WAT'"'- ' D " '
Herman ?. Dial
D r^s€ As ' : j nt
*yland Beta Chi
Ti u Beta Pi Ass :ia1 Ion
HISTORY AND DE YBLO RvIiLM 1 OF 1E2 WASHINGTON CENTRAL HEATING PLANT
During the administration of President Hoover, the
Government purchased much additional land in Washington, of
which the most important tract was the so-called triangle,
south of Pennsylvania Avenue and north of the Mall. An in-
tensive building program was inaugrated, and some engineers
and builders, realizing the increasingproblem of heating Gov-
buildings, brought the matter to the attention of the Treas-
TheTreasury Department accepted the idea of a Central
Heating Plant as the solution to the problem, and accepted
the design submitted by United Engineers and Constructors, Inc.
of Philadelphia. Neal A»Meliek, 0. S. Construction Engineer,
supervised the entire building of the plant.
Bids were submitted, and oontracts let to five compan-
ies for the construction, on Oct. 27, 1952. At this time exca-
vation for the foundation had been finished, and about one-fif-
th of the conduit tunnels had been dug. The connerstone was
laid on July 7, 1933, by L W.Roberts, Jr. of the Treasury Dep-
The cost of the entire plant was about $5,000,000, coun-
ting the cost of the tunnels, and the plant was built with six
boilers to accomodate about 30 government buildings. At this
time, 1936, seventy-one buildings are being heated by the plant,
while its operation is still under the designed capacity, there
is room in the building for two more boilers.
Plant operation was begun din January 15, 1934, and the
largest heating plant in the world, with a guaranteed efficiency
of 62%, was serving, from C, D, 12th, & 13th Sts., S, W., buildings
as far as three-fourths of a mile away.
HISTORY AND DEVELO OF TIT:' WASHINGTON
Because of the ev^r widening program of cons' tion
of government buildings in I \ nation's capital, the prob] ' :
of supply!", bl em with heat and p^v:er had become, in itself,
alarmi ] ] during the past decade. This • blem was or-
iginally met by installation of indj rj ' ial heating plants in
the larger buildings, such as in the Bureau of Engraving and
Printing, and by a small network of steam mains from the heat-
ing plant at Nineteenth Street and Constitution Avenue.
Later, however, it became ev- that such a system
was, for reasons shown later, not feasible, and the Washington
Central Heating Plant as we know it became a dr a Df such men
as Colonel U. S. Grant, 3rd., Captain F. V, 7 . Hoover; the late Mr.
James F. Gill; Mr. Charles A. Peters, Jr., ie former office
of Public Buildings and Parks of the National Capital; Mr. J. F.
Berkley, of the Bureau of Mines; and Messrs. N. S. Thompson and
E, W. Goodwin, of the Procurement Division, Treasury Depart .eat.
These men, among others, realized that if individual plants were
installed in each new building, not only would much-needed space
be taken up, but many small plants would be undesirable for the
(l) Efficiency varies as the size of the heating plant.
(?) The smoke nuisance would be widely diversified and
highlj s ' ral "I e .
(5) Traffic congestion In d s woul< 1 i greatly
in creased 1 tion of coal ashes + o and fr
The f ar-s igh s c f t h " j s e rr e n - " the act ua 1 c e -
^s is amply attested by these facts: The "ultimate pi: '"
s for th ' Lng plant tc ■ 4 hs twenty-seven
buildings shown on the accon " ketch. At preseni (1936}
the plant supplies heat and power to a botal of seventy-one build-
ings and sul ■" LesJ The fact that space was provided for the
snt of the equipment from six boilers
to have been only a conservative plan for onlc >nt. How ■ j
equipment as originally installed has been capable of handl-
ing the almost trebled r« " nts, without the nee
additj , d great flexibility is thus still possible.
With the stage set for 1 ' central plant,
plans progressed with alacrity. Under 4 he aus Lcies f 4 he
United es Government, tb t was designed by United Engi-
neers and Constructors, Inc., of Phil; ' , w11 ' Ipe
Cret, as associal tir architect. The Treas " t,
rough the brilliant mei ' of Neal A. Melick, Unite " n-
struction Engineer, supervisor" ' ■• building the * project.
He was ably assisted by Herman J. Pounds (shown a1 right in p*c J
of ;: ' ] rs) and John W. Shonack, assistanl Bonstruction Engineer
(shown at left in same ph)
DIAGRAM OF BUILDINGS HSATED BY THE PLANT
Red lines show conduit tunnels. Legend, see next page.
DIAGRAM OF BUILDINGS HEATED BY THE PLANT
1- Commerce Department
2- Labor Dep't. of Interstate Commerce
3- Post Office
4- Internal Revenue
5- Department of Justice
6- Archives Building
7- Apex Building
8- District of Columbia Building
9- Treasury Department
11 -National Museum
13-Freer Art Building
14-01d National Museum
15-Army Medical Museum
16-Department of Agriculture
20-Bureau of Engraving and Printing
21-Liberty loan Building
26-01d Patent Building
27-Land Office Building
ta1 " '11, 1921, by Trea-
sur ' ' ' 3, details were . ' ^he
s true tic Washl Ln the
square bound' C, D, IPth and 12th Str bs, ■'.'". It was an-
nounced at this time that the decision to actually construct the
heating plant had I le subsequent + * Lon of
land by the United States Goverr. it, i -id In accordance with
s then eltl • under cons' ' a or : ] con-
At that t T at was designed to furnish
and p to the ti '. -seven bull " i
etch. The contractors chosen i 'ive: Rust Engi ' .
of ' ' builders; Combustion " " ■' "' ..
, boiler engineers; Piping : ■ •>
of North G ■ , N id P. an . r, Ellis, Washi a,
D.C. tun ' ' ' and D . J. Mel b, " , D.C.
E xc- v; t ion.
"The Is pi' I bely to furnish ste
buildings, which in an average year will consume a
1,500,000,000 lbs. s + earn. Tl it Ins
ess, and the future incr '' f by ex-
tending the plant am ins to £ " . .
'Idings wl * '11 be :: jlied
Lght and po?;er in the initial J ' LI c roxl-
mately S4,000,OC t electric c
a maximum i I electr'cal disti * ' syste r-
imately 18,0"" The future extensions will increas bhese de-
ids by about 25$. Specie
attention will be given to the architectural features of the plant,
which will he approved by ''The Fine Arts Co ~ mission of Washington."
It is of interest to note that so recently as five years
ago the "ultimate plan" was to supply steam and power to ty-
six buildings, whereas in reality at this date the number of
building extensions and auditoriums hat* mounted to a total of
On October P7, 193S, the Treasury Department adver-
tized for bids for the foundation and superstructure of the heat-
ing plant. In conjunction with the note above, an* interesting
point is that at this time (October 27 , 193?) the plant was
stated to be designed for thirty or more buildings. The "ulti-
mate plan" mentioned above by the Treasury Department had, in
less than two years, already begun to expand.
At the time of advertisement for bids, about ?0% of
the then necessary tunnels had been dug, and the boilers were
in process of fabrication, in the shops of the Combustion Engi-
neering Co. of New York. Excavation of the plant site had been
nearly completed, and were, at the time bids were let, December
On the 7th July, 19??, the Cornerstone was laid by L.
W. Roberts, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. At the
tome of laying, the plant was characterized as the largest of
its kind in the world, and this is still true to-day. It v
estimated by this time that thirty eig ent buildings
would be wupplied with he; id power by the plant, which v
virtually all the government buildings exne M those on Ca] ' !
Hill. It was also '' at that time that ; lanl lid
dy to begin operation about the beginning of 1934. '^he
reasons and advantages of '~ ' g a central plant for steam pro-
duction vore again brought out by F. P. Fairehi Id, represent-
ing "The United Engineers and Constructors of Phi ladelphia r ,
present at the ceremony of cornerstone laying v ; ho stated that
not only would the cost' of steam be less, on any basis, but that
the advantages, as pointed out e] sre, of not havi carry
coal and ashes through the city, and the even more ! it one
of easy smoke prevention, would in themselves justify the exp' -
ditures for the Washington Central Heating Plant. Weal A. Melted,
United States Construction Engl leer " , presided s + the corner-
For an undetermined reasc ■ sld ' Lscrepancy in esti-
mated costs of various government build* I pub-
lished report of the construction program fostered by President
Hoover. In the report, published f. f ay 13, 1931, estimations for
the Washington Central Heating Plant r the figure
$4,^57, or?, or about one million dollars under the figure which
was submitted to and approved by Congress the following year.
On January 15, 19?4, the first carload of coal was
delivered to the coal shed of the plant. At the rear of the city
bloc 1 ^ covered by the plant, the coal shed, was the fi rut c^ep In
the almost c iletely atically controlled s st i . The coal
was dumped from the car onto an endless conveyor belt, a d pro-
ceeded from there through its many stages, as may be seen from
an examination of the coal i ' am, until it was br to rest
as sluice ashes in the ash shed, only a few feet fron its point
All the pipe lines had been connected, and needed
only the opening of a valve to throw any bu'lding into the sys-
tem. After a fire had been built under one boiler and prelimi-
nary tests run on the delivery lines for safety under working
pressures, the huge Extensible Building of the Department of Ag-
riculture began receiving steam.
By March 6, 1934, fifteen buildings were being served,
and others were cut into the system as occasion demanded. The
plant had been officially accepted by The Treasury Depj mt,
and the largest and most efficient heating plant in the world
was in continual operation.
Since its inception, daily charts have b 'en kept on
its operation, and there has never been the slightest breakdown
of any kind. One may inspect the plant with mingled feelings,
but the two questions that occur to most engineers, or embryo
engineers, on leaving, are these:
"Does this plant foretell £ " F entirely auto-
matic ■ Lne layouts, never needing man's attention?"
"Is there a definite future for Immense central
heating plants, with boiler pressures of 1500 lbs. and more, and
approximately 1500 degrees sup ; led by some
present-day engineers? Will they serve entire cities of the
Perhaps these questions, and others, ere beside the
point, but their v ry tone cannot help but entrance us of thi
Mention has been i of the fact that the l on
Central Heating -Plant is the la: in the world. To one In-
specting the plant, the outstanding characteristic of operation
is that of automatic control, king possible the automatic
operation of the plant over ' ■• • riod of time.
A master control pi ael tells at a ;e the amount
and c li1 ion of steam produc ■' ■ ~ " ! : 1 used
for its production as well as the c " "7 of the
condensate returned to J I 1 -.ilers. This ~;1 as well
as the ' [dual boiler panels Lsc sed 1< t >r , 1 1 e set to
"■: te either by hand - In ' ease + ee s + ■■ f be
regulated fro "~ T ite J ' - or its set'* be
ff au1 tic n , v:hich will keep *-'-,- f " at an
'el, regar less of any surroundi conditions.
For 3i ch o J " the six boil ^e is a sub-control
panel. Upon snd the efficiency of >er< ( ' >n:- each
boiler must at ell times carr ' ' >r >rti ate re of 1 '
' load. In addition to information on condition of steam
mt of fuel and returned snsate, the sub-pane] like-
wise allow? control of: load ac lent; water level in 1 tier;
and pressures attal led by for raft (supplying air for c< 1-
stion at grate); induced draft (in;: ' ores:: '
for discharge of flue gases); and ■ i isarj In opera-
tion of uptake damper , in chimney. Revolving charts record all
the above conditions for the preceeding P4 hour period, snd thus
a minute by minute record is available fro.' files for any phase
of operation sinc^ the inception of the plant.
Power activating all seven control panels is supplied
by one of two Bailey Air Compressors, supplying air to the
panels at 60 lbs. per square Inch gage. Power for the com-
pressor is supplied by a POS volt E.G. rotor, drawing P0.3 amps,
and producing 3 H.P. at 1745 R.P.M. (60 cycle). The com-
pressors automatically maintain 60 lbs, pressure, and are sup-
Steam Is supplied by 6 boilers, made by Walsh and
Weidner, a division of Combustion Engineering Corporation.
Specifications of a boiler are as follows:
Heating Surface, ?5,p4?; square feet
Safe Pressure, 400 lbs. pe - " square inch
Working Pressure, POO lbs. per square inch
Note: All pressures gage.
Tubes: 4" outside diameter, . l?5 ff thick, 45 tubes wide,
each P4 r long.
Lower bank, 5 tubes high
Upper bank, 16 tubes high
Boiler drum, 60" O.D. 1 9/16 inch welded seam plate
Overall length, 35 feet 4 3/8 Inch
Overall furnace width 26' 6"
Overall furnace depth 20' 0"
Peed water inlet, A v , each end
Steam outlet, IP"
Safety valves: 7, graduated every P lbs. from P14 to rrr
Efficiency Q2% guaranteed, at 1P9,000 lbs. steam per hour.
Maximum possible operation:
P15,000 lbs. steam per hour for P4 hours
pr 7,000 lbs. steam per hour for F hours
(All conditions for dry saturated steam at PIP F.)
All refractory walls, 9" thick, cooled by air and water,
plus S n plastic insulation above furnace.
Water (see accompanying diagram) is passed through a
softener, capacity 70,000 gallons per minute, and thence to a
190,000 gallon treated water storage tank. From the tanks,
feed water pumps supply water under P75 lbs. to boilers. This
1 er at 50° F., comprises only 60$ of water fed to boilers, r.s
about 40$ is returned as condensate through return pipes at
175 F. Both boiler steam temperature and exhaust steam tem-
perature remain nearly constant at about ri8° F. There are ti
boiler feed water pumps per boiler, run by l PPO0 R.P.M. single-
pressure single-velocity turbine, using steam at F00# and ex-
hausting at 4#. The pump is a Frederick Iron and Steel Pump, 8
stage centrifugal, S75 foot head, backed by s Kingsbury Thrust
Bearing, P000#, PG50 R.P.?,?., Z shoes. Pump capacity is 1500
gallons P.M. For summer use a 4 stage pump of 400 G.P.M. driven
by a Westinghouse motor.
All time peak operation of the plant as of any one da;
was calculated as follows on January P8, 19?6:
15, 7.Z7, 000 lbs. steam
639,000 lbs. steam hourly Ioj
Coal consumed , 7PS short tons per day. (l ' dourly demand oc-
curred on December £6, 1935, when ^5,000 lbs. steam per b r was
required.) On basis of above figures, a 1 e daily use of coal
reqi * ■ for steam produced was .095 lbs. coal per lb. steam, or
1 lb. coal produced about 100 lbs. steam.
STOKERS AND ASH HANDLING
Ono of the most noteworthy Characteristics of the Wash-
ington Central Heating Plant is the method employed for supply:!
coal to the furnaces. At its inception, it was the only one
use, and only since has i^s operation proven so efficient, that
many plants have adopted it.
Coal (see diagram) is fed int a rectangular tube from
a hopper. In the tube there are 15 rams, working as Ls1 >ns
from a crankshaft outside the furnace. Power is supplied to the
crankshaft by a turbo-driven hydraulic oi] pump. Oil pressure
in the pump is 3 to 6 lbs. S.A.E. "P0" oil is used, recircu-
lated, and the pump develops 30 H. D . at 33£0 R.P.I . These rams -
of variable stroke - push the coal onto the grate, where combus-
tion takes 'place with a^r forced from below. The coel is used
dry and. is Pennsylvania No. 17, bituminous, of 1/4 W raesl . The
clinker droos to a pre-crusher, where it is ground to a fairly
uniform egg size. From the pre-cr ■ the clinker drops to a
sloping platform, from which it is peri dit 11] ad by jets
of water, to an underground passage. From this passage the
WEter and clinker is pumped by a Westinghouse w Sluj ' ;g
System" which consists of 100 H.P. centrifugal pumps, and one
Modern in every respect, with no towering chimneys, Uncle Sam's giant heating plant of 30,000 horsepower rapacity is shown in above photographs as
engineers prepare to start fives tomorrow. The plant, at left above, shows onl y tips of Its six steel stacks, which soon will be covered with ornamental stainless
steel decorations. Coal is brought by rail, dumped in the track hopper house, shown upper left, and carried by conveyor belt through tunnel under D street to
plant, where it is hoisted to bunkers. From bunkers it runs down through huge pipes into the automatic stokers i lower left), Herman J. Bounds. U, S. mechanical
engineer, at right, and John W, Shorrock, assistant construction engineer who supervised the construction, are shown at controls. Ashes are sluiced out of the
pit and pumped by the ash pump house shown alongside the track hopper house, upper right, into the ash storage bin, in top of the track hopper taoust
disposition either by railroad or truck. At lower right is shovn a maze of basement pipe and filter tank Insulation work, where. waJtei is softened for hollers
in order to prevent scale.
The six hi
plant, if seen at all. -' Ltectural blinds of stainless si
"■ound each one, and a1 ' )n is never focussed on them, as
oil; gases to pass through are colorless and cannot b * ?d.
In conclusion, my reactions to this brief study of the
Washington Central Heating Plant are probal" J dent
! . ' Ls treatise. To my mind, It pr ' s an outstanding bulwi
sfense of Americ * I of tl vi t-
ness and general excel ' ' , but also because
of the resourcefulness * ' i s of tl " '?rs, !
" all, but hi ' Lis of cons J
, - . ■ ^ . ■ t nay 1 2 a lied br i ef ]
joints, a] ' ' of t ains
: an importanl ' ' nduit
tunnels Lly . Also, ! ' Implic-
Prom ?00 lbs, to
j ] : f !■••■■■
the pr r, in f* the Treasury Building,
Important, parts of the new wide-spreading steam distribution system
carrying heat to many Federal buildings from the centra] heating plant in
Southwest Washington are shown above. Top picture, a "single-stage reduc-
ing station" In basement of Treasury Department, which reduces the steam
pressure from 300 pounds per square inch to lower pleasure far radiators, and
below, a view of the vital double -expansion joints which allow the huge 18
and 12 inch mains to expand under heat and to slip without leaking steam
under high pressure. Lower picture shows also general view of the Fifteenth
street steam tunnel looking north.
mfacturers' Rec : July,
■ • r: 1928
Washing t< r: 1"
>n Star: 1 1
Washington b tar: ]
Was 1 " Star: IS
ir -r. Charles A. P^tsrs, Jr., Assistant Director
Mr. H. L. Wc ' n ■ itive Offd
Bulletin: War " Centr " ant for Public
' Idings .