After the telegraph was in operation for some time, it was not long before someone improved on this system, by inventing the telephone. This credit was given to Alexander Graham Bell in 1876.

Bell’s invention, so captured the Australian imagination, that in 1880, the first telephone exchange was established in Brisbane. With communication now well in hand, everyone was looking forward to another new invention, the incandescent lamp invented by Thomas Edison.

Edison also designed the DC generator in the early 1880’s that could be used commercially and so this gave a general overall means of using electricity. Most of the countries in the world soon began taking advantage of generating electricity around this time, especially Europe, England, America, Australia and New Zealand. It was beyond the experimental stage of electricity and power stations were being built to supply domestic and commercial consumers, with an abundance of power.

Probably the first generating station in the world to serve private consumers was the Holborn Viaduct in London, which started up in 1882, supplying about 60 kilowatts of power. Also in 1882, Brighton in England had its first public supply and that year the Crystal Palace London, had its first demonstration of electric light. The Pearl Street Central Power Station in New York, was the first recorded station in America in 1882.

One of the first transmission lines, was between Miesbach to Munich in Germany in 1882. So the year 1882 was a busy year as far as electricity was concerned. Coming closer to us next, is New Zealand, where the town of Reefton, on the west side of South Island, was the first to have electricity there in 1887. Knowing New Zealand, it was a hydroelectric power station and after Reefton, Wellington, on the North Island, had a supply in 1888.

Australia was not left behind when it came to the use of electricity and it is recorded that Brisbane was one of the first cities in Australia to use electricity commercially, in 1882, making it an important event in Australian history.

Looking at the map of Australia, it seems strange, that a number of country towns or cities had electricity before most of the capital cities. The town of Nhill, in the central west of Victoria had a private supply in 1888, until taken over by the Shire Council in 1921.

In 1888, Tamworth supplied electricity initially for street lighting, which incidentally was the first town in Australia to use electricity for street lighting. Then in 1888, Young in the southwest portion of New South Wales, had their supply followed by Penrith, west of Sydney in 1889. In 1890 Broken Hill was next with Newcastle in 1894. The capital cities that followed after Brisbane, were Melbourne and Perth in 1894, Adelaide in 1899, Sydney 1904 and Hobart in 1905.

It was very interesting to know, that these towns had electricity so early when the rest of the world was just beginning to use electricity from 1882. From this period on “electricity” became a household word.

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