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Georgetown PowerPlant Museum

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  • Georgetown PowerPlant Museum

    The annual picnic of the Georgetown PowerPlant Museum will be held on Saturday, May 7, 2011.

    The museum is located in the old Seattle Electric Company (later Puget Sound Power, Traction & Lighting) plant in South Seattle. The plant was built in 1906, added to in 1908 and 1919 with the last major revision made in the early 1930's.

    All are welcome. For more information (or just more information on the plant itself) just ask.

  • #2

    Thank you for the heads-up regarding the power plant museum. Having not heard about it before, I'll now have to put it on my list of things to see in the northwest corner of the country.



    • #3
      Thanks for responding, Neil.

      The GPM is a US (Department of Interior) National Historic Landmark in addition to also being a State of Washington and City of Seattle historical landmark. Its existence is fairly well unknown outside of about 100 people despite these designations. It is, as far as we know, the last operating plant with the large-scale Curtis vertical steam turbo-generators. The last revenue power generated was in November of 1973 and the plant was decommissioned around 1978.

      The number one unit (in the picture) was originally rated at 3,000 kilowatts but later rewound for 5,000 kW. It is approximately 35 feet from the station floor to the top of the governor housing. The woman in the picture is about 5'2" so that gives you some perspective as to the size of this (smaller) unit.

      The number two unit is rated at 8,000 kilowatts and is about ten feet taller than the number one. The top of the barometric condenser on number two unit is about 50 feet above the floor.

      The plant is mostly intact although Father Time has tried to have his way. We just got heat in the place a few years ago so deterioration has been slowed considerably.


      • #4
        Georgetown Power Plant Museum "Live Steamers"

        What "Joel" neglected to tell you was the fact that located on the exterior grounds of the Georgetown Museum is the trackage of the "Live Steam" faction of the "Puget Sound Garden Railway Society"...

        Ken Shattock
        IBLS Secretary


        • #5
          Ohh...a double reason to check it out! Hopefully this fall we could do a loop of the WA/OR area. To do justice to the PNW would take a year long much to see.



          • #6
            Right you are, Ken. I've been meaning to upload some pictures to the trains section so I'll do that.


            • #7
              Just an update.

              Seattle City Light, the owner of the Georgetown Steam Plant, closed the facility as of January 25, 2013. The 12 inch gauge track has been removed as well as the table top track for garden railways. The Georgetown PowerPlant Museum corporation was told to remove all personal (meaning everything not owned by SCL) property from the premises.

              On January 26, we received a proposed new "operating permit" (lease) from SCL management. The permit had many onerous terms but we agreed to them in the hopes that we could, by a show of good will, eventually work around these terms and return to an agreement that served the best interests of the live steam hobby as well as the general public. Unfortunately, SCL has not responded to our acceptance but has instead found more and more reasons to keep us out. Ostensibly it is a matter of "safety" (or so they say) but in the seventeen years we operated not one accident had occurred nor any insurance claims been made.

              It isn't completely dead yet but I do not hold out much hope for any kind of activities this year.


              • #8
                I received three notices today that three different ISPs had tried to hack into my account. All three were located in the Ukraine.

                More on topic, since my previous post SCL has done nothing at the Georgetown Steam Plant other than beef up security, remove the trees from the east side, construct a short gravel lane alongside the eastern part of the boiler room and scrape some small patches of paint from the eastern wall. Anonymous sources say not to expect general public access for twenty years. Sad.


                • #9

                  Thank you for the update on the steam plant. It's sad to hear of another closing based on "safety." Not that I'm against safety, but I hear that so frequently that I can't help but believe it's just another way of saying, "We don't want to be bothered." With such a large school of predator lawyers now trolling the country, I can see where a lot of items that once were petty, now are avenues of litigation. Then too, functioning power plants are juicy (pardon the pun) terrorist targets.

                  Can you update us on where the 12" gauge railroad went? the Gauge-1? Hopefully, someone has reconstituted them elsewhere for further public enjoyment.



                  • #10
                    The 12 inch track was taken up immediately after the 2011 picnic. This was done because it was assumed that there was sub-surface contamination of the soil and after many years of testing and litigation SCL was required to dig it all up and replace the soil. I heard rumors that the excavation was to be ten feet deep but I never saw that and it might have been an exaggeration. The track was stored on the north end of the site and it may still be there, I don't know.

                    We had heard other rumors that the "south forty" (where the track had been) was going to become a "rain garden" (political blather for an urban swamp) after the soil remediation and that we would be prohibited from re-laying the track. We asked the head of the environmental and real estate office and she told us to our faces that she knew nothing about a rain garden and saw no reason why we couldn't reinstall the track. HOWEVER, when the remediation project was completed they most certainly DID do the rain garden AND prohibited anything to be placed in that area.

                    During 2012 all four of the 12 inch gauge locomotives were removed by their respective owners. The 18 inch gauge locomotive and cars that had made up the Anacortes Railway ( were also removed along with many other items that belonged to the museum corporation and not SCL. The table top trackage of the Puget Sound Garden Railway Society was removed as well.


                    • #11
                      Latest word, only three weeks late.

                      Seattle City Light has re-opened the facility on a limited basis, the second Saturday of the month from 10 AM to 2 PM with guided tours at 11 and 2. These events are not in any way connected to the Georgetown PowerPlant Museum, inc. and the tour guides have no experience in the operation of the plant.

                      There is no heat and no water in the plant. The only toilet facilities is a chemical toilet located outside the east door. There is no on-going maintenance being performed and that includes even general cleaning. With no heat it will get miserably cold inside during the winter months and will often be colder INSIDE than outside. Humidity will rise to near 100% and there will be considerable deterioration of the equipment.

                      There will be no operating demonstrations of any equipment and there are still many areas that are closed to entry. City Light has re-allocated the money that was to be used for repairs to other projects and the only thing they have done is to install some non-period light switches and an enhanced security system, both of which detract from the historicity of the plant. They are not maintaining the interior lighting and many places are very dark. Even the aircraft obstruction lights on the roof are being ignored.

                      The Georgetown PowerPlant Museum, inc. continues to attempt to negotiate a lease along with maintenance contract with City Light but so far they don't seem interested.

                      It is doubtful that any railroad operations of any kind will ever return.


                      • #12
                        Seattle City Light continues to offer tours on the second Saturday of the month as previously mentioned. They refuse to re-energize the electric boiler, citing on-going costs of a licensed operator as the primary concern. They are planning on installing numerous electric heaters throughout the facility to provide some heat although I seriously doubt they understand the amount needed or the operating costs over and above the capital costs. My own thought are that SCL simply does not want any steam in the building so as to preclude the operation of any of the machinery.

                        The plant DOES have quite a number of followers, mostly of the photography types that love to take pictures of old decaying and rotting buildings and machinery. Since SCL is doing nothing in the way of maintenance these photographers are in heaven. Me, I just want to cry.