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Powerhouse Stories

Pukemokimoki Hill

Pukemokimoki Hill was once a prominent feature of the landscape, occupying the space now bound by Carlyle St, Thackeray and Faraday Streets.  From the 1860s it was progressively mined for fill to use in reclamation work in the lower lying parts of Napier, especially the area that became Munroe St.  By the late 1800s the area was level enough to be used as a sports ground, and was the location of Napier's first international cricket match.

Part of the space was then utilised to house Napier's early sewage pumps and a destructor plant for the city's rubbish.  In 1911 the powerhouse (now the Faraday Museum of Technology), was built to supply electricity for Napier's trams.  As the photos show, the site looked a bit different then.  The only recognisable feature now is the roofline of the powerhouse/Faraday Museum main building.

The following is the introduction page from the book "The Fullagar Diesel Generating Plant at Napier" by Ray Matthews

The 600 horsepower Fullagar diesel engine and its 400 kilowatt 3,300 volt alternator operated in the power house in Faraday Street, Napier, New Zealand from 1925 until 1970.

The plant has been donated to the Hawkes Bay Museum of Technology where it will remain in its original location. The Museum has arranged to lease the old power house building from the Napier City Council.

The purpose of this publication is to record the history of the Fullager plant.

Because it is 21 years since the plant was last operating, some of the records no longer exist.  Fortunately a number of former staff members were able to contribute information about the plant.

The engine was  built by the English Electric Co Ltd in its Willans Works, Rugby, England in 1923.

Only two engines of this size were ever built.  The other was used by the English Electric Company at its works at Rugby from 1922 until 1950 and subsequently placed in the company's museum where it was placed on display on the lawn where it deteriorated. It was finally scrapped about 1980.

It is believed to be the only diesel engine of its type used in New Zealand and is possibly the only surviving Fullagar engine in the world.

What appears t o be the first trial run for the acceptance test for the Napier plant took place on 4 September 1925 when the following entry appeared in the log book:

"Trial test was run this day: engine ran satisfactory on full load for eight hours: trouble then developed and the engine lost load: engine picked up load again and continued running on full load for another three hours."

It was not until 21 April 1927 that the following entry appeared in the log:

"Fullagar ran the trial test with satisfactory results, everything OK".

By this time preparations were in hand to receive power from the Government's hydro-electric station at Mangahao, near Shannon, 200 km south of Napier.  In fact only two months later, on 1 July 1927, hydro-power was received in Napier.

As the hydro-supply contract provided that existing plant be retained only for standby purposes, it might be expected that the Fullagar plant would have not been required  for for much running and eventually would have been retired in debt.

This was not to be the case as power shortages in successive years made frequent demands on the running of the plant.  The shortages were due to 'dry' years and insufficient hydro plant to meet the load growth.  Details of the plant running are given in  Appendix 2 on pages 14-17.

Technical data on the plant is detailed in Appendix 3 on page 18 and outline drawings in Appendix 8 on pages 29-36.



Comments by Napier M.E.D. staff who were working at the time of the earthquake

Dick Larrington - 6 Te Awa Ave, ph 358 031, clerk at Faraday St office adjacent to Powerhouse.

Most vivid memory was when the battery room collapsed and roof fell in - the glass battery cases smashed and there was a river of acid across the yard.  [It was a large capacity 500v battery used to supply power at night (11 p.m. - 7 a.m.) when the generating plant shut down - it also 'balanced' the tram load during working hours.]

Jack Isles 108 Nelson Crescent, ph 356 743, electrical inspector

Says he was in town on his way to the dentist (Browning St) when he was about to go up  the stairs the quake struck and bricks fell all over the stairway.  The skylight over the patient in the chair fell on him, leaving the frame over his body, but was only badly bruised.

His job was to provide the wiring for lighting and power supply at the Hastings St school to be used as a communications centre.  The linesmen were 'tidying up' the feeder so that the nearest transformer could be livened to give supply to the school.

Later the linemen pulled the pole fuses on every installation.  When the consumers requested supply Jack was among the team that inspected every installation before supply was relivened.


Faraday Museum of Technology

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