Old Wangi Wangi Power Station

November 2, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Posted in Australia | 15 Comments
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Wangi Power Station 01

As we come into our little town from either direction, I always look across at the old power station. When we go for a walk up and over the top of our hill, the big old building is laid out before us, and I always want to stop and look at it.

Wangi Power Station 03

There is always something about it that draws out a strange feeling of familiarity and belonging – like seeing an old friend I have been missing for a long time but not knowing where I last saw them. I want to just gaze at it, bring it closer, work out what it is that draws me so strongly.

Most people see the building as ugly. It is long, high and basically rectangular, constructed with red brick and with rows of windows along its extensive sides – most of them now broken by vandals. Its three huge chimneys have been location finders and home-coming beacons for boats on Lake Macquarie since the power station was constructed in the 1950s.

The power station took ten years and 1,000 men to build, the last to be built by the NSW Government Railways before the main responsibility for NSW power supply was transferred to the Electricity Commission. It was also the last Railways power station to close. The plant poured its power into the electricity grid from 1956 to 1986.

Wangi Power Station & the adjacent colliery (Image 5163 -Lake Macquarie City Library)

Wangi Power Station & the adjacent colliery (Image 5163 -Lake Macquarie City Library)

A coal-fired operation, the Wangi Wangi Power Station drew its fuel from one adjacent colliery and others nearby. It was actually one of the first power stations to be sited adjacent to its supplying colliery and, for its first five years of operation, was also the largest power station in NSW. These factors are among the major reasons for the building’s heritage listing.

Wangi Power Station 02

Since the insides of the building were gutted of its furnaces, transformers and associated equipment in the 1990s, it has been left almost derelict – though its lawns, trees & shrubs are still kept in order. There has been talk for the last twenty years of the building undergoing retail and/or housing development, but so far nothing has come of whatever plans have been submitted to Council.

Regarding my strange attraction to the old red brick building, I recently had a realisation of where it has come from. I was born in a Lancashire cotton mill town and spent the first five years of my life there before we migrated to Australia. There were lots of spinning, weaving and dyeing mills still standing at that time, though most have since been demolished.

Stone Bridge Mill, one of Oswaldtwistle's cotton mills

Stone Bridge Mill, one of Oswaldtwistle’s cotton mills

The long brick wall of one of these, Rose Mill, ran along the alley behind our home in Oswaldtwsitle. Our home itself was in one of many stone-built two-storey terraces that were constructed to house the mill workers. Our terrace was built in the 1890s. When I was researching my family history, I discovered that my paternal great-grandfather had actually lived and, in 1917 during WWI died, in the three-up-three-down terrace home Dad had bought during WWII and where I and my then three siblings were born.

Roe Greave Rd, Oswaldtwistle 2014 - Google Earth

Roe Greave Rd, Oswaldtwistle 2014 – Google Earth


Where I grew up in Australia, and in most of the other places I have lived in since I was twenty, there were no large brick buildings. On the odd occasion that I go to Sydney, I love to see them there. But it is the power station that stirs my emotions the most.

I have a feeling that it is subconscious memories and feelings from my early childhood being drawn out by the sight of this building. And those buried memories must be happy ones, because I feel happy as well as nostalgic whenever I gaze on it.

The three stacks of the old power station, seen from the lake.

The three stacks of the old power station, seen from the lake.

(c) Linda Visman


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  1. Isn’t strange Linda how we have these relationships with these landmarks that are entwined in to our lives and are so much part of what we call home. We have a building here on a hill that you can see miles away. At a distance and close by it always speaks of home. That power station of your’s sounds like a fascinating place.

    • Perhaps, Don, we allow these things to express themselves more as we get older. But it is nice to have that ‘home’ feeling.
      I would love to go inside the old power station. Some years ago, I started to write a story set in and around the building, but not being able to go inside or even within the grounds halted that. I’d still like to do it though. 🙂

  2. Do you think that these things are reminders of a past we once lived in and are no more both in terms of technology and our own personal existence. I like to think of how things were when we humans hadn’t made our marks on the landscape so much. Over here the landscape is so different to what it was even just 50 years ago.

    I hope that these dots on the landscape disappear and we can see more of mother natures landmarks like the big trees or rocks that dot the place.

    • I am the same, Paul, as far as wanting to see our earth as she was before we came along to befoul it. I think that’s why I love trees & birds & rocks & the ocean shore. 🙂

  3. We were talking about this building only yesterday as we drove into Wangi. We didn’t know the reason for heritage listing. So interesting. Excellent post. Thank you 🌷

    • You came to Wangi & didn’t drop in! Oh well, perhaps we can get together again for a coffee soon. Though the darned end-of-year calendar is filling fast!

      • I know, I know. Linda, we did think about it but did not have our phone to give you a courtesy call before invading your Sunday afternoon privacy.

  4. Hi Linda! Thank you for commenting on my most recent effort, not least because it led me to this post! I have an unaccountable affection for industrial landscapes – the view of Middlesbrough as I approach it from the south is spectacular. These traditional heavy engineering type works have a unique romance about them. Just think, all that building and effort for just thirty years of active use…

    • Glad you found this post then, Frederick. 🙂
      I love the old power station, which is just over the hill from our place. I have an attraction to big, old red-brick industrial buildings. I think it is probably because there was a big brick cotton mill across the lane from our back fence when I lived in Oswaldtwistle, Lancs, before we came to Australia. Perhaps it takes me back to my birthplace and the industry that meant so much to my ancestors. 🙂

      • Yes, they have a sort of tranquil magnificence, if that makes sense. Unfortunately, a big steelworks in Middlesbrough has just achieved that same deserted, unwanted status. I’m afraid they will be levelling it soon.

  5. It’s time I touched base with you here, Linda. Thank you visiting my blog again today. Nice that you link a childhood memory with a familiar power station – a good metaphor, if you think about it.

    • Thanks, Marian. Good to see you here. Yes, that building takes me back to my childhood – most of which I have forgotten, but which was much different to my life here.

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the old power station…it took me back many, many years; my grandfather worked for the railroad and helped build and operate it…from 1952 to 1960, when my grandmother died. He had worked for the railroad, on the Hawkesbury River Bridge and then at White Bay….this was his last job with the railway….my grandparents lived in the housing provided by the railway for workers and try as I will, I cannot find any old pictures of the housing. I grew up in Woy Woy and we often made the trip up to stay with them weekends. I have such fond memories of their place…it sat up on a hill, overlooking a road and fields, and if I remember, correctly, you could see the water (although I was only 9 so maybe my recollections are muddied by time and a vivid imagination). If anyone has photographs of the housing I would love to see them…I live in the United States now and love to ‘visit’ the places of my childhood and youth via the internet….it makes the reality of time and space less tender and more enjoyable…so, thank you once more for sharing…

  7. Thank you for sharing these photos of Wangi power station. I worked at the company which manufactured the turbine-generators for nearly 40 years. Living in the UK, I never had a chance to travel to Wangi, so it’s nice to be able to see the station. I was wondering if you might allow me to include a few of your photos in some slides I’m preparing so others may see the station? Best wishes Geoff

    • Thanks for checking out the post, Geoff. Of course you can use the pics – just make sure to attribute the one from the Lake Mac library. 🙂

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