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03/08/2012: Budding electricians reassemble piece of Manchester history

A group of engineering apprentices from Manchester have been putting their skills to the test by moving an historic piece of electrical equipment from a substation in Didsbury to MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester).Engineering apprentices help move a historic 1930's fuse board

Electricity North West, which manages the region’s electricity network, decided to move the fuse board, which measures 22 feet long and was built in the 1930s, from the William Street substation in Didsbury to free up space for new higher-capacity electrical equipment.

Built with a polished slate back and featuring huge copper switches, the fuse board was believed to have been originally installed by one of Electricity North West’s predecessors - the Manchester Corporation Electricity Department.

Instead of consigning it to the engineering archives, the company issued a challenge to its apprentices to decommission the fuse board and donate it to MOSI. After a complex operation to move the board, it has now been handed over to MOSI and will form part of the museum’s collections about the creation of Manchester’s early electricity network.

Senior curator at MOSI, John Beckerson, said: “It’s fantastic to receive this donation from Electricity North West. The board reveals an exciting part of Manchester’s history and will form a valued part of our collections.”

At the time it was originally installed, it would have been maintained by ‘substation attendants’ who polished and cleaned it, even when the board was live. They had to stand on rubber mats to avoid getting electrocuted.

Mike Kay, network strategy director at Electricity North West, said: “We are retiring the small amount of legacy equipment that’s still in operation as part of our ongoing investment in the network. This fuse board shows just how far we’ve come in terms of electrical engineering and technology. I joined Norweb, another of Electricity North West’s predecessors, in 1978 and the technology and reliability of the network has come on leaps and bounds since then.

“This project gave our apprentices a rare opportunity to get hands on with a fuse board that people of their grandfathers’ age would have fitted and maintained. We’re delighted that it will be kept for years to come at MOSI.”

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