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  Trip Report: Durango Railfest 2008 - Chapter 1
  RGS Goose 5 to Tacoma
Riding RGS Goose 5 for a tour of Xcel Energy's Tacoma Hydroelectric Plant
  From: Durango Railfest 2008 Dates: Aug 21-24, 2008 Author: Nathan Holmes


Photo 1
Thursday morning's transportation from Durango to Tacoma - RGS Galloping Goose #5. We'd depart right on the tail of the first (0815h) train.
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Photo 2
Stopping at Rockwood for a quick bearing check and to allow the passengers one last rest stop before we launched into the wilderness beyond the cut.
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  Report Chapters  
   1 - RGS Goose 5 to Tacoma
   2 - 315 from Durango to Rockwood
   3 - 315 Back to Durango
   4 - Saturday's 315 Photo Mixed
   5 - RGS East Mancos Tank
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Photo 3
Tacoma lies approximately 3.2 miles beyond Rockwood, past the famous High Line and over the High Bridge. It's the site of Tacoma Hydroelectric Plant, now owned and operated by Xcel Energy. The only access to the plant is by rail, and then across the Animas via a foot bridge. Included in several of this year's Goose trips was a tour of this historic hydroelectric plant.
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Photo 4
Originally to be called the Rockwood Plant, the facility received transformers in crates originally bound for Tacoma, WA, and marked as such. The nickname Tacoma eventually stuck, and the plant has been known as such since it's opening in 1905. The penstock feeding the plant is visible as a scar on the hillside in the background.
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Photo 5
Inside the plant, looking south. The two large green semi-circular covers to the left are the original two Pelton turbine housings, installed in 1905-1906. Each connects to a ~2.25 megawatt General Electric generator of the same vintage (though each as been rebuilt several times as part of routine maintenance, and uprated from their original 1.3 megawatt design capacities).
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Photo 6
The first of the older two generators was actually online that Thursday. The big silver box in the foregound houses the controls for the hydraulic actuator that opens and closes the gigantic needle valve valve on the penstock leading to the turbine, thus controlling water flow and power generation.
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Photo 7
The builder's plate on the active generator. Note how it still says "Alternating Current Generator"? Edison (one of the primary forces behind General Electric) had bitterly lost the AC-vs.-DC battle some fourteen years earlier on part because of Tacoma's sister plant in Ames, CO.
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Photo 8
Behind each of the original two generators lies three of these beautiful old GE transformers. Gigantic by today's standards (the modern equivalent would be about a third the size, and not come in the very cool riveted case), three of these gems are still in active daily service, including this one.
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Photo 9
The builder's plate from one of the transformers. The two original generators both produce power at 4kV. These transformers then boost the voltage to 46kV to be transmitted on the line to Durango and Silverton.
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Photo 10
Love the cast base for one of the original Pelton impulse wheels - "THE PELTON WATER WHEEL CO - HYDRAULIC ENGINEERS - SAN FRANCISCO NEW YORK" Technical trivia - the input pressure to the turbines is just above 500 psi, as a result of the (maximum) of 1077 feet of head pressure from Electra Lake.
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Photo 11
Another look at the original two turbine/generator units from above.
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Photo 12
Behind the transformer gallery is this room. Those lines across the ceiling are the 46kV outputs of the plant, headed for the substation behind. The replacement transformers for the first bank are visible in the far rear corner. I believe they're offline at the moment, with generator 1 cross-connected to generator 3's transformers.
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Photo 13
Some of the old contactors - presumably used to connect the transfomers/generators to the power grid - up above the transformer gallery. These are no longer connected, but thought they were an interesting old piece of hardware.
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Photo 14
The problematic generator #3... Installed in 1949, the turbine attached to this 4 megawatt generator tore itself to pieces at 0200h on 31-Oct-2005 and is still awaiting repair. When operators reached the plant, the upper housing for the water wheel was found lying upside-down, off its base and over by the other generators.
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Photo 15
Lest anyone have any doubts about how much damage thirty tons of rotating mass can do when it isn't well behaved, note the holes in the roof above turbine #3, probably 25-30 feet up from the ground.
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Photo 16
A look at the damaged turbine itself.
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Photo 17
Looking down into where the business actually happens - normally, there'd be a cover on this, and up to 27,000 gallons per minute would be coming out of the nozzle at just over 500 pounds per square inch. (From Appendix B-2, Tacoma Hydroelectric Project relicensing application)
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Photo 18
There's damage to the generator as well, presumably from the wheel coming out of balance and causing the shaft (and thus the generator's rotor) to wobble. Note the torn-up windings and the damaged bearing block.
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Photo 19
A closer look at some of the damaged windings.
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Photo 20
The operating room for the plant. The facility can be operated locally, but is usually run remotely, given the inaccessible location (particularly in the winter).
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Photo 21
The north face of the facility - at one time, when the plant was continuously manned, there was a small town built here for the operators. Note the cast iron streetlight - yes, they still work.
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Photo 22
Two of the houses remain, and this one is used by Xcel employees staying at the plant site. Our guide had been there for several days, and was nice enough to let us have a quick tour of their living accomodations. Not a bad assignment in the summer, I'd have to say.
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Photo 23
With the tour of the Tacoma facility complete, it was back to the Goose. The 0900h train out of Durango was just getting up to us, so we set up an impromptu run-by with DSNG 486.
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Photo 24
Continuing northward, we did a quick run-by at Tall Timber
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Photo 25
And then another at one of my favorite spots on the line - the Tefft truss bridge
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Photo 26
Breaking for lunch on the Cascade Canyon wye. Of course lunch is not provided on these trips and yours truly didn't plant ahead, so I wound up buying two small bags of Doritos and a Mountain Dew from the Goose crew.
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Photo 27
Passing over the famous High Bridge on the way back to Durango
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Photo 28
I've never particularly been a fan of Goose shots on the High Line, just because the Goose is so small it gets lost. Still, this one seems to have worked out okay.
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Photo 29
Coming around the big horseshoe in the High Line
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Photo 30
And back in Durango - another Goose trip concluded without incident (other than losing the case for my polarizer somewhere around Tacoma)
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Creative Commons License This work is copyright 2008 by Nathan D. Holmes (maverick@drgw.net), but licensed under a Creative Commons License. This allows and encourages others to copy, modify, use, and distribute my work for non-commercial purposes (only), without the hassle of asking me for explicit permission or fear of copyright violation. I encourage others to consider CC or other Open Content-style licensing of their original works.

All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 40D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM, Sigma 18-50mm, or a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM.