IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2020 - 76

history

Robert D. Barnett

energy in Niagara Falls
International Niagara Commission

I

IN 1883, THOMAS EVERSHED, A
recently emigrated English civil engineer, was hired by the State of New
York to survey the Niagara Reservation. The reservation was intended to
protect the area around the falls from
being overrun by industrial development. Evershed realized that the reservation would restrict the expansion
of power development to the High
Bank area below the falls. To use the
area above the falls, some unconventional means of water delivery would
be needed.
Figure 1 shows the Niagara Mill
District at the High Bank in 1893.
Other than some small dc generators
used for street lighting and trolley car
service, the bulk of the power supplied
was in the form of on-site, hydraulic
turbine direct-drive mechanical power.
Figure 2 is a 1949 U.S. Geological Survey map showing the New York State
Reservation in green. This is a close
approximation to the reservation as it
was in the 1890s.

The Evershed Plan
In 1886, Evershed proposed a scheme
to allow development above the falls.
Water was to be diverted from the
Niagara River by means of a canal
about a mile above Goat Island. This
canal would then distribute the water
to various mill sites along its length.
The spent water would be ca r r ied
away by a tunnel to the Niagara River,
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2020.2967906
Date of current version: 17 June 2020

76

ieee power & energy magazine

In previous "History" columns, interesting aspects of electrical power associated in the Niagara Falls area were explored. Past articles include:
* "The Niagara Alternators: Competing Alternatives and Frequencies"
by R.D. Barnett (vol. 16, no. 5, 2018)
* "Canada-U.S. ac Intertie: First Canadian Hydro Plant at Niagara Falls" by
C.A. Woodworth (vol. 14, no. 4, 2016)
* "The Schoellkopf Disaster: Aftermath in the Niagara River Gorge" by C.A.
Woodworth (vol. 10, no. 6, 2012)
* "25-Hz at Niagara Falls: End of an Era on the Niagara Frontier, Part I and
Part II" by T.J. Blalock and C.A. Woodworth (vol. 6, nos. 1 and 2, 2008)
* "Triumph of AC: From Pearl Street to Niagara" by C.L. Sulzberger (vol. 1,
no. 3, 2003).
In this issue, we present a summary of events leading up to the choice of
electricity to transport the hydro energy of Niagara Falls to its end users by
exploring the work of the International Niagara Commission.
We welcome back Robert D. Barnett for a fourth time to these "History"
pages. A Life Member of the IEEE, Barnett graduated from the University of
Waterloo and Niagara College. In 1982, he formed the Niagara Society for Industrial History as a support group for a proposed museum in a former Niagara
Falls power plant, and he has written on the history of this topic.
John Paserba
Associate Editor, "History"

discharging at a point just upstream
from the Rainbow Bridge. Although
initial attempts to raise capital were
not successful, several banking firms
in New York City eventually showed
interest. They agreed to organize the
Cataract Construction Company to
oversee the preparation of plans and
act as the financial agent.
Evershed's plan called for 12 inlet
canals bringing water from the Niagara
River to wheel pit sites where manufacturing firms would be established.

Originally, there were to be 238 wheels,
or turbines, set at the bottom of a number of pits (see Figure 3). Each wheel
would produce 500 hp. The industries
that were to become the tenants of the
power company would develop around
these wheel pit sites. Power would be
distributed in the form of flowing water in much the same manner as that of
Lowell, Massachusetts.
In 1837, the Proprietors of Locks
and Canals on the Merrimack River,
the supervising authority for water
july/august 2020



IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2020

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