Russell Place Substation

Central | C14

Russell Place Substation is one of the oldest substations in the city. Known as ‘RP’, it is one of a number of electricity zone substations located in the Melbourne CBD.

Three large, oil cooled transformers in separate compartments in the underground substation step the incoming voltage down to 6,600volts (from 22,000volts). Metal-clad 6.6kV switchgear in adjoining compartments controls outgoing high-voltage distribution feeders to subsidiary substations in the immediate area. Russell Place also houses a low-voltage substation where further transformers stepdown the voltage from 6.6kV to 415/240V for supply to nearby customers and for street lighting.

Melbourne was one of the first places in the world to have a public electricity supply and was the first in the southern hemisphere. Russell Place is particularly significant, being the site of the 1882 Victorian Electric Company’s (subsequently Australian Electric Co.) central generating station, which supplied electric street lighting in nearby parts of Bourke and Swanston Streets, plus a number of local private premises. The latter included the Athenaeum Theatre, which was claimed to be the first such place to be lit with the (then new) incandescent electric lamps.

In 1894, the Melbourne City Council established its own electricity generating station in Spencer Street and subsequently took over the CBD assets and customers of the Australian Electric Co. In 1929, Russell Place was rebuilt as a rotary converter substation. It was a continuously manned installation until it was rebuilt again in 1949 as a total underground substation equipped with glass bulb mercury arc rectifiers. Russell Place was the last substation to supply DC to customers in the CBD.

Need to Know

  • Open: Saturday 10am-4pm, Sunday 10am-4pm

  • What's Open: Ground level transformer bay, transformer corridor, DC room, switch rooms. Presented by CitiPower and Powercor.

  • Special Note: This is an operating substation with live electrical equipment. Access includes multiple flights of stairs. No pram/stroller or wheelchair access. clothing requirements include enclosed flat shoes (no heels) and full length clothing. Expect queues. No children under 14 permitted. Please note no large bags or long metal objects are permitted in the substation, such as tripods or umbrellas.

  • Frequency Of Tours: Tours will run every 30 minutes with 20 people per tour. Queue at main entry point.

  • Building Type: Industrial

  • Website: https://www.powercor.com.au/

  • Tram Stops: Stop 11: Town Hall and Collins Streets on routes 1, 3/3a, 5, 6, 8, 16, 64, 67 and 72 Stop 6: Collins and Town Hall on routes 48, 109 and 112

  • Photo Credit: Annie Yu


Russell Place between Little Collins St and Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000

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