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Dawson power plant problems, October 1901

The history of Dawson City, Yukon

Dawson Daily News, Saturday, October 19, 1901.

Dawson Daily News, Friday, October 19, 1901.

    "You'll never miss the water till the well runs dry" is an aphorism of the language brought forcibly to mind by the shutting down of the electric light plant for repairs. When nearly 5,000 lights in a small community like Dawson go out at one time, and stay out for several days, the expression of "What the hotel, Bill," may be expected to be in frequent and forcible use.

    A visit to the works reveals 50 men to be at work repairing and making changes, and not a man will be allowed to sleep until the ponderous engines are whirling once more. All day Friday they worked, and Friday night. Today they take only time to eat; and tonight the same order of business prevails. Tomorrow the men are expected to be nearly dead with fatigue, but that makes no difference. Sunday night will be the same, though it is expected by Monday morning to be able to send some of the men to bed since one engine will be running. Monday night both engines will be whirling once more, and the men, if they have not forgotten how, may lay down and sleep as long as they wish. Eighty-four hours at hard labor and without sleep is a hard undertaking, but this is one of the requirements of the business.

    The trouble is the same as has been the case with every large building in Dawson. The frozen muck of the townsite is as solid as the foundations of the earth - as long as the frost remains. When the frost has evaporated, as well try to found a twelve story building on quicksand. On Thursday night the 400 horse power engine shook herself free and in a little while had pounded her eccentric strap into little pleces, besides breaking the governor. Extra parts were on hand, but if they broke the jig would be up, since navigation will be closed before more parts could be shipped in from the factory.

    A concrete foundation 24x18x12 feet had been prepared for the engines, and it was resolved to move them at once to avoid greater delay hereafter. The foundation is of broken rock, gravel and 104 barrels of Portland cement. It rests well down into the solid gravel; underneath is a bed of railroad iron. The stay bolts for the engines are looped around the "T" iron and if the engines move now, they must move a thousand tons of dead weight, too.

    W. A. Speake, manager and secretary of the company, is superintending the changes being made. From him some interesting facts are gleaned. Power was shut off along the creeks the middle of last month, since which time the number of lights in use have leaped to nearly 5000. The company has 5,000 cords of wood piled on the opposite side of the Klondike, enough to run the plant until next July. A 500 horse power boiler and engine have been purchased, and will arrive in the spring. While the plant is shut down advantage is taken of the opportunity to repair the boiler also.

    Mr Speake promises that there will be no more delays in the supply of current dating from Monday night, and thinks that the smaller of the two engines will be in operation by Monday morning.