IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 80

history

Thomas J. Blalock

a mammoth move
relocating the 50th Street Substation

T

THE PRESENT GRAND CENTRAL
Terminal on 42nd Street in midtown
Manhattan, New York City, opened in
1913. A recent article in this column
described in detail the electrification
of the terminal to eliminate the need
for steam locomotives in its operation
(see Figure 1).
This project included the construction of a steam plant and a power substation at 50th Street, several blocks
north of the new terminal. In 1929,
the imminent construction of a new
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at that location
required the removal of this facility.
The need for a steam plant was eliminated by the decision to purchase the
steam from a commercial steam supplier instead. The substation, however,
was still necessary since its rotary converters supplied the direct current (dc)
for the third rails, which powered the
trains in and north of Grand Central
Terminal. Consequently, it was decided
to move the entire substation to a location within Grand Central itself.

The "History" article in the January/February 2013 issue of IEEE Power & Energy
Magazine covered the design, construction, and railway electrification of the
iconic Grand Central Terminal, which officially opened in early 1913. By 1929,
it became necessary for the New York Central Railroad to remove the boiler
house and substation associated with the terminal and located at 50th Street
in Manhattan, New York. This history article, written by Thomas J. Blalock, a
frequent contributor to this magazine, covers the herculean effort that took
place in 1929 and 1930 to dismantle the facilities at 50th Street, move the usable
equipment south a distance of seven city blocks or about 1/3 mi (0.53 km), and
build the new substation as much as 100 ft (30.5 m) below street level in a cavernous excavation hewn out of the bedrock of Manhattan Island. The new substation was reportedly the largest substation in the world at that time.
Tom Blalock earned a B.S.E.E. degree from Lafayette College and an M.E.E.E.
degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His duties as a development engineer at the former General Electric High-Voltage Engineering Laboratory and later
as a test engineer in the Transformer Test Department, both in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, included a broad range of duties, including lightning protection and
high-voltage switching surge studies. Since retiring from General Electric, Tom
has actively pursued his hobby of "industrial archaeology," with particular emphasis on the exploration, preservation, and careful documentation of historically
important and interesting electric power projects and equipment.
We welcome Tom back as our guest history author for this issue of IEEE Power
& Energy Magazine.
-Carl Sulzberger

Early Grand Central Power
In 1871, Grand Central Depot was
built at the same location as the present
Grand Central Terminal. That facility
was designed for steam locomotive use
exclusively, but electric power was provided for lighting purposes.
Some details regarding the very early use of electric power at Grand Central are contained in an unpublished
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2014.2313802
Date of publication: 17 June 2014

80

ieee power & energy magazine

Associate Editor, History

write-up by the New York Central
Railroad (actual author unknown), a
copy of which I obtained in 1989 from
Robert Walker, the former chief power
engineer (now retired) for the New York
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
(MTA) Metro-North Railroad.
The first electric plant for lighting
the depot was constructed in the surface
train yards located north of the depot
1540-7977/14©2014IEEE

itself, at 46th Street and Madison Avenue. No details of this plant are known,
but it would have had to supply arc lighting for the yards since this installation
predated the development of the first
practical incandescent lamp by Thomas
Edison in 1879. By 1882, however, this
plant had been expanded to include a
150-hp "Ideal" steam engine belted to
two 45-kW Edison bipolar generators
july/august 2014



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014

IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover1
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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover3
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