Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Candlelight Tour: Granbury Light Plant

Back on December 3, we served as docents for the Hood County Courthouse on Granbury's annual Candlelight Tour of Homes (and other historic structures).  One of the benefits of our two-hour shift was a free ticket to see other sites on the tour, which I will continue to feature this week.

One of the stops on the tour was the old Granbury Light Plant.  I pass by this place all the time.  It's about a mile north of my home, behind the post office, and on my 13-mile bike ride.  I'd never been in it (because it is rarely open), so I was eager to see it on the tour.

The sign outside the light plant is a little misleading.  There was a light and power plant (and water works and ice manufacturer) in this area since 1904, but the building pictured was not constructed until 1923, when the City of Granbury purchased the utilities from a franchisee.  The City operated a power plant here until 1954.

The equipment remained intact, and through the efforts of the late Hugh Raupe, a former mayor of Granbury, and the late Weldon Newman, Light Plant engineer from 1939-1948, the Hood County Historical Commission, and the City of Granbury, the building and equipment were restored. The Granbury Flywheelers (Branch 43 of EDGE&TA, the  Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association) maintains the equipment and opens the building for demonstrations on special occasions (like the Candlelight Tour) and by appointment.  That's local resident Jack Wesley, 2011 vice-president of the group, greeting me at the door, below left.

Engine #1, above right,  is immediately in front of you as you enter the door.  This diesel Fairbanks-Morse was installed in 1939 and replaced an earlier engine, but was not operating this day.  It exhausts through the roof.

Engine #2, below left, also a diesel Fairbanks-Morse, is original to the building and installed in 1923, and was already running when I entered the building. This 50-horsepower engine exhausts out underneath the floor into an underground pit, and then outside through a large pipe.  The floor above the pit shook from the vibrations, as it runs at 257 RPM.
All of the electric current made by the diesel generators was passed through the switchboard, pictured above, before being distributed throughout the city.

During my visit, members of the Granbury Flywheelers were working on Engine #3, another Fairbanks-Morse diesel installed in 1930.  It was brought to town on a railroad flat car. Scaffolding and rollers were made from timber, and a team of horses moved the engine onto blocks of ice which, as they melted, let the engine down to the cement slab and into permanent position.

The flywheel had to be in a certain position for the engine to start, which is what the gentleman with the pole is doing below left.  Numerous adjustments were made, and then the engine literally roared to life.

The building also has pumps for intake water and cooling water, original air tanks and an air compressor (needed to start the engines), and a gasoline engine and air compressor used to pump up the starting air if all the diesel engines were down and there was no electricity for the regular air compressor.

These guys love what they are doing, and their enthusiasm is contagious. I must have spent an hour here. I look forward to visiting again during Granbury's annual Harvest Moon Festival in October, when the Flywheelers also display their antique tractors and parade them around the courthouse square.

© Amanda Pape - 2011 - click here to e-mail me.

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