Wednesday, January 26, 2011

South Station Mechanical Facilities

When the South Station Terminal was designed, consideration was given to having the entire facility, including station, midway, & facilities would be a self-contained Terminal. This means that the terminal could operate without depending on the City of Boston for power, Ice, & Gas for lighting.

The buildings & passenger cars required heat during the winter months. Ice would be required for cars equipped with Ice Air-Conditioning, Power for Electric Light, and finally the Passenger Cars required Pinch Gas for providing Lighting as most cars in 1898 still used gaslights for interior lighting.

The South Station Terminal Company would have to build these structures on-site & close to the  trainshed & station they serviced.  These buildings were constructed at the far end of the trainshed along the edge of track 28.  A switchyard & coal tipple were built in order to bring coal in for the boilers.  Tracks were added inside the Boiler plant to remove the fly ash. The Gas works were build at the far-end of the plant to create & store Pinch Gas. At the opposite end of the building, nearest to the trainshed, the Ice Plant was built to provide Ice for the Station & Passenger Cars that used Ice Air-Conditioning. The Generators for Electrical services were located in the Boiler Plant. Service Tunnels were constructed underneath the station to move Ice for the cars and run the piping & electrical services. 
Mechanical Facilities for South Station Terminal

One of the main uses of the Boiler Plant besides providing steam heat, was to generate electrical power for the entire Terminal Facility. The plant needed to provide power for Lighting, the massive exhaust fans for the underground loops, and most importantly,  power for the the massive compressors that provided air to operate all 137 of the electro-pneumatic switches in the terminal zone. The power room also needed to provide power to the sump pumps for all of the underground portions of the Terminal. Since the terminal was built on a  tidal flat, water was a problem for all the underground facilities in the terminal. Large pumps were constructed throughout the terminal to keep everything dry.

For a detailed description of all these facilities, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers published a journal on the facilities. The South Station mechanical facilities are extensively covered in Volume XXI of the Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  Starting on page 451, the Journal provides an extensive coverage of these buildings. A copy of this Journal can be found here:  Volume XXI of the Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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