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Early Electrification of Buffalo: Types of Electric Service available in Buffalo

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An October 1921 Buffalo General Electric magazine called ‘The Welder’ showed the availability of electric service with 25-Hz service for power generally available in all parts of the City and other types of service as follows:

154 1. 25-Hz service for lighting largely confined to the northern half of the City.

155 2. 62 ½-Hz service for lighting and small power available in the southeast section of the City.

156 3. Edison System direct current at 110/220 volts available in the downtown business district.

157 4. Direct current at 500 volts available for power principally for elevators.

This 1921 magazine also noted “only 61% of the employees of the B. G. E. Company live in wired homes.”

158 In 1923 Buffalo General Electric started a project in Buffalo of installing electric streetlights to replace 10,000 gaslights like the one shown here with a two-piece cast iron standard. 159 While many of the cast iron gas standards were converted to electric streetlights, most were replaced with this type standard.

160 Note that all the power supplied to the City of Buffalo was from facilities located in the northwest sector of the City. This required a very extensive 11,000-V and 22,000-V cable system to distribute power to the distribution stations and customers scattered around the City. 161 To supplement these sources, 60,000-V to 22,000-V Terminal Station D was built on Bailey Avenue south of William and placed in service July 1926. A double-circuit 60,000-V overhead transmission line from Terminal Station C supplied Terminal Station D. 22,000-V cables were installed to pickup substations and customers in the southeast section of the City.

The following substations were built for 22,000 V:

162 No. 16 on Main north of Hertel

163 No. 17 on Ohio & Childs

164 No. 18 on Sumner & West Shore

165 No. 19 on Lee & Prenatt

166 No. 20 on Kenmore north of Vulcan.

Synchronous condensers for power factor correction were installed in several stations. A synchronous condenser is a synchronous motor running at no load with the field adjusted so the armature takes a leading current.

Not all businesses were sold on central station electric service.

167 For example I was told the Ellicott Square building generated electricity in the winter when they operated steam boilers for heating, and purchased electricity from Buffalo General Electric in the summer.

168 The Larkin Company did not stop generating electricity until 1930.

169 Hotel Statler, which was built in 1923, used reciprocating steam engine driven ammonia compressors for air conditioning and making ice until about 1970. This required the hotel to operate steam boilers year round.

170 The City of Buffalo’s Col. Ward Pumping Station at the foot of Porter Avenue kept these huge steam pumps in reserve until about 1970. Electric pumps are in the foreground.