Australian Technology Park: Unique Technological Innovation
The beauty of the Australian Technology Park (ATP) is that it allows researchers working on tomorrow’s technologies proximity to companies with the capital and expertise to commercialize them today. Located at Everleigh, an inner-city suburb of Sydney in the state of South Wales, ATP is a dynamic business and technology community composed of more than 100 diverse tenant partners. Some are one-man operations while others are multi-national in scope, including local residents and businesses as well as State and Federal government organizations. Their mantra, if there is one, concerns sharing a common commitment to promoting technological innovation that will benefit all locally, nationally and globally.
The ATP occupies the site of the former Everleigh railway yards, which date back to the late 19th century. At the time of their construction by the New South Wales government in 1887, these Locomotive Workshops were considered the largest and most technologically advanced in the southern hemisphere. These workshops were able to meet the many diverse and complicated needs of the steam locomotive, including assembly, disassembly, repair and maintenance. As new tools, machines, power sources and techniques came into being, they were introduced into the Locomotive Workshops, and were tested as they are today for the benefit of the general population.
The ATP denotes five distinct periods of technological innovation. The early 1900s and the advent of electric power tools marks the first. The period between 1914 and the late 1920s is the second, noted for the acquisition of operating machinery such as the Davy press. Electric motors also enabled conversion from steam to electric haulage. The third period, which saw the introduction of diesel technology, lasted between the 1930s and the 1960s. The fourth came during the final decade of Eveleigh's operation as a workshop when numerically controlled technologies were introduced. The fifth period is a work in progress, as today ATP’s focus is on becoming an information /communication technology and biotechnology hub, operating at the forefront of nanotechnologies and bioinformatics and other associated new technology industries.
The workshop has a formidable history. It could manufacture all its own components, from tiny springs to 20-tonne boilers and at its operating peak in the 1930s, the workshop’s 3,000 skilled workers overhauled around 540 locomotives and made more than 200 individual steam locomotives. Everleigh also maintains the Wrought Artworks, which houses an enormous assortment of blacksmithing equipment. The Smithsonian is quoted as referring to this collection as “the largest and most integral collection of Victorian blacksmithing equipment, in terms of integrity and extent known in the western world.”
The Everleigh Locomotive Workshop became a landmark for those who fought to improve the rights of Australian workers in the early part of the last century. The first affirmative action taken by workers in 1917 for Australia’s General Strike occurred here before spreading through the rest of the country. Many Labour politicians began their careers at these workshops, including William Mackell, who was a boilermaker at Everleigh, and later became Premier of New South Wales in 1941 and Governor General of Australia in 1947.
With the onset of the age of diesel, the workshop began to decline, and the last steam engine passenger service was made in 1963. The workshop eventually closed in 1989. In its heyday it employed approximately 3,000 skilled workers who included tinsmiths, coppersmiths, blacksmiths, boilermakers, fitters, turners, grinders, machinists and toolmakers, among others. In a unique work environment for its time, everyone worked side-by-side in the largest industrial complex in Australia, providing a valuable insight into how ordinary Australians of different ethno-cultural backgrounds pulled together to shape the burgeoning Australian nation.
Australian Technology Park is in the business of transforming the future, no small task. The noble past in the form of locomotive workshops and surrounding heritage buildings have been carefully and magnificently restored. The ATP community works with all levels of education to develop new interfaces between industry and education. Currently, seven premier Australian universities are represented at ATP and with a team of workers now numbering approximately 1,200, ATP is consolidating its position as Australia’s leading technology precinct.
ATP, long may you live and prosper!
M Dee Dubroff