White Bay Power Station

Sydney, New South Wales | C.1917

Photo Credit: Craig Donarski

The power needed to stop oneself from touching any of these buttons is stored in this station’s generators. Thankfully, pressing any of them won’t do much to the electrical grid, as this old powerhouse hasn’t been in the workforce since 1983. 

Driving across the Anzac Bridge in Sydney, Australia, the White Bay Power Station’s steel smokestacks are not hard to miss. Constructed in 1917 to help the young city meet the requirements to run an extensive streetcar network, the massive structure is an impressive landmark on Rozelle Bay. Designed in the Federation Anglo-Dutch style (how niche), the structure was expanded a few times in the ensuing decades, allowing for a variety of alternator sizes and historical gizmos to inhabit its halls.  Its builder may not have known it, but White Bay would begin its journey as one of the longest-running stations in Sydney.  

After 65 years of powering the city’s streetcars and tramways, the station was phased out of the grid system and officially closed in 1983. By this time, White Bay’s generators were quite ancient compared to their modern counterparts at other power stations, and the structure would remain vacant for the next 40 years. However, due to this abandonment, the station still houses its control room and machinery from the mid to early 20th century, the only one of its kind in the Sydney metropolitan area. 

In March 2024, a few years past its 100th birthday, the mint green control room of White Bay Station hums once again with human activity. The subject of various government rehab projects that thankfully did not come to fruition, the historic station has finally been given new life as a unique event space, and home to the 24th Biennale of Sydney. With its halls and machinery serving as the backdrop for fine art and sculpture, the station is once again humbly at the service of the public. One could say the ambiance is electric. 

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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