Ben Hammond Complex
The story of the Ben Hammond Complex started in 1883 when the South Australian Parliament legislated the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway. The contract included the construction of locomotive workshops at Parap. The Ben Hammond Complex was officially named a hundred years later in 1980 after Mr Ben Hammond, Engineer-Manager of the Electricity Supply Undertaking.
The Locomotive workshops (1883-2012)
The complex −then known as ‘2 ½ mile depot’− hosted facilities designed to service the railway and accommodate the workers and their families. It included maintenance workshops and storage sheds, a general store and several ‘railway houses’ erected across the tracks.
Following the Bombing of Darwin in 1942, the entire workshop facilities were relocated to the ‘Evacuated Workshops” in Katherine (the Katherine RSL Club now occupies part of this site).
In late 1960s, the railway was upgraded to accommodate the iron-ore traffic originating from Frances Creek mine. The Parap workshops were completely rebuilt and the tracks re-laid.
After traffic ceased on the railway line in 1976, the workshops were used as a freight depot by CO-ORD Transports. In 1978 the Northern Territory Electricity Commission purchased these facilities to house some of its maintenance operations.
Federal Parliamentary Party inspecting the railway workshops - 1912
The Running shed (1888-1974)
The running shed was a part of the ‘2 ½ mile’ site built in 1888 to specifically service steam locomotives. It was a very hot and unsafe environment to work in, with men handling large quantities of coal ashes, and being exposed to smoke, gas fumes and noise.
To replenish the steam locomotives engines in the Running Shed, a large water tank −know as ‘Three Mile railway reservoir’− was also built the same year.
Running shed, Parap in 1942
Wheel turning lathe building (1970-2008)
In the 1960s a new building was erected at the 2 ½ mile site to accommodate a wheel turning lathe −large machinery used to maintain the profile on locomotive wheels. It was a 37m long by 12m wide building and incorporated a three tonne travelling crane.
From 1978 onwards PWC parent companies used the building as their welding workshop and to fabricate steel power poles.
It was dismantled in 2008 and PWC gifted the building frame to the Friends of the North Australia Railway.
Parap Railway workshops in 1965
Ben Hammond, Manager of the Electricity Supply Undertaking (1970-1975)
The Ben Hammond Complex was officially named in 1980 after Mr Ben Hammond, Engineer-Manager of the Electricity Supply Undertaking (ESU) from 1970 to 1975. The ESU was the parent body of the Northern Territory Electricity Commission created in 1978 and the great-grandparent of the actual Power and Water Corporation.
Born in 1928 in Warrnambool, Victoria, Mr Ben Hammond first served the ESU in the 1960s as a Distribution Engineer. He spent four years in Darwin before taking a two year appointment with the Capricornia Regional Electricity Board in Rockhampton, Queensland.
In 1970 he returned to Darwin and the Electricity Supply Undertaking as Engineer Manager. He led the ESU through the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy before being appointed as manager of the Townsville Regional Electricity Board (TREB).
In 1977, he was elected to serve on the North Queensland Electricity Board. In May that year Mr Hammond and three other TREB executives were killed in a plane crash on the return journey to Townsville from a monthly board meeting.
The Ben Hammond Complex was renamed three years after Mr Hammond’s tragic death, as homage to the services he rendered to the Northern Territory power and water utility.