Generating History at the Erie Maritime Museum

Information on April events is in last week's post. Many, many thanks to guest blogger Linda Bolla for the text and photos today (the pun in the title is mine, so you can assign credit or blame as you see fit). The Erie Maritime Museum is located in the former Pennsylvania Electric Company (Penelec) Front Street Generating Station, which closed in 1991. Part of the legacy left to the museum when it opened in 1998 is the #3 steam turbine generator, one of the five formerly in operation at Penelec.

Carbon brushes newly installed on steam turbine generator

Power from the generator is collected on a rotating part of the machine called the “commutator.” Carbon brushes ride on the commutator as it spins, providing a sliding electrical contact. Volunteer Museum Guide (and retired General Electric Design Engineer) Rich Hall noticed that the carbon brushes, which should be visible in the exhibit, were missing. While the average visitor would not know this, the Erie Maritime Museum audience includes local workers and retirees from both Penelec and GE who are likely to notice this omission.

Rich networked with friends and colleagues at General Electric to identify the correct brushes this commutator used. Morgan Advanced Materials of Greenville, South Carolina, manufactured brushes to the GE design and donated them to the Museum.

On March 19, Rich Hall (left), with some help from
fellow Guide Ed Bolla, installed the brushes, completing the exhibit

Rich checks the carbon brushes

The very next day, Rich and Ed were on hand to talk
 with visitors about the improvement to the exhibit

Thank you to Rich Hall, William Bird of GE Turbine Generators (Schenectady, NY), and Walt Konstanty of GE Motors (Erie) for their help in identifying and providing specs for the brushes, and to Roland Roberge of Morgan Advanced Materials (Greenville, SC) for manufacturing and donating the carbon brushes.


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