Union Station Powerhouse

This is a collection of photos that I made during a visit to the powerhouse associated with Union Station in Washington DC. This building was part of the original construction of the station in the early 20th century. It provided steam for heating the station, compressed air for the switching yard, and, in those early years, electricity for the station.

I was there around 1969 and the powerhouse was scheduled to be demolished for a new Metro station. It was torn down shortly after these photos were made.

The first two images are public domain views of the powerhouse and the tracks leading into the station. The remaining images are taken from Tri-X photos that I made. The images are a bit grainy and were made without any flash illumination.

All of the functions were powered by coal and there are some views of the coal processing and stoking machines below. Alas, no good views of the boilers themselves.

These are the stoker engines. I had some thoughts about rescuing one of these when the building was torn down but sanity prevailed.

This Corliss steam engine operated a very large air compressor. Air was used to operate the track switches in the rail yard. At the time I visited the Corliss engine was used only as a standby source of air. Most of the time a very large electrically operated air compressor supplied the air. In this case "large" was about the size of a VW beetle.

Somehow I failed to note the name of the operator but he was a one-of-a-kind guy. He took great pride in "his" big Corliss engine and he was delighted to show it off to us. He ran it for us and it was a delight to see that big flywheel turn. The valves on a Corliss make a distinctive sound and we tried to get some sound recordings. Alas, they're gone.

Here's my friend Ray Brubacher making a movie. Alas, like the sound, that movie is long gone.

Here are some miscellaneous shots that I took around the powerhouse.


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