When we returned to Michigan I went to work for the Rocky River Paper Company in Three Rivers. This mill had been a part of the Eddy Paper Company and was the same mill in which I had been operating engines, before we went to North Carolina, ten years earlier. The mill had since been purchased by a group of entrepreneurs, headed by John Plantafaber.
The Power Plant that had originally consisted of one Horizontal Return Tubular (HRT), Babcock and Wilcox Boiler and two Hamilton Corliss, single cylinder steam engines had been completely shut down and they were buying their steam and electricity from the Eddy Mill #3. They were, however, still operating the little 8 X 10, twin cylinder, Chandler and Taylor steam engine that drove the paper machine. The two Corliss engines were still intact, on their foundations, but had not been used for some time.
This arrangement had apparently been working out all right, but the plans were to shut the #3 Mill down completely and permanently, thus forcing Rocky River to either build their own power plant or shut down also. That is where I entered the picture. I had only worked there a few days, as the electrician, when I was made Chief Engineer and assigned the task of designing and building a complete new Power Plant.
I settled on an installation consisting of two Combustion Engineering Company boilers and a, three cylinder, Skinner Uniflow engine, connected to a 1000 KW Alternating Current Generator. The engine was equipped so that it could be operated “Uniflow”, but was operated “Counter Flow”, because it exhausted to a pressure above atmosphere, rather than to a condenser. The boilers were each rated at 22,500 pounds of steam per hour at 235 PSI, with no superheat, because the steam was to be used in an engine, rather than a turbine.
I had “Wimp” Underwood cut up the 18 X 48 Corliss engine, with an Electric Welding Machine, and I sold it for scrap. Before I went to work there, Plantafaber had given that engine to a local scrap dealer if he would get it out, but they couldn’t figure out a way to handle it. There was more than 40 tons of cast iron, in it.
The insulation of the generator that was driven by the 14 X 42 Corliss was in bad shape, so I had it rewound. I wanted that for a stand-by in case the Skinner had to be shut down, for any reason. Then too, once the Mill #3 power plant was shut down, we would be on our own, with no outside power connection.
I did install stacks of sufficient height to provide enough natural draft to get the little Corliss Engine on the line, without having to rely on the induced draft fans. That is the bottle neck when trying to start up a cold plant that relies on induced draft fans for the furnaces, and no outside power to run them.
We had real good material deliveries and when enough of it was on the site, I hired some laborers and we started to put things together.
I farmed out the welding and the brick work and had a Rigging Crew, from Kalamazoo, come in and set the top boiler drums. All of the other work was done with common labor. There was not one Boiler Maker or Electrician on the job. In fact, I rolled all of the tubes in the Box Headers, myself. No one on the crew had ever seen a boiler tube, much less rolled one into a box header. It was me, not them, that was responsible for the end result, so I did it myself.
I picked a couple of pretty reliable men and let them roll the tubes into the upper and lower drums. These tubes were in a location that a person could see what they were doing. There was a total of more that 300 tubes in each boiler.
The Eddy Mill #3 kept their Power Plant running for a short time, even after their mill was shut down, so that we could stay in operation until I could get started up.