Engineering Heritage Western Australia

The Western Australia branch of Engineering Heritage Australia.

About Engineering Heritage Western Australia

Mission statement

To develop and encourage ways and means by which members of Engineers Australia and the general public can access and comprehend Australia's rich engineering heritage.


  • To engender interest in engineering heritage amongst the engineering profession, industry, business and the general public.
  • To advocate and participate in the identification, research and conservation of places and items of engineering and industrial heritage, including sites, structures, artefacts, photographs and oral histories.
  • To encourage research on the biographies of engineers, the history of engineering, engineering organisations and industries, and to develop procedures and guidelines to support this research.
  • To promote and assist in the archiving of significant documents recording the activities of Engineers Australia Western Division and WA Industry. Such documents include the minutes of DivisionCommittees, lists of Division and committee office bearers, winners of Division awards, entries for the annual Engineering Excellence Awards and heritage recognition awards.


  • By promulgating this knowledge through conferences, workshops, seminars, research papers, books and other publications.

  • By ensuring that items of engineering and industrial significance are nominated to the relevant authorities and organisations, and by assisting in their conservation and interpretation.
  • By cooperating with organisations with similar aims, particularly the National Trust of Australia (WA), the Heritage Council of Western Australia, The Australian Heritage Commission, museums, universities, libraries and archives in identifying, acquiring, conserving and interpreting places and items of industrial and engineering heritage.
  • By arranging with Division office staff for significant Division documents to be identified and retained for archiving at regular intervals (e.g. every five years), and liaising with the relevant archive managers (e.g. Battye Library) to agree on the forms in which the documents are to be archived.
  • By acting as a forum for engineers practicing in heritage engineering.

Why get involved?

"The successful planning and building for the future is very much dependent on a knowledge of the past".

It is because of this that Engineering Heritage Western Australia is made up of a multi-disciplined group of engineers to cover the full spectrum of engineering. It acts as a focus on Industrial Heritage matters, working with the Heritage Council of WA, the National Trust and the various museums, covering the depth and breadth of our State.

It therefore needs the input and help of ALL ENGINEERS throughout the State, and particularly those on Regional Group committees and the various Engineering Panels of this Division to identify, document and conserve our engineering past.

Engineering Heritage Training Course

Thursday, 9 November 2017
Engineers Australia, 712 Murray Street, West Perth

There is currently no formal education in Heritage Engineering in Australia. Engineering Heritage Western Australia are hosting a one-day training session for structural engineers on the technical aspects of heritage engineering and conserving heritage sites. Visit the event webpage to find out more.

Engineering Heritage Recognition Program

Engineers Australia recognises important engineering works of historic or heritage significance and the engineers who created them.

There are two levels of award, the Engineering Heritage National Landmark (EHNL), for the most significant items, and an Historic Engineering Marker (HEM), for works of important but lesser significance. Both awards are identified by a distinctive disk and and interpretive panel. Commemorative ceremonies are held to celebrate awards.

Some recent examples in Western Australia include:

Ord River Diversion Dam - the start of a new era
An Engineering Heritage Marker and interpretation panel are located near the dam wall. A dedication ceremony was held at the dam on 20 July, 2013.

Download the Ceremony Booklet
Download the Nomination Document

Photos (Courtesy of M Corboy)

Attendees at the Award Ceremony
Attendees at the Dam

Causeway Bridges - a story of three crossings
An Engineering Heritage Marker and interpretation panel are located at the east end of the bridges. A dedication ceremony was held on Heirisson Island on 19th September 2012, the 60th anniversary of the opening of the bridges.

Download the ceremony booklet
Download the nomination document

Perth's first public water supply scheme
A dedication ceremony took place on 22 October, 2012, at the John Tonkin Water Centre, at which an Engineering Heritage Marker and interpretation panel were unveiled.

The main interpretation panel and marker are located near the old dam wall at Carmel in the Perth Hills. A second panel is located at the site of the original storage tank in King's Park (opposite Fraser's Restaurant).

Download the ceremony booklet

NASA Carnarvon Space Tracking Station - Carnarvon's role in space exploration
On 23 July, 2012, Engineers Australia dedicated an Engineering Heritage International Marker and interpretation panel.

This was Engineers Australia's first 'international' marker, recognising the international importance of the station's operations supporting the NASA programs of the 1960s and early 1970s, including the Gemini and Apollo programs that resulted in landing men on the moon.

The dedication was part of a ceremony to open a new space museum and was attended by Apollo 11 astronaut Dr. Buzz Aldrin. The marker and panel are located near the old OCT dish on the hill behind the town.

Download the ceremony report

One Railway Gauge Coast to Coast - Western Australian Standard Gauge Railway
An Engineering Heritage National Landmark marker and an interpretation panel were unveiled at a ceremony held on 26 March, 2012, at the Public Transport Centre, Perth. These can be viewed in the foyer of that building.

Download the ceremony booklet

Mitchell Freeway Stage 1 Ceremony
This ceremony was held at the EA WA Auditorium on 18 November, 2008, 42 years to the day after the then Premier of WA, the Hon David Brand MLA, unveiled a plaque to signify commencement of construction on the freeway.

Download the Mitchell Freeway Stage 1 ceremony booklet

In March 2011 an Interpretation Panel was unveiled at the Narrows Interchange site. It is located on the north abutment of the Narrows Bridge, upstream side. Download a photograph of the panel below:

Mitchell Freeway Stage 1 Interpretation Panel Installed at Narrows Bridge North Abutment Upstream Side

Broome to Java Submarine Telegraph Cable
Plaque located at Court House and Cable Beach.

Download the Broome to Java Submarine Telegraph Cable ceremony booklet

BP Kwinana Oil Refinery
The plaque is located at the front of the Kwinana Administration Building.

Download the BP Refinery Kwinana booklet

Ord river dam
Plaque on dam crest.

Download the Ord Dam program

Fremantle Fortress - Rottnest Island WW2 coastal defence facilities
A commemoration ceremony marking the recognition of the gun batteries and supporting infrastructure as an Engineering Heritage National Landmark was held on the Island on 10 November, 2010. The plaque is located in the Crew Shelter at the H1 gun at Oliver Hill.

Download the RIWW2 ceremony booklet

  • A full list of EHNLs and HEMs in WA and across the country is available on the National Engineering Heritage website.
  • Digital copies of all WA nomination documents and ceremony reports are also lodged with the State Library of Western Australia, search the "Engineering Heritage Sites Collection".

Oral History Program

Senior engineers who have had interesting careers are interviewed and recorded so that their experiences can be shared with present and future generations.

Several Oral Histories have been recorded by WA engineers. Digital copies of these recordings and their transcripts are lodged with the State Library of Western Australia, search for "Engineering Heritage WA Oral History Archive".

Western Australia Division History

By the end of World War I in 1918, at least one engineering society had been established in each of the Australian States. One of these engineering societies was the Western Australian Institution of Engineers. It was founded in 1909 but had its inaugural year of operation in 1910 and was incorporated in 1911.

The founders of the Western Australian Institution of Engineers had recognised the inherent weakness of small independent societies and in November 1910 wrote to all other engineering societies and suggested some form of amalgamation.

In 1919, Engineers Australia was formed with the Western Australian Institution of Engineers being one of its Foundation Societies. In 1920 it became the Perth Division of Engineers Australia with a total membership of 79.

Mr FW Lawson was the inaugural Chairman of the Perth Division and an inaugural Vice President of the Institution.

The first West Australian to achieve the distinction of being elected to the position of President of the Institution was Mr CE Crocker. Other West Australians elected as President were Mr G Drake-Brockman (1940), Prof OF Blakey (1945), Mr JD Leach (1946), Mr Albert Tognolini (1984) and Em Prof Douglas Clyde (1994).

The Perth Division hosted the 5th Annual Engineering Conference in 1927. In 1969 the Perth Division became known as the Western Australia Division. In 1979 the Division hosted the Diamond Jubilee Conference of the Institution.

From its beginning of just 79 members in 1920, the Western Australia Division had grown to a membership of over 7,000 by the end of 2000.

The rate of growth of the Division has closely followed the State's industrial progress, and the Division looks forward with confidence to the future.

Other Recent Activities 

50 Years of Construction

In 1981 a history of the Commonwealth Department of Housing and Construction in Western Australia was published. It consisted of articles originally written by members of the Department in 1979, Western Australia's 150th Anniversary year.

The production coincided with the retirement of the Department's Director, Mr F W Statham OBE, ED, FIE (Aust), in recognition of his leadership during the previous sixteen years. With the assistance of Engineering Heritage WA the printed document has been digitised.

Download Fifty Years of Construction (PDF 33MB)

Goldfields Water Supply recognised internationally

The original Goldfields Water Supply - the brainchild of engineer C.Y. O'Connor - has been recognised as an engineering project of international status. The pipeline was officially designated as an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark at a ceremonies at Mundaring Weir on 20 October 2009 and Mount Charlotte Reservoir, Kalgoorlie on 21 October 2009.

It is only the third engineering project in Australia to receive the prestigious accolade, with the others being the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. Other notable engineering landmarks to receive the accolade include the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Panama Canal.

The dedication was made under the History and Heritage Program of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), after being nominated by Engineers Australia Western Australia.

Download the Goldfields Water Supply Mundaring Weir Ceremony Program (PDF 2MB)
Download the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme - one of Western Australia's heritage treasures

Bridge Tours

During Australian Engineering Week 2009, Engineering Heritage Western Australia organised and conducted a tour of six of Perth's major bridges, built between 1849 and 1982.

Six members of EA, who were familiar with the bridges, accompanied 180 members of the public on the tour and provided commentary. In addition, each attendee was given an illustrated booklet describing the history of each bridge with design and construction details.

Due to its popularity, the tour was repeated in 2012 during Australian Engineering Week.

Download the Information Booklet for the Swan & Canning Rivers Bridges Tour 2012

Narrows Bridge 50th Anniversary

The Narrows Bridge turned 50 in November 2009. The event was marked by a ceremony on the south bank of the river, presided over by the Governor and the Transport Minister. A presentation about the planning, design and construction of the bridge was also given in the EA Auditorium by a panel that included Harold Clough, Uffe Hansen, Geoff Fernie and Don Young.

Download the slide show that was used by the presenters: Narrows Bridge 50th Anniversary Slide Show

Heritage Articles

Heritage Recognition of Ord River Diversion Dam

The first stage of the Ord River Irrigation Project was officially opened on 20 July 1963 by then Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Sir Robert Menzies. It was thus fitting that the Water Corporation of WA and Engineering Heritage WA should jointly host a ceremony exactly 50 years later, on the bank of the Ord River near the Ord Diversion Dam, to commemorate the award by Engineering Heritage Australia of an Engineering Heritage Marker to the Diversion Dam.

Water Corporation Board Chairman Eva Skira and Engineers Australia WA Division President Helen Pedersen jointly unveiled an interpretation panel describing the investigations, planning, design and construction of the dam.

Water Corporation Chief Executive Officer Sue Murphy said the Engineering Heritage Marker was a fitting tribute to such a vital piece of water infrastructure.

“Receiving the Heritage Marker was the perfect way to celebrate the dam’s 50 years of operation and to recognise the importance of water in the development of Western Australia,” Mrs Murphy said.

“When damming the Ord River was first conceived it was a huge undertaking, with decades of investigations and planning finally culminating in a five million pound grant from the Commonwealth Government in 1959.

“In today’s terms, that is an investment of $140 million, so it was an achievement well ahead of its time and one that paved the way for successful agriculture in the region.

“The dam’s construction was considered a significant technical achievement, given the remoteness of the site, basic communications and difficult seasonal climatic conditions with sudden river flows.”

Among the 50 guests at the ceremony was John Lewis, who as Engineer in Charge of Planning, Design and Investigation for the Public Work Department WA, 1954 – 1964, had prime responsibility for the design of the irrigation scheme’s engineering works.

Information about some Western Australian sites which have received Engineering Heritage Australia Awards can be viewed on the Engineers Australia website.The Ord Diversion Dam information can also be found there.

By Don Young FIEAUST

Image caption: Water Corporation Board Chairman Eva Skira (left) and Engineers Australia WA Division President Helen Pedersen FIEAust CPEng jointly unveiling the interpretation panel.

Photo courtesy of M Corboy.

WA’s eminent engineers tell their stories

Doug Ayre FIEAust CPEng is busy talking with some of WA’s most eminent engineers – and getting their stories on the record.

He’s interviewing them as part of a national oral history project being coordinated by Engineers Australia.

“It’s an important part of our cultural heritage,” says Doug, a member of the Engineering Heritage WA committee.

“If you don’t get the story down, when that person dies, it dies with them.”

In effect, Doug is getting the story behind many of the notable engineering projects in WA and also the personal stories behind the projects.

“The stories can focus on the technology: How did they do things 50 years ago? Is there anything we can learn today from how they did it half a century ago?,” explains Doug.

“In many cases, it’s a leadership issue – How did they lead a team of engineers or technicians or draftsmen, or even a construction team? – it’s quite fascinating really.”

Doug is an electrical engineer and professional oral historian.

“Oral histories are personal things,” he says.

“They’re a person’s perception and interpretation of what was done and why it was done – it’s their point of view and their story. Someone else might tell you a slightly different story, well, that’s their perception.

“At the moment, I’m interviewing three people. I have available a number of volunteers who will help me as the program expands.

“I’ve been doing some myself, as we expand the program we’ll be using volunteers.”

He interviews the engineers using top-quality digital recorders and the interviews will be transcribed. A copy will also be offered to WA’s Battye Library which already has a large collection of oral histories from people of all walks of life.

“In fairly broad terms, I tend to dig deep,” Doug says. “I will go back to their childhood and their education to find out why they became interested in things engineering.

“And how they went about developing their knowledge and experience.

“Sometimes they will give you the history of why a bridge got built – for example, how the foundations were installed – which is not always that obvious.

“They might talk about office blocks in Perth and how the foundations were designed and built and how the structure was designed to withstand earthquakes, and even how they’re designed to be dismantled in due course.

“So the structural design of a building, powerline, bridge, highway, dam, can all be part of a story.

“So you’re getting a wide range of interests coming from these people which, to me is like a patchwork quilt, with a different patch for each person – that’s his or her story.

“If you put it into the quilt, you stand back and you can see a common thread or common pattern, which is the story of engineering in WA.”

By Tony Malkovic

Image caption: Recording WA engineers’ stories … oral historian and engineer Doug Ayre. (Image: Tony Malkovic)

All aboard the bridges bus tour

During Australian Engineering Week a public bus tour of six of the Swan and Canning river bridges was organised by Engineering Heritage WA.

The tour included visits to the Causeway bridges, the Narrows bridges, the Canning bridge, the Stirling bridge, the Fremantle Traffic bridge, and the Mt Henry bridges.

The tour guides on the trip; Ernie Evans, Peter Palmer, Tony Quinlan and Don Young are engineers familiar with most of the history, planning, design and construction of all the bridges, and accompanied the ninety participants.

The guides elaborated on the contents of a specially prepared booklet given to those on the tour.

Special mention was made of the current Causeway bridges, the third set of structures which have been built at the site. They were officially opened by the Premier, Sir Ross McLarty, 60 years ago on 19 September 1952.

At the Fremantle Traffic bridge a detailed explanation was given of timber bridge construction methods which were used in former times.

The original Narrows bridge was completed in 1959 and a duplication completed in 2001.

The first Mt Henry bridge was completed in 1982 and duplication completed in 2006.

The guides highlighted the more cost effective incremental launching construction methods which were used in the later bridges.

The information contained in the booklet can be accessed from the Engineers Australia WA Division website.

Click here to view the 2012 Bridges Tour Booklet

By Don Young

Mt Henry Bridge falsework tower placing unit on truss


Mt Henry bridge duplication 2005

Western Australian Standard Gauge Railway Engineering Heritage Landmark Ceremony

On March 26 a ceremony took place at the Public Transport Centre in East Perth to commemorate the award to the Western Australian Standard Gauge Railway by Engineering Heritage Australia of an Engineering Heritage National Landmark.

An interpretation panel detailing the planning, design and construction of the project was presented to the Public Transport Authority, the successors to the Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR). The State Premier at the time of the construction of the standard gauge railway in the 1960s was the Hon David Brand and the Minister for Railways was the Hon Charles Court.

It was fitting that the panel was jointly unveiled by Lady Doris Brand, wife of the late Sir David Brand; and the Hon Richard Court AC, son of the late Sir Charles Court. The panel was accepted by Mr Reece Waldock, CEO Public Transport Authority and is located on the ground floor of the Public Transport Centre, East Perth

The ceremony, presided over by EHWA Chairman Professor Mark Bush, was attended by over 60 invitees, most of whom were former employees of the WAGR and the project’s consulting civil and structural engineers, Maunsell and Partners.

By Don Young FIEAust CPEng

Interpretation Panel unveiled by Lady
Brand and the Hon Richard Court AC
(Photo by D Brennan)

Causeway Bridges Receives Engineering Heritage Recognition

On 19 September Engineering Heritage WA joined Main Roads WA in a ceremony to celebrate the award of an Engineering Heritage Marker to Perth’s Causeway Bridges.

It was fitting that the ceremony, held on Heirisson Island, occurred on the 60th anniversary of the official opening by Sir Ross McLarty, then Premier of Western Australia.

Designed and constructed by Main Roads, the bridges were the first steel and concrete composite deck structures built in Western Australia.

Among the invited guests were Arnold and Norman Godfrey, sons of E.W.C. (Ernie) Godfrey, Main Roads Bridge Engineer 1928-1957, John Leach, son of J.D. (Digby) Leach, Commissioner of Main Roads 1953-1962, and Gilbert Marsh, who as a young engineer worked in the supervisory team and succeeded Ernie Godfrey as Main Roads Bridge Engineer, holding that position until he retired in 1985.

Image: Main Roads Managing Director, Menno Henneveld (left) and Gilbert Marsh with Engineering Heritage Marker

By Professor Mark Bush FIEAust CPEng
Chair - Heritage Group

Heritage recognition for Perth’s first water supply scheme

Perth’s first public water supply scheme has received national engineering heritage recognition, 121 years after it first delivered water to the city from a reservoir in the hills.

The award was made by Engineering Heritage Australia at a ceremony at the Water Corporation’s Leederville headquarters on 22 October.

The scheme was constructed in 1889-91 to end 62 years of reliance on rainwater tanks, lakes, swamps, shallow bores and a few fresh water springs since the British colony was established.

Poor water quality, resulting in a high rate of disease and deaths from water pollution, mainly caused by inadequate septic systems, as well as regular water shortages led to mounting public demands for a proper piped scheme.

When the city’s population ballooned as a result of gold rushes, the Perth City Council decided to go ahead with a scheme, but due to a lack of public funding it entered into an agreement with a Melbourne company, Neil McNeil and Co., to fund, build and operate it.

The scheme cost about $21 million at today’s values and incorporated a storage reservoir, a 26-kilometre pipeline of 305mm diameter to a service reservoir in Kings Park and initial reticulation in central city areas.

The Victoria Dam, built on Munday Brook, had a capacity of 1 billion litres, compared with the current total capacity of Perth’s dams of 605 billion litres.

The dam had a crest of 222 metres and a maximum height of 25 metres. It was built of concrete that was mixed and compacted manually by up to 60 men at a time.

However, the scheme operator, the City of Perth Water Supply Co. Ltd., faced complaints about water availability and quality, pressure loss and high charges for water. To make matters worse, the reservoir catchment became contaminated by farming and timber mill activities, and the typhoid and other water-borne diseases that plagued Perth previously became even worse.

In 1896 the scheme was purchased by the newly formed State Government and operated by the independent Metropolitan Waterworks Board which made improvements.

The scheme, designed by Perth engineers Henry Saunders and James Barratt, became the model for future hills schemes that allowed Perth to grow.

The dam wall was partly demolished in 1990 to allow for overflows from a larger capacity dam built 300 metres upstream. Little else remains of other parts of the scheme.

Mr Mark Saunders, great-grandson of scheme designer Henry Saunders, and Ms Victoria O'Connor, great granddaughter of Mrs Lilla Keane, the wife of the Mayor of Perth who turned on the original scheme on 1 October, 1891, attended the heritage award ceremony at the John Tonkin Water Centre. Also attending were Water Minister Bill Marmion and representatives of the City of Perth, Engineers Australia and the Water Corporation.

Professor Mark Bush, Chair of Engineering Heritage WA, said: “The Victoria Dam project is an excellent example of the infrastructure that contributes enormously to the development of a city, yet often goes un-noticed by the public. Engineering Heritage Australia hopes that this award will help to remedy this situation.”

Information panels about the scheme are being erected near the site of the first water service reservoir in Kings Park, and at the remaining wall section of the original Victoria Dam.

Why you should be involved

"The successful planning and building for the future is very much dependent on a knowledge of the past".

It is because of this that Engineering Heritage Western Australia is made up of a multi-disciplined group of engineers to cover the full spectrum of engineering. It acts as a focus on Industrial Heritage matters, working with the Heritage Council of WA, the National Trust and the various museums, covering the depth and breadth of our State.

It therefore needs the input and help of ALL ENGINEERS throughout the State, and particularly those on Country Group committees and the various Engineering Panels of this Division to identify, document and conserve our engineering past.

Contact us

For information please contact: WA Division Office

Phone: (08) 9321 3340 | Email:


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