Nikola Tesla At Niagara Falls

Friday, August 21, 1896
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\V1-ESTERN ELECTRICIAN. Nikola Tesla at Niagara Falls. BY ORRIN E. DUNLAP. Nikola Tesla paid his nrst visit to the great electrical power plant of the Niagara Falls Power company on Sunday, july rgth. In the party with Tesla were George \Vestinghouse, lr., president of the \Vestinghouse Elec. tric & Manufacturing company of Pittsburg, and his son, H. H. Westinghouse; Thomas N. Ely of Philadelphia, of the Pennsylvania superintendent of motive power railroad, Commodore George W. Melville of Washing- States Navy; Edward ton, chief engineer of the United D. Adams, president of the Cataract Construction com- pany, and William B. Rankins, secretary of the com- pany; Paul D. Cravath, cnnnsel for the Westinghouse company, and George Urban, jr., of Butfalo, president of the Cataract Power Bc Construction company of Budalo, which company was organized recently to dis- tribute tbe electric power in Buffalo. Quite naturally, the event of Tesla's visit was one of importance, for never before had his eyes rested on this greatest of power plants. For four years he had refused to leave his work and visit the Falls, preferring to work out his theories and await the proper time to see them put into practical use and operation. Tesla was de- lighted with the manner in which his discoveries had been adapted to practical use by the engineers, and he unhesitatinglv declared that there was no doubt of the success of the gigantic undertaking and that power would he transmitted to Bulfalo without the least sem- blance of failure in any important detail._ He' was greatly interested in the working of the transformers in- vented by him, and the great electrician declared that they solved one of the most diflicnlt and important prob- lems in electrical science. It is a well known fact that Tesla does not like to speak of himself. He will talk freely about electrical discoveries or inventions, but when his own are breached he modestly says that he prefers to say little about them. “I do not like to speak of what I am doing or what I hope to do," said he. "It is enough to let others do tha. when what I have done is before`the world. I arn content to be in my workshop and to work day and night to discover something which we are looking for and which will assist the development of electricity as a great and universal power. The time will come when steam will not be used for commercial purposes. I am working to bring that about." This, then, is the present great ambition, He desires to see electricity fully oc- cupy the power field. "I came to Niagara Falls," said he, "to inspect the great power plant and because I thought the change would bring me needed rest. I have been for some time in poor health, almost worn out, and I am now try- ing to gel away from my work for a brief spell and at' the same time see the great results of electrical develop- ment within the last half dozen years. Those results have been wonderful, have far surpassed the expecta~ tions of the people generally, but they are what those who have made electricity their study for years and their life work have expected and have labored so hard to bring about. Yet scientists are not content and great wonders in the future development of electric power for many purposes are anticipated and are confidently ex- pected by the great men in all countries who are trying to discover nature’s secrets and to develop the things which God has placed within the reach of those who will seek that they may End." "What do you think ofthe Niagara power plant, Mr. Tesla? Is it fully up to your ideas and expectations?" It was this question that aroused the great electri- cian's enthusiasm. "Yes," said he; "it is all and more than I anticipated it would be. It is fully all that was promised. It is one of the wonders of this century. The power-producing plant of the Cataract Construc- tion company is a marvel in its completeness and in its superiority of construction. \Vhen it shall be in full operation the results in many ways will be wonderful; will be surprising to those who have doubted that such things could be accomplished. In its entirety, in con- nection with the possibilities of the future, the plant and the prospect of future development in electrical science, and the more ordinary uses of electricity, are my ideals. They are what I have long anticipated and have labored, in an insignificant way, to contribute to- ward bringing about." “VVhat, in your judgment, will be the effect on Niag- ara Falls?" "The first eliects naturally will be to the advantage of Niagara Falls, and the falls will be the greatest August 1, 1896 55 reaper of benefits. The result of this great develop- ment of electric power will be that the falls and Butfalo will reach out their arms and will join each other and become one great city. United they will form the greatest city in the world." "This is your first visit to the plant?" “Yes, I came purposely to see it. I am somewhat in- terested in the working of some of the machinery. But, and it is a curious thing about me, I cannot stay about big machinery a great while. It adects me very much. The jar of the machinery curiously affects my spine and I cannot stand the strain." “It is Mr. Tesla’s two-phase system which is used,” put in Secretary Rankine, who was standing hy. "lt is the new and great system of the i\vo»phase alternating currents." “What do you think of the transmission.of electric power to Buffalo? ls it an assured undertaking?" Tesla was asked. ` "Its success is certain. The transmission of electricity is one of the simplest of propositions. It is but the ap- plication of pronounced and accepted rules which are as firmly established as the air itself." ' "Do you think the cost of electric power in Budalo will be half, or lower, than the present cost of steam?" “I do not know what is the cost of steam power in Butialo." "About $6o to 57o," said Mr. Raul-tine_ _ “Well,"icontinned Mr. Tesla, "the cost certaiialy will be much less than the cost of steam. The beauty of ns- ing electricityvfor industrial purposes is that you can use 'it without any loss. When you get done with your work you just shut it otf until you want it again; therefore there is no appreciable percentage of loss except that in transmission. On the other hand you cannot use steam without loss. Steam must be kept up. That involves a loss of zo per cent. at the start, which is continuous and must be counted as a fixed loss. No matter if steam were cheaper than electricity there would be a great sav- ing in favor of electricity because of its adaptability, its freedom from smoke and dust and the fact that it may be shut olf when it is not needed." At this point Secretary Rankine- advanced a piece of news. “BuEalo," said he, "will have its nrst install- ment of electric power by November. You may say that without fear of making any mistake. The first de- livery will be about 1,ooo horse power, all that we can give this fall. It will be the initial installment of the 1o,ooo horse power which we must furnish under our franchise within the ensuing year, The contract for the construction of the pole line will soon be let. The work will be pushed rapidly and Budalo will find that the company will be faithful to all of its agreements." In 'regard to the transmission of power Tesla con- tinued: "It is cheaper to transmit electricity in large quantities than in small. The larger the force the less the loss in transmission. The loss in transmission of power to Buffalo, for instance, will be comparatively small because of the large quantity which Buflald will receive." ' Tesla was averse to speaking of his recent investiga- tions of the vacuum electric lamp and telegraphy with- out the use of wires. "I am not prepared to say anything now about those little schemes of mine," said Mr. Tesla. "They must stand aside for awhile. just now I am devoting my time to the study and development of the transmission and in- sulation of electricity. Until I get these matters well worked out and obtain satisfactory results I shall do lit- tle else. I shall return to my laboratory in New York and continue my work, I am delighted with my trip to the Falls. I have been from top to bottom of the power plant. You may say it is the greatest and the best, the most thoroughly equipped i.n the world."