Teachers Notes for The Pipeline CY O’Connor Built


The Pipeline CY O’Connor Built tells the story of the Mundaring to Kalgoorlie pipeline designed by Engineer-in-Chief CY O’Connor. The pipeline carries fresh water from the hills on the outskirts of Perth to the eastern goldfields of Western Australia, across a distance of 560 kilometres. It took five years to build and was completed in 1903. It is still in use today and supplies water through 8000 kilometres of pipe to almost 100,000 people and 6 million sheep throughout the goldfields and surrounding agricultural areas.


From Joy Lefroy

Since first hearing about CY O’Connor I have been intrigued by his story. The more I heard, the more I realised what an amazing person he must have been. He contributed to the development of Western Australia at a time when the state was growing faster than it had in any other period


When I began working as education officer at the National Trust on the Golden Pipeline project, I wanted to find a way of telling the story of the pipeline to as many people as possible. It was easy to engage older students and adults, but how could I help younger children understand how important this man and his work were to the development of our state? My colleague Diana Frylinck helped me to grasp the bigger picture and pointed out a range of resources that could engage interest. I knew that a picture book would be a great way to tell the story to a younger audience.


The inspiration for the story style came when Diana suggested the picture book describe the evolution of the pipeline in terms of The House That Jack Built. The project grew and grew until the water finally flowed into Mt Charlotte, Kalgoorlie on 24 January 1903. Many, many people were involved in the construction of the pipeline, and new technology had to be invented to address the problems that arose. In the book it was easier to show these in pictures than to describe them in words. As it followed the building of the pipeline, the story, through the text and Marion Duke’s illustrations, became a book that grew and grew.


In order to make this a story that children could relate to, I felt the book needed a character of a similar age to the reader. Clara isn’t introduced until almost the end of the book, but she offers the reader a personal connection and someone to identify with. Children around the world understand the need for fresh clean water and Clara represents that child from the past, present and future. She reminds us that it is up to every individual to value our limited resources.


Errata: In the overview of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme at the end of the book, a mistake has been published in the first edition. Originally there were eight pump stations and twelve reservoirs, not twelve of each as printed.


A Resources and Activities file is available from the National Trust

The file contains a full chronology and background to the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. It offers activities with Western Australian Curriculum Framework links to Society & Environment and to all other learning areas and includes a bibliography of additional resources.

To order your Resources and Activities file phone the National Trust on 08 9321 6088.


Visit No 1 Pump Station

Half and full day workshops are available at No 1 Pump Station, Mundaring Weir. Workshops are interactive and include a history session, a tour of No 1 Pump Station, a walk to view the weir and a choice of workshops linking to other curriculum learning areas. Workshops are conducted by National Trust education staff.

For more information or to make a booking, phone the National Trust on 08 9321 6088 or email trust@ntwa.com.au

All visits to No 1 Pump Station link to the Curriculum Framework  Society & Environment Learning Area. Workshops also link to other Learning Areas


As well as visiting No 1 Pump Station, try some of the following activities in your classroom.


Activities for students


Early Childhood: Searching for gold

Due to the lack of water, prospectors searching for gold in the Western Australian goldfields used a process called dry blowing. Look at the picture showing ‘a digger looking for gold’ in the book.


Bowl of dry sand

Garden sieve


Pieces of ‘gold’ — spray-paint small pieces of gravel or other stone


Bury pieces of ‘gold’ in the bowl of sand.

Students trowel sand from the bowl into the sieve, then shake the sieve until the sand has dropped through and the gold can be seen.

Discuss other ways of searching for gold and why it is valued.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (Resources).



Early and Middle Childhood: Saving Water

In the book, the men from the east are sharing one bowl of water. This picture, based on a photograph taken on a Sunday in Coolgardie, shows them sharing the water to shave, wash and have a haircut.


Discuss how else people on the goldfields would have saved water and what they would have gone without because of the lack of water.

Monitor and record how much water you use in a day and consider what savings you could make.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (ICP, Resources);

Maths (Measurement).



Early and Middle Childhood: Locking Bar Pipe

Without the steel locking bar pipe invented by Mephan Ferguson, the pipeline would have been far less efficient and more expensive to build. In the days before welding, this locking bar allowed the two semicircles of steel pipe to be joined along their long edges without rivets. Rivets slow the flow of water as well as having potential for leaks.



Study the diagram showing the locking bar joint on the endpaper in the book. Look carefully at the Before Closing and After Closing joints. The locking bar joins the semicircles to create the lengths of pipe.

Make your own locking bar pipe and test it for water efficiency.


You will need a plastic A4 sheet cut in half.

Using plasticine or similar moulding clay, shape a length of locking bar as long as the sides of your A4 sheet of plastic as shown in the ‘Before Closing’ diagram in the endpapers of the book. Fit one sheet of plastic into each side of the plasticine locking bar joint and bend them round to fit into the second plasticine locking bar joint. Close the locking bar joint by pressing it with your fingers to secure a watertight joint as shown in the ‘After Closing’ diagram in the endpapers. Test the pipe by pouring water through it to check for leaks.

If you have time, find a way of joining the pipes you and your friends have made to create a longer pipeline. Test for watertightness.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (Resources); Technology & Enterprise (Process).



Early and Middle Childhood: The Route of the Pipeline

Look at the map on the front endpaper of the book showing the original pipeline route and steam pump stations. Today the Goldfields and Agricultural Water Supply Scheme supplies water to approximately 33,000 rural and town services, from outer metropolitan Mundaring, through the Wheatbelt area, to the Goldfields. It supplies water as far north as Dalwallinu and to Corrigin in the south. All pump stations are now electrically powered.


Make contact with students from one of the schools today receiving water from the Goldfields and Agricultural Water Supply and begin a correspondence by email or letter to find out how you each value the water you use.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (Culture, Active Citizenship); English (Processes and Strategies, Writing).



Middle Childhood: Gold! Gold! Gold!

The pipeline was built because so many people were living on the eastern goldfields of Western Australia, looking for gold, and there was no reliable supply of fresh water.

In 1892, in the first recorded gold find in Western Australia’s eastern goldfields, Arthur Bayley and William Ford found 80 ounces on their first day around what was to become known as Coolgardie and 554 ounces in total before staking their claim. In 1893 in one day, Paddy Hannan, Tom Flanagan and Dan Shea found 100 ounces when they were fossicking at what would later be Kalgoorlie.

Activity 1

Work out the equivalent weight of the gold in kilograms and find out how much their finds would have been worth on the gold market today. Use the internet or daily newspaper to find today’s price of gold per ounce.

Activity 2

Research gold and gold mining through history and around the world. In particular, find out how and when gold was formed, where it has been found, what it is used for and why it is so precious.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (ICP, Resources); Maths (Working Mathematically).



Middle Childhood: Biography


Draw a time line down the centre of a page (or pages) and on it mark the life spans of Sir John Forrest and CY O’Connor.

Your time line will begin in 1843 and will finish in 1918.

Use a different colour for each life span.

On your time line label important events in the lives of Forrest and O’Connor.

Illustrate to add interest to your time line.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (ICP).



Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence: Health

Many people on the Western Australian goldfields died from diseases such as typhoid and dysentery. In 1895 fever wards in Western Australian government hospitals documented 357 deaths from typhoid.


Use the internet to find out more about these diseases and how they are transmitted.

Do people still die from typhoid? How are they treated today? Write a report of your results.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (ICP, TCC); Health & Physical Education (Attitudes and Values).



Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence: Women and Children

Although all workers building the original pipeline appear to have been men, there were also women and children who lived with the men at the pump stations and in the small communities that grew up along the pipeline, many of which were far from the larger towns.


Use photos from the book and other research to help you imagine what it would have been like to live at a pump station.

Consider schooling and education; growing food; jobs; friends; games played on and around the pipeline and at home; living in the bush.

Write a journal entry as if you were a child growing up within one of the small communities.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (Place and Space, TCC); English (Viewing, Writing).



Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence: Steam-powered Pumping Engines

The original eight pump stations were powered by Worthington Simpson horizontal duplex triple expansion high duty pumping engines. These were steam driven engines. The boilers that powered the engines were made by Babcock and Wilcox. Students discover how these boilers and engines worked during a visit to No 1 Pump Station. Activity

After a visit to No 1 Pump Station, draw the system and mark parts of the boilers and engine. Show how the boilers and pumping engines created a complete system. If one part failed, the system did not work.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (ICP, TCC); Science (Energy and Change); Technology & Enterprise (Systems).



Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence: Related Photographs

Many photographs of the Western Australian goldfields are stored at the Battye Library. Some of these photographs were used in illustrating the book.

Activity 1

Using the following keywords, search the Battye Library website to find photographs of the period. Website  http://henrietta.liswa.wa.gov.au/search~S6/

Keywords: Mundaring Weir; Sir John Forrest; CY O’Connor; dry blowing and dry blowers; pipeline; Coolgardie; Kalgoorlie; goldfields; condensers; camels; Golden Pipeline.

Activity 2

Bring recent photographs of yourself and your family to school. Make notes about the differences you see in the archival photographs from the Battye Library or from the book, and those of yourself and your family.

Links to Curriculum Framework — Society & Environment (ICP, Place and Space, TCC); English (Viewing).



Other Resources for further study


National Trust of Australia (WA)


Water Corporation



Other books and resources


Golden Pipeline Resources and Activities File, available through National Trust of Australia (WA), Tel 08 9321 6088, 2003

Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail Guide, National Trust, available through National Trust of Australia (WA), Tel 08 9321 6088, 2002

CY O’Connor. His Life and Legacy, AG Evans, UWA Press, 2002

Australia’s Gold Rushes, Robert Coupe, New Holland, 2000

Gold Fever, Kimberley Webber, Macmillan Education, 2001

To the Goldfields, Rachel Tonkin, Allen and Unwin, 1999 (fiction)

Gold: A Treasure Hunt Through Time, Stephen Biesty, Meredith Hooper, Hodder, 2002

Midnite, Randolph Stowe, Puffin, 1967 (fiction)

Pioneering in WA, Hazel Biggs, Singing Tree Books, 1993

Water in WA, Evan Biggs, National Library of Australia, 2001

Gold in WA, Hazel Biggs, Singing Tree Books, 1993

CY O’Connor: the man for the time, Cyril Ayris, Black Swan series, 1996

John Forrest:  man of legend, Cyril Ayris, Black Swan series, 1996

My Dear Emma, RE Tyler (ed), Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2003