PHILADELPHIA HIGH PRESSURE SERVICE
During March an important contract was closed by the city of Philadelphia for the equipment of a new high-pressure fire-service station—practically a duplicate of the Delaware avenue fire station which has been in service for a number of years past with great success. The new plant will be located at Seventh and Lehigh avenues, in the Kensington mill district. It will use water from the old Fair Hill reservoir entirely, as it is located some distance from the river. The first contract covers 10300-horsepower. Westinghouse, vertical single-acting gas engines, directconnected to Deane triplex pumps; and, in addition, a 140-horsepower unit for auxiliary purposes. The equipment is pract’cally a duplicate of the Delaware avenue station. It will take its fuel gas from the city gas mains, and, as in case of the Delaware avenue station, two large holders at different points in the city are available to be drawn on for the supply. The decision again to employ gas-engine-driven pumps for this high-pressure fire service, is distinctly interest ing in view of the discussion which took place previous to and after the installation of the Dela ware avenue station, and was mostly in favor of electrically-driven pumps as established in New York city.
A study of the first year’s operation (1904) of the Philadelphia station, shows the character of results that are obtainable from an installation of this kind. As this was the first year’s operation of the plant, it was to be expected that the maximum interference from troubles, operative and otherwise, would be encountered. The year’s record, however, shows not a single case of failure to start, either in the actual fire service, or in the numerous experimental runs which were made to test out the equipment During the year there were thirty-Two alarms and nine actual services of any considerable duration, The services varying from a few minutes to twenty-four hours. The large pumping units ran 337 hours, and the small units 198 hours, during the year, with a total pumpage of 27,000,000 gal. The average cost per 1,000 gal. pumped, including all the experimental runs, which were by far the major portion of the service, was 12.5 cents; but for a large fire of five or six hours duration, the cost — of pumpage is barely over 5 cents per 1,000 gal. On the average, any unit could be put upon the system at 300lb. delivery-pressure in from forty-five to sixty seconds from the time of giving the signal from fire headquarters, and the entire station could be got under way in from seven to ten minutes. In ordinary operation, however, only one or two units are started on the first signal, as these are sufficient to start operations, and further units can be put on, as the service may require. The cost of power is practically proportional to the pumpage. The total cost of repairs on the gas engines, totaling 3,000-horsepower, from their installation up to December, 1905, was $3.05. The system of compressed air for starting the gas engine has never given out, when called upon, and the storage pressure of 200 lb. may be replaced within one or two minutes after the starting of the single engine. In fact, seven large engines at Philadelphia have been started with only 98 lb. drop, without assistance from the compressor. I n practice, several of the storage tanks are always held in reserve for use only in case of a serious breakdown of the compressor.
The gas supply, likewise, has never failed. Considering that at least two large sources may be drawn upon, it is looked on as being quite as dependable upon as electricity from underground feeders. The most interesting feature of the Philadelphia situation is the attitude of the insurance authorities. Prior to the establishment of the Delaware avenue station, the insurance underwriters had imposed an additional charge of 25 cents per $100. On the competion of the test of the high-pressure pipe-line, in May, 1902, a first reduction of 15 cents per $100 was made. On the final test of the gas-power station on April 18, 1905, the balance of the extra “pink slip” charge was removed, and the system was declared approved. The authorities, who were formerly of a most decided conservatism towards gas engines, then expressed their complete confidence in the new system by suggesting exten sions to the initial system. The closing of the recent contract brings these suggestions into ma terial form, and the net result will be a general reduction in fire rates in the districts affected, in addition to the protection afforded.
The accompanying illustrations show, the charcter of the Delaware avenue station and the result of a test of one of the high-pressure streams at a point farthest from the pumping station, fifteen blocks from the river front. This station is under the control of the department of public safety, Henry Clay, director.