“Thermal Power Station #1” – Possible Tourist Attraction?
“Thermal Power Station #1” – Possible Tourist Attraction?
There exists a wonderful opportunity to study the history of the world’s technological equipment right here in Lviv as one can find in the houses of city centre electrical equipment produced by “Siemens” during the times of Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph I. Indeed, one may also find working thermoelectric networks from Japan, the USA, and Germany which predate the world wars.
Lviv Becomes Electrified
In 1908 Lviv was the capital of Galicia and was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Vice-King, alongside the local parliament and municipal administration. During those times the Opera House was built, together with the Polytechnic Institute and dozens of other schools. Directly behind the house of the Seim (parliament) was situated Lviv’s commercial district – local offices of several Austrian banks, an entire quarter of hospitals, and over 380 private houses built in a period of only 10 years. With all of this development – electrical lights, telephone lines, water supply systems, etc. – electricity became a vital necessity; not just a luxury. The decision to electrify Lviv was taken and 140 km of electric cables for housing and 33 km of electric cables for trams were planned. For this purpose, a new electrical power station was built at Persenkivka. The responsibility for the construction and supervision of the Persenkivka power station was left to Jozef Tomicky, who studied at the Polytechnic Institute in Karlsruhe, finished his doctorate in Bonn, and finished his apprenticeship in Poznan. Tomicky worked hard to launch the power station, however high expense and repeated malfunctions made the entire endeavor a target for criticism for both business elites and mass media representatives. While Leopolitans awaited their electricity, the press made brutal jokes that people should keep gasoline lamps ready just in case of blackouts and that several months of payment for the bulbs was equal to the price of a steamboat ticket to the USA! Entrepreneurs may have had it the worst as they were forced to pay huge amounts and then wait months for the repair of cables or meters. The Seim featured regular animated discussions regarding the issue of reduction of rates, while Vice President Karol Edward Epler worked to get rid of the awful supply source transformers. Finally the transformers were indeed redesigned, as they were made to look like kiosks with steeples. Some you can still see today sitting on Lviv’s picturesque streets, as “Oblenergo” continues to use this design in their modern structures.
The electrical power station used oil until 1914 when it started using coal that was brought in from Silesia. In 1918, Ukrainians proclaimed Lviv to be capital of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR), but as the Polish government would not allow it, war broke out between the two countries. Due to the bombing of the city during this war, the power station was destroyed and was out of order from November 1918 until May 1919. As the emissions from coal were causing the trees in Stryjsky Park to die, the station switched to gas in the 1920s. By the next decade, electrical lines were extended and began to reach small towns in the region. The station continued to work throughout WWII until it was destroyed by the Germans in 1944. Ironically, it was later renovated by the bare hands of captured German soldiers. Used turbo generators and boilers from captured German power stations were used in the renovations. Following the war the power station started supplying electricity and later heat, which is how the name “Thermal Power Station #1” (TPS-1) appeared.
The Future of TPS-1
Nowadays, TPS-1 doesn’t produce a lot of electricity, but still services 1/3 of Lviv. One plan to increase the revenue of the power station is to turn it into a museum of heavy electrical equipment. Visitors to the station can see equipment from Europe, the USA, and Japan produced by companies such as “Siemens-Schuckert”, the “Babcock & Wilcox Company”, “Borsig”, and “Steinmüller”. There are pumps made by the Saxony “Wumag” plant and equipment from the Czech “Erste Brunner” company. Visitors can also see 100 tonnes of boilers left by Japanese company “Mitsubishi” that was possibly dismantled from Japanese wars ships after WWII and brought to Lviv.
The main generator hall hasn’t changed much over the 100-year long history – visitors can still find the old floors and ceilings and on at least one of the turbines one can read “Siemens-Schukert” in Latin. Of course, the old piston turbines are long gone, but the cast-iron steps that led to the control panel still remain. Other highlights of the control hall include: the beautifully preserved glass roof, old “Siemens” tumblers, and a synchronoscope, which is a device that was used to measure the work frequency of the generators. Near the entrance, visitors are treated to a strange apparatus that resembles a gigantic coffee-maker – it is a “Siemens” breaker made in 1928 and was in working condition when it was dismantled. According to the station’s director, there are only a few such breakers left in the world and it is hoped to be the first object on display in the future museum.
Finally the most interesting part – in Lviv we still use the electric network that was installed in 1908. The equipment made by “Siemens-Schukert” remains in many houses and is easily distinguishable by their Polish inscription of “Własność miejskiej elektrowni” (Property of City Electric Station). This cleverly-designed cover was used as a fuse and automatically shuts off the electrical supply from the entire house when opened. Today people connect many things to their electrical outlets – computers, washing machines, refrigerators and many others. It’s fantastic to know that after one hundred years our network is still running strong.