KATOOMBA’S Scenic World tourist attraction was opened back in 1945 on the site of the Katoomba Colliery by local entrepreneur Harry Hammon and his sister Isobel Fahey. As a transport operator, Harry had developed a feel for the tourism potential of the pristine vastness of the Blue Mountains and when the chance came to buy the site, he didn’t hesitate.
At the heart of this business is the Scenic Railway, which runs on the world’s steepest incline, a 52-degree line once used to haul coal up to the cliff top. When they purchased the lease on the mine, in 1945, Harry quickly pressed the little railway into full time service carrying paying customers on the ride of a lifetime.
Harry was a pioneer in more ways than one. As well as being one of Australia’s first professional tour operators, he turned Scenic World from a run-down colliery into a world class attraction, making use of whatever was available to get the job done.
The extremes that delighted customers were an operational nightmare for Harry and his team. Challenges included an intermittent power supply and the post war shortness of materials, but Harry and Isobel persevered.
The site teems with activity. Dozens of buses fill the coach park and the 3-storey dedicated carpark is filled to capacity. At any given moment on a busy day there will be 2500 visitors on the site and Scenic World clocks up 875,000 visitors a year.
The bustle isn’t restricted to visitors. Keeping the site operating smoothly is an everyday job and as Philip Hammon explains, because the site is open 365 days a year with no down time, maintenance is constantly being undertaken by Scenic World’s dedicated technical team.
“We call this ‘zero operational downtime’,” says Hammon. “Scenic World operates 9-5 every day of the year.”
It goes without saying that achieving zero operational downtime means that high levels of operational efficiency are required. According to Philip, the challenges of the site, including its size and the ruggedness of the terrain it occupies, meant the use of video surveillance to support operations was always attractive. Scenic World was a pioneer of CCTV for site supervision as far back as 1970.
“The CCTV system has multiple functions but operational support is the key,” Philip says. “You can imagine how it helps. At a peak time we might have 2500 people on the site and if something suddenly stops it’s so much easier if we can call the problem up on the cameras and send technical staff to the exact spot with a fuse or whatever is required to get things going again. It’s stress-free.”
According to Philip, there’s another great benefit of the system’s ability to allow him to view all parts of the site in significant detail, from his office.
“With the presets I’ve got in the system I can look at anything I want to look at with a mouse click – it’s exactly what I wanted the system to do.”
As well as supporting the technical team, the video surveillance system is instrumental in providing information to Scenic World’s customers on weather conditions.
This article was written by John Adams for Security Electronics & Networks magazine where it appeared in full in the December 2009 issue and is also online at their website.