The village of Waddamana is a former Tasmanian 'hydro-town', located at the foot of the southern side of the Central Plateau.It flourished with a population of over 100 in the early 1900s when the power plant situated there was being built. Waddamana Post Office opened on 18 August 1913 and closed in 1971. Its current permanent population stands at four or five. The Tasmanian Aboriginal name waddamana means 'noisy water'.
It consists of two decommissioned hydro-electric power stations, one of which is a museum, and several cottages, most of which are only used by guests. Schools often take their students to Waddamana for camps. It has gained a reputation for its harsh weather - it often snows and icing was a problem when the hydro plants were still in use.
The Waddamana Hydro-Electric power station was the first hydro-electric power plant ever operated by the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Department (later the Hydro-Electric Commission or HEC), opened in 1916. The privately-owned Tasmanian Hydro-Electric and Metallurgical Co. Ltd. first took a serious interest in generating hydro-electric power from one of Tasmania's highland rivers in late 1909. They resolved to construct a hydro-electric power plant in the valley of the Ouse River, above the town that bears that name. Water was to be provided by a small dam on the Great lake at Miena, which would then divert water down the steep drop using a woodstave pipeline and a flume. Construction began in earnest in 1910. The works were completed in 1915, and the plant was officially opened in 1916.
History of the Power Station
The privately owned Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Power and Metallurgical Co. Ltd. first took a serious interest in generating hydro-electric power from one of Tasmania's highland rivers in late 1909, to provide power for James Gillies' newly patented electrolytic process for zinc refining, and a "carbide" smelter to be constructed near Snug. They resolved to construct a hydro-electric power plant in the valley of the Ouse River, above the town that bears that name. Water was to be provided by a small dam on the great lake at Miena, which would then divert water down the steep drop using a woodstave pipeline and a flume. Construction began in earnest in 1910.
However, the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Power and Metallurgical Co. ran out of money before the scheme could be completed, and they sold the incomplete works to the newly formed Hydro-Electric Department in 1914. The works were completed under Hydro-Electric Department ownership in 1915, and the plant was officially opened in 1916. It was the first plant ever operated by them.
The plant operated at its original capacity of 7 megawatts (9,400 hp) from 1916 via 2 x 4,900HP(3.65MW) turbines. Waddamana initially powered some 300 homes in the Hobart region. However demand for electricity grew in the residential and business sectors, and ‘the Hydro’ responded to meet this; a 3rd turbine was added in 1919. After 1922, 6 x 8,000HP (5.96MW) turbines were installed to meet increased demand.
In 1931, the Hydro-Electric Commission decided to construct a completely new plant to replace the original Waddamana power station (to be known as Waddamana A). However, a lack of funds forced them to build it alongside the existing plant instead. Between 1939 and 1949, construction took place for Waddamana B, and until 1965, two power plants were in operation at Waddamana. The new plant was referred to as Waddamana B, and it generated 48 megawatts (64,000 hp) of electricity from four turbines.
Both Waddamana plants operated through the 1940s and 1950s, but, in the early 1960s, construction of a new, larger power plant at Poatina began. Designed to replace the two Waddamana plants, with the small Shannon plant nearby, the Poatina power plant was opened in 1964 with a capacity of 325 megawatts (436,000 hp), over three times the combined capacity of the plants it replaced. In order for the Poatina plant to be successful, it was necessary to stop the flow of water through Waddamana A and Shannon, both of which were decommissioned (Shannon in 1964, Waddamana A in 1965). The Shannon plant was demolished, but the two Waddamana plants remained standing. Waddamana B remained in active service until 1995 when it too was closed. Waddamana A now has a new life as a museum filled with original equipment and other displays, including the Control room switchboard from the Shannon Power Station.
Waddamana power Station Museum
Waddamana A now has a new life as a museum filled with original equipment and other displays, including the Control room switchboard from the Shannon Power Station. You can tour through the turbine hall, with hands-on exposure to the mighty Pelton wheel turbines that first began generating electricity over a century ago. The view looking up the penstocks – the steep pipes that transported the water downhill and into the station – is striking, and conjures images of the determined workers who built these in the early 1900s.
The original machinery at Waddamana has been faithfully restored, along with some of the equipment from the old Shannon Power Scheme. And historical photographs and memories give an insight into what life was like in the early days of this small but social village deep in the Central Highlands.
Waddamana Power Station is at the half way point of the Highlands Power Trail, a self-drive journey through the Great Lake Power Scheme. We recommend you allow approximately 1 hour to spend at the heritage site. There is no catering facility at Waddamana, however you may wish to bring supplies and relax at the picnic area or use the electric barbecue. Museum opening hours: Thursday to Sunday open 11am - 4pm. Closed Monday to Wednesday. Free admission.
Waddamana Heritage Site Brochure
The village and power station are located on a side road off the Lakes Highway between Bothwell and Miena. The road is unsealed so travelling on it during winter if ice and snow are around is not recommended without a 4WD vehicle. At other times it suitable for all types of vehicles and passes through some beautiful mountain country.
The Start of Hydro Tasmania
The harnessing of the waters of Great Lake began in 1910 when a private company started work on an ambitious project to divert water from Great Lake and the Shannon River to a power station at Waddamana. In 1905 Professor Alex McAulay published an article on the potential for hydro-electric power generation in Tasmania.Mr Gillies, who had developed a new electrolytic metal refining process was seeking a large, cheap power source. After reading the article, Mr Brettingham-Moore who was a civil engineer, arranged a meeting with Mr Gillies.
They formed the Complex Ores Company in 1908 and sought finance for the power scheme from the Tasmanian Government. The Government could not afford the venture. But in 1909 granted a concession to the company to use the water of the Great Lake to produce electricity. A separate, smaller company called the Hydro-Electric Power and Metallurgical Co. Ltd was formed to build the scheme.Work began on the scheme in December 1910 with the excavation of the canal which was to convey water from Great Lake to the Penstock Lagoon. Because of considerable difficulties during the early stages and an extremely severe winter in 1912, the company ran short of money and work halted for several months.