Early Electrification of Buffalo: Early Power Company Interconnections
This is Part 8 of a 14 part series.
As the load increased, Power House 2 at Niagara was constructed on the east side of thegenerators. Units 11-15 in the foreground of Figure 8.2 had external revolving fields and units 16-21 at the rear had internal revolving fields.ii
An interesting event occurred on May 31, 1902 when Power House 1 at Niagara had to be shut down in order to remove the bulkhead in the tailrace tunnel leading to Power House 2 [Fig. 8.3]. To provide the minimum current required by important customers, the Buffalo Railway Company started up its steam plant. By using the system in reverse, the rotary converters and transformers converted the railway company’s 550 V dc to 11,000 V ac for local distribution and at Terminal House A transformed to 22,000 V for transmission to Niagara Falls.iii
To plan for increasing load, the Niagara Falls Power company purchased all the stock of the Canadian Niagara Power Company, which had water rights for 100,000 hp and a favorable location just above the Horseshoe Falls within Queen Victoria Park in Niagara Falls, Ontario [Fig. 8.4 & 8.5]. Work commenced in May 1901 and the first unit was in commercial operation on January 1, 1905. Plant construction was similar to the Niagara Falls Power plants except the units were 10,000 hp and generated at 12,000 V three-phase, the largest size and highest voltage then constructed [Fig. 8.6].ivMultiple three-conductor #3/0-AWG paper-insulated, lead-covered cables placed under the roadway of the Upper Steel Arch Bridge connected the Canadian and American powerhouses with an initial capacity of 10,000-hp [Fig. 8.7]v
Cataract Power also obtained 5,000 hp from the Electrical Development Company of Canada, which was located upstream from the Canadian Niagara powerhouse [Fig. 8.12, 8.13 & 8.14]. It was similar in design to Canadian Niagara except the tailrace tunnel came out behind the Falls and was designed to break off as the Falls receded.viii The Electrical Development powerhouse started operation on May 28, 1907. Power was delivered to the Canadian Niagara powerhouse for delivery to Buffalo.ix
As the Buffalo load grew, more distribution stations No. 4 through No.15 were added.
Station 7 is of interest because it was underground and was the first station built entirely by Buffalo General Electric. The same two gentlemen who started up the station in 1904 shut it down in 1924 to make way for the Liberty Bank Building.x
Stations 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10 supplied the dc Edison System in the downtown business district of the city. Station 7 is of interest because it was underground and was the first station built entirely by Buffalo General Electric. The same two gentlemen who started up the station in 1904 shut it down in 1924 to make way for the Liberty Bank Building.x Station 9 located in the basement of the Electric Building contained batteries to support the Edison System during peak loads or contingencies.
Station No. 11 on Electric Avenue in Lackawanna was supplied 11,000 V from Niagara, Lockport & Ontario Power Company’s Gardenville Station located southeast of Buffalo. Power was obtained from the Ontario Power Co. generation station located in Canada in the Niagara Gorge just below the Horseshoe Falls [Fig. 8.22]. Figure 8.23 shows the plant as seen from Goat Island. The first three 187 ½-rpm 12,000-V three-phase 25-Hz 10,000-hp horizontal generators driven by twin reaction turbines were placed in service July 1, 1905 [Fig. 8.24].xi
Two transmission lines transmitted power to Lockport in 1905 and 154 miles to Syracuse in 1906 [Fig. 8.26]. The voltage was raised to 60,000 V in 1907. This was the highest voltage and longest transmission line in service at that time.xii Two 60,000-V lines were later built from Lockport to Gardenville where single-phase 60,000-V to 11,000-V water-cooled transformers were installed indoors.xiii Note the 1907 style 60,000-V wall bushings which consist of a piece of glass installed in an inclined clay sewer tile. The conductor passed through a hole in the center of the glass. Porcelain bushings would be used today.
i. Adams, Niagara Power, 2:255.
ii. Ibid., 2:116-117, 441-442.
iii. Ibid., 39-41.
iv. Ibid., 79-81, 442.
v. Ibid., 291.
vi. Ibid., 292.
vii. Ibid., 79, 291-292, 294, 307.
viii. Adams, Niagara Power, 1:346.
ix. Robert D. Barnett, “The Industrial Archaeology of the Electrical Development Company Generating Station at Niagara Falls,” The Historical Technologist (Published by the Niagara Society for Industrial History, Bulletin No. 1, 1982). Robert D. Barnett, “Governors of the Electrical Development Co. Generating Station,” The Historical Technologist (Published by the Niagara Society for Industrial History, Bulletin No. 2, 1984). Buffalo News 4/2/1989.
x. “Happenings” (An Annual Log from the Electric Operations Department, Buffalo General Electric Company, 1924, photocopy).
xi. Bartnett, “Industrial Archaeology,” 16-17.
xii.Niagara Mohawk Story, 105.
xiii. Mershon, “Transmission Plant,” 1305, 1307.
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