A STORY FROM ROMA POWER STATION IN THE 1960's
This rating plate was taken from the first diesel generator to be installed in the Timbury Hills Power Station just outside Roma, Queensland. It was installed in 1965. Before it was closed in 1986, the power station successfully operated seven other diesel engines on natural gas and diesel fuel. This power station was the first place in Australia to generate electricity for public consumption using natural gas.
The original design of the National-Mirrlees diesel engine was based on diesel fuel only. However, it was adapted in the factory in England to operate on natural gas. It was reported that the flywheel was changed and the speed of the machine increased from its original speed of 428 RPM. Trevor Limpus, one of the last engine drivers to man the Timbury Hills power station before it closed, recalled some of the stories concerning this machine. He said that when the machine was being commissioned the engineer experimented with different settings to try and get the machine to work satisfactorily on natural gas as it suffered with excessive pre-ignition.
One experiment involved preventing two or three cylinders firing during a test. This had the result of unburnt gas collecting in the exhaust system. The gas ignited and the explosion shattered a large stainless steel bellows that connected the machines exhaust system with the muffler system. Pieces of stainless steel bellows blew through the powerhouse roof and one piece landed just 20 yards short of the Warrego Highway some distance from the powerhouse.
Trevor was on duty that day and was manning the switchboard (pictured) when the explosion occurred. He immediately disconnected the machine from the system.
However the engineer took off and ran out of the powerhouse. From that day onwards, Trevor said this machine never ran on gas again.
It ran well on diesel fuel and that is the way it stayed.
Muffler system for each machine – Roma Power Station circa 1971
Story and photographs by Ian Moller