This post deviates from the general theme of 3D printing and software curiosities. It is ‘ancient’ history from an old travel blog I was writing while traveling around Australia.

A photo of Meech holding an umbrella at the golden pipeline in Kalgoorlie

So Kalgoorlie is a town of almost 30,000 people – it’s bigger than Mildura and only marginally smaller than Dubbo… Well, woop-dee-doo? Actually, if you follow the links and take a closer look at the maps – do you notice that Kalgoorlie is missing something? A big blue streak carving its way past the town perhaps? Yup, that’s right; it would seem as though the rainbow serpent largely forgot about much of the Western Australian Goldfields and Wheatbelt. And the closest source of fresh water is around 560 kilometres to the west at Mundaring, just outside Perth.

So back in 1885, the first Western Australian premier got together with a talented engineer and hatched a wacky scheme (the best kind of scheme if you ask me), to pump water through a pipe uphill all the way from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie. What?! It isn’t just a pipe; it was the pipe, the golden pipeline to be more precise. OK, let’s try and put this in a bit of perspective – the pumps (all eight of them) had to be steam powered, because that was bleeding edge pumping technology at the time, and all the iron and steam engines had to be shipped in from England (there were no iron-works in the country yet). And all of this was occurring when the Ottoman Empire and its imperial harem were still in existence.

Today the scheme is still in use, but on a much grander scale, irrigating and quenching the thirst of much of the WA Wheatbelt. The pipeline resembles a large man-made river system, with a major river and many tributaries of over 8000 kilometres of pipe. On an average day, 90 million litres of water is pumped up the network on a trip that can take 5 to 11 days to reach Kalgoorlie. They don’t filter the water before the trip, just pump it full of chlorine; no wonder the water that came out of the taps at Narrogin and Kalgoorlie smelt like pool water.

A wacky scheme, which probably wouldn’t have happened anywhere else… But thanks to old man Hannan and his 1893 Kalgoorlie gold discovery, wacky schemes not only suddenly seem sane, but become a vital element to the growth of a new born state; an element, which is just as important over 100 years later.


You can join the conversation on Twitter or Instagram

Become a Patreon to get early and behind-the-scenes access along with email notifications for each new post.