A Powerful Blast from the Past

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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Once in a while somebody sends me something interesting for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  Today this amusing bit of Madang history comes from David Watkins.

Though probably of little interest to those who have never had the privilege of living in Madang, it is, nevertheless, worth recording for posterity. Yes, I’m writing a book a day at a time.

Here is a shot from those that David sent. It is an image of the huge Niigata* generator set arriving on a barge at the Madang Power Station in 1980:

The huge Niigata generator arriving in Madang in 1980


The photographs show the arrival of one Nigatta at Madang in 1980. They show the set in the landing craft and being pulled ashore through the bow doors. I assume that you can increase the size of the photographs sufficiently to see this properly.

Because of the size and weight of the set there was no crane available to lift the sets into the power station. The generator was removed from each set in Japan then the diesel and base were delivered in one piece of 60 ton weight. To move the set from the ship to the shore we used a Defence Force landing craft. In the bottom of the landing craft we made a runway onto which to drop the set then another runway on a concrete pad at water level on the side of the powerstation. Because of the size of the set and the runway the bow doors of the landing craft had to be left open. The journey from the ship to shore was done very slowly so as not to swamp the landing craft with the bow doors open.

Once to the shore 20t the wooden box was cut open so that slings could be attached to the set directly and the whole lifted with jacks to put 20t scates underneath. The runway in the landing craft and on the pad were joined together and the set pulled by turfers and chain blocks onto the pad. Due to the sope of the landing craft floor, the movement of the craft as the loading of the set changed and the bow door moving all there time we managed to squash some of the 20t scates.

With the set on the pad the whole was raised about 2 metres using numerous 20t hand jacks operated by eight people. There was no such thing as a hydraulic jack system with a seperate pump drive as is readily available now. The runway that had been in the landing craft was then moved to the front of the set at the powerstation floor, joined to the runway under the set, and the set moved forward into the power station. The set was then moved sideways, down about a metre, the runway removed and the set finally lowered into place.

This was repeated for the second set which was delivered a month later, time enough it was thought for us to at least move the first set off the concrete pad at the water level.

The work was actually carried out by Elcom (as it was then) staff. There were four expatriates and four local staff. All lifting and moving was done by hand using jacks, turfers and chainblocks with scates or pipes under equipment to move the equipment. The sets and associated equipment were delivered in 40 wooden crates ranging from 60t weight down. The generator weighed 10t.

The original order was for the sets and equipment to be delivered as a kit set that would only need to be assembled and take three months to complete. Somehow this was mixed up as we ended up with nothing pre-assembled but with 100t of steel pipe from 200mm to 10mm diameter all 7 meters long and 1000 flanges needing to be cut and welded. There was a mad scramble to buy extra tools, welding machines etc. and the work was finally completed nine months after the arrival of the first set.

I went over to the power station today to check on the status of the two Niigata gensets delivered in 1980. One of them was actually delivering power to Madang when I arrived. The other is presently being rebuilt.

Here is the control panel of the functioning Niigata genset:

The control panel of the old Niigata generator

And, here is the beast itself [extremely  loud, I might add]:

The still-functioning Niigata generator which arrived in Madang in 1980

Here is a little gallery of the other images that David sent:

The generation capacity of Madang, after years of irresponsible neglect, is finally being restored. It’s a slow process and requires the patience and support of the community. Power outages are still a daily (sometimes several times a day) occurrence.

There’s still a long way to go, but it is good to see progress.

* I’m a little confused about the spelling. On the web it’s spelled Niigata. David’s correspondence spells it Nigata. My comment is, “Who cares?”

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