Adelaide Electric Supply Company Converter Station

Adelaide Electric Supply Company Converter Station

Adelaide kept its horse trams longer than any other city in Australia, but in 1906 the daily papers announced that the government had bought all the metropolitan horse-drawn tramways for more than a quarter of a million pounds. On December 22, 1906, “an Act to authorise the Government to purchase certain tramways and for a Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT) to construct and erect tramways and for other purposes” was assented to. The newly formed MTT was required within three years “to form, lay down, work and construct a system of tramways, the trams whereon shall be propelled by electric energy, with or without overhead trolleys”.

The main depot for the trust’s rolling stock and administration offices was the site at Hackney east of the Botanic Gardens and forming part of the former Lunatic Asylum.

Electric power came from the MTT generator at Port Adelaide, even though the converter station was built close to the Adelaide Power Station in Grenfell Street. Under the guidance of William George Toop Goodman, the trust’s electrical engineer, English & Soward designed a building to contain a battery room, main engine house and stores. The whole of the high-tension apparatus, together with rotary converter, boosters and main switchboard, was in the engine room.

The Adelaide station is an excellent example of the interpretation of architectural style for an industrial building. It was designed by the architects responsible for the former Grenfell Street Mail Exchange. Its stylistic links with that earlier building include he high-quality detailing and juxtaposition of rock-faced limestone with face brickwork. The granite plinth, rock-faced limestone and the use of slate to support the cantilevered cornice make this building a distinctive element of East Terrace. Apart from the removal of part of the southern wall, it is structurally intact. Internal features including steel trusses and tiled floors remain. However there was some damage to the floor when the original machinery was removed after the Electricity Trust of South Australia bought the station to use as storage in 1963.

This building is allied to the former power-station buildings to the north in terms of construction, style and scale.


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This building is of great historical significance as it is identified with the founding of the Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT) in 1906, the electrifying of the tramway network, and the general history of public transport in Adelaide. It was the first and the most substantial converter station the trust built in its program to electrify tramways. The converter station was described as one of the largest of its kind in Australasia, representing the most up-to-date practice in converter station design.

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Images of Adelaide Electric Supply Company Converter Station

  • Adelaide Electric Supply Company Converter Station, 2014
Eric McMichael
Building materials
Stone, Limestone, Slate
Architectural styles
3 Federation Period (c. 1890–c. 1915), 3.7 Warehouse
1901 -
Architecture and design features
Eric McMichael
Engineering features
East End
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Municipal Tramways Trust
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Industrial, Transport
AS2482 classification
18100 - Historic Sites (unclassified)
Public Access
Exterior only
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5848/137 D54280 A702
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
NTSA registered
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
4.1 Development of City Services
4.1.3 Public Transport
6.4 Forming Associations
6.4.4 Community and Service Organisations
Municipal Tramways Trust
Australian Curriculum references
Year 6: Australia as a Nation


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