexe of the pumphouse.

Both engines are available to view by the public at the Historic Waterworks and are regularly demonstrated.

The next confirmed steaming dates for the engines are:

• Sunday, 9 February 2014 – ‘Australian Blues Music Festival’

• Sunday, 9 March 2014 – ‘Goulburn Heritage & Roses Festival’

• 8 June 2014 – Queens Birthday long weekend

• 26 October 2014 – ‘Waterweek’ activities

Please note however that these dates are subject to circumstances (such as days of total fire ban). ■

For steaming date updates or more information on the engines and other attractions at the Goulburn Historic Waterworks please visit 



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