Constructing the Maroondah System

The extensive water supply system that incorporates Maroondah Aqueduct, Maroondah Resevoir and Coranderrk Aqueduct exists in no small part due to the men and women who helped construct and maintain this incredible infrastructure. Each section represents a major feat of engineering, and hard work at each period of the development of the system has contributed to its overall success today.

 

How was the System built?

Maroondah Aqueduct was the first of three to be developed. This was accomplished by work-gangs of labourers carrying out the construction during the 1880s.

The work was undertaken in all types of weather, from searing summer sun to the biting frost of winter. The labourers stayed onsite during construction, camping in tents, working six days a week, and moving camp as work progressed.

The work was hard, with long days and uncomfortable nights. Despite the hardship, the aqueduct was successfully completed in 1891.

Each section of the Maroondah system represents a major feat of engineering. The hard work at each period of the development has contributed to its overall success today.

Building the Maroondah system - transcript

How was the system maintained?

On the completion of the Maroondah Aqueduct in 1891 and Coranderrk Aqueduct in 1931, there was still the important job of cleaning and patrolling their entire lengths.

This job was given to the ‛caretakers’, who were employed to maintain allocated sections of the aqueduct. Caretakers typically worked in pairs with each pair given approximately 10 miles, which they would have to patrol each day, often on foot or by bicycle.

The role of patrolling the aqueduct was important for both keeping the channels clear of foreign bodies and contaminants such as storm water runoff, fallen trees and the odd animal. It was also important for the caretakers to check for leaks and blockages which were a regular occurrence.

Who were the workers?

Like the Maroondah and Coranderrk Aqueduct, many labourers were needed for the construction of Maroondah Resevoir. Labourers were recruited from across the state, many of which were newly arrived migrants from Italy

The initial construction included the installation of heavy equipment and the clearing of trees. All the necessary equipment and materials had to be transported from Melbourne. This was undertaken by train, horse and carriage, and the bi-cable ropeway, which was a major undertaking in itself.

Once all the equipment was in place and work had commenced on the site, there was the constant sound of jackhammering and explosions. This work would carry on throughout the night and into each day.

The project was enormous, taking almost 10 years to complete. Even at the completion of the dam wall in 1927, there were still two more years of planting and landscaping at the site.

Where did they live?

To house the large workforce, a small temporary village was established onsite, located near the modern day car park.

The entire village was constructed on the ingenuity of the workforce alone, with each employee having to use their own resources and skills to complete each home. The dwellings ranged from simple tents to elaborate wood and bark houses with windows, doors and corrugated iron roofs. Some of the wives of the men working on the construction of the dam also called the temporary village home.

Image shows the construction site of the Maroondah Aqueduct with tram lines to remove the cart loads of rocks from the site and workers are milling around.
Workers constructing Maroondah Aqueduct, ca.1924, Picture from Melbourne Water archives