Carl Henning

Folsom Powerhouse

Content warning: this is an engineering-related post. We were in Folsom, California visiting friends – no, not at the prison. Time did not permit visiting the Prison Museum with its Johnny Cash memorabilia. But, even better, was the Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park. I warned you this was an engineering-related post.

The docent who took two of us on the tour was excited to have someone interested, really interested. The powerhouse was built in 1895 and innovated by using 3-phase, 60 Hz power. AC beats DC for transmission of electricity. It powered the streetcars and streetlights in Sacramento, 22 miles away. At one time it was one of 400 hydroelectric plants in California.

It’s 4 megawatt output was dwarfed when they built a new dam with more modern equipment in 1953. And blew up the powerhouse’s dam.

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