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Pinkston Power Station


Pinkston Power Station
The Tramway and Railway World
9th May 1901


In the issue of this journal for August 9, 1900, we were enabled to publish a full description with illustrations of the extensive three-phase system with which the Glasgow Corporation were equipping their tramways. The work was not then sufficiently advanced to make it worth while to give photographs, but architectural and engineering drawings conveyed a very accurate idea of the magnitude of the plans which were then being carried out with great energy and determination. The immediate object in view was the completion of the great station at Pinkston, so far, at least, as would enable electric cars to be run on a large part of the tramways by the date of the opening of the International Exhibition. Considering that it was not until March 16, 1899, that the Corporation decided to erect a separate station for the generation of current for the electric tramways, it will be readily understood that the work of getting the installation into even partial readiness in the present month of May involved the most thorough co-operation on the part of the Corporation officials, the engineers, and contractors. The intervening time has been one of great strain and anxiety to all concerned, but the fact that it was possible for the tramways department to provide power for two hundred cars previous to the formal opening of the Exhibition has, no doubt, amply repaid the officials for their efforts. Incidentally it may be remarked that the work could not possibly have been better carried out had the undertaking been in the hands of a private company. It is not often that as much may be said for municipal enterprise, and we are inclined to doubt whether the enconium would have been earned by Glasgow had the direction of affairs been in less able hands than those of Mr. John Young, the general manager, and Mr. W. E. Clark, tramways engineer. Baillie Paton, as chairman of the tramways committee, has also proved himself a tramway director of exceptional capacity, and he has fairly earned the gratitude of the citizens of Glasgow for the part he has taken in securing for them in time for the exhibition a modern tramway service.

As the photographs which we reproduce show, much remains to be done before the station and its equipment will be completely finished, but meanwhile sufficient power is available to meet all demands on the services to the Exhibition grounds. This the goal aimed at was fairly reached in time to enable the Corporation to inaugurate the service from the new station on April 24. On that day the members of the Corporation and a large party of invited guests met at the Town Hall at eleven o'clock, and were then conveyed in carriages to the tramway generating station at Pinkston, which was thrown open to their inspection. Those readers who are familiar with the description given in our issue of August 9 last will not need to be reminded of the great size and capacity of the installation, but their impressions will be strengthened by the series of photographic views which accompany this record of an occasion of great interest to all concerned in tramway progress. When the whole work is finally completed we shall, doubtless, deal with the equipment in detail again, but it may be of service to recapitulate the leading points in regard to the power plant. In the first place a word may be said as to the architectural design of the station, which is remarkably successful. The design is characterized by simplicity, dignity, and power, and the whole building forms a suitable representation of the great work which the Corporation has accomplished. The plan has clearly been well thought out, and the arrangements are in the main convenient. The equipment is of the latest design, and includes apparatus of British and American manufacture. The following is a summary of the principal facts in regard to the station and equipment:

Generating Station

Site 18,997 Sq Yards
Steel used 13,000 Tons
Total Length 244 ft
Total Width 200ft
Engine Room 244 ft by 75 ft
Boiler Room 244 ft by 84 ft
West Bay 244 ft by 40 ft
Chimney Stalks (2) 263 ft High

The boiler plant consists of the Babcock and Wilcox water tube boilers, each capable of producing 20,000 Ibs. of steam per hour at a pressure of 160 Ibs. per square inch. The engine plant will consist of four main engines capable of developing 5,000 I.H.P. at 75 revolutions per minute. Two of these are Allis engines, supplied by R. W. Blackwell and Company, which are now completed. The two others, now in course of erection, are from Messrs. John Musgrave and Son. Coupled to each of the main engines is a three-phase generator (2,500 k.w. at 6,500 volts), the constructors for which were the British Thomson-Houston Company. These generators have a total weight of 20 tons. There are also two auxiliary engines of the vertical cross-compound type by Stewart and Company, each capable of producing 1,000 i.h.p. Each engine is direct-coupled to a 500 volt 600 k.w. generator supplied by the British Thomson-Houston Company. Between the auxiliary engines and switchboard there are six exciter engines (Alien and Company) and dynamos. Each of these engines has a capacity of 85 i.h.p. at 300 revolutions per minute. The switchboard has in all 40 panels, and was supplied by the British Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. In the west bay-there are five surface condensers, supplied by Mirrlees, Watson, and Yaryan Company, four capable of condensing 60,000 Ibs. of exhaust steam per hour, and one 24,000 Ibs. per hour. This room also contains the circulating, air, and boiler feed pumps. In the engine room are two electric cranes capable of lifting 50 tons, and in the boiler room one capable of lifting 35 tons. All three cranes were supplied by Messrs. Applebee and Company.


The sub-stations were not visited on the opening day, but it may be mentioned that they are five in number, containing in all 24 units, each consisting of three transformers of 200 k.w. capacity each, and one rotary converter of 500 k.w. At each station there are two switchboards one for the alternating and one for the direct current. The static transformers trans­form the current from 6,500 volts to 330 volts, alternating, and the rotaries then convert the current to 500 volts direct current. All apparatus at the sub-stations has been supplied by the British Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company.

After the inspection of the station, Councillor Paton briefly addressed the company. Alluding to the importance of the undertaking now nearly completed, he said that all the work connected with it had been completed within eighteen months. The engines would provide sufficient power for working the whole of the tramways of Glasgow and the neighbourhood. Great economy would be secured by having the work at one place and under one supervision. He requested the Lord Provost to start the first of the large engines. Mr. Rosenthal, on behalf of the contractors, then presented a silver cup to the Lord Provost as a memento of the occasion. The Lord Provost responded, and turned steam on to the first engine, Councillor Paton starting the second engine. Presentations were after­ wards made of massive silver cups to Councillor Paton, to Mr. John Young, general manager, and to Mr. W. E. Clark, tramways engineer.

On leaving the power-station the company were photographed, and they were then driven to the east end of Sauchiehall Street, where electric cars were waiting, and on these the party was conveyed over what is described as the " horse shoe" route to the main entrance of the Exhibition, returning via Dumbarton Road, Main Street, Huderston, and Argyle Street.

On returning to the City Chambers the guests sat down to luncheon in the Banqueting Room. Lord Provost Chisholm presided, and proposed the usual loyal toasts.

Sir James Bell, in submitting "The Tramways Committee, and success to their new departure," said he presumed that his name had been associated with the toast because he occupied the chair at the inception of that great undertaking in July 1894. He remembered with what feelings of diffidence it was inaugurated, and of the general manager's hope that some day their weekly drawings would amount to £5,000. That sum had been passed long ago, and they should pass within a short time to double that sum. When they looked at the census returns they would confess that that enterprise had been inaugurated not one day too soon. The Town Council were to be congratulated that they were the pioneers of the municipal tramway service, that they had reduced the cost of travelling 33 per cent., and that within the week there would be a greatly quickened means of locomotion. All this had been accomplished in the face of great opposition from railway companies and others. The Tramway Committee were to be congratulated on their great success, and he could from personal knowledge bear testimony to the very high ability of their general manager. Everyone was looking forward with fond anticipation to the opening of the Exhibition next week, which, it went without saying, was sure to be a colossal success, to which consummation the tramways would contribute very largely. Everyone who had taken part in that day's proceedings must have been struck with the completeness of the Pinkston power-station, the pioneer main gener­ating station not only in this country, but in Europe.

Councillor Paton, replying on behalf of the Tramway Committee, said they in Glasgow were among the first to municipalise the tramways, and it was no doubt their great success which had caused both English and Scottish towns to follow so speedily. They had no doubt been very favourably situated, as they had no old company to buy out. The lines had from the first been the property of the Corporation, and in 1894 the Tram­way Department took over a tramway track almost entirely double, covering 31 miles of street. This tram­way was equipped with an entirely new plant for horse traction, so'that the capital account was to start with a little over half a million. The horse car service had been increased nearly 100 per cent, as compared with what it was prior to 1894. The number of passengers carried eight years ago, which was about 50 million per annum, was now at the rate of 140 millions. Although their horse system, which was only seven years old, was now being superseded by the electric, they had done so well during that short period that they hoped to start electric traction with almost an entirely clean sheet; that was to say, the capital representing the old system . would be nearly all written off out of revenue, and the new capital account would represent simply the exact cost of the new system. The power-station at Pinkston when completed would cost over £500,000. The system of having one main generating station might have caused them to be rather longer in getting the electric system started than many other corporations who had adopted the direct current system, but the Committee were convinced they were on the right lines in follow­ing Mr. ParshalPs, advice in this respect, as both economically and otherwise it had many advantages. The Corporation tramway system, including the Govan lines, at present extended to 44 miles of double track. They had still to construct some miles of line for which powers were received in the bill of two years ago, and in this year's Provisional Order they were asking for further powers to construct 13 miles of double track. When these were all made the system would extend to over 72 miles of double track, or, as was the mode of calculating in America, nearly 150 miles of single track; while the capital account would be nearly two millions sterling. When these lines were constructed there would be about 600 cars in operation throughout the city and the surrounding districts. At the power station there will be four main engines, and each engine was calculated to produce sufficient current for 200 cars, so that there would always be three engines in use and one spare. The attention of the Tramways Committee for the past two years had been almost entirely taken up in carrying out this scheme. A deal of money had been spent, but the Corporation had never grumbled, their entire desire being to have the electric cars in operation at the earliest possible moment. What they had seen that day was yet, of course, far from complete, as but for the opening of the Exhibition next week they would not have wrought at such high pressure, but, as it was, they should have all the lines leading to it, as also special services from Queen Street and from St. Vincent Place to the Exhibition, in full operation on the opening day. In closing, Mr. Paton said that the scheme had been conceived and carried out in a manner worthy of a . great city. The Corporation had provided not only for their own population of 760,000, but for the greater Glasgow within five miles all round the city—probably a population of over a million. The committee had no doubt gone on strict business lines in all they had done, but at the same time had helped to solve the great problem of the housing and distribution of the people over a wider area, and as years rolled on the beneficial effects of their work would, in this respect, be more apparent. They had given great respect to this work. Personally he had spent much time over it, and had all along felt great responsibility in connection with the decisions come to. But he had been well supported all round. The committee had stuck loyally together, and he could not speak too highly of the great admini­strative ability shown by Mr. Young and his assistants. He had also to acknowledge their great indebtedness to Mr. Parshall, the consulting engineer, than whom no man could have shown greater ability in his work or greater pride in its gradual progress.

Replying to the toast of " The Corporation of Glasgow," proposed by Sir Charles Cameron, the lord provost said the Corporation had never been afraid to attack any position that was for the benefit of the community as a whole. It was in that spirit that they endeavoured to secure and succeeded in securing the control of the tramway system; it was in that spirit that they endeavoured to secure for themselves a position in regard to the telephone question; and it was in the same spirit that they continued to carry on those varied enterprises which it had initiated.

In replying for the tramway officials to the toast to the " Tramway Officials and Engineers," proposed by

Provost Kirkwood, of Govan, Mr. John Young said: On behalf of the tramway staff and himself, he had much pleasure in thanking them for the kind and all too flattering manner in which this toast had been proposed by Provost Kirkwood, and for the exceedingly cordial reception given to the sentiment by that distinguished company. His first duty was to apologise for the incomplete state in which they had that day to show them the Pinkston power station. But in order to make up for that, he hoped any gentleman there who was interested in their work would come again and give them the opportunity of showing him the com­ pleted station when the machinery was doing full work. While making this apology, he wished them to under­ stand that it was what the cynics may be disposed to call a Scotch apology, because, while he apologised he took no blame to himself. It had indeed been a big job and difficult to push through. They had seen the general proportions of the station, but when he said that from the engine-room floor on which they stood down to the rock on which the bui'dings and engines were founded, there was no less than a depth of 50 ft. of solid concrete and brick work, they would realise that a large pro­ portion of the most difficult work was now out of sight. Another thing was that they fell upon busy times. Engineers and contractors had their hands and work­ shops full, and were naturally unwilling to give all their attention to them. Then the elements had been sorely against them. Such a wet season as this last had rarely been experienced even in Glasgow. There had been delays both in placing the contracts and in carry­ing them out, which have been entirely beyond the control of the general manager or the engineers. But, so far as matters had been under their control, they had done their best to be ready for a start before the opening of the Exhibition. They had tried to " put a stout heart to a stey brae," and, as a matter of fact, they now stood in this position : The permanent way was ready ; the depots were ready; the overhead con­struction was ready ; the new electric cars were ready ; the motormeri were ready ; and the power was all but ready. This last was, as yet, in the hands of the engineers. He had learned a good deal during the conversion of their system, and the erection and equipping of the power-station and sub-stations. One conclusion he had arrived at was, that there were three bodies which could not be moved out of their regular course, viz., the sun, the moon, and the engineers. And yet he confessed to a kind of sneaking liking for all . of these heavenly bodies, and he thanked the engineers for what they had done. With their goodwill and other helps, they still hoped to accomplish what had long been earnestly aimed at and greatly desired, viz., to have the Exhibition routes operated by electricity from the very opening of the Exhibition. As Provost Kirkwood had said, they had had more than one tough battle with Father Time, but he felt hope­ ful of once more coming out about level with him. At any' rate, no effort would be spared on the part of the staff and himself to have the electric cars running for traffic on the Exhibition routes in a few days. They might not run any that week, but they would run some early the next week. And then their stud of over 4,000 horses must disappear. He hoped they would find kind masters and good quarters. It sounded a large number, but it was comparatively small when one thought of Solomon having 40,000 horses and 12,000 horsemen all to himself. He did not know what he did with them, but he would say they were enough to have run tramways over his whole kingdom. He did not think he had been guilty of in­vading the province of Mr. Parshall, who was to speak next. Before sitting down, he would like to say that he believed Mr. ParshalPs advice to the Corporation had throughout been sound and on the proper lines, and that the installation which he had given them would, when completed, give results which would prove the wisdom of his advice and redound to his own ever­ lasting credit.

Mr. Parshall also responded.

Baillie Graham in proposing the toast of the contractors said: In the erection, and equipment of the Pinkston power station, one of the principal contractors had been the tramways department itself. The Corporation agreed, at a. Thursday meeting, that the department should carry out the digger work and pre­pare the foundations with their own staff, and, at six o'clock on the following morning, Mr. Clark and Mr. Crawford were on the job with a squad of workmen, and in good time had over 50,000 tons of material excavated and carted away. No sooner were the foundations prepared than the same staff had to tackle the building of the walls and chimneys, and this second contract alone had involved an expenditure of over £50,000. Before the walls were far up, the Riter Conley Company of Pittsburg had completed the steel framework, which cost £25,000. There is no doubt that this piece of American work was carried out with remarkable expedition. Then followed the two Stewart engines, which were completed in good time. The six exciter engines from Bedford were also built very smartly. Meantime, the Allis Company were bringing forward the parts of their large engines, and as soon as the cranes, the erection of which had been delayed considerably, were in anything like working order, the two American engines began to take shape. As they would see to-day, the two Musgrave engines were still pretty far behind, and their erection has been further delayed by the breaking down of one of the cranes. It was hoped that this firm will now push on and give them the use of the engines at the earliest possible moment. The Babcock and Wilcox Company had still a good deal of work to do in the boiler room, and Sir Wm. Arrol and Company were pushing on with their work in preparing the outside coal handling plant. With their usual promptitude the British Thomson-Houston Com­pany had all their material well forward before the building was ready to receive it. The Westinghouse Company, who were providing the switchboards, had now about completed their work. They had with them that day all the contractors who had relaid the track, namely, Messrs. A. and J. Faill, Mr. James Cameron, Messrs. Macartney, McElroy and Company, Messrs. Alex. Stark and Sons, and Mr. D. Murray. This was a bit of work which caused some inconvenience on the streets for a time, but the tramway contractors got through with their work very expeditiously. Messrs. Macartney, McElroy and Company had strung up the overhead equipment in a smart and workmanlike way. The National Conduit and Cable Company had had a very big job in laying the pipes, and in manufacturing and pulling in the underground cables. All their work had been carried on quietly and expeditiously, and with­out any interruption to the car and other street traffic. In the preparation of the rolling stock the tramwavs department had also been the chief contractor. Mr. Ferguson, the works manager, had built at Coplawhill over 400 electric cars. The trucks for these cars have come from the Brill Company's works, and the electrical equipment from the Westinghouse Company's works' These equipments have all been fitted on the cars by the department's own staff. He was sure the company must have been highly pleased with the style, finish, and beauty of these cars which the Corporation have designed and constructed.

Mr. R. W. Blackwell replied, and with toasts to chairman and the croupiers, who were members of the tramways committee, the proceedings terminated.