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YEAR 5: The Australian Colonies - No. 1 Pump Station, Mundaring Weir 

No. 1 Pump Station

 1902 - Courtesy Forrest Family Album




No 1 Pump Station is the first in a line of eight steam-powered pumping stations built to deliver freshwater from Mundaring Weir to WA’s Eastern Goldfields following discoveries in what was to become Coolgardie in 1892 and Kalgoorlie in 1893. The goldfields pipeline, inevitably linked to Engineer in Chief CY O’Connor and WA Premier John Forrest, operates to this day, although electric pumps have replaced steam and the scheme now sustains agricultural areas as well.


In 2009 the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme was declared an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark - the third in Australia - joining the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Snowy Hydro Electric Scheme on a list that includes the Eiffel Tower and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. In 2011 it was placed on Australia’s National Heritage List.


In use until the 1950s, No 1 Pump Station stands, Mundaring Weir as a monument to the Golden Pipeline’s significance in the colonisation and settlement of WA and the building of the Australian nation. No 1 Pump Station is an ideal site to visit for students studying the history of the state. It is used now to tell fascinating stories from the past: of what life was like on the goldfields: the role that O’Connor and Forrest played in shaping WA; the impact of the discovery of gold on WA and more.





A visit to No 1 Pump Station, Mundaring Weir can be used to engage students with the development of Western Australia, subsequent to the founding of the Swan River Colony. The discovery of gold in the 1890s transformed the so-called ‘Cinderella State’ and resulted in rapid development in terms of infrastructure and settlement. The site lends itself to the examination of significant events, people, political and economic developments and settlement patterns following the discoveries. This program has been written to complement a visit.


This  program is written to meet the requirements of the Australian Curriculum: History, providing opportunities to develop historical understanding through key concepts including sources, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy and significance.  Investigating these concepts within the context of the goldfields and agricultural areas water supply scheme, of which the weir and No 1 Pump Station form a part, facilitates student understanding of the past and gives them a focus for historical inquiries. Suggestions are made for classroom activities aimed at developing historical skills. 




Up to 90 students (3 classes) can be accommodated at No 1 Pump Station at any one time. A full day’s visit (approx 10 am to 2 pm) is recommended although shorter visits are possible. In general, weather and Water Corporation operations permitting, a visit consists of a workshop on the Gold Rush and the subsequent need for the pipeline, a tour and exploration of No 1 Pump Station’s interactive display and a walk across the dam wall. Visits can be tailored to suit particular areas of study e.g. water or CY O’Connor. 


To make a booking: 

Contact the National Trust by: 


Phone:           9321 6088 



Printer-friendly version of Year 5 Program - No. 1 Pump Station, Mundaring Weir


Inquiry Questions:  


The Year 5 curriculum provides a study of colonial Australia in the 1800s. Students look at the founding of British colonies and the development of a colony. They learn about what life was like for different groups of people in the colonial period. They examine significant events and people, political and economic developments, social structures and settlement patterns.


A framework for developing students’ historical knowledge, understanding and skills is provided by inquiry questions through the use and interpretation of sources. The key inquiry questions at this year level are:


·          What do we know about the lives of people in Australia’s colonial past and how do we know?


The National Trust has compiled information about lives in the earliest days of WA’s Eastern Goldfields. Our education website features more than 80 photographs with accompanying information as well as information sheets (see Golden Pipeline Information Sheets) on aspects of the goldfields water supply scheme. Resources for sale include a picture book (The Pipeline O'Connor Built). The display at No 1 Pump Station uses primary source extracts  to emphasise the desperate shortage of water on the goldfields.


·          How did an Australian colony develop over time and why?


Population growth in WA was very slow until significant discoveries of gold in the 1890s. Thanks to the 1890s Gold Rush the population of Western Australia doubled and redoubled in the space of 10 years. The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme was – and continues to be – an essential infrastructure in maintaining settlements and industries (farming and mining) in the arid interior.


·          How did colonial settlement change the environment?


The discovery of gold led to a time of great expansion In WA both in terms of population and economic activity.  The pipeline, built as a consequence of the Gold Rush, brought and continues to bring security to what is now known as the Wheatbelt, supporting farming in WA, as well as mining. No 1 Pump Station and Mundaring Weir are essential elements of this ongoing story.


·          What were the significant events and who were the significant people that shaped Australian colonies?


The name CY O’Connor is synonymous with the pipeline but it would not have been possible without the political acumen of WA’s first Premier, John Forrest. Together, thanks to money from the Gold Rush, they built much of WA’s infrastructure. A visit to No 1 Pump Station addresses the significance of WA’s fabulous gold discoveries in the 1890s and the role of the dynamic duo, O’Connor and Forrest, whose legacy lives on.

Key Concepts:



The Gold Rush period is rich in primary sources, in particular photographs, diaries and letters, to investigate the past. Primary and secondary sources available electronically include newspapers such as the Kalgoorlie Western Argus. Our presenters at No 1 Pump Station are also valuable sources for student questions which we encourage!


Continuity and Change

The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme can be investigated in terms of aspects that have remained the same over its period of operation and some that have changed. A visit to No 1 Pump Station includes aspects of the past, present and future.


Cause and Effect

Students investigate reasons for the building of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme during a visit to No 1 Pump Station with its visually rich display.



Why did some people call it a Scheme of Madness? Would we design a dam like Mundaring Weir today? Students consider the points of view of people in the past to gain historical knowledge.



The circumstances facing desperate miners on the waterless goldfields lend themselves to an appreciation of their point of view. Students investigating opposition to the scheme are moved to empathise with CY O’Connor.



The impact of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme on the development of Western Australia, the scheme’s longevity and its association with CY O’ Connor and Sir John Forrest are aspects relating to No 1 Pump Station’s significance for students to explore.



Photographs and accompanying educational information relating to life on the 1890s goldfields, the water supply scheme and CY O’Connor can be found at the NTWA Learning Federation


Golden Pipeline Resources are available to complement a visit to No 1 Pump Station or for stand-alone activities. (View example)


Pre-visit Activities:

Teachers are strongly advised to develop historical skills in students by having them identify key questions to which they want to find the answers during their visit to No 1 Pump Station. Informing an historical inquiry ACHHS100.


Rules and Regulations


Students think about and compile a list of rules to follow on the excursion. Are there some they might need to observe when they walk across a dam wall? Some they need to follow if they are near a source of drinking water?