Archive, Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, compiled by Kevin Forrester, photographs / transparencies, Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority and Selmer Engineering, Australia, 1949-1993
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme was Australia's pre-eminent civil engineering project during the mid twentieth century. It was a long project, which the Authority recorded officially and diligently using a variety of formats (annual reports, newsletters, bulletins, photographs). There was also an un-official record of the project that was produced by the professional staff (and others). Combined, these materials accumulated over a period of a quarter of a century and gave rise to a superb photographic record of the Scheme's engineering accomplishments.
The Scheme was not just an engineering feat. It quickly became a project famed for its heroic deeds, social inclusion, and cultural diversity. The archive exemplifies these features of the Scheme through the press, popular magazines and associated material.
The archive has a good provenance, it focuses on the development and completion of the Scheme's first major project (Guthega-Munyang), and provides source material for research, exhibition, and publication.
(Des Barrett, Curator, Science and Industry, October, 2008)
The archive was accumulated by Kevin Forrester who worked on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, initially as an employee of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority and then for the Norwegian firm, Selmer Engineering, and other firms (on other projects) during his career.
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority (S.M.H.E.A.) employed staff photographers from the beginning to the end of the project (1949-1974). Throughout the long period of design, construction, and commissioning of the various 'Snowy' projects, S.M.H.E.A. photographic staff and workforce generally recorded the progess of the Scheme's construction and social 'dimension'.
Official 'Snowy' photographs were developed, catalogued, and archived in the Authority's headquarters at Cooma. These photographs were allocated an identity number, and they were used for research and the crucially important promotional (political and popular) work undertaken by the Authority. Engineers used official photographs to record site analysis, construction detail, and work's progress.
The photographs and other documents comprising this archive were taken and collected by Kevin Forrester during his time as Authority engineer. The material was produced by a variety of organisations, including the S.M.H.E.A., The Sydney Morning Herald, Kevin Forrester, The Advertiser (Adelaide-based newspaper), New South Government Architect's Office, The Australian Women's Weekly, Pix (magazine), The Sun Herald (Sydney-based newspaper), The Geographical Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph, Australian Geographic Walkabout Magazine, Commonwealth Engineer, The Journal of the Institution of Engineers.
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme was established by the Federal and State Governments to divert water from the east-flowing Snowy River to the Murrumbidgee River which flows west from the Great Divide. This was done to ensure water security for the production of food crops in inland areas.
As a means for off-setting the disastrous effects of droughts, the concept of diverting waters from the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Snowy and Tumut Rivers dates back to the 1880s, however it was not until 1944 that a committee of Commonwealth and State representatives was formed to examine, from a broad national viewpoint, the development of the water resources of the Snowy Mountains area.
'The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act 1949', established the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority (S.M.H.E.A.). Although agreement was reached between Federal and State ministers on various aspects of the Scheme in 1949, it was not until 1957 (seven years after the commencement of the project) that a schedule - 'The Agreement' - was added to the Act. The Agreement was ratified in 1957 and 1958 by Acts of the NSW and Victorian parliaments. The Agreement constituted the Snowy Mountains Council as a non-corporate body responsible for directing and controlling the operation and maintenance of the Scheme for the control of water and the production of electricity. Legislation specifies entitlements to the Scheme's water and electricity. The electrical energy produced is divided between the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victorian State governments.
Completed in 1974, after a construction of twenty-five years, the Scheme collected, stored, and diverted water in the Snowy Mountains area through an interconnected network of dams, tunnels and aqueducts to supply water to the Riverina district and electricity to much of South-East Australia. At completion, the cost of the Scheme was $820 million (with an additional $196 million accumulted in interest payment).
The investigation and design of the Scheme, was carried out by the Authority's personnel, with some assistance initially from the United States Bureau of Reclamation. The major civil engineering works were constructed by contractors from Australia and overseas, and the major electrical and mechanical plant items were supplied by overseas firms. Authority personnel supervised the contracts and some of the construction work, including construction of aqueducts, erection of transmission lines, establishment of seven regional townships and one-hundred camps, one thousand six-hundred kilometres of road, and tracks and installation of the major electrical and mechanical plant. The number of people employed by the Authority and its contractors in the Snowy Mountains reached a peak of 7300 in 1959 and decreased as the last of the Scheme's projects were completed. Altogether, a total of 100,000 people worked on the construction of the Scheme. The current work-force is involved in the operations and refurbishment of the works.
In 2002, the Scheme was corporatised and it operates as a Corporations Act company. The organisation is now called Snowy Hydro Limited (see www.snowyhydro.com.au for details of the roles and responsibilities of Snowy Hydro Limited).
This archive is mostly about the Guthega-Munyang project, which forms the Snowy-Murray Development component of the Scheme. The Snowy-Murray Development involves the diversion of the Snowy River by a tunnel system to the Geehi River and then to the swampy Plain River, a tributary of the Murray. In passing through the tunnel system, the diverted waters fall 820 metres, generating electricity in Murray 1 and Murray 2 power stations. Additional power is generated in Guthega Power Station, which makes use of the falling water of the upper Snowy River on the east of the Great Dividing Range, before it reaches the main tunnel system at Island bend. The key engineering features of the Guthega-Munyang project are:
Guthega Dam impounds the waters of the upper Snowy River, providing the head pondage for Guthega Power Station. The dam is a type known as a straight concrete gravity. It is 33m high, has a crest length of 137m and a base width of 25m. The dam is founded on weathered gneissic biotite granite (a rock partially composed of granite and black/dark mica). The dam's spillway is an overfall with dissipator basin type. The dam was constructed between December 1951 and April 1955.
Guthega Pressure Tunnel
The Guthega Pressure Tunnel carries water from Guthega Pondage to the pipelines leading to Guthega Power Station. The pipeline is 4.6km, is of a horse-shoe shape, concrete, and is founded on a geology of gneisstic granite with dikes of pegmatite, porphyry and basalt. (Dikes form when one type of molten rock intrudes into another). The construction period was from December 1951 to April 1955.
The Guthega Aqueduct System
This system comprises the Perisher River Aqueduct, Falls Creek Aqueduct, Rams Flat Aqueduct and the Munyang River Aqueduct. The archive is concerned with the last aqueduct, which is a reinforced-concrete pipeline that collects the flows of the Munyang River and other tributaries on the left bank of the Snowy River downstream of Guthega Dam and diverts waters to the Guthega Surge Tank. It is 9900m long. The aqueduct was built between February 1953 and March 1956.
Guthega Pressure Pipeline
This pipeline delivers water from the Guthega Pressure Tunnel to Guthega Power Station. The pipeline is made from low tensile steel, which ranges from 11mm to 32mm thick. The pipeline was constructed between December 1951 and April 1955.
Guthega Power Station
This power station generates electricity from the waters diverted from Guthega Pondage. It's a concrete surface station type with generators, turbines, transformers, and an outdoor switchyard. The geology is granite. The construction period was between November 1951 and April 1955.
Guthega Dam, Tunnel, Pressure Pipeline, Power Station: In September 1951, a contract was awarded to Ingenior F. Selmer A/S, Oslo, Norway (operating as Selmer Engineering Pty Ltd). The contract was valued at $12m (AUD).
Guthega Power Station (Turbo Generators): In April 1951, a contract was awarded to English Electric Co., Ltd. Its value was $1,007 386 (AUD).
Guthega Power Station (Transformers): In March 1953, a contract was awarded to Hackbridge & Hewittic Ltd, England. Its value was $220 510.
Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority (1993, 3rd ed.,). Engineering Features of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, Cooma, New South Wales.
(The curator acknowledges the assistance of Helen Forrester, whose husband, the late Kevin Forrester, collected the archive during his time as civil engineer on the Scheme. Museum archivist, Jill Chapman, provided valuable advice and assistance in preparing the archive).