That was an extremely interesting plant to visit. They had four different power plants that supplied their steam and electrical requirements. Most all of their generators were turbine driven, 25 cycle, Alternating Current units. They still had two or three old engine driven alternators that were no longer used.
The use of that low frequency current meant that the maximum speed that a generator could turn was 1500 RPM. That is too slow for efficient operation of a steam turbine, so a reduction gear was required, between the turbine and the alternator, to bring the turbine speed up to an acceptable level.
I sometimes wonder if they are still operating at 25 cycles. The problem is, that when a plant gets committed to a certain voltage or frequency they are forced to stay with it, because it would be too costly to change. I suppose that the only objection to 25 cycles, other that the bulky reduction gears in the generating equipment, would be in the use of florescent lighting. A florescent light goes out completely, twice during each cycle and when supplied with 60 cycle current those dark periods are of such short duration that are not noticeable. However, they are visible and are an eye strain, when operated on the lower frequencies.
It was easy for me to get from Cincinnati to Covington by rail and the paper mill was only about a mile from the hotel, so that was just a pleasant morning walk, to work. The C&O Railroad ran through Cincinnati and the station, in Covington, was right across the street from the hotel. The train left Cincinnati about midnight but the Pullman Car was made up and could be boarded, at the Cincinnati Union Station, any time after 9:00 PM, so I would go down to the station and go to bed any time that I was ready. The Porter would then wake me up early enough so that I could shave and have breakfast before we reached Covington, about 9:00 AM. The return trip was equally convenient. I would get the train, in Covington, at about 5:00 PM, eat dinner in the dining car and go to bed when ever I got ready. The Pullman Car was dropped off at Cincinnati, so I could sleep as long as I wanted to, on that end.
When I think back to those times at Paris, Illinois I am reminded of another event that started there. That is, my part started there. It was during the war years and the speed limit on the highways had been reduced to 35 miles per hour. Even though I may not have adhered to the strict letter of the law, I did drive at a reduced rate unless I was pressed for time. On this occasion I had plenty of time, or I thought that I had plenty of time. I had left Cincinnati at a reasonable hour so that I could reach Paris about dinner time. I arrived rather late in the day, kind of pooped, ready for a cold beer and a steak, but decided to check in, at the hotel first. I should not have done that, because there was a telegram from the Boston Office waiting for me. The telegram read; W.VA PULP AND PAPER NO.8 TURBINE DOWN STOP PROCEED THERE AT ONCE STOP. Now, right there is where I should have stopped, but I didn’t. It was late in the day, my office was closed, the Boston Office was closed and the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Offices were closed and I had a directive from the “Wise Men from the East”.
To be sure; if No.8 Turbine was down because of an accident, we were in big trouble. It was a 10,000 Kilowatt machine that provided a large part of the plant’s electrical needs. We had the plant insured against Direct Damage as well as Use and Occupancy (loss of production), so the only thing left for me to do was to take off for Covington, Virginia, which I did. I arrived sometime the next day, expecting to find pieces of steam turbine scattered all over, but when I went out to the plant, I found the machine was still running and no one knew anything about an accident.
Max Weise, the Chief Engineer, told me that he was going to shut No.8 down the next week, for it’s regular internal inspection and had advised Boston so that I could take a look at it, while it was opened up. Big Deal; I said “So Long Max”, went down town, had a cold beer, ate a steak and went to bed. Someone in Boston had over reacted, but that was not unusual.