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Pipeline legend: Tony Tschappeller

Tony Tschappeller has been in the pipeline industry for nearly 50 years, working on a number of projects for Prentice Brothers and Minson, Nacap and Mitchell Water. Despite his initial decision to retire, he is still making his mark on the industry today.

Tony Tschappeller was born in Austria and migrated with his family to Australia in 1956. Tony’s father sent him to work straight away and in 1958 he started work with Prentice Brothers and Minson on sewerage installation. Tony says
“I was 15 at the time I got the job. I started as a labourer then a manhole builder and operator. I worked my way up to foreman at Longford in Tasmania where we were doing a sewer job in 1967. I spent 44years with Minson from 1958 to 2002.

“I worked on sewerage projects all around Victoria. Gerald Minson made me the superintendent of the company and I think our first gas pipeline was Gas & Fuel’s Deer Park to Sunbury job in 1981 or 1982. We had no sidebooms, only a small excavator, and loader and a small Chamberlain crane that could be tipped over at the drop of a hat if we weren’t very careful – but we got through alright.

“Then we won the duplication of the gas pipeline from Mt Franklin to Bendigo. On this project Minson brought sidebooms and a 400 Cleveland, which made handling the pipeline stringing, welding and lowering-in much easier.

“In 1984 we got a job up in Moomba. At that stage Nick Saltis was General Manager for Minson. After further work in Moomba, Minson picked up a section of the Moonie Oil Pipeline construction, which proved to be a very difficult job due to floods. We then won part of the looping of the Roma to Brisbane gas pipeline.”

Tony was responsible for building the Kyabram to Echuca gas pipeline where John deRobilliard was the Gas & Fuel project manager.

“Following this, we got the 270 km Mereenie oil pipeline from Alice Springs to Mereenie, completing construction in three months. During my break on the Mereenie pipeline, Gerald Minson picked me up and said we need to go to Warrnambool to finish a pipeline started by another contractor who went broke, which we did. This was about the time when McConnell Dowell was selected to finish the Wandong to Kilmore pipeline started by Red Ru Pipeline Company.”

Tony then spoke of the Wauchope to Palm Valley gas pipeline, “which was the best job we ever did. The crew was very well motivated and achieved great production. Management was run like clockwork by Graham Tait and his personnel. The project involved 453 km of the Darwin Pipeline and an additional 7 km from the top of the Palm Valley Well Head heading down the mountain to join the main gas line for Darwin.

“That was where Peter Catalina was testing, and we were welding the pig traps on about every 40 km. When we got to Palm Valley we were to test the uphill section in two sections due to the pressure difference caused by the steep elevation.

“The pipeline was under test at Palm Valley pressure and we had a burst that blew 5-6 m out of the rock side trench. After Wauchope line we got back into the building game again. Pipeline work resumed when we returned to Moomba in the late 1990s. We then completed a heap of dig ups for Shell on their black oil pipeline between Newport and Geelong. This was followed by two tow-out projects at McGaurans Beach for Esso, then to Indonesia to do an 18 inch pipeline with Tranaco.

“The Island of Guam where we did work on wharfs for the US Navy and civil work at the Airforce Base was next – and what a great place to work!” said Tony. However an earthquake which shook Guam was an unforgettable experience. “You wouldn’t believe the coincidence of an earthquake that happened at 8:00 pm on the eighth day of the eighth month with a magnitude of
8.6 on the Richter scale while we were on the eighth floor of our building. Ian Clarke was over for a site visit at the time and I am sure he will never forget that day.

“In 1995 we got a three-year service contract at Moomba with Santos building flowlines all around the Cooper Basin. It was a few years later that Nacap bought 49 per cent of Minson and I did a couple of jobs with the company.”

Tony’s last job with Minson/Nacap was a pipeline from Longford in Tasmania to Hobart. “After 44 years with Minson I left to join Mitchell Water.” Tony bought a full-spread of Minson’s pipeline equipment from Transfield which included nine sidebooms.

“With Mitchell Water I did a job at Kilcunda HDD and at Port Campbell for the Santos Casino project with Peter Thomas as the Santos Project Manager. Then I completed all the special crossings from Halls Gap to Horsham for the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline Project.”

Tony says “I had many good men work for me during my time with Minson and I was very sorry to hear of the death of Snow Carey earlier this year. Snow was my offsider for many years.”

Tony Tschappeller is a well-known name throughout the pipeline and civil engineering industry, spending nearly 50 years in the business, 44 as a loyal and valued employee of Minson.

The apple’s not far from the tree
Tony’s son, Paul Tschapeller, is also heavily involved in the pipeline industry. He worked on the Alice Springs to Darwin Pipeline in a number of roles: he was on the sleeving crew, the sand bedding and padding crew, and was at the tail end as the loader operator. He also worked on the Warrnambool to Portland Pipeline as the special crossings excavator operator. Paul worked as superintendent alongside his father on Santos’ Moomba Pipeline, supervising the flowlines, well head facilities and hydrotesting.

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