What lies beneath: The mystery of the abandoned underground fuel tank
- 14 June 2018
History-based Facebook Groups are a treasure trove of information pertaining to the generations before us in a particular area. Case in point, The House Detective posted on the Old Brisbane Facebook group because she recently discovered an old fuel tank buried in a West End yard. It’s wasn’t the only property on that street who had a decommissioned underground tank either, giving insight into a piece of Queensland history and creating a mystery to solve.
There are a few reasons why this West End backyard would have had an abandoned fuel tank. If we go back to the early years of Brisbane’s history, the delightful suburb of West End was covered with farms and orchards. Fruits and vegetables were brought by local storekeepers as special lines, “grown on the rich flats across the river”. It’s possible the farm owners kept bunded oil tanks underground (with connected fuel bowsers) to power their machinery and trucks. Given that there was a brand-new Gasworks Distribution Centre built in 1885, and gas was more readily available as the 20th century progressed, this might be a solid clue.
This might be going back to far, however. After all, it was quite common for houses built before 1960 to have underground oil and gas tanks for internal heating purposes. Connecting to the natural gas network wasn’t available until the 1960’s so many people had to rely on heating oil stored in fuel tanks to stay warm.
Interestingly enough, one person claimed on the Facebook Group post that their parents used their fuel tank as an extra storage facility, packing the essential food, beverage and medical items in their tank. Yet, others mused that small local businesses or general stores would have their own fuel and bowsers for both personal uses and for sale to the public.
Another theory is that many people would have stocked up on fuel using underground tanks during World War Two when petrol was heavily rationed. Many people would hide the tanks under their yard, under garages and in tunnels for safekeeping.
After some more digging, we did uncover that the fuel tank cover, embellished with the Shell logo, the tank itself dates back to somewhere between 1904 – 1930.
The mystery is yet to be solved, but The House Detective is on the case. If you have any further insight, head over to the Old Brisbane Album group.
What to do if you think you have an underground fuel tank
Abandoned underground tanks are classed as extremely hazardous and work on removing them is potentially dangerous. Care must be taken to avoid an explosion, so please refer to your State Governments rules and regulations around the removal of your tank.
Be sure to keep the fuel tank cover, however, as we’ve just discovered these vintage items are going for $100+ on eBay.
Bulk Fuel Australia offer safe bunded fuel tanks and cell cubes for hire or purchase. Unlike the tanks of times before, our fuel tanks are above ground, double skinned and fully compliant with the Australian Standards AS1940. Contact Bulk Fuel Australia today to see how our fuel tanks can meet your business requirements.