When power came to Penrith

Councillors Ross Fowler, Kevin Crameri, Karen McKeown and Jackie Greenow
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A new plaque at Penrith Station was unveiled last week, commemorating 125 years of electricity in Penrith.

The community and Councillors turned out to witness the event, that Mayor Karen McKeown said marks a milestone in Penrith’s 200 year history.

“The electric light station in Belmore Street stamped Penrith as a modern town and a place of innovation,” she said.

“On October 3, 1890, Penrith became the first in the Sydney region and the third in NSW to make use of electricity.”

Cr McKeown said the Penrith Mayor at the time, Thomas Richard Smith, was a ‘noisy’ advocate for both an electric lighting station and a reservoir in the town.

“When the switch was flicked by the then Mayoress of Sydney, electric light was brought to 60 houses, a handful of businesses and illuminated our streets,” she said.

“The reaction to the first incandescent light was literally electric. The day the light was switched on was a public holiday and thousands turned out for those celebrations.”

Cr McKeown stepped off a train from the city for the unveiling, as did the Mayoress 125 years ago.

“I’m all about being authentic,” she laughed.

Penrith City Library’s historical archives buff, Lorraine Stacker, said the fact that Penrith was the first town in Sydney and the third town in the whole of NSW to get electricity was very bold.

“To light the town, the people of Penrith had to decide whether they’d go with gas or with this ‘new technology’, electricity,” she said.

“They had a look around, went down to Young to see what it was like, and came back very enthused that it would be a very good thing.”

Ms Stacker said electricity brought business, more families and made Penrith a bit of an attraction, but it didn’t come without a cost.

“We had fellows from Freemantle Council, on the other side of Australia, coming to have a look at how Penrith did electric lighting,” she said.

“It almost bankrupt the town though. They over budgeted and because the whole of Australia then went into an economic depression soon after, Penrith struggled for a lot of years.

“But, they still believed they were doing the right thing by having electricity.”

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