Tag Archives: steam

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.

Gastown Steam Clock

One of the tourist attractions in Gastown in Vancouver is the Steam Clock.  Sitting on a street corner, this looks like a giant grandfather clock with steam whistles on the top of it.  It was surrounded by tourists and the number of selfies being taken was substantial.  We were there close to the top of the hour so we waited around to see what happened.  Below is some video of the lock striking the hour if striking is the right word.

Big Steam Engines

In the days of steam, power was produced by huge machines.  If you needed a more powerful machine, you just made it bigger.  The huge wheels and pistons that resulted were most impressive.  The Henry Ford has quite a selection of these old steam engines of various designs.  The efficiency improved as they introduced multiple phases to the machines to recover more work from the output of the engine.  The big beams and pistons remained a theme, though.  The large brick structures and the associated metalwork have been nicely preserved and displayed.

Power for a Factory

The Dearborn factory required a large power generation facility and, in days gone by, this was provided by a large steam engine driving generators.  This machine is now nicely preserved.  The scale of it is a bit hard to represent.  The cylinders are huge and the controls are substantial.  You can climb up on top of the whole thing to see how it went together.  Surprisingly, this is not a place that was getting too many visitors which meant I was able to nose around in relative peace.  It is hard to imagine what it would have been like when this enormous piece of engineering was in use and was generating the power for the plant.  Now it is idle but it still looks imposing.

Quite a Locomotive

I know a few of the regular readers of the blog are in to trains so I hope this one pleases them.  The Henry Ford Museum covers all sorts of engineering endeavors including a selection of rail vehicles.  This was one of the last things we saw before we left so I didn’t explore very much.  However, there was one rather large steam locomotive on display.  This thing was a beast and I imagine it was quite the sight when it was in regular usage.  Our visit coincided with the running of Big Boy after restoration so something similar to this can been seen for real once again!

Steamy Old Faithful

We had visited Old Faithful on a previous trip to Yellowstone and had stayed near the falls.  Therefore, I was not so desperate to see the geyser again.  However, in the middle of winter, things are a lot quieter than during peak season so it was quite interesting to be there with so few people around.  The geyser erupted not long after we arrived.  It was quite a different experience.  The low air temperatures meant that the hot water produced a lot of steam as soon as it emerged.  The clouds of steam drifted downwind but they concealed the flow of water to some extent.  Still, it was an impressive sight to witness and even better on a crystal clear day.

Hot Pools Hide Themselves

The colorful pools of hot springs in Yellowstone can be quite stunning to see.  Visiting in the deep of winter means they are surrounded with snow and ice but a lot less people.  The colors are still there but the low temperatures mean that clouds of steam form above the surface.  Gentle gusts of wind might briefly blow the steam away to reveal the intense colors beneath but the steam rapidly returns.  As you look into the pools you can see the colors well but it makes for a harder time getting photographs.  You give it a try but then just spend time enjoying the impressiveness of the pools.

Another Preserved Loco

Preserved locomotives seem to appear in a lot of towns in Washington and Newhalem was no exception.  This old steam locomotive seemed to be particularly well preserved given the rugged location it lives in for a good chunk of the year.  I assume Seattle City Light has enough cash to keep it looking good for the many visitors to the town.  Indeed, getting a shot of it without someone climbing all over it took a bit of patience!

City Center Steam Locomotive

I passed this locomotive several times while in Tokyo.  It was sitting in a square near Shinbashi station.  I never got off but I did finally get some shots of it while we were stopped at the station.  Consequently, I know nothing about it although I suppose if I was truly interested I could look it up.  There must be something about it on the internet.  It probably has a Wikipedia page.  Guess I won’t find out though.

Vintage Steam Locomotive

I made a visit to the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento for a press unveiling of a new locomotive for Caltrans. After the event was over, I headed outside to make some calls and walk along the river. The museum doesn’t just have vehicles inside. Outside are a pair of steam locomotives too. They are beefy looking things too. Finished in black, they make for a difficult thing to photograph on a sunny day and the iPhone camera handled it surprisingly well.

I was quite taken with the texture around the boiler area where the outside of the loco includes a large array of rivets. I don’t know whether they were recently restored or just are well looked after but they were an impressive sight and attracted a large number of people having their pictures taken.