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The Duck Reach Power Station was a 'run of the river' station, making use of very little storage, and instead using the daily flow of the South Esk River to provide sufficient water for generation. An 850-metre tunnel drilled through the rock supplied water from Deadmans Hollow to an iron pipeline that plunged straight down the hill into the power station, with a discharge rate of 5,537 litres per second entering the eight Siemens turbines inside the station. From there water was released into the river at the buildings foot. The plant was constructed at a significant height above the South Esk River so as to prevent it from being damaged in the frequent floods that rush down the Cataract Gorge due to heavy rainfall. 

The plant worked smoothly from 1895 until around 1910. However, as the late 1900s progressed, demand for electricity rose, and the 1-megawatt Duck Reach plant could no longer supply Launceston with all the electricity it needed. The construction of an electric tramway system in 1911 intensified the problem. The plant was duly upgraded in stages, until, in 1911, it reached a maximum of 2 megawatts, a capacity it kept until the end of its working life. 

Despite its height above the river, the plant was destroyed in the great floods in Cataract Gorge in December, 1929. However, it was promptly rebuilt and resumed service by 1930. 

However, the plant was still unable to meet Launceston's electrical needs. By 1934 the City of Launceston was also buying electricity from the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission, in addition to operating the overworked Duck Reach plant. In 1944 the Launceston City Council sold Duck Reach to the same organisation. By then, its days were numbered. Construction of a new South Esk River hydro-electric power plant began in 1951 and the Trevallyn Dam Power Station were completed in 1955. The Duck Reach station soon closed, and its equipment removed. The buildings stood derelict and closed for over 40 years, until 1995 when, on the centenery of its first opening, it was re-opened as a museum. It has become a popular tourist attraction.​

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