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IF you ever go to Colorado Springs to see Pike's Peak, you will notice a long yellow scar running from top to bottom of one of the foot hills, and if you have any curiosity as to its cause, you will be told that it contains the strongest steel pipe ever made for the daily conveyance of water. Further inquiry will develop the information that this pipe contains city water for Colorado Springs, and that the water is used to light the city, operate the street railways, print the newspapers, and perform a hundred other duties before it is finally used to quench the thirst of tourists and common people.
This piece of pipe holds more world's records than any other pipe in the world, and is the property of the Pike's Peak Hydro Electric Company. It shows not
only the great benefits which result from the development of a water power but also the dangers which attend such an undertaking. The history of the undertaking is a succession of misfortunes which were overcome only by endless perseverance and unlimited confidence in the final success of the enterprise on the part of George W. Taff, organizer of the company.
The project was conceived in failure and carried out only after overcoming uncounted legal and engineering obstacles. The fight made for its existence, the attempts to invalidate the franchise, the ludicrous effort on the part of Colorado Springs to force the company to replace its street lamps with obsolete arcs because the franchise specified the old style lamp—these are interesting phases of the company's development, but they pale into insignificance in comparison with the endless fight against Nature which demanded every resource of the most ingenious engineers of the country.
In the beginning—some eleven or twelve years ago—there was no thought of turning the water which tumbled down the sides of Pike's Peak into power. At that time Colorado Springs found its water supply—fed from the melting snows of the mountains—growing short. The water laws of Colorado are peculiar and are based on the theory of "first come, first served." For example, the great Roby Ranch, just below Colorado Springs, has the oldest water rights in the state, and has a right to its sixty cubic feet a second before the city can touch the water.
All the water rights on the east slope of the. mountains were taken up, but on the west side untold quantities were going to waste. The city secured rights for this water, and then was confronted with the problem of getting it across the Peak. A tunnel had to be dug through the Peak, and the contract was let to George W. Jackson and associates, of Chicago.
Then trouble began. Famous the world over as a tunnel builder, Jackson had
not had his mettle tried as in this job. No tunnel had ever been built under such circumstances, and it is not surprising that the contract price failed to cover the cost of construction. Long before the tunnel was completed the money for the purpose was used up. Jackson could have thrown up his contract, and ended this story right here had he wished. But he was a man to see money in impossibilities. It seemed visionary, it might never amount to anything—the chances were that way, and he looked down upon a railroad right of way along the foothills which had never seen a rail, and never would, on account of over ambitious dreaming—but he agreed to complete the tunnel if the city would give him the right to use the water which came through the tunnel for the purpose of generating power.
There was much haggling, and the council dreamed impossibilities too, but finally gave Jackson the right for twentyfive years provided there should be no pollution or waste of water, the city to be the sole judge of both. And so the tunnel was finished.
Starting almost two and a half miles above sea level, the tunnel burrowed a mile and a third through solid granite. There were no roads, so roads—or more properly trails, for there was no room for roads— were built. The only means of transportation was by burro-back. A camp had to be established on the mountain top. The workmen had to be bundled up in fur lined clothes and ear muffs, and their labor thereby delayed. The average temperature was four degrees above zero. Water dripped from the tunnel roof and froze on the workmen's clothes. The alternation of hard and soft spots in the granite was to be expected and the broken drills and wrecked compressors which resulted were merely a part of the day's work.
Then Jackson began to plan for the big power project he had in mind. Taff's task was to get it down the mountain—to get it down harnessed ■ and ready for work. Between Jackson's tunnel and Taff's pipe line were reservoirs with a capacity of twentythree and a half billion gallons. Taff's problem was to drop this a straight half mile and not let it get away from him at the bottom.
He started at the top and worked down, contrary to the usual custom of the successful man. But Taff came so close to being unsuccessful so many times that his inverted plan of action may be forgiven. He devised a method of erecting his pipe line without roads or trails—by using the air instead. He put hand rails and cables where they could be grasped by workmen who could not find a footing on the precipitous mountain side. He showed how a pipe could be constructed that would not fail under twice the pressure to be put upon it, and designed relief valves which would open at 11,000, 12,000, and 13.000 pounds respectively. He planned a cushion against which this tremendous force could beat itself impotently and inexpensively when it was not needed to turn his wheels. After he had done all this, he went to the bankers again—and
got the money. Six years after the franchise was granted, the power was turned on—one year of labor, five years of brains.
The principal interest in the plant of the Pikes Peak Hydro-Electric Company centers around the high pressure pipe which conducts the water from the mountain top to the wheels below. The water which flows through this pipe was formerly of no use. Before the construction of the high level tunnel this water simply ran down the western slope of Pike's Peak and was of no benefit to man except the small portion which was utilized for irrigation. Today it is bringing an income of thousands of dollars to its promoters besides saving an even greater sum to the users of electricity in Colorado Springs.
As before stated, the project came into being through the excessive cost of the tunnel, but the difficulties of boring the tunnel were only a beginning. The water in the pressure pipe has a head of 2,417 feet at the wheels, giving a pressure of 940 pounds to the square inch. Some idea of the tremendous force of this stream may be gained when it is borne in mind that the ordinary pressure in fire hose is around fifty pounds. A fire hose would easily knock a man down, but not so a stream from this pipe. It wouldn't stop for that. It would simply cut a hole through him. He wouldn't have time to fall down.
The pipe itself is 4,775 feet long and 21 inches in diameter, giving an effective diameter of about twenty inches after making deductions for the retardation caused by rivet heads. It is constructed of inch plates of steel, rolled into tubular form. Each section of pipe was tested to a pressure of 2,000 pounds to
the inch before it left the factory. The rivets were driven by a 100 ton hydraulic press.
One of the greatest difficulties encountered in manufacturing the pipe was that of preventing leaky joints. The pressure is so great that a pin hole leak would soon wear away the edges of the break and wreck the pipe. It was necessary, therefore, to pack the joints so that leakage could not occur. It was originally intended to make the gaskets of lead, but it was found that the pressure was too great, the lead pressing out to a thin film which was of no value whatever. After weeks of experimentation an alloy of lead and tin was found which served the purpose.
But the factory problems did not end the company's troubles. The pipe had to be laid up a rough mountain side so steep that workmen could not stand on the slope without holding to something, while there was no road or other means of transporting the heavy sections of pipe to their final position. It was first