Saturday, September 9, 2023

"How Canadians Derailed a Train and Drove It to City Hall for Power After a Brutal Ice Storm"

 A repost from February 2021:

From The Drive, February 22:

It tore up the roads but ultimately saved lives by providing power in a pinch.

Over the week spanning Jan. 4-10, 1998, a trio of massive ice storms wracked the northeastern United States and parts of Canada. Knocking over transmission towers, the storms deprived up to 1.35 million people of electricity, in some cases for weeks (sound familiar?). Rather than leave town, though, one Canadian mayor stepped up to bring in the biggest mobile power generators they could get their hands on: Diesel-electric freight train locomotives.

This unusual solution to a power problem, which was also covered by Gizmodo last week, unfolded in Boucherville, a Montreal suburb just northeast of famed Formula 1 racetrack Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Having reportedly heard of locomotives being used to generate electricity during another emergency years prior, Boucherville's Mayor Francine Gadbois asked the Canadian National Railway to lend the city a couple of units. CN obliged, sending over two Montreal Locomotive Works M-420s per the 1998 issue of Trains, as recounted by members of its forum....


Reminiscent of the aircraft carrier Lexington (CV2) going to the rescue of the city of Tacoma:. From South Sound Talk

That Time the USS Lexington Saved Tacoma

Residents of Pierce County know well the key role the Army and Air Force have played in the area’s history. But there was that one time that the U.S. Navy came to Tacoma’s rescue, when it faced a power shortage that not only threatened the local economy, but put thousands of lives at risk of weathering a cold winter without electricity.

The story took place 90 years ago and changed how electricity keeps your lights on to this day. Back in those days, Tacoma generated most of its electricity from hydroelectric dams on nearby rivers, namely the Green, Nisqually and Skokomish. A small steam plant along the Foss Waterway, when it was called the City Waterway since the  Foss name didn’t come about until 1990, added to the water-powered facilities.

All was fine, relatively, for a while. But the area had outgrown the system’s capacity, particularly since it depended heavily on just enough rain and just enough snowpack to keep the turbines spinning. The summer of 1929 was a dry one, however. The fall didn’t prove much better. Water levels were low as the weather began to turn colder. Conservation efforts got stricter. Cascade Paper Co. all but halted lumber production. It laid off the bulk of its workers since it couldn’t reliably power the mill. Camp Lewis even went so far as to command that barracks go “lights out” at 4:00 p.m. to allow area residents to use the power to heat their homes.

Tacoma officials sought solutions to their power crisis wherever they could. They even pled to President Herbert Hoover to come to their aid. Out of that plea came a plan of sending the Navy to the rescue in the form of an aircraft carrier to serve as an impromptu power plant. The Navy didn’t want anything to do with the idea at first. The top brass was won over as negotiations got flowery and conditions got direr, despite protests by Puget Sound Power & Light and also Seattle City Light, saying that there was no power crisis and all was well in hand....