810th AC&W Squadron

Dedicated to the 810th Radar Squadron and all the US Air Force Radar Sites of the Past

26 Tower - The power plant is to the right

26-Tower

The building to the right was the power plant. It held four big diesel power generators that could power the equipment behind the fence. The barracks and other support buildings were not powered during these frequent power outages. We sometimes spent hours in the dark.

The story was that we were at the end of the Duke Power lines, so any problem along the line would kill our power. The power would pretty much always go out during the frequent thunder storm that passed through in the summer months.

The power plant operators monitored the weather and if it looked like a storm was in the area they would fire up one of the big diesels and put it on standby. They could run the generator in parallel with the commercial power so if the commercial power failed the radars would keep on humming along with no interruption - or at least that was the theory.

In practice the operators had to manually synchronize the generator with the commercial power using a phase indicator. This looked like a big clock with one hand and a 0 at the 12 o'clock position. The bottom represented 180 degrees out of phase. The operator would carefully throttle the generator watching that pointer swing around. They would get the meter spinning slowly at first, then they would try to get it to stop, then get it to the top, then throw the switch to parallel the generators.

This was a very tricky maneuver and often they would end up throwing the switch with the power a bit out of phase. If it was close, the breakers would hold and there would be a bit of a power glitch until the generator pulled into synch. Sometimes the glitch would be enough to shut down the radar equipment or kill the power behind the fence - including in the power plant itself. The worst was when you suddenly found yourself sitting in the dark listening to the 24 Tower's antenna winding down. If you threw the switch while the generator was too far out of synch, you would hear a lot of banging and groaning then the breakers would trip and they would be force to do it again. The sound of the big diesels fighting to get in synch was always exciting.

One time there was a major failure in one of the generators and we ended up with pistons and bits of engine block on the floor. That took a while to repair!

 

John Kessler (copyright, Nineveh Junction Digital, john@nineveh-junction.com) - Updated 3 Nov, 2006