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Local Pioneer History

Part of our secluded estate witnessed the history of Australia's first underground power station: the Barron Falls Power Station capable of generating 3.8 megawatts to supply the Cairns area with electricity for 28 years.

Barron Falls in full flood

Construction of an outdoor power station with a high voltage substation at the bottom of the Barron Falls commenced in July 1932.  However, from the beginning this plan was marred by several complications as well as major rock falls. For instance, a bridge was built across the top of the Barron Falls which failed to resist the floods and earth also proved unstable for the outdoor plans.

A decision was then made to build an underground power station with a substation for transmission purposes on the top eastern side of the Barron River Gorge. The new project was still marred by fatalities and numerous mishaps.

Power was first generated by two 1200kW water driven turbo alternators with transformers and a switchboard (Left photo). Because of the increasing demand for electricity, a third generating set of 1400kW was installed in 1940 (Right photo).

1935 Barron Falls Power Station
1940 Barron Falls Power Station

On November 20th, 1935 the then Governor of Queensland (Sir Leslie Orme Wilson) pressed the button which officially started the supply from the new Barron Falls Power Station. Previously, from 1925 till 1932, electricity was generated in the Cairns Steam Power Station which was then put on standby. 

As the time went on and with an increase of demand for power, it was decided to build another power station with a far greater power generating capacity further down the Barron River Gorge. The new power station started operating on September 1963, thus making the old Barron Falls Power Station redundant so it was closed down.

Salvageable equipment on top were recovered and most buildings removed, the tunnels were boarded up and turbines, pipelines and alternators remain there today gradually eroding away in complete darkness many feet below the last station of Skyrail Rainforest Cableway before the Barron Falls Station.

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