Brisbane preserves southern hemisphere’s first power cable

Lengths of Brisbane’s 134-year-old Edison Tubes – the southern hemisphere’s first ever power cable – are being shipped to leading museums across the world.

Queensland Innovation and Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones witnessed the careful removal and package of the cable that connected power from the old Government Printery on William Street, to nearby Parliament House on Alice Street.

“They are an important piece of Queensland’s history carefully being unearthed from beneath the $3 billion Queen’s Wharf Brisbane (QWB) development,” she said.

Archaeologists supervised the extraction and preservation of the aged electrical cabling.

“In 1884, Brisbane was the first city in the southern hemisphere to have Edison Tubes. This was behind only New York and London,” Ms Jones said.

“Queensland, as a world-leader in innovation, was not just the ‘Smart State’ creation of the last decade – it was well and truly alive 134 years ago.

“The roll-out of Edison Tubes hooked buildings up with simple power stations.

“Now we’re preserving these historic tubes and sending some of them to great museums around the world.”

Lengths are being carefully packed and sent to the Science Centre London, Edison Historic Park and IEEE History Museums in New Jersey USA, MAAS Sydney (Powerhouse Museum), Commissariat Store Museum Brisbane and Highfields Energy Centre Toowoomba as well as Parliament House and Energex.

Ms Jones joined Destination Brisbane Consortium Project Director Simon Crooks, the Royal Historical Society of Queensland’s Dean Prangley and Historical Engineers Australia expert Brian Becconsall at the Queen’s Wharf Brisbane site to witness the cables being retrieved.

Mr Crooks said the unearthing marked a Queensland milestone and something the consortium, as the QWB developer, wanted to ensure was captured and preserved along with the heritage of the site.

“The Edison Tubes are important as they provide a glimpse into Queensland’s past when electricity was introduced and revolutionising the lifestyles of Queenslanders,” he said.

Once electrical lighting had been demonstrated in 1883 at the Government Printery at 84 William Street, the government commissioned the Edison Company in the United States to permanently connect the Printery and Parliament House to a steam driven electrical generator located at the rear of the Printery.

“In 1884, Edison Tubes were then run under William Street to Parliament House to connect it to the steam generator, enabling electricity to replace some 200 hot gas lamps within Parliament House,” Mr Crooks said.

Dean Prangley of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland said Queen’s Wharf Brisbane was the largest conservation project in Australia with its nine heritage buildings and two heritage-listed parks.

“We support the consortium’s work with Energex, the Queensland Government and other local historians to ensure Queensland and some of the world’s museums each get a piece of this rare and interesting look into our past and the progress into life with electricity,” he said.