Saturday, November 22, 2014

Russell Street Substation: Open House Melbourne

One of the most popular buildings for Open House Melbourne, for many years running now, is the Russell Street Substation. The opportunity to go underground in the city, and check out a live electricity zone substations, gets an almost constant line up for the weekend. It's worth waiting to get a look, and the full personalised tour, to this unique part of our city!
Once at the front of the line, in the alleyway off Little Collins and Bourke Streets, you need to kit up for the experience. This means full length industrial grey jackets and a hard hat over a hair net! Not everyday you would donn such an outfit, unless working in such a place is your day job.

For the guys for whom this is their day job, you can tell it is a labour of love the moment they begin the tour, for which they have volunteered their weekend to deliver all day, both days of OHM. Their enthusiasm and knowledge, and obvious joy at showing off their little hub of electricity, is brimming.

Once down on the level below, the tour groups are taken through the rooms below, which house the equipment which was part of the first public electricity supply in the southern hemisphere. It it also the last substation to supply DC to local businesses, as last as just 8 years ago.

But the gem of the visit, along with the quirky electrical conductors and transformers, are the blue glowing mercury arc rectifiers. Looking like something from an outer space alien movie, these illuminated glass bulbs (turned on and off by tour participants) are still running just for show, and given their age and lack of actual use now, when they go out or break down, that will be the end of them at this location.

Worth going along just to see this weird and strange science in Melbourne, that cannot be repaired when it reaches it's natural end. But the dress-ups and the fun tour guides make this a don't-miss for Open House Melbourne.

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