Technical innovation

Moorebank has a proud history of innovation in architecture, engineering and industry. Explore some key technical innovations below.

CUST Hut

The CUST (Cullen Universal Steel Truss) Hut, one of only three units owned by Australian Defence Forces, stood at Moorebank for more than sixty years. Originally constructed in the Northern Territory, the CUST Hut was relocated to School of Military Engineering site at Moorebank in 1948 after the Royal Australian Engineer Training Centre at Kapooka NT was disbanded. Invented by Lieutenant Colonel Dan Cullen in WWII, the clear vaulted structure was used as a warehouse by the School of Military Engineering. The CUST Hut was originally open at both ends with an earthen floor, and was modified to include ‘enclosing ends’ and concrete floors in the 1950s. In later years, the spacious CUST Hut was used as an exhibition space for the Australian Army Military Museum of Engineering collection. The CUST Hut was demolished in 2017.

CUST Hut, Moorebank, 2010 (Pam Browne)

CUST Hut, Moorebank, 2010 (Pam Browne)

STRARCH Hangar

STRARCH Hangar, Moorebank 2010 (Pam Browne)

STRARCH Hangar, Moorebank 2010 (Pam Browne)

The STRARCH Hangar was another key feature of the School of Military Engineering. It was a unique example of a massive deployable clear-span hangar building system erected in 2008 as part of the Australian Army Military Museum of Engineering. The STRARCH structure provided the RAAF with low-cost, pre-engineered hangars to house the F111 Squadron when they first arrived in Australia. The name of the building comes from the ‘STressed ARCH’ building design invented by Bruno Gatzka and Christopher Olsen in the mid-1980s. Its design consisted of a post-tensioned steel truss roof tied down to large concrete footings. The design can still be found today in warehouses, aviation facilities and shopping centres throughout Australia and internationally.

Moorebank’s STRARCH hangar was demolished in 2017 as, despite efforts to find a new home for the hangar, no organisation was able to take it to ensure its future use.

Liverpool to Holsworthy Military Railway

Built in 1917, the Liverpool to Holsworthy railway used second-hand steel and rails due to war-time materials shortages. Stretching east from Liverpool across the Georges River, the railway was an important connection between the military site and the town. The railway was a dual project of NSW Railways and the Holsworthy Internment Camp: 5.7km of the 7.9km-long railway was constructed by internees as part of their labour requirements. Despite these cost-cutting measures, the final cost of construction was £35,000 – over three times the original estimate.

The Liverpool to Holsworthy railway opened in January 1918. It had two sidings: the first served the Liverpool Army Camp just across the Georges River, and the second served the Remount Depot, home to Australian Light Horse Regiments. Later sidings connected the ordnance and ammunition stores. At the end of WWI, military traffic on the line decreased dramatically and the railway deteriorated. After a period of restoration in WWII, the line was eventually closed in 1977.

Soldiers and a civilian (probably a railway employee) gather at a train loaded with Army Service Corps wagons, 1920s. (Australian War Memorial)

Soldiers and a civilian (probably a railway employee) gather at a train loaded with Army Service Corps wagons, 1920s. (Australian War Memorial)

WWII Moorebank Ordnance Stores

The artillery stores section at No. 3 sub depot, 5th base ordnance depot. Moorebank, 1944. (Australian War Memorial)

The artillery stores section at No. 3 sub depot, 5th base ordnance depot. Moorebank, 1944. (Australian War Memorial)

In preparation for Australia’s role in WWII there was a nation-wide expansion of defence manufacture and storage sites. In 1943 a large ordinance store depot was established on the eastern side of Moorebank Avenue covering more than 80 hectares, and by 1944 it had expanded with fifteen large timber post-and-beam warehouses, a carpentry workshop, inflatable storage facilities, administration building, offices, amenities and a quartermaster’s store. A further three massive prefabricated timber and steel warehouses were shipped from the US in the 1940s and installed on site. The area accommodated the 2nd Base Ordnance Depot, 5th Base Ordnance Depot and 2nd Base Workshops during WWII. In 1972, these became the 21st Supply Battalion and 2nd Base Workshop Battalion respectively. In 1990, the facility became the Defence National Storage and Distribution Centre (DNSDC), and underwent refurbishment where five of the original timber post-and-beam warehouses were demolished and replaced with larger modern buildings, and other original warehouses reclad. The site was vacated by the Department of Defence in 2015 and after an archival recording of the WWII buildings was made, they were demolished to make way for the new Moorebank Intermodal Terminal.

Developed by Artefact Heritage