Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Staff Council

Wheaton History Lesson: Power Plant

Posted on May 11, 2012

Did you know that the power plant that we use now was not the original? The Doll's House was the original, built in 1904 with only two floors.

On a cold January day I pulled into the Meadows parking lot.  As I sat there I was looking at the Power Plant. I could see the smoke billowing out of the chimney. It towered into the night sky. I am guessing that it is 80 to 100 feet high. The nice thing about January is there are lots of places to park your car with all the students on winter break. Coming in for six a.m. has its advantages; you have the whole parking lot to choose from.

The Power Plant was built in 1925. It sends out the volume of water that is necessary to generate steam through huge pipes. Most of the dorms, it goes through as steam heat. In some of the dorms the steam is converted to hot water. The reason for steam is because the transfer of steam is so efficient.

Inside the Power Plant there is a maze of colorful pipes crisscrossing the high ceiling. The operator knows at a glance exactly what is running through each one of those pipes by the color of each one. Yellow is for steam. Brown is for fuel oil. Orange is exhaust for the steam engine that is no longer in use. The purple pipe is for gas.

In addition to the colorful pipes, there are steam valves, dampers, gauges, furnaces, etc. But you will not find any dust bunnies on the floors of the plant facility. It is a meticulously clean and orderly place. There is a capacity meter which measures particulates such as dust. The more dust you have means less light goes through the meter, and the more soot there is, the higher the needle goes; when it gets too high, a little light goes on, alerting the operator that something is wrong.  Every day the operator keeps a log that is used to document what happens each day.

In 1965 expansion plans were considered for the Power Plant due to the construction of the new (now old) science center. The construction did not start until 1968 and was completed in late 1969.

Submitted by Alice Santos

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