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Full text of "History, construction, and operation of Safe Harbor Power Development."

HISTORY, CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION OF 



SAFE HARBOR POTTER DEVELOPMENT 



by 



Edward Preston Rahe 



INITIATION HB^UIRUSNT FOR MARYLAND BETA CHAPTER OF 



TAU BETA PI 



April 27, 1934 



BRIEF BUMHiARY OF THESIS 

Shis thesis deals with the formation of hydro-electric power 
along the Susquehanna River, and the 3a fe Harbor Power Development. It tells 
of the archaeological research carried on before construction details and of 
the difficulties and good fortune encountered during the construction of 
this project. The major tasks such as diverting the river during construction 
< and stretching the transmission cables across the river, etc., are ably 

discussed. Construction of the Dam and Power House along with provisions for 
uninterrupted operation are dealt with. The turbines, generating units and 
transformers are Included and the final step of transmitting the power to 
Baltimore via cables is all discussed. 

The author hopes that he has set forth his material in such a 
manner as to be both pleasing and informative to the reader. 



HISTORY, CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION OF 
SAFE HARBOR POWER DEVELOPMENT 

ADAPTABILITY OF SUSiUSHAHHA FOR HYDRO-ELECTRIC POWER 

There is pro "bally no other great river in the world with a varia- 
bility of flow as ranch as the Susquehanna* During the drought of 1930 this 
flow dropped to a miserable 2,000 cubic feet per second while during the 
great flood of 1889 water thundered down the gorge above Port Deposit at 
the rate of 72b»G00 cubic feet per second. 

But if the Susquehanna is unkind to engineers in it's variability 
of flow it is most gracious in other respects* One advantage that it lends 
to the harnessing of it's power is that it drains a vast area of 26,000 
square miles stretching southward from Lake Otsego in Central New York, 
winding through the beautiful counties of southern New York through the 
dirty anthracite hills of Pennsylvania, once more through the fertile , 
counties of that state, Lancaster and York, and into a gorge just above the 
basin of the Safe Harbor Dam. 

Along the way new streams add their flow until their combined 
total reaches the Columbia Bridge and the Susquehanna with one exception, 
the St f Lawrence River, has become the largest stream that empties into the 
North Atlantic. 

EARLY V3HIURBS AL0NS THE SUSQUEHANNA RIVER 

The desirability of harnessing all of this power was recognized 
at an early date and at one of the sites known as McCall's Ferry a quarter of 
a century ago a group of financiers started the first major project in this 
section. It was a time when hydro-electric enthusiam was greater than hydro- 
electric experience for the development at Niagara Falls had overexcited the 
country and soon this Susquehanna venture, the first big project at a low 
head as contrasted with the steep plunge at Niagara Falls, encountered un- 



-2- 

foreseen difficulties so serious that it's financiers became discouraged and 
went into the hands of receivers. 

As receiver J. 3. Aldred in 1909 got things in shape so quickly 
that early the next year the project was taken over by the Pennsylvania rater 
and Power Company, which he organized, and during 1910 the plant began de- 
livering electrical power to Baltimore. The old name of McCalls Ferry was 
dropped and was replaced by it's present name of Holtwoud. This project pro- 
duced 150,000 horse power with it's hydro-electric plant and the accompaning 
steam plant produced 30,000 horse power, an amazing output for that time. 

But Aldred eoon realized that even this large output in horse power 
would not long satisfy the industrial needs of Baltimore so fully a decade 
and a half ago he and his associates began planning for a new development 
situated upstream from Ho It wood and. to be hooked up with the latter to be 
operated as a single unit. 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL BSSSARCH OF LAND TO BE FLOODED 

Safe Harbor is located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 26 miles 
from tidewater and 8 miles upstream from Holtwood. Preliminary work on the 
construction plant and camp was started during November, 1929 and work in the 
river began in April, 1930. However before any of the land was flooded a 
thorough archaeological research was made for the purpose of preserving a 
numerous quantity of picture rocks existing in that territory. 

Under the direction of Dr. Cadzow a group of archaeologists went 
over this ground for over a year revealing important land sites and life 
story of almost mythical Susquehannocks Indians and the Algonkins. Literally 
hundreds of earthen pots have been recovered from the burials and kitchens of 
a tribe that so far as history records are concerned was not noted for its 
pottery. Implements of war and the touls of peace made of bone, stone or other 
durable materials were unearthed, to add their bits to the evidence which 



,-3- 

hi story failed to provide. Parts of clothing, ornaments and trinkets rescued 
from the earth reveal facts concerning the habits of drees of tribes along the 
Susquehanna. Charred remains of corn, beans and other food stuff s tell us how 
these tribes were provided with food* 

Students of Indian life who vlsted this scene at Safe Harbor declare 
that Dr. Cadzow and his associates have unearthed material unequal ed anywhere 
in the east; that the records they have obtained from the east is the most 
important ever contributed to a knowledge of Indian life along the Atlantic 
seaboard. 

This research was financed by the Pennsylvania water and Power 
Company and the relics uncovered are on exhibit at the State Museum at Harris- 
burg. . 

GOOD FORTUNE 3NC0UNT3RSD DURING CONSTRUCTION 

Throughout the entire project the Power Company was smiled upon b" 
good fortune. First by the fact that they raised their funds just before the 
market slump. Preliminary casts were carried by the parent Company and not 
until June, 1930 was it necessary to sell and amount of bonds equal to 
$21, QUO, 000. They were then marketed to yeild nearly their full interest rate 
of four and a half per cent* The bond market slump came some weeks later too 
late to affect the sale. 

The project in it's entirety cost in the neighborhood of ^30,000,000 
of which $9,050,000 went out as wages to men - — 4,000 of | which were working 
at the peak of construction* Even the depression was put to a good advantage 
for at the time when construction was at its height construction materials 
were available at prices far below the level of 1929. A higher type of labor 
was available at that time so there was a small loss in labor turnover and a 
high amount of output per man. 



-4- 

beccndly they were fortunate in accomplishing so much in a year and 
a half thereby realizing a saving of many dollars. A lot of this speed was 
due to good luck for in the first summer of construction when there was a 
need for a minimum amount of water flow there was a decidingly lack of rainfall 
thus drying up the river to a large extent* Then when there was a need for a 
maximum amount of water flow there came a numerous quantity of heavy rainfalls 
filling the dam several months before the most optimistic expectations and the 
first turbine started revolving in December. 1931. 

However much of this speed was due to good management and fortunate 
selection. There was a total of 500,000 cubic yards of concrete placed and 
the coarse for this was found to be available only one mile east of the dam 
where excellent trap rock was available in the form of a dyke. A crusher 
plant was located adjacent to the quarry and the concrete was made at a mix- 
ing plant tn Else Island in the middle of the river. Every ingredient used 
in the concrete was carefully measured by weight, thus assuring a uniform 
concrete of high quality. 

Another factor which aided the progress of the construction was the 
availability of power at the adjacent power plant downstream at Ho It wood and 
it was used to a high extent. 

DIVERTIH& THE RIVER DURING CONSTRUCTI0H 

The first big task to confront the construction engineers was the 
diverting of the river from the east channel into the west channel. This was 
accomplished by means of two rockfill cofferdams connecting the east shore 
with Else Island in the middle of the river. By doing this the foundations 
for the east side of the dam, the power house and the skimmer wall were built 
on dry land. When the west half of the dam was built it was necessary to 
enclose a 700 foot section of the dam west of the island by a cofferdam, and 



-to- 
then construct it on dry ground. The remainder of the dam extending to the 
York County side was then enclosed toy means of another cofferdam and the 
water partly diverted through the power house and partly through slots left 
in the first section of the dam in the west channel* 

THE BACKBONE OF THE CONSTRUCTION 

A temporary construction bridge was located parallel with and down- 
stream of the dam, which formed the backbone of the construction layout. It 
carried three standard railroad tracks and a forty foot guage track for the 
construction cranes. The total number of cranes is comprised of two lbO ton 
and two 60 ton cranes each equipped with a derrick and a concrete ehuting 
tower forplacing the concrete, handling the concrete forma and erecting steel 
and Power House machinery. Twenty thousand tons of structural steel was erected 
and 6.300 tons of reinforcing bars were placed. The construction tracks in the 
yard, quarry, over the cofferdams, etc., had a combined length of twenty miles. 
Each of the cranes is equipped with an automatic brake for safety purposes 
and one of the 150 ton cranes is capable of being operated by means of a gas- 
oline engine as well as electrical power in case of an emergency shutdown of 
the power plant. 

PROVISIONS FOR UNINTERRUPTED OPERATION 

Provisions have betn made to assure uninterrupted operation under 
any abnormal river conditions such as ice or trash runs. The forebay of the 
Power House is seperated from the main river lay a rockfill dyke at the up- 
stream side and a concrete skimmer wall entenain 1500 feet parallel to the 
river flow between the dyke and the dam. A curtain wall extending 15 feet toe- 
low the normal surface of the forebay level guides trash and drift to the 
spillway and prevents it from reaching the fower House intakes and inflicting 
any damage to the turbines. 



-6- 



GONbTRUUTIOB OF DAM AND P0W3R HOUSE 

The dam and power house combined have a total length of 5000 feet 
from shore to shore. The dam is divided into four non-overflow sections and 
two spillways, the latter being located on the east and west channels of the 
river. The head of the dam is kept at a constant height by means of 32 huge 
crest gates placed on top of the concrete spillways. Twenty four of these 
being in the York County river channel and the remaining eight form the conn- 
ection between the Power House and the non-overflow dam on the Island. 

Sach gate is capable of discharging approximately 30,000 cubic 
feet per second and when all 32 gates are raised there is a discharge rate 
of about 1,000,000 cubic feet per second or over 30 per cent more than the 
record flow of the river. The getes are 35 feet high and 46 feet in width and 
may be raised or lowered by means of the gantry cranes. Should one gate prove 
defective repairs are readily possible for the gantry picks up one of the 
emergency gates from a storage, carries it to the proper place and lowers it 
into an emergency slot nearer the upper aide of the dam where it serves as 
a coffer while repairs are made on the defective gate. 

To insure accurate contol of the water level above the dam four 

of the gates in the east spillway are in horizontal half sections, the top 

half of which can be raised or lowered, as required, by stationary hoists 

located in a tunnel within the dam. 

The Power House itself is 920 feet long and the intake structure 

and tailrace provide for an ultimate Installation of twelve main generating 

units. Foundations for the machinery and the generator room have been built 

for seven main units and two station units. Over the discharge outlet of the 

turbines a bridge is provided as a runway for a gantry crane which is t* 

raise or lower the gates placed in front of the these outlets during time of 

inspection or of repairs of the waterways or turbine equipment installed in 
them. 



-7- 

In order to prevent the water at the gates and along the skimmer 
wall from freezing in cold weather an air bubbler system is employed. Tubes 
connected to a supply of compressed air are Immersed in the water along the 
walls and air at a pressure of 100 pounds is blown in to the water thus keep- 
ing it from freezing* 

THE TUBBINS3 

At the present time there are five main turbines constructed but 
only four are in operation. Each of these turbines is capable of delivering 
42,500 horse power and in physical dimensions are the largest ever built in 
this country* They are of the Kaplan type and have an adjustable five blade 
propeller in order to obtain the best efficiency at variable flows and heads* 
Each turbine operates under an effective head of 63 feet and runs at 109.1 
H. P. U. 

Aside from these there are two smaller turbines for service use 
which are of the Francis type and operate at 180 H. P. M* 

THE GSiTSKATOKS 

Each turbine is direct-connected by a vertical shaft to an electric 
generator. The main generators now installed generate 3-phase. 60 cycle, 
13,800 volts and have a capacity to carry 31,111 kva. at 80$ power factor. 
The two service generators generate 3-phase, 60 cycle, 480 volts and can 
carry 2500 kva. at 70$ power factor. 

Mounted above each alternator is a smaller generator the duty of 
which is to supply power to a motor generator set that supplies excitation 
for the main alternator. All of this produces a dead weight of about 500 tons 
which is supported by a thrust bearing in addition to 100 tons caused by the 
water. 



-8- 



Of the two units to be installed in the near future, one will be 
equipped with a 60 cycle geherator while the other will generate single 
phase, 25 cycle current to be used by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company to 
operate their trains from Havre De Grace to Washington. 

THE TRAESF0RM3RS 

From the generators the current passes through switching and 
bus bars to the transformers situated on the upstream side of the Power 
House* Two banks of three single phase units, Y connected are used for stepp- 
the voltage up to 230,000 volts for transmission to Baltimore. Also two 3- 
phase transformers with a rating of 69,000 kvs. are used for the transmission 
system of the Pennsylvania Water and Power Company* Aside from these main 
units there are 6 smaller transformers, two each for service at the plant, 
the village and for "A" station* 

The oil used in the operation of these transformers is cooled by 
water drawn from the lake by pumps. 

THAUailSaiOM OF P0W3R TO BALTIliDKS VIA CABL3S 

From the large transformers the output of the generators passes 
over aluminum cables supported on steel towers to Baltimore. Five cables are 
stretched over the towers two of serve as lightning safeguards. These two 
cables are placed about Zb feet directly above the power lines and so form an 
effective screen against lightning bolts, Should lightning strike one of the 
uppermost cables it is immediately conducted to the nearest tower where it 
Is grounded. 

These cables must be strong enough to support an ice covering 
six inches in diameter at a temperature of C and with a wind blowing at the 
rate of 70 miles per hour. They are constructed of a steel core with a light 
outer ring of aluminum to transmit the current. They are a marked improvement 



-St- 



over the old heavier type which required a tower of about twice the dimensions 
of the present ones. 

In the early lines the cables were strung one above the other and 
no cross bars were necessary* During sleet storms however it was discovered 
that sometimes an ice covering would drop off of the lower cable first cause- 
ing it to spring up and come in contact with the cable just above it resulting 
in a short circuit and considerabla trouble. '2a avoid this trouble the cables 
are now stretched in a horizontal plane 56 feet wide. Far enough to prevent 
any danger of contact during a strong wind. 

One of the major problems of the construction of the power lines 
was the crossing of the river at the plant. The main channel of the river runs 
near the east bank where the power lines are Installed and the first step in 
getting this power to Baltimore lay in reaching the west bank of the river, 
the river is some 5,000 feet wide at this point and the towers on each bank 
stand over 200 feet higher than the water. It was necessary to build a tower 
on ilse Island in mid river just below the dam and to divide the distance 
into two 3,000 feet spans. 

In addition to the river itself there were two railroads to span 
and instead of five cables there were ten stretched, the five extra to take 
care of the future supply. Because of these added cables and the greater 
span these towers are about twice as large as the others being approximately 
200 feet high and 110 feet wide at the cross arms. 

MISCELLANEOUS EQUIPMENT 

Downstairs below the control room there are numerous motors, pumps, 
compressors, etc., for various jobs around the plant. One motor Is utilized 
to pump oil to the transformers, several others for pumping water to the 
village and three large air compressors which are used for supplying air to 



-10- 



for the air bubbler system* There is also a small purification system for 
purifying the water used in the village. It consists of a filtration sand 
bed and two small devices for the purpose of adding the proper amount of 
alum and soda in the water. Aside from this there is also an oil purifica- 
tion system which is used to puify the oil used in the transformers. 

RELOCATING 8 MILES OF BAILROAD 

The raising of the water level by 55 feet brought the surface 
just about to the height of the original track of the Pennsylvania 
Railroad. In order to protect the tracks from being flooded it was necess- 
ary to raise them for a distance of 8 miles, the average rise being only 
four feet. By agreement with the Power Company the Railroad Company took 
advantage of favorable construction conditions to double- track the road 
bed and straighten the existing track. 

CONCLUSION 

In bringing this thesis to a close it may be added that the 
Safe Harbor developement was planned, and is now operated, by the men who 
successfully placed the Holtwood plant in service and who have since 
operated it. Safe Harbor with it's output of 255,000 horse power and Holt- 
wood with it's 180,000 horse power constitutes one of the largest hydro- 
electric developement s on this continent f and bids well, with it's ultimate 
installation, to become the largest. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

11 THE HYDRO-ELECTRIC DEVELOPMEKT AT SAFE HARBOR " issued 
by the Safe Harbor Water Power Corporation. 

Magazine Section of the Baltimore " Sunday sun " included 
in the following issues t April 17, 1932 ; July 17, 1932 j 
September 22, 1929. 

Mr, W. M. H. Ballantinei Pennsylvania water and Power 
Company, Lexington Street Building, Baltimore, Maryland. 

Mr. Franfc Morgan; Pennsylvania Water and Power Company, 
Lexington Street Building, Baltimore, Maryland. 



U&PS *ED ILLUtfilll&MONS 



of 



bafe Harbor Power Development 







Top section of one of the 32 huge crest gates 




Standing on skimmer wall looking at Power House 




230,000 leva. Transformer V/estinghouse Design 




Looking down on Tailrace from Dam 







71 ew showing section of Dam and 150 ton gantry crane 




Indian markings on rock in Susquehanna River 



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TAU BETA PI 



BUT* CHAPTER OF J.JTLiiUD 



BY 



CHAIUE£3 H. RAHB 



JaWMRY 15, 1932