The Psyche Bend Pumping Station in Irymple, Victoria has been recognised by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Engineering Heritage Australia.

ASCE has given the site one of its international markers while Engineering Heritage Australia has given the site a commemorative plaque.

ASCE’s Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Program recognises historically significant local, national, and international civil engineering projects, structures, and sites.

More than 200 projects worldwide have earned the designation of ASCE Historical Civil Engineering Landmark. The rare honor illustrates the creativity and innovative spirit of civil engineers and is awarded to landmarks that performed under challenging conditions, and achieved what was considered an impossible dream.

Psyche Bend Pumping Station

William Benjamin Chaffey and his brother George Chaffey built the Psyche Bend Pumping Station in 1891 in regional Victoria in response to the need for irrigation.

Engineering Heritage Australia (EHA) reports that George Chaffey selected Mildura as the site for an irrigation development because of its large tracts of Crown land, climate, soil types and its proximity to two major rivers, the Murray and the Darling.

The need to raise water from the Murray to land approximately 28m above river level challenged George Chaffey to design his billabong system, which elevated water in four lifts by pumping water from the Murray River into Kings Billabong and then lifting water via a number of pumps.

The system supplied an area of approximately 20,000 hectares and was the first stage of a grand scheme to irrigate over 100,000 hectares around Mildura. To power the pumps, George Chaffey designed a triple-expansion steam engine coupled to centrifugal pumps.

Tangye’s of Birmingham, who manufactured the equipment, at first were reluctant to build the engine and then only manufactured it on the proviso that the name plate Chaffey’s improved Pumping Engine made by Tangyes for Mildura Irrigation Colony was fixed to the engine. This was in case the engine failed and they were deemed liable for the failure.

The engine and pumps were built in England and delivered in pieces from England and came by river from Echuca. The Chaffey steam engine and pumps at Psyche Bend operated successfully until 1959, when electric pumps were installed nearby and the pumping station decommissioned.

The original pump house is still standing today and will join the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme in receiving ASCE’s Historic Civil Engineering Landmark recognition.

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