Self-Guided Tour

Discovery Walk

Crompton-Potential-IndicatorThe Museum opened on the 9 November 1988 to recognise the centenary of the switching on of the first Municipal electric street lighting system in Australia at this site on 9 November 1888. The Museum has objects, photos and didactic panels telling stories behind the development of the electrical industry.

To find out more about individual items you can search our online catalogue here.

You begin your Museum visit in the Foyer

The Foyer has displays of:

watsons and sons electrotherapy machine

Watson and Sons Electrotherapy Machine, 1920s

  • Edison Street Tube cables
  • Crompton and Kapp electrical indicating instruments that came to Tamworth as part of the 1888 street lighting contract
  • The large leather bound Tamworth Council ledger recording the change from gas to electric lighting
  • Radios, tape recording and sound reproduction equipment
  • Heaters, art deco table lamps, travelling irons, hair care accessories
  • A “Teasmade” that switches on to wake you up to a freshly brewed pot of tea
  • An Electrotherapy unit

Continue your visit past the radios and enter the small alcove adjoining the foyer

synchronome clock

Synchronome Clock, 1935

Here you will see:

  • A display board that illustrates the inauguration of Australia’s first electric street lighting system
  • A plaque referring to the 1888 ‘switch on’ and the 1988 museum opening
  • A replica of the small gold key that was used at both of these ceremonies
  • A map of Tamworth as it was in 1888 with the location of the 52 electric street lights that illuminated over 21 kilometres of the town’s streets
  • A two clock unit (synchronome) of the type that was installed in isolated power stations like Tamworth’s, to fine tune their output frequency and keep all the electric clocks on time

This leads to the Discovery Room


Telegram, 1878

The Discovery Room displays:

  • Photographic portraits of the key scientists and engineers who made outstanding contributions to the development of electrical science
  • The discovery and development of the primary cell, the first source of controllable current electricity
  • The subsequent development of electro-magnetic theory and technology
  • A collection of electric telegraph apparatus (the first practical use of electricity)
  • Electrical fittings illustrating early developments in the application of natural insulating materials

Retrace your steps back through the foyer past the Radio showcase and turn to the right into the Battery Room display area. A large 230 Volt battery occupied this area in 1907. The ceiling still has evidence of the special ventilators installed to ventilate hydrogen evolving from the charging batteries.

It is now the Museum’s main Domestic Appliance display area

maytag washing machine

Maytag Washing Machine, 1929

These appliances relieved households of much domestic drudgery. They include:

  • Washing machines
  • An early electric copper
  • Instantaneous water heaters
  • Irons
  • Heaters
  • Fans
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Food processors, small hotplates and tabletop cookers
  • Kettles
  • Toasters
  • Ceramic jugs, of the type used only in Australia and New Zealand
  • Imported and Australian made stoves, including two Metters Early Kookas
  • Imported and Australian made refrigerators
  • Sewing machines
  • A pizza cooker

Leave the Battery Room by the other door

This small room has display cabinets with some more modern entertainment units.

National TV

National Television B&W, 1970s

  • Black and white television sets
  • Radios and radiograms
  • A Sony Betamax video tape recorder

As you pass from the Museum domestic appliance display, think for a moment of how these electric servants have changed the way that we live.


This rear gallery was originally the engine room of the 1907 power station built to provide a private supply in Tamworth. It housed two high speed steam engines driving 50 kilowatt generators.

painted german globe

Painted German Globe, 1895

In this room there is:

  • A comprehensive display of the development of electric lamps since 1878
  • A display of the array of small components found in the base of a modern compact fluorescent lamp
  • A display board of domestic kilowatt hour meters, including a Reason electrolytic meter of the type used by the Tamworth Council for its first private customers in 1907, and several generations of induction disc meters that have served the industry for many years, including examples of coin-in-the-slot meters
  • A variety of test, measuring and indicating instruments that monitor the operation of electrical machinery and systems in order to aid safety and reliability
  • A collection of suspended indoor and outdoor light fittings
  • A single stand self-contained electric Wolseley sheep shearing machine

Other items on display include:

Air raid siren

Air Raid Siren, WWII

  • A selection of specialised electrical appliances; an electric potato peeler, an army pedal driven generator and electric lawn mowers
  •  A three phase mercury arc rectifier bulb
  • Several small direct current dynamos, alternating current motors and other interesting rotating electrical machines
  • One of Tamworth’s two WW II air raid sirens

Passing to the right of the steam driven alternator set we have:

  • A small wall mounted wind generator
  • Battery chargers and testers
  • A marble switchboard, a display of time switches, panel meters and audio frequency relays
  • Protection relays of the type installed to manage and limit the damage that may occur when things go wrong with the electricity supply system
  • A display of electrical tradesmen’s safety and working equipment
  • Small distribution system transformers, including one with its oil removed and tank cut away to reveal its core and coils
  • A photographic display and some hardware items recovered from the High Voltage Alternating Current power station that commenced service in Marius St. in 1922 as the Tamworth Council continued its commitment to providing an electricity supply in Tamworth and the surrounding districts

Exit through the rear door and turn left to the recreated 1888 power station building

fowler engine order picture

Fowler Engine Order Picture, 1896

There is:

  • A John Fowler boiler of the same type used in 1888
  • Two Fowler cross compound under type steam engines similar to those used in 1888
  •  Two recreated Crompton No. 15 Dynamos that generate a 230 Volt direct current supply identical to the supply provided in 1888
  • A 1924 vintage Mort’s Dock boiler that is certified for live steam operation and is fired up on special occasions to provide steam for the two Fowler engines and for the Belliss and Morcom engine across the alleyway in the 1907 engine room

Investigations carried out indicate that there is no other John Fowler under type steam engines in working order anywhere else in the world. This is the exact location of the 1888 power station that was switched on to supply the first Municipal street lighting distribution system in Australia.

Take some time as you leave our Museum to enjoy the museum precinct with its commemorative bronze plaques, the illustrated time line, the replica arc light, the converted gas street lights and telegraph line.

replica carbon arc light

Replica of 1888 Carbon Arc Street Light

Please sign our visitors book before you leave.

Thank you for visiting The Tamworth Powerstation Museum. We hope you enjoyed your visit.