How Big is Your Turbine?

Turbines, or water wheels, were manufactured to supply power to many industries, not the least of which was the textile industry.  Before the advent of electricity, it was the water wheels in the basements of many textile  factories churning the water supplied by the canals or rivers on which these factories were situated that supplied the power to the textile machinery on the floors above.  The Osborne Library has an extensive collection of trade catalogs for companies that manufactured turbines, including the Rodney Hunt Machine Company of Orange, Mass.; the Holyoke Machine Company of Holyoke, Mass.; and James Leffel & Company of Springfield, Ohio.

However, turbines were produced for other industries, especially the power industry, such as this one pictured below, a water turbine manufactured by S. Morgan Smith Co. of York, Penn.  Made for the Great Falls Power Station of the Montana Power Company, it was one of six units manufactured by S. Morgan Smith Co. developing 90,000 HP (horsepower) under 50 feet head at 200 RPM (revolutions per minute).

It’s not until you realize that’s a man standing inside the penstock (on the right) that you understand just how tremendously large this turbine is.  It gives a whole new meaning to scale, and illustrates the awesome size far better than a dry recitation of so many feet high and so many feet wide.

S. Morgan Smith & Co. was founded in York, Penn., in 1876 and operated under that name until 1959, when it was taken over by Allis-Chambers Manufacturing Company.  The company continues today under the name Precision Custom Components, still manufacturing energy related equipment for commercial and government markets, including components of nuclear reactors.

Jane Ward, Assistant Librarian

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