Colorado College Tutt Library

Century Chest transcription 23

Notes on the Lighting and Heating of Colorado Springs by Geo. Rex Buckman

Until Colorado Springs was about nine years old, its few inhabitants were compelled to depend for their light on the primitive candle or the more pretentious coal oil-lamp. In 1880 a local company was organized to supply the town with illuminating gas which was gradually introduced into the store and office buildings and the better class of dwellings. The gas, which was distributed in mains of cast and wrought iron laid through the principal streets, was at first made by the distillation of coal in clay retorts, the open flame burner with lava tip being generally employed. In 1890 the Lowe water gas process was introduced consisting of the breaking up of water into its constituent gasses by passing steam over burning coal and enriching the hydrogen by means of coal oil.

Ten years later this process was abandoned and a return made of the old system which is in use at this present time. Many improvements have been made in burners, the most important being the Argaud which increased combustion by the introduction of air; and the Melsbach lamp. This latter, which marked a most important advance in gas lighting, consists essentially of a mantle of cotton web saturated with a solution of the rare earths, which surrounds the gas jet and is rendered incandescent by it. By the use of this burner the illuminating power of gas has been increased about six fold over the old open flame burner, a consumption of 3 1/2 cubic feet per hour being equivalent to from 80 to 100 candles. Gas is also extensively used for fuel, and this part of the subject will be treated under its appropriate head.

At the present time the consumption of gas in Colorado Springs for light and fuel is about 37.500.000 cubic feet per annum. At this date there are 1916 meters in use. The price to the consumer is $1.80 per thousand cubic feet for illuminating gas, and $1.00 for fuel gas.

Electric lighting was introduced into Colorado Springs in 1890. The system at first installed was the direct series arc light and the single phase transformer system, using small high speed generators of about 50 kilowatts each. The lamps used were the arc lamp in which the current passes from one carbon point to another, the two separated by a small space, the resistance of the air to the passage of the current producing a brilliant light; and the incandescent lamp in which the resistance is obtained by a delicate filament of carbon coiled in an elliptical glass and in a vacuum.

In 1900 a new company, the Colorado Springs Electric Company obtained control of the electric lighting company and proceeded to extend the business , building a new generating plant at the coal fields recently opened on the Northern borders of the city, the system installed having in view the production of an electrical current suited for power as well as lighting purposes. The generating units at this new station, which was completed in the spring of 1901, are of 1000 kilowatts.

The generators are keyed to the shafts of G.H. Corliss horizontal compound engines. The boilers are of the tubular form, made by the Babcock and Millcox Co. The current is a three phase high potential of 6600 volts, 60 p.p.s. which is transformed at the distributing station to 2000 volts. The transmission line is built of Idaho cedar poles, 35 to 50 feet in length. Each circuit consists of three No. 1 B and S gauge hard drawn copper wires arranged in an equilateral triangle with sides about 16 inches in length thus:


The service is measured by induction watt meters, the unit of charge being a kilowatt hour. The present basis charge for lighting service is 12 1/2 cents per kilowatt hour.

The use of electricity for power is growing rapidly and at present the extensive reduction mills at Colorado City are operated by the current from the generating station above described. On reaching the mills the current, which is of about 6200 volts, is transformed to 460 volts for the motors, a majority of which are three phase induction, with a few synchronous motors.


The opening of the 20th century finds coal still the principal fuel used in Colorado Springs for heating and steam purposes. For the heating of dwellings and the smaller public buildings it is used for the most part in stoves in single rooms or in furnaces in basements or cellars whence the heated air is conveyed to the several rooms through flues. During recent years the systems of heating by steam or hot water have been rapidly perfected and are now extensively employed in Colorado Springs as elsewhere. By this system the steam is generated in boilers in the basement and the steam conveyed through wrought iron pipes under very low pressure to cast iron radiators in the several rooms.

The systems now most commonly used are the so-called "one pipe circuit" the "one pipe over head" and the "webster," these differing in the method of conveying the steam and returning the water of condensation. Steam heating while by far the cheapest especially for large buildings is by no means as healthful as the old-fashioned fire place or the more modern furnace; and on the score of healthfulness the hot water system is preferable. During the past year a start has been made in the introduction into Colorado Springs of the "Holly System" of heating by which steam is generated at a certain station and distributed through pipes aid under the streets to the buildings to be heated. The pipes, which are of wrought steel are enclosed in a shell of wood made by boring a hole through a log, which latter is creosoted and covered with pitch and gravel and lined with tin, between which lining and the pipe is an air space. The water of condensation is not returned but is discharged into the sewers, but before being so discharged it is passed through water meters on which measurement the charge for the service is based. About 200 towns in the United States are now using the Holly System. The special devices in this system are manufactured by the American District Steam Co. of Lockport, New York. The coal used in Colorado Springs is the product of Colorado Mines, the very large proportion being hauled less than 100 miles, and almost one-half of the present consumption being mined at the northern borders of the city.

In quality it ranges from lignite to a most excellent bituminous; and there is also used quite a little of the anthracite mined at points in the Elk Mountains in Western Colorado, and closely resembling the Lykeus Valley Coal of Pennsylvania. Present retail prices range from $3.00 for the lignite to $5.50 for the best bituminous and $7.50 for the anthracite.

To large consumers the lignite and poorer bituminous grades are supplied by the car-load, "mine run" at $1.00 per ton or less. The utilization of gas for fuel purposes has made rapid progress during recent years, principally through the perfecting of the gas range for cooking. This has been brought to a point where it is nearly as economical as the coal burning range, while being vastly preferable on the score of cleanliness and convenience. For heating purposes gas has now a limited use, principally in fire places and under conditions where quickness of installation and portability are considerations. Wood and oil have also a limited use for fuel. Pitch pine and pinion are used in fire places; and oil stoves find occasional employment.

What the heating and the lighting of a century hence will be is an interesting though I fear an idle speculation. Long before that time the rapid exhaustion of the coal beds of the world will have become a serious question. The marvellous results recently obtained in so-called wireless telegraphy point to the possibility of the perfecting of a system where-by electricity generated in enormous quantities at points where vast water power is available, will be so cheaply transmitted over distances now impossible, that it can be used both for heating and lighting. We look to electricity then which has already revolutionized modern industry in many of its departments, to solve this problem for the 21st century.

Geo. R. Buckman

Colorado Springs, Colorado
August 3rd, 1901.

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