The South Esk River was at such a low level after a period of below-average rainfall in 1911 that there were fears there wouldn't be enough water for the Duck Reach Power Station.
The demand for electricity from Australia's first council-owned power station had increased steadily since it was commissioned in 1895 to light the streets of Launceston.
With the start of the Launceston Municipal Tramway in August 1911, the council decided to buy an auxiliary steam plant to generate electricity in support of its hydro scheme.
The Examiner voiced its concerns at the cost of the steam plant, estimated to be from 10,000 to 15,000 pounds.
The newspaper urged aldermen to look at the lakes above Cressy to increase the flow in the South Esk.
After an inspection tour in March 1912, the mayor and four aldermen reported that with additional sluices at Woods and Arthur lakes all the necessary water could be directed to the South Esk.
Work on installing the auxiliary steam plant, however, was already underway near the Launceston Municipal Tramway workshops at Inveresk.
A contract was signed with the Cornwall Coal Company at Fingal and the Launceston Marine Board gave approval for water to be drawn from the North Esk River.
The plant, which consumed more than half a tonne of coal per hour, was tested on Monday, December 9, 1912, and The Examiner quoted the city electrical engineer, Robert Strike, as saying the trials had "given every satisfaction".
He said that Duck Reach was gradually nearing the limits of its generating capacity, which was 1300 hp.
"Last year the maximum load was 1200 hp, leaving but a narrow margin of 100 hp."
Mr Strike said that in the event of anything serious happening at Duck Reach, the auxiliary plant could be ready for use within a couple of hours and carry a load equal to 300 hp.
On Monday, February 10, 1913, The Examiner reported that for the very first time, the auxiliary steam plant had met all of the city's electricity needs, including the trams, while the machinery at Duck Reach was inspected.
When the auxiliary steam plant was used again in a period of drought in November 1914, The Daily Telegraph was full of praise for the council's foresight in buying the machinery.
There was another dry spell in the summer of 1919 - 1920.
Once again, the auxiliary steam plant came to the rescue.
The Examiner of Wednesday, January 28, 1920, reported that it had become necessary to run the plant for two shifts every day.
In 1920, the Launceston City Council contracted the state government's Hydro-Electric Department to build a weir at Arthurs Lake to increase the water flow into the South Esk River.
When the council signed an electricity supply contract for power from the government's Waddamana power station in 1922, the auxiliary steam plant was made redundant and decommissioned in 1931.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.