The High Plains Patrol 1959-1963
With the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme very near to completion, year-round maintenance of the infrastructure on the Bogong High Plains (BHP) into the future, would be a necessity. To carry out this work, the High Plains Patrol was formed. The author and Wally Deans were selected to become the initial members of the patrol to carry out this important work. More
The High Plains Patrol describes how in 1959 with the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme very near to completion, with only the Langfords and Cope racelines and a small weir being constructed by private companies soon to be finished, year-round maintenance of the infrastructure on the Bogong High Plains (BHP) into the future, would be a necessity. To carry out this work, which involved periodic inspection, reporting and mechanical maintenance of this infrastructure, the High Plains Patrol was formed. Initially only two patrolmen were selected to become members of the patrol, myself and a civil foreman Wally Deans, Wally because he had a very good knowledge of the infrastructure, on the BHP and could handle a pair of skis. I was selected because I was known to SEC engineers of the Scheme who, with me, were fellow members of the Bogong Ski Club. They knew that not only was I a very good skier, but I had hiked and skied with the Rover Scouts over the BHP, and had acquired a very good knowledge of the terrain in both summer and winter conditions. And so it was a great thrill for me to become a member of the High Plains Patrol with Wally. Our duties were to maintain the many items of infrastructure and equipment on the BHP at Rocky and Pretty Valleys. This involved the taking and recording of measurements and other data as well as a number of documented schedules of inspection, which were then sent to Mt Beauty or Bogong for evaluation. Patrolling and inspections of the installations at Pretty Valley, the weir, vortex tank and valve house, were carried out twice weekly, together with patrolling each of the racelines in operation weekly, then twice weekly after the first fall of snow. There was a report sheet for each raceline, in which we noted anything that had, or was likely to affect the free flow of water. Inspection of the valve house below the dam wall was carried out twice weekly and the intake structure twice each month. All of the infrastructure, including the dam, headrace tunnel, racelines, vortex tank and weir were elements of No 2 Development, designed to produce a head of water to supply the turbines of McKay Creek power station. The inspections and maintenance of the racelines were carried out on foot with transport to the various locations by utility truck, and in the winter months by ski and over snow vehicles. As can be imagined the work was interesting, thrilling and in the winter could be quite challenging and at times uncomfortable and difficult, but for me it was the highlight of the work experiences of my life. When all the racelines were completed extra raceline patrolmen were required to carry out the work. They were recruited from SEC employees who, although some not skiers or who had extensive knowledge of the BHP, were interested and keen to become members of the High Plains Patrol. Another over-snow vehicle a Snow-Trac was purchased to work with the Sno-Cat. Drivers were recruited for both of these leaving Wally to oversee the day to day operations of the patrol. The patrol’s activities also included two search and rescue missions, and when they visited the Kiewa Scheme, taking Victoria’s Governor Sir Rowan Delecombe skiing at Falls Creek, and his wife Lady Delecombe on a sight seeing tour of the BHP in our over snow vehicles. In the meantime we had another baby a boy and our two oldest were in school at Bogong. We were very happy living in Bogong, but finally after all of the construction work on the BHP was complete and my skills were no longer needed as they were when I first joined the patrol with Wally, I decided that it was time to shift back to Melbourne, where I had been offered work by the same good friend who I had worked for to get the money to go abroad. So just three months short of ten years of marvellous working life with the SEC on the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme we moved to Melbourne.
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