Monday 28 October 2019

Greenwich Power Station Visit 1907


News that London Underground’s Lots Road Power Station has closed focuses attention on our own riverside power station – just east of the Cutty Sark.  Thel power for London Underground is now concentrated there.  It may be that this is the oldest Power Station still at work!   - here is what a group of local gas workers thought about it in 1907


Drawimg Peter Kent - woih thnaks
BY the kind courtesy of the Superintendent a small party were afforded the privilege of inspecting the interior of that building which has attracted so much attention, partly on account of its monster twin chimneys, 270 feet in height— with a second pair threatening to grow up beside them—and also because of its unfortunate position on the geographical meridian and proximity to the Royal Observatory.

These matters, however, were but little thought of as we entered the great dynamo-room, where two steam-driven 5,000 kilowatt alternating-current dynamos are running. The almost entire absence of vibration is, under the circumstances, remarkable, and speaks well for the solid foundations of the building. The armatures of these dynamos are 30 feet in diameter, have 36 poles, and run at 95 revolutions per minute.  Eight ropes running over grooved pulleys take the place of the more familiar leather belt.

Engine Room 1906. 
Near by we notice a smaller dynamo of the continuous-current type, termed an 'exciter,' its office being to supply the continuous current necessary to magnetise the alternators. These are multi-Polar 125 volts 50 kilowatt machines. The current is generated by the alternators at 6,600 volts, which is transformed down to 550 volts at the sub-stations before being supplied to the [tram] cars.  These two machines supply current for [tram] 500 cars. This represents only half the power capacity of the station, as' there are two more machines of similar type standing idle, but ready to work when required. The total power capacity is, therefore,  20,000 kilowatts  Engines and dynamos, however, cannot work without some motive power, so we proceed to inspect the furnaces and boilers, of which there are 24, half that number only being in use at present. The gauges indicate 160 lb. pressure. We then pass out on to the pier  [two lines of the original missing] coal conveyed by elevators to the storage overhead, 11,000 tons are now in store, and the weekly consumption is 2,000 tons. The elevators carry 40 tons per hour and on the return journey bring down the ashes from the furnaces. The coal is not such as would be valued by our engineers or that we would care to have supplied to our households, being very small  for economic reasons.

One could only take a passing glance at the main switches, necessarily labelled 'DANGER', two rotary pumps which draw water from the river at the rate of 11,000 gallons daily, and many other clever contrivances which time forbad the inspection, we would like to have given.  We finish our visit at the controlling switch-boards, where the whole system is controlled by switches which seem much too small for such important duties. By each switch is a small circular window, a red light denoting the switch to be closed and the line in that particular district supplied with power. The many switches with their little windows in darkness give us an idea of the prospective extensions of our tramway system.

On leaving the building one cannot help a desire to linger yet a while over some of the mechanical marvels, the emanations of man's brain, controlled by a few men, but which supply the power to carry daily to and fro, on business or pleasure; so many thousands of human beings

HELEK. (writing in Co-partnership Journal 1907)

published Jan 2003 in GIHS Newsletter

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