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Lots Road Power Station

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1911. Parsons 6 MW turbine-alternators [1]
1911. Cross section of Parsons 6 MW turbine-alternator.[2]
1911. Parsons 6 MW turbine[3]
1921. Parsons 15 MW turbine-alternator
15 MW C. A. Parsons and Co turbine-alternator in foreground, older sets beyond[4]

of Chelsea

1901 Charles Tyson Yerkes formed the Metropolitan District Electric Traction Company to electrify the District Railway and to build Lots Road Power Station

The Underground Electric Railways Co's lines would draw power from generators at Lots Road in Chelsea.

James Russell Chapman (1850–1934) of the Underground Electric Railways Co Ltd, was responsible for the overall design of the Power Station. The Engineer-in-Charge was J. W. Towle.

At the time of its construction it was claimed to be the first great power house to employ steam turbines exclusively,to be the largest electric traction station in the world, and to contain the largest steam turbines built to date.[5]

The station was located at the junction of Chelsea Creek and the River Thames.

The steel frame construction reflected US practice. The British Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co subcontracted the detailed design and fabrication of superstructure to Hein, Lehmann and Co of Düsseldorf. Erection was undertaken by Mayoh and Haley of the Fulham Steel Works Company, who found it necessary to recruit German steel erectors.

In 1902 Eight 5500 kW, 1000 rpm, 11 kV, 33.33 Hz turbine-generators, with a 2 hour overload capacity of 50%, were ordered from British Westinghouse and constructed at their Trafford Park works. Problems arose from the outset. The cast steel rotors were of a complex shape and production was entrusted to Krupp. On delivery, one drum burst on overspeed test. The rotors were redesigned to give a simpler shape, and the blade heights altered accordingly. George Westinghouse, who was visiting England at the time, interefered with the design, insiting that the blade heights be increased. The turbines failed to meet the steam consumption guarantees.[6].

Excitation for the main generators and station services was provided by four 125 kW, 125V engine-driven exciters running at 375 rpm. The engines, supplied by W. H. Allen and Co, drove BTH dynamos. Two of the exciters can be seen in this photo.

BTH supplied the main switchboards.

As built, the station had 64 Babcock and Wilcox boilers, with space to accommodate 16 more. Each turbine and one boiler feed pump were supplied with steam from a group of 8 boilers.

Coal was delivered to a tidal basin at the east end of the station, spanned by two overhead cranes, and by rail to an unloading point on the West London Extension Railway on the south side of Chelsea Creek, from where it is delivered to the station by belt conveyor. The coal storage bunkers had a capacity of 15000 tons. An internal railway system using battery-powered locomotives was used to convey ash for disposal by barge. 1924 photo showing cranes and basin here.

The four 275 ft brick chimneys were constructed by Perry and Co on the principle of the Alphons Custodis Chimney Construction Co. Early photo of a chimney top here.

Numerous problems arose with vibration, erratic governing, and turbine blades. Several alternators required repairs. There were also problems with cooling the alternators and with noise complaints from neighbouring houses. The problems resulted in legal action between the UERL and Westinghouse.

1908 A contract with C. A. Parsons and Co, dated 31st December 1908, provided for the installation of four steam turbines to drive four of the existing alternators, with the resulting sets having a rating of 6,000 kW. A Second contract followed for four further units and all the Westinghouse turbines had been replaced by 1910. The Parsons turbines were of the bypass type, and were often called on to develop 8000 to 9000 kW for considerable periods, and up to 10000 kW was generated. The design was constrained by the requirement to retain the existing turbine foundations.[7]

1911 Acquired by London Electric Railway Co and Metropolitan District Railway[8].

In 1915 a new 15 MW Parsons turbine-alternator was commissioned. In 1921 four new Babcock and Wilcox boilers were installed. Four further boilers were added by 1925. Two additional Parsons sets were installed by 1925.

Sample test results for one of the Parsons units: Steam pressure/temperature at turbine stop valve: 175.6 psig/523.7degF; vacuum 29.03" Hg; load 15047 kW; speed 993 rpm; steam consumption 11.82 lb/kW hr.[9]

In 1922 a more advanced Parsons turbine was installed, No. 10, running at 2000 rpm instead of 1000, with higher steam conditions (275 psig, 650 degF).

1923 'The Lots Road Power House in 1923 is expected to have an output of 260 millions of units. In 1923 its capacity will be 93,000 K.W. There has been added to the original equipment of eight 6,000 K.W. sets, one 15,000 K.W. set in 1915, another 15,000 K.W. set in 1921, and there will be added still another 15,000 K.W. set this year. But although the rating is the same, each succeeding machine gives better results than its predecessor.'[10]

By 1925 it had been decided to replace the existing plant. Each group of eight old boilers was replaced by four new boilers. Four additional boilers were added inside a temporary extension. By 1928, four 15 MW sets were in service and replacement of six of the remaining 6 MW sets continued. Subsequently, the first two 15 MW sets were replaced, after which all the sets were rated at 18.75 MW. On completion of the programme in 1932, the station had a capacity of 105 MW.

1925 'A contract for an additional 15,000 K.W. turbo-alternator for the Lots-road power station has, says "Modern Transport," been awarded Messrs. C. A. Parsons and Company, Ltd, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, while the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company, Ltd., of Trafford Park, have the orders for the alternators, and Messrs. W. H. Allen, Sons and Company, of Bedford, are the contractors for the condensing plant.' [11]

1926 photo of new condenser being unloaded from trailer in Lots Road here.

1933 The Lots Road Power Station Joint Committee was acquired by the London Passenger Transport Board[12].

Later this power station and Neasden Power Station served the London Underground as a whole.

After World War II one turbine-alternator and eight boilers were decommissioned.

Further modernisation was undertaken between 1963 (1965?) and 1969. This involved major structural changes, and the installation of six new oil fired boilers and six new 30 MW turbine-alternators. Two chimneys were cut down and capped, while the upper parts of the remaining pair were rebuilt.

The oil crisis of the 1970s led to conversion in 1977 to burn North Sea gas. By the 1980s the generating cost made the station uneconomic, but it was retained a back-up power source. The station eventually closed in 2001.

1997 photo of turbine hall, with unlagged HP turbine in foreground here.

See here[13] for a 1904 description of the power station. See here[14] and here for interesting accounts of the station's history.[15], from which much of the above information is taken.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer, 24 Nov 1911 Supplement
  2. 'The Evolution of the Parsons Turbine' by Alex Richardson, Engineering, 1911
  3. 'The Evolution of the Parsons Turbine' by Alex Richardson, Engineering, 1911
  4. Modern Power Engineering, Vol 1, by A Regnauld, Caxton Publishing, 1924
  5. [1] Page's Weekly, 1904, p.221
  6. '1899-1949' by John Dummelow, 1949, Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Co Ltd, pp.21-22
  7. 'The Evolution of the Parsons Turbine' by Alex Richardson, Engineering, 1911
  8. Key Dates in the History of London Transport, by Transport for London
  9. Modern Power Engineering, Vol 1, by A Regnauld, Caxton Publishing, 1924, p.88
  10. Pall Mall Gazette - Wednesday 7 February 1923
  11. Nottingham Journal, 4 December 1925
  12. The Times, May 2, 1931
  13. [2] Page's Weekly, 1904, pp.221ff.
  14. [3] Greater London Industrial Archaeological Cociety: Converting a colossus: Building conversion and conservation at Lots Road power station, by Duncan Hawkins, 2016
  15. [4] Hampstead Scientific Society: 'Lots Road Power Station Visit' by David St George