daily headlines tell of advances in gas, oil and even solar energy.
But in 1953 the big news in Niles was the new Ohio Edison Power
Plant to be constructed south of town on the banks of the Mahoning
River which would be fired by coal.
This was to be the biggest construction project in the area in
many years. Niles was chosen as the site by Ohio Edison for this
plant due to the availability of water from the river and the
proximity of railroads for delivering the vast amounts of coal
that would be needed for the generators. Nearby residential, commercial
and industrial growth also influenced the decision.
Originally the plans were for a single 106,000 killowatt generating
unit. However even before construction began at the over 100 acre
site, Edison president Walter H. Sammis announced a second
unit would be added thus doubling the output of the facility.
He cited the Korean situation and the nation's rearmament program
as reasons. This resulted in a 12 story structure and two 300
foot high stacks being built to accommodate the generators and
boilers. The cost was over $35,000,000.
What happened inside was a complex process. In
order to produce the electricity, the coal had to be broken into
1/4 inch size pieces. Conveyors took the coal to the top of the
plant and dumped it into bunkers which in turn took it through
the automatic feeders where it was mixed with air and swirled
in the cyclone boilers at 136 mph. and at temperatures of over
3000 degrees. The water turned to dry steam which drove the turbine
blades and continued to the condensers underneath. There the river
water cooled the steam and condensed it back to water to be returned
to the boilers. The generator acted as an electro-magnet producing
the electricity. The electricity that was produced went to the
substation outside the plant where transformers increased the
voltage and made it ready to be delivered to the surrounding communities.
The first boiler was fired on December 19, 1953. The headlines
of the Niles Daily Times read "Ohio Edison Generator Switch
Thrown Today". Each day 2500 tons of coal was used in operating
the two generators while 200,000,000 gallons of water was pumped
from the Mahoning River and cleanly returned to it. Over 900 men
were employed in its construction.
The new electric power plant was officially dedicated in October
of 1954. Among others the speakers included Ohio Edison's Walter
H. Simmis as toastmaster and Niles Mayor Edward P. Lenny.
John T. Swartz officially dedicated the plant since he
had met Thomas Edison himself several times. This event was scheduled
to coincide with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Edison's
invention of the incandescent light bulb. To signify the advances
in electricity the ceremony started being lit with only gas lights
and replicas of Edison's first electric lamps. This evolved to
an ending with brilliant floodlights illuminating the new plant.
A three day open house of the facility followed with at least
15,000 touring this new industry in Niles.
Now just as Edison's incandescent light bulb has been phased out
in recent years in favor of more energy efficient types so has
the the idea of electricity produced from coal. The Ohio Edison
Power Plant no longer serves the community as it once did but
its tall stacks still tower on the horizon as a reminder of its
place in Niles history.