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Maine Memory Network

Making Electricity

This slideshow contains 15 items
1
Harris Dam and hydro station, Indian Pond, ca. 1955

Harris Dam and hydro station, Indian Pond, ca. 1955

Item 74733 info
Maine Historical Society

The development of electric production was gradual. Numerous small companies – formed by factory owners, towns, and a variety of entrepreneurs – operated generating stations that served limited areas to power small lighting systems, street railroads, or nearby shops and factories. Some powered only one mill or one building.

Companies such as Agamenticus Light and Power Co., Waterville and Fairfield Railway and Light Co., and Kennebec Light and Heat served individual communities; some towns had more than one electric company.

Water Power

Completed in 1955, Harris Station on the upper Kennebec River in Somerset County was the largest hydroelectric dam in Maine at the time. Its initial capacity of 75,000 kilowatts was later upgraded to 88,000.


2
Indian Pond brochure, ca. 1955

Indian Pond brochure, ca. 1955

Item 74734 info
Maine Historical Society

During the period of development, electricity did not replace waterpower; water was adapted to new technology with hydroelectric turbines linked to generators

By the mid-twentieth century, however, most of the best waterpower sites in Maine had been developed, and utility companies relied increasingly on steam, which had the benefits of greater flexibility and reliability.

Steam stations, powered by oil, natural gas, or coal, could be built anywhere, could be easily expanded and upgraded, and were not affected by seasonal or year-to-year fluctuations in water supply.

Harris Station raised the level of Indian Pond by 20 feet, increasing the surface area from 2 to 5½ square miles.

The enlarged Indian Pond – some 2,500 acres of trees and brush were cleared and flooded – was flanked by campsites open to the public.


3
Gulf Island Dam and hydro station construction, ca. 1926

Gulf Island Dam and hydro station construction, ca. 1926

Item 74737 info
Maine Historical Society

This image shows the Gulf Island Hydro Station under construction on the Androscoggin River, 4 ½ miles upstream from Lewiston and Auburn.

At its completion in 1927 it was the largest hydroelectric project in Maine, and accounted for more than half of Central Maine Power’s hydroelectric generating capacity.


4
Interior of Gulf Island hydro station, ca. 1927

Interior of Gulf Island hydro station, ca. 1927

Item 74735 info
Maine Historical Society

Gulf Island’s three generating units provided a total capacity of roughly 20,000 kilowatts, much of it going to the local manufacturing industry.

Beginning in 1929, Walter S. Wyman organized funding from CMP’s then-parent company, New England Public Service Company, to purchase five struggling Maine mills, including three in Lewiston-Auburn, maintaining their presence in the local economy and their large electrical demand.


5
W.F. Wyman steam station, Yarmouth, 1963

W.F. Wyman steam station, Yarmouth, 1963

Item 74740 info
Maine Historical Society

Steam Power

Steam-powered electrical plants work by burning a variety of fuels; the heat they generate creates steam that drives the engines or turbines that are connected to the generators that produce electricity.

For utility companies, steam stations were an important complement to hydroelectric generation, because their fuel was not subject to seasonal variations in water levels.

The oil-fired Wyman Steam Station, located on Cousins Island in Yarmouth, went online in 1957.

A second unit began operation the following year. The plant was named for then-CMP president William F. Wyman, son of the company’s founder.


6
Wyman Station generating unit, Yarmouth, 1965

Wyman Station generating unit, Yarmouth, 1965

Item 74739 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1965, a third generating unit, rated at 125,000 kilowatts, went online in an expanded Wyman Station, making the plant the largest in the state.


7
Farmingdale steam station, ca. 1920

Farmingdale steam station, ca. 1920

Item 74741 info
Maine Historical Society

Farmingdale Steam Station, completed in 1912, was CMP’s first new steam plant, and greatly increased its generating capacity.


8
Forest Avenue power station interior, Portland, 1900

Forest Avenue power station interior, Portland, 1900

Item 74746 info
Maine Historical Society

The Electric Railway

Beginning in the 1880s, before electricity became a common feature in the home, electrical systems powered arc lights that brightened city streets and streetcars that carried passengers to work and recreation.

Streetlight and electric trolley contracts were common ways for electric companies to establish an economic base.


9
Forest Avenue substation, Portland, ca. 1917

Forest Avenue substation, Portland, ca. 1917

Item 74747 info
Maine Historical Society

The Portland Railroad Company began in the 1860s with a system of horse-drawn streetcars.

Between 1891 and 1895, the company electrified its lines.

The Portland Railroad Company electrified its Deering line on July 2, 1891 with power from a small plant at Morrill’s Corner.

In 1895 the company completed the larger Forest Avenue Power Station, and that same year completed electrification of the remaining railway lines.


10
Trolley, Monument Square, Portland, ca.1900

Trolley, Monument Square, Portland, ca.1900

Item 10997 info
Maine Historical Society

The first electric cars on Congress Street ran on October 17, 1895. One newspaper recorded, “Electrics take the place of horse cars today, and men are cheering and women waving their handkerchiefs and the astounded horses are backing and shying and rearing and snorting.”


11
Horse-drawn trolley, Portland, ca. 1890

Horse-drawn trolley, Portland, ca. 1890

Item 6022 info
Maine Historical Society

When the Portland Railroad Company was granted its charter by the city in 1860, the company agreed to certain terms: the cars were not to exceed six miles an hour, horses were to walk around all curves and corners, and women and children were not allowed to mount or dismount the cars while they were in motion.


12
Maine Yankee brochure, Wiscasset, 1975

Maine Yankee brochure, Wiscasset, 1975

Item 74758 info
Maine Historical Society

Nuclear Power

The last half of the twentieth century brought a new system of generation: nuclear power.

Nuclear-powered electric stations use the heat generated by reactors to create steam, which turns the turbines and generators.

Maine Yankee in Wiscasset in Lincoln County went into commercial operation on December 28, 1972 and stopped producing electricity in 1996. It was Maine’s only nuclear power plant.

Central Maine Power was one of twelve New England utility companies that partnered to form the Yankee Atomic Energy Company in 1954.

The first plant was completed in Rowe, Massachusetts, in 1961.


13
Maine Yankee reactor pit construction, Wiscasset, 1968

Maine Yankee reactor pit construction, Wiscasset, 1968

Item 74759 info
Maine Historical Society

Construction began on Maine Yankee in the spring of 1968. At the time, it was the single largest industrial project ever undertaken in Maine.


14
Maine Yankee Atomic Power Station, Wiscasset, ca. 1972

Maine Yankee Atomic Power Station, Wiscasset, ca. 1972

Item 74760 info
Maine Historical Society

Maine Yankee provided an average of 20 percent of Central Maine Power’s generation capacity during its 26 years of service, with nuclear power accounting for 47 percent of the company’s power mix at the peak in 1976.

Concerns over the safety of atomic power led to three ballot initiatives between 1980 and 1987 that would have mandated the plant’s closure, none of which passed.

The aging plant, which would have required a costly refit to remain safe and viable, went offline on December 6, 1996.


15
'Yankee Ingenuity' brochure, 1980

'Yankee Ingenuity' brochure, 1980

Item 74761 info
Maine Historical Society

A marketing brochure for the atomic power industry in New England linked it to the tradition of “Yankee ingenuity,” juxtaposing a photograph of the Maine Yankee plant with one of a traditional water wheel.


This slideshow contains 15 items