1900's Electric Memories


In 1904, the Brisbane Electric Supply Company (BESCo) became the City Electric Light Company (CEL) with Edward Barton as Managing Director, a position he held until 1915, when Mr. E.J. Cochrane took over the role. CEL became the largest electricity supply company in South East Queensland and was responsible for many rural areas receiving electricity for the first time. 

1905: Thomas Tonks

Mr. Thomas Tonks was granted a franchise to supply electricity to the city of Toowoomba in 1905. His company, the Thomas Tonks Electric Light and Power Company became TELCo on 22 September 1913. Mr. Tonks became Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1918 and remained in the position until his death in 1946. 

The franchise granted to Mr. Tonks in Toowoomba in 1905, was restricted to the inner business district until 1913, when a street-lighting contract was awarded for the suburb of Newtown. A few years later TELCo also gained the contract to light up the streets of Toowoomba using electricity. In 1931, the expansion into rural areas began with the extension of supply to the town of Oakey. 

The State Electricity Commission (SEC) Annual Report for 1939 acknowledged the important work that TELCo had undertaken. 

It is a progressive company and has made remarkable progress, not only in the generating and distributing side but also in trading in electrical goods. 

1905 Moreton Sugar Mill Nambour

1905 Moreton Sugar Mill Nambour

In Nambour, the Moreton Sugar Mill installed electricity for lighting in 1905 after the Manager of the Mill arranged for Mr. Trackson from Brisbane, to install a dynamo, belt-driven by a steam engine, which was fed from the Mill’s boilers. This system powered 90 lamps in the Mill, with a second circuit providing lighting for the engine rooms, boiler rooms and workshops. Lighting for the yard, offices, men’s quarters and the engineer and Manager’s residences were supplied through a third circuit.

However, elsewhere in the town, candles and kerosene lamps were used for lighting in homes and larger businesses generally employed acetylene gas lamps. Anyone wanting electric lights for the home had to purchase a 32-volt system. Eventually, after a number of public meetings and ballots to assess public interest for a supply of electricity to the town, the Shire Council concluded that the required target of 200 households could be achieved and applied to the Government for a power scheme loan, which was granted in 1925. The Switch-on Ceremony in Nambour took place on Monday, 12 September, 1927

The City Electric Light Company's Powerhouse in Ann Street Brisbane c1906 The City Electric Light Company's Powerhouse in Ann Street Brisbane c1906