Tag Archives: Georgetown

Inside A Boiler

Within the Georgetown Steam Plant, one of the docents was keen to show off the details of the boilers.  These were originally oil fired but, during the Second World War, they were converted to operate using coal.  After the war, they were reverted back to oil and there are hardly any signs left of the coal configuration.

The layout of the pipes within the boiler is quite complex.  It is designed to create a circulating flow of the water in the pipes and create the stream at the top of the boiler to feed the turbines.  These pipes lie in a triangular framework angled over the make everything operate as intended.  These were assembled and the walls of the boilers were then constructed around them.

There are access hatches which allow you to see into the boiler and see the pipe arrangements.  It is very dark in there and a flashlight is needed to see anything at all.  The boiler walls are metallic but they are lined with fire bricks.  These bricks had a limited life so there would be a time when they had to be replaced.  People would have to climb in through the narrow hatches to knock out the old bricks and pass them out before installing the replacements.  They would also have to clean off the pipe work exterior as this would accumulate debris from the hot gases of combustion.

Accessing the interior of these boilers looks extremely unpleasant.  It would be far too claustrophobic for me to think about and that is before considering the hard work in a hostile environment.  These guys were tougher than me!  The boilers are in pairs with a gap between each pair so I guess they would have to close down both parts of the pair to allow a temperature that was acceptable for entry.  Even then, I doubt it was a good place to work.

Georgetown Steam Plant Visit

Near the north end of Boeing Field is the old Georgetown Steam Plant.  This is an old power station that was decommissioned decades ago.  I had been curious to see what it was like inside.  I had thought about going a while back and then the pandemic put paid to any visits for a couple of years.  The opening hours have now been established and they open on the second Saturday of each month.  That proved problematic for a while as that clashed with travels or other plans.  Consequently, I put the first opening in my calendar and tried my best to make sure I could go.

The Saturday came around and it was a gloriously sunny day.  This shouldn’t matter much since I was going to be indoors but it does make for a nicer day to be out anyway.  It was due to open at 10am so I decided to get there right at the beginning.  Turned out this was a good idea.  The parking lot was already looking pretty full and more were arriving.  I have no idea why it was so busy.  Sure, a nice day encourages people to go out but how many people see a sunny day and think “let’s go to a decommissioned power plant”?  I asked a docent whether this was normal.  He said they normally get about 30 people over the day and they had four tours of 50 people booked plus those, like me, that didn’t take the tour!

The power plant was built at the beginning of the 20th century.  It had three steam turbines of different vintages, powers and technologies.  The first two are vertical and the third horizontal.  These are fed from a large boiler room.  There are balconies with the control electronics which you can see but are not yet accessible.  I was happy to let the tours concentrate people in various locations which meant it was quieter wherever they weren’t so I could wander around casually.

I had figured wide angle was going to be my friend in the building so had a wide zoom and a fisheye zoom with me.  I used the fish a little initially but soon concluded it wasn’t that useful to me so I swapped it out with the 70-200 to allow me to get some detail shots of the machinery.  Older machinery has a lot of character with polished metals, complex mechanisms and multiple gauges.  It is a great look in to a bygone era.

These shots are few of the overall layout of the building.  There are some details from within the plant that will have their own posts to come so I can focus on them.  I don’t want to try and squeeze it all in to one post and lose some of the curious elements in the larger story.