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Author Topic: Lectricity History  (Read 6881 times)

Mike Sokol

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Lectricity History
« on: April 12, 2015, 06:38:26 pm »

He also hired and trained electricians to install all this and set up manufacturing plants to drive down the cost of light bulbs.

Above all, Edison was a promoter of technology. Here's something about an ad he ran in magazines on renting miniature electric bulbs for Christmas trees. This was at a time when most homes didn't even have electricity and you needed your own generator to power them up. But once enough people saw how useful electric bulbs could be, the demand for mass production was created.

Here's the link to the full article: http://www.oldchristmastreelights.com/history.htm
« Last Edit: April 12, 2015, 06:43:25 pm by Mike Sokol »
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2015, 08:22:02 pm »

That's a great piece of history.  Thanks for posting it.   It is amazing how fast things changed.  That add is from 1900 and as you wrote. most people didn't have electricity in there homes but they wanted it.  By 1930, 90% of urban America had the benefit of electricity but only 10% of rural America had been electrified.

The Delco light plant (32 volt DC) was invented in 1916 and everything you needed was offered with it, Lights, coffee maker, iron, water pump, ETC.

Kohler followed in 1928 with 115 volt AC or DC plants for farms.  A big selling feature of the Kohler light plant was that the lady of the house could get a "city" refrigerator.  The light plant automatically started and stopped on demand so it would run a refrigerator without any special wiring or attention.

BTW small generators for toys, and radios were available.  I saw a collection of hand cranked generators and others run by a small table top steam engine that were sold to operate electric trains, or charge radio batteries.

http://www.antiqbuyer.com/images/2015-M-Archive/Generate/IMG_2301.jpg
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2015, 02:37:10 am »

Last week, I was on holiday (or vacation as you Americans call it).  I visited a place in England called Amberley Working Museum.  On site is a large building with various pieces of equipment from generating stations and industrial installations.  I will post some pictures later.

They also have a huge Tesla coil which does regular demonstrations.


Steve.
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Bob Leonard

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2015, 04:18:34 am »

One of the best exhibit's at the Museum of Science in Boston is the giant tesla coils. The coils are massive and generate lightning bolts. The operator sits in a cage, and you are also in a cage surrounding the exhibit. At some point the lights go off and then lightning hits all around you. Here's a small example. Good grounding technique certainly pays off here.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agRN1rH8Dmw
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2015, 04:32:35 am »

This is the Tesla coil at the Amberley Museum in England...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYwUnEq5JOs

It's not my video and doesn't show much other than the sparks.  There seems to be more of a theatrical element in the Boston exhibit!

I was impressed by the ingunuity of the staff at the museum.  They have a Belliss and Morcom steam generator set - a steam engine with a generator attached.  They were running it at about 1.6Hz with a galvanometer showing the voltage swing in both directions.  In order to run it, they just attached a vacuum cleaner to the steam engine exhaust!



I have mentioned on here before that I find it odd that the US has such a range of outlets and connectors whereas we only have the one domestic power connector (and a handfull of industrial connectors).  However, that wasn't always the case.  This shows a small selection of what we used to have in the UK.



And I had to photograph this.  I think it is from a factory installation.



Finally, this is an indicator panel for a section of 11,000 volt national grid.



The museum is a great place to visit and I could spend hours there (I could probably live there!).  They also have a telephony exhibit including a rural mechanical telephone exchange (which runs all of their phones).  You can go in, pick up a phone and watch the selectors move as you call someone.  Also they have a a narow gauge railway, preserved buses, old printing presses, woodworkers, potters, etc.  The idea is that it is a working museum so you can see everything in use as it would have been used (as far as possible) rather than just a static deisplay of exhibits.
 

Steve.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2015, 04:38:33 am by Steve M Smith »
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2015, 11:41:43 am »

Thanks very much for posting this.  It is now on my must see list when I finally get to Europe   The other museum I am looking forward to is the Cruquius Pump Museum.

For those on both sides of the pond who like working museums, look up local engine shows.  They tend to have a lot of stuff running.  Also the people that bring them are happy to enplane what and why. You can get up very close. Many of them are held at permanent sites and have there own permanent working displays.   A couple of examples. 
http://www.roughandtumble.org/
http://coolspringpowermuseum.org/index.htm

These shows are everywhere.  They don't tend to feature electric power but I have yet to tour one that didn't have at least some generator and power related stuff.

If you want hands on just ask.  Many places will let you adopt a engine or generator.  Research it, clean it up a bit, get it running and show it.   Other places will let you drive the big steam traction engines or run the stationary steam driven generators after taking a 2 or 3 day coarse.
Yes,  That does mean you get to drive the train!

Here is a partial list of shows
http://www.smokstak.com/forum/calendar.php?c=1
« Last Edit: April 14, 2015, 12:22:18 pm by Frank DeWitt »
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2015, 01:25:22 pm »

It is now on my must see list when I finally get to Europe

More info here: http://www.amberleymuseum.co.uk/  It's easy to get to and there is a railway station right next to it.

The other museum I am looking forward to is the Cruquius Pump Museum

If you get to London (which is very likely if you visit England) there is a similar museum near Kew Gardens: http://www.waterandsteam.org.uk/our-engines

If you want hands on just ask.  Many places will let you adopt a engine or generator.  Research it, clean it up a bit, get it running and show it.   Other places will let you drive the big steam traction engines or run the stationary steam driven generators after taking a 2 or 3 day coarse.
Yes,  That does mean you get to drive the train!

I learned to drive a steam locomotive when I was about twelve when I was a volunteer at our local steam railway.  Then at the age of thirty* for my birthday, my wife arranged for me to go out on a trip on a traction engine.  I was expecting to sit on the back and be driven around but the owner backed it out onto the road and told me to take the wheel so I steered it whilst he drove it.

* I feel old now as that was twenty years ago!

There is a bus museum very near to me.  My current plan is to join as a volunteer and get a bus licence.


Steve.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2015, 01:32:23 pm by Steve M Smith »
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2015, 01:33:58 pm »

For those on both sides of the pond who like working museums, look up local engine shows.  They tend to have a lot of stuff running.  Also the people that bring them are happy to enplane what and why. You can get up very close. Many of them are held at permanent sites and have there own permanent working displays.

...

These shows are everywhere.  They don't tend to feature electric power but I have yet to tour one that didn't have at least some generator and power related stuff.

One such show in my neck of the woods (Pacific Northwest) that I really enjoy is the Rural Heritage Fair in Ridgefield, Washington. It's usually the third weekend of July every year. Lots of old iron shows up, and the owner of the site opens up his shops and barns for everyone to see his own collection of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of artifacts ranging from old screwdrivers to old cars to enormous steam tractors, steam donkeys (stationary winches), and a small locomotive in various states of repair from nearly indistinguishable piles of rust to showroom-quality restorations. The variety is astounding.

http://schurmanironranch.com/
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2015, 03:38:11 pm »

Steve, You will understand this.  As you know, the stearing on a traction engine is not quick or precise.  I tool a class to operate and drive steam traction engines. We also got to drive a couple of locomotives and a steam roller.  The locomotives were easy to steer (Grin)

The steam roller had a very high gear ratio because you were turning the heavy front roller.  It didn't take a lot of effort but it was SLOW.  Coming around my first turn I started to straighten things out but not fast enough.  When I realized it I cranked that wheel just as fast as I could, all the while watching a parked new looking Ford Pickup that was right in my path.  I finally got it straightened out, and turned to look at my instructor.  He said  "You did good, that's my truck"
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2015, 04:53:16 pm »

As you know, the stearing on a traction engine is not quick or precise.

...

The steam roller had a very high gear ratio because you were turning the heavy front roller.  It didn't take a lot of effort but it was SLOW.  Coming around my first turn I started to straighten things out but not fast enough.  When I realized it I cranked that wheel just as fast as I could, all the while watching a parked new looking Ford Pickup that was right in my path.  I finally got it straightened out, and turned to look at my instructor.  He said  "You did good, that's my truck"

Reminds me of the evolution of road graders. (Disclaimer: I have never run a road grader. But I know many people who have.) Before today's diesel-powered, hydraulic-control road graders, the blade and other functions were controlled by dog-clutches. That means you just jammed the control lever into gear, the blade or whatever moved, then you yanked it out of gear. That took a little planning ahead and some pretty good nerves, as the response wasn't very quick and you had to anticipate things so the blade would be in the right position by the time your ground drive got you into position.

But before that, there was the horse-drawn and traction motor-drawn graders, (and for a short time self-propelled graders) which didn't have powered controls at all. Instead, you had to spin handwheels for each of the controls. That pretty much meant planning your every move before the machine even started moving, and since it was all hand powered, you had to be both strong and quick, because one crank of the handwheel wouldn't move things very far. Besides controlling the blade, you also had to steer at the same time. Some of the larger machines actually had two operator positions since one man only has two arms.

Many of the old steam tractors (by the way, the word 'tractor' is a contraction of 'traction motor', as distinguished from a 'stationary motor') also had two operator positions: a fireman and an engineer. The fireman maintained the steam pressures; the engineer operated the engine. Even with that extra labor, a traction motor still provided greater production than two men with teams of horses. Like any new technology, the production cost of early traction motors was so high that only the largest farms or investors could justify purchasing one. Many, if not most, of them were operated on a contract basis, going from farm to farm to power machinery as the fields and crops became ready.

The interesting thing about tractors is that the price doesn't seem to change much with age. A couple of years ago, I purchased a well-used Ford compact tractor for $5,000. That was about how much it sold for in 1980. Of course, a comparable new tractor today would probably cost about $15,000 or $20,000; that's probably what you'll pay for that very tractor off of Craigslist thirty years from now (if CL still exists), even if it has a few thousand hours on it. Though for the antique tractors, their value is affected by collectibility, so you might pay $70K-$100K or more for a steam tractor in fully restored condition -- but there is quite likely that much invested in the restoration effort, both in labor and materials.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2015, 04:56:07 pm by Jonathan Johnson »
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2015, 06:07:09 pm »

Many of the old steam tractors (by the way, the word 'tractor' is a contraction of 'traction motor', as distinguished from a 'stationary motor') also had two operator positions: a fireman and an engineer. The fireman maintained the steam pressures; the engineer operated the engine.

I have related driving a traction engine to driving a tractor while cleaning the garage.  There is a lot to do.  BTW we have a lot of geeks on this list, so if you have never done it, think about how you add water to a boiler that is running at 125 PSI.  Yes a steam driven pump is one way but there is a more common way that is simpler.
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2015, 01:47:46 am »

Steve, You will understand this.  As you know, the stearing on a traction engine is not quick or precise.  I tool a class to operate and drive steam traction engines. We also got to drive a couple of locomotives and a steam roller.  The locomotives were easy to steer (Grin)

In the UK, you don't need a separate licence to drive a traction engine (a car licence is enough) but you do for a steam roller - but only because it's a roller and nothing to do with steam power.

The person controlling the engine is officially the driver.  The person steering has fewer (if any) responsibilities.  Over here, they are usually driven by a two person team.  It's rare to see one person operating them.  I did quite well with steering, but I did manage to get stuck on the grass verge once getting out of the way of something.  It required reversing out of.

There is something satisfying about being in control of nine tons of metal with no brakes!

This is the one I had a go on: http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/tractors/images/7/7f/Allchin_-_1415_-_The_Havenstreet_Queen.jpg/revision/latest/scale-to-width/529?cb=20091017174253

When I volunteered for the seam railway many years ago, there was one new recruit who needed a lot of convincing that locomotives didn't have steering wheels!


Steve.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2015, 01:50:18 am by Steve M Smith »
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2015, 01:22:04 pm »

In the UK, you don't need a separate licence to drive a traction engine (a car licence is enough) but you do for a steam roller - but only because it's a roller and nothing to do with steam power.

In the United States, vehicle licensing is handled by the individual states, not the Federal government. In every state, you need a license to operate a motor vehicle, but only on public roadways. Farm and construction machinery -- even if operated on a public roadway -- is not considered a motor vehicle in most states and therefore doesn't require a driver's license, but is required to have certain placards or lights if on the public road. (There are different classes of licenses for private or commercial vehicles, and for vehicles of different sizes and classifications.) Most states require a specific license for commercial boiler operation, whether the boiler is stationary (as a heating plant in a commercial building) or motive (as a locomotive or steam tractor in a commercial setting). However, a drivers license is not needed to operate a locomotive on rails (at least not in Washington state).

P.S. -- Almost all occupational licensing is handled by the states. I believe there are only three occupations that require an individual be federally licensed: aircraft mechanic, airplane pilot, and amateur radio operator. There are a few business operations that also require federal licenses, but those are awarded to business entities not necessarily individuals.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2015, 01:28:34 pm by Jonathan Johnson »
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2015, 02:09:23 pm »

To clear things up a bit. I said I needed to take a two day class to operate a traction engine. That class is required by the Rough & Tumble association in order to operate anything powered by steam on there grounds. They do it because they realize that boilers are not inherently dangerous but can be used in a manor that is dangerous. The first and last thing we were told. is know your water level.  The plus side is once completed you are welcome to operate there equipment as well as anything you bring.  I knew I would never own one so it was a way to get my hands on and in these tractors.

In some states (perhaps most) the boiler must be inspected and a max pressure is set by the state, but the operator is not required to show that he knows how to use the boiler or tractor. 
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2015, 02:15:32 pm »

In some states (perhaps most) the boiler must be inspected and a max pressure is set by the state, but the operator is not required to show that he knows how to use the boiler or tractor.
Over here, boilers for both road and rail locomotives have to have regular pressure tests for which a certificate is issued.


The plus side is once completed you are welcome to operate there equipment as well as anything you bring.  I knew I would never own one so it was a way to get my hands on and in these tractors.

That's why I'm going to do voluntary work at our local bus museum. I would love to own a Bristol Lodekka but can't afford one and have nowhere to put it!




Sorry Mike, we have turned your electricity thread into a steam thread! (and bus).


Steve.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2015, 02:22:36 pm by Steve M Smith »
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2015, 07:18:38 pm »

Sorry Mike, we have turned your electricity thread into a steam thread! (and bus).

Should I rename this thread SteamPunk?
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #16 on: April 15, 2015, 08:38:53 pm »

Should I rename this thread SteamPunk?

I just found an entire community of hackers who convert weed-wacker 2-stroke gasoline engines into steam powered generators. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qby_5dZJhDA

And what the heck is a 10 KW Tesla Turbine? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvMLkbnXRPE

Now, we're back OT (sorta)  ::)
« Last Edit: April 15, 2015, 08:42:31 pm by Mike Sokol »
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Mike Caldwell

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2015, 09:01:05 am »

I have a 32 volt Delco plant that I would take antique gas engine shows along with some other
antique gas engines, unfortunately it hasn't been ran much lately.
Mine has an auto start function that when load draw would reach a certain level it would start the generator before the batteries would run out. I have a 32 volt toaster, some light bulbs and portable motor on a tripod stand base that was used to "electrify" formally gas engine powered household appliances and farm tools of the day. The idea was buy one motor and move it to where it was needed.
Most Delco systems had batteries to run the normal loads and the generator would run to supplement higher load demands and to recharge the batteries, kind of like hybrid cars do today!

That's a great piece of history.  Thanks for posting it.   It is amazing how fast things changed.  That add is from 1900 and as you wrote. most people didn't have electricity in there homes but they wanted it.  By 1930, 90% of urban America had the benefit of electricity but only 10% of rural America had been electrified.

The Delco light plant (32 volt DC) was invented in 1916 and everything you needed was offered with it, Lights, coffee maker, iron, water pump, ETC.

Kohler followed in 1928 with 115 volt AC or DC plants for farms.  A big selling feature of the Kohler light plant was that the lady of the house could get a "city" refrigerator.  The light plant automatically started and stopped on demand so it would run a refrigerator without any special wiring or attention.

BTW small generators for toys, and radios were available.  I saw a collection of hand cranked generators and others run by a small table top steam engine that were sold to operate electric trains, or charge radio batteries.

http://www.antiqbuyer.com/images/2015-M-Archive/Generate/IMG_2301.jpg

Frank DeWitt

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2015, 09:44:18 am »

I have a 32 volt Delco plant that I would take antique gas engine shows

Very cool.  I would like to see it.  what shows do you attend?  Have you been to CoolSprings PA?  There was a guy there last year with a Delco light Plant and a Delco motor
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2015, 06:45:16 pm »

Very cool.  I would like to see it.  what shows do you attend?  Have you been to CoolSprings PA?  There was a guy there last year with a Delco light Plant and a Delco motor
I found this old ad for the Delco Light Plant, which let the farmer's wife do more chores using electricity such as churn the butter and do the laundry, even after it gets dark outside. So it's a win-win for the farmer. Not so sure about the farmer's wife... ;D
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Mike Caldwell

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2015, 08:02:55 pm »

I found this old ad for the Delco Light Plant, which let the farmer's wife do more chores using electricity such as churn the butter and do the laundry, even after it gets dark outside. So it's a win-win for the farmer. Not so sure about the farmer's wife... ;D


The motor on the tripod stand they show in that ad belted up to various equipment is just like the one I have.

As for the shows I had gone to, Darke County Steam Threshers and Tractor show in Greenville Ohio and the Portland Indiana Gas Engine and Tractor show. The Darke County show has since split into two different shows, one for steam power and another for tractors and engines.

To put me fully into the gas engine nerd category I have an antique spark plug collection.!

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2015, 10:59:57 pm »

Since we seem to have drifted into antique machinery, I'll add that "Dream Machines", a show of many just such things, is happening this Sunday at the Half Moon Bay Airport, California, which, as it turns out, is actually in delightfully named Princeton by the Sea.

I went many years ago -- this is an annual event -- and had a great time, including a ride on a gorgeously restored DC-3.

This Sunday I'll be amplifying music and won't be able to attend. Maybe next year.

http://dreammachines.miramarevents.com/

--Frank
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #22 on: April 23, 2015, 01:33:11 am »

I found this old ad for the Delco Light Plant, which let the farmer's wife do more chores using electricity


This reminded me of a poster I saw a few years ago which was probably from around the 1940s or 1950s when electrical kitchen appliances were becoming popular:


"Don't kill your wife with hard work - Let electricity do it".


Steve.
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #23 on: April 27, 2015, 10:01:45 am »

Here's a fascinating article following the development of the electric light bulb and how it affected civilization, including getting your bacon and eggs in the morning. (Yes, your wife made breakfast for you back then, many times on a wood burning stove which she hauled the wood for). There's a bunch of great historical pictures with old wiring as well.  http://www.rexophone.com/?p=1175
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Re: Lectricity History
« Reply #23 on: April 27, 2015, 10:01:45 am »


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