Low Level Water Race - Victoria Battery

As early as 1894 the Waihi Gold Mining Company was investigating the Waikino site for a battery so as to considerably expand their crushing capacity. The attraction was water power. "Water-races from Waitekauri and Ohinemuri Rivers, also from the Mangakara Creek, have been surveyed to the site at the foot of Thorpe's Hill" (Mines Statement, 1895).

This new battery, named Victoria in recognition of the 60 year or Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria's "Record Reign" in 1897, was operating in early 1898 with 100 stamps. Water power was provided by the high pressure Waitekauri supply, and the low level Ohinemuri race.

This low-pressure supply came from the masonry dam on the Ohinemuri River, built just below the confluence of the Waitete Stream in 1897. The water race was 12ft wide and 4 1/2ft deep and in the main consisted of a ground channel. The Ohinemuri River was bridged by two trestled flumes, and a 475 ft long siphon traversed a patch of swampy ground at about the mid point. The race had a fall of 54ft, driving the stamps through two 200HP turbines.

"The company is erecting a new mill at Waikino, Owharoa, a description of which is given in the following extract from Mr. H. P. Barry's [Waihi Gold Mining Company’s superintendent from 1891 to 1915 (McAra, p 146) – E] general report:—

"The low-pressure system consists of the Ohinemuri Water-race, four miles and an eighth long, 12 ft. by 4 ft. deep, running for the most part on the south bank of the river, but will cross at one place to the north bank by a high trestle flume, and recross again to the south bank after a distance of about a quarter of a mile. These crossings, although expensive, were unavoidable, owing to the nature of the ground. With the exception of these flumes just referred to and a wrought-iron syphon-pipe 5 ft. in diameter and about 475 ft. long, the whole of the race has been carried through a ground-channel, so as to obviate the constant repairs that would inevitably be necessary after the elapse of a few years where fluming to any extent on a water-race obtains. The dam on the Ohinemuri, at the intake of this race, will be a strong and solid structure of masonry. It was considered advisable to do this rather than to construct it of wood, so as to prevent any possible danger in the future through the wood rotting and serious damage being done to dams, bridges, flumes, &c, further down the river. The extra cost will not be very great. The water from this race, which has a fall of 1 ft. in 2,000 ft., will be conducted to two 200-horse-power vortex turbines by a pipe-line 4ft. 6 in. in diameter, branching off into two pipes of 3ft. 6 in. in diameter, fitted with equilibrium-valves for each turbine." (From: Papers and Reports Relating to Minerals and Mining, 1897 Pages 85 to 97)

"During the winter months the low pressure race has developed ample power to drive the whole mill, the high pressure water being used for driving the machine shop, conveyors, and for sluicing out purposes." (SUPERINTENDENT'S ANNUAL REPORT. Waihi, 10th February, 1899)

"The wings of the Masonry Dam supplying the Low Pressure Race were carried up an additional six feet as a protection against high floods." (Engineer's Report—Victoria Mill—Year Ended 31st December, 1911.)

The stone required for construction most likely was quarried at a site close to Victoria Battery. It is immediately adjacent to the tramway, facilitating loading and transport, to the dam site as well as to the battery. This quarry remains. See Tramway to Victoria Battery document for more details.

The water race was maintained for the life of the battery, contributing valuable power until the last (14% late in the life of the battery – Bacon 1998). Some time after the battery ceased operation the two flume bridges were removed, probably sold for the timber they contained. Evidence of these bridges remain.

The Masonry dam was left intact. An attempt was made to blow up the dam, or at least the outlet control mechanism (personal communication with Bill Lawrence). This failed.

The northern abutment suffered a wash out during a severe storm (1981?), but this was repaired by Hauraki Catchment Board. The capping timber has now all gone, lowering the height of the dam by a few centimetres.

phoca thumb l Looking upstream to dam

Looking upstream to the Masonry dam. 2006.