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Many of Melbourne’s Hidden Gems lay beneath your feet.

Take for instance the Russell Place Substation. It is a small building in a back lane that many Melburnians have walked past thousands of times without suspecting what it conceals behind its simple roller door. But come with me.

Follow me down the stairs. Hear that music in the background? Is that James Bond music, or some 60s cold war soundtrack. Hard to tell. One more flight of stairs and then a heavy metal door and the music swells.

Yes, you are in an underground bunker that would not be out of place in an old spy thriller. It covers half a city block yet nearly everybody walking on the footpaths over your head is unaware of its existence. At times the ceilings are 6 meters high and everywhere are thick riveted steel doors and enormous concrete barriers.

But come over here. These are the large Mercury Arc Rectifiers that were last in service in 2003, but are still turned on from time to time. The music has changed. It now sounds more like Dr Who - the title music of which was created by a radio engineer who was a friend of David Warren and who recently died in Adelaide – but I digress, the Dr Who music is swelling, the Rectifiers are turned on and an eerie blue light fills the bunker while electric arcs reminiscent of a horror movie dance across the surface of the mercury.

And all the time, above our heads the good people of Melbourne go about their business never suspecting there is a whole other world beneath their feet.

Those of you who took our advice in the last newsletter and pre-booked tours for Melbourne’s Open House will probably be exploring this netherworld this weekend.

As for the rest of you . . [gradually disappears with an evil laugh behind the crackling blue arcs]

 


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