[D8933ACS], Letter from Coleman Sellers to Edward Dean Adams, December 17th, 1889


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[D8933ACS], Letter from Coleman Sellers to Edward Dean Adams, December 17th, 1889

Editor's Notes

[This is an enclosure to D8933ACR 17 page report from Coleman Sellers on developing the water power for use of electric power from Niagara Falls, notes Edison's proposal but does not refer to it specifically] Ed. D. Adams, Sir:--##Having viewed, in company with Albert H. Porter, the lends at the option of the Niagara River Hydraulic Tunnel, Power and Sewer Company, incorporated by act of the New York Legislature, passed March 31st, 1886, and considered the proposed tunnel as designed by Mr. Thomas Evershed, C.E., I offer the following report as to practicability and cost of the enterprise.##The plan of utilising the power of Niagara river in buildings to be erected on the property of the Company above the upper Rapids, by means of a tunnel or tail race from the property to the bank of the river below the falls, as explained in the pamphlet issued by the Company in 1886 and fully described by the then Division Engineer of the State of New York Mr. Evershed, C.E., and indorsed by Mr. Elnathan Sweet, the State Engineer of Surveyor, is one that commends itself as feasible, and no exception can be taken to the general plan of the project as presented by the proposer of the scheme. The question as before me is one of mechanical engineering, and finding no accurate surveys upon which to base an estimate of cost or any details showing distribution of powers, I look upon Mr. Evershed's presentation of the case as expressive of an idea and not as the perfection of the engineering scheme after the project should have been accepted by capitalists and the work put in hand.##In the absence of a perfect topograp[hical survey of the location, I have been obliged to seek such information as can be obtained, apart from my personal observation of the land and the geological formation of the rocks underlying the surface of the ground, as exposed in the vast out made by the falls during many past ages;##1st. To the reports of the geologists who have considered the interesting problem of the recedence of the Falls to the present site:##2nd. To the testimony of persons who have been engaged in tunneling or making hydraulic canals in the immediate neighborhood:##3rd. On the records of the Hydraulic Canal Company, more particularly as they relate to the fluctuations of the surface height of the river at the mouth of their canal at Port Day, for which information I am indebted to Mr. W.C Johnson, C.H., engineer of the Hydraulic Canal Company.##$th. To Mr. David Philips, who has furnished me with the account of the rocks passed through in boring a gas well as the property of the Company, and who is at present engaged in building a canal on the Canadian side of the river for the Water Works; who has had to do with the tunnel at Lockport and who has noted its durability under similar conditions as will obtain here; who has had constant employment about the falls, making him a valuable and reliable authority on matters connected with the rise and fall of the river both above and below the falls.##5th. On the corroborative testimony of the residents of the locality. Among these I may mention Mr. H.S Ware, familiar with wells on the site of the proposed work; also J. Hogan who has knowledge of the wells sunk in his time.##6th. To Captain B. Gaskill for the conditions obtaining in the mill site fed by the Hydraulic Canal. With Captain Gaskill visit was made to the wheel pit of Messrs. Showilkph & Mathews mill built in 1876, taking power from the Hydraulic Canal Co. Also to the base of the cliff at the head of the lower rapids, where the "shale" can be seen and examined.##7th. To Mr. A.C Rice, Consulting Engineer for Messrs. Stillwell & Bicree Mfg. Co., for much valuable information in regard to the section of turbine water wheels under high hands.##8th. To Mr. Alexander J. Porter for survvey and soundings of the river.##9th. To Albert H. Poter who showed me the lands and who has rendered me valuable assistance in the prosecution of this investigation, and who impresses me very favorably as to his knowledge of tunneling, from his connection with the work on the New York aqueduct.##Starting with the idea that the first outlay should economically open up property capable of giving space for the buildings that could use to advantage say 20,000 horse power of the 120,000 H.P assumed as available, I have located the first canal on the property of Mr. J. Binkley, the line running south of 10 degrees 15 degrees west magnetic meridian, and passing 12 1/2 feet west of Mr. Binkley's house, the profile of which locality has been furnished by Mr. W.C Johnson, C.E., and herewith given, marked A.##Maps of the location furnished me upon which the many cross canals have been placed, are misleading as they are predicated on a great amount of filling, for which filling I can see no material availabe at the present moment. I also object to the extent of filling as not conducive to free water supply, without danger of cutting off from the Hydraulic Canal Company. Finding the land between Buffalo Street and the river bank too contracted for the purpose, I have asked for optional price of the land between that street and the line of the railroad. Papers marked B, will cover the plan of the proposed additional ground and the prices asked for the property. In my estimate of total cost I include the cost of this land., The proposed canal will lie about 6,0120 feet above the mouth of the tunnel and the property at the option of the company extends so far up the river as to enable five other canals to be located, the last one being 6,600 feet above the one under consideration.##Assuming 90 foot head to be the most economical, but leaving room for the use of 95 feet head if wheels can be obtained to work economically at the pressure and velocity due to that head or fall, I have changed the grade of the main tunnel from a fall of one foot per hundred as laid down by Mr. Evershed to 7.10 of a foot to the hundred, nominally to a slope of .007. I maintain this grade or slope up to the canal under which lies the first cross tunnel, and having found that the constant decrease of water warrants the change. I have adopted a slope of .005 as the bottom grade of the remaining 6,600 feet of the main tunnel. By this means I obtain a uniform 90' to 95' head oer the whole land. From the first cross tunnel, that is to say from a point of 6,020 feet from the mouth of the main tunnel, the same size of cross section will be maintained up stream for a distance of about 1,350 feet, to the second cross tunnel, whih tunnel will accommodate 24,000 horse power, and after this amount has been disposed of, the main tunnel will decrease in size in sections of 1,350 feet until the last section is reached, when the area of the tunnel, will be decreased from 572 feet to 201 feet area or from a 27 foot tunnel to one of 16 feet diameter, the ost of each section being less than its predeccessor, while the alue of the building sites will be uniform, so far as head of water is concerned and more aluabel as being near to Buffalo and father from the dangerous part of the stream##In my treatment of this subject, I have had to take into consideration the nature of the rock through which the water will pass, and in considering the use of water under a head of 90 feet at least, I have based my calculations of olume on the loss in transmission from the wheel to the surface and aim to deliver each 1,000 horse power block in such manner as to give that power at first Jack shaft in each mill. In diminishing the slope from that proposed in the estimate of the designers of the scheme I have endeavored to keep down the cost of construction by adopting a new system of surface canal that will so much lessen the ost of construction as to make the larger section of tunnel required for the system, taken in conjunction with the canal and cross tunnels, no more costly than the smaller section on the maps furnished me in connectino with the system of cross tunnels and canals there given.##A careful examination of the location has forced upon me the conviction that the main tunnel will pass through the shale that underlies the hard limestone rock, and which, while worked with more case may be considered less able to stand without lining. From an examination of this shale and the concurrent testimony of those who have worked it I find that its name is misleading. It is, in situ, a hard rock capable of standing a moderate velocity of current and yielding only to the operation of frost in onjunction with moisture. If, as I suppose will be the case, the mouth of the tunnel will be wholly or in part in this shale I propose to protect it by masonry at the portal and to keep out frost by closing the portal by gates that shall extend as low as the water line of the outflowing water. By this means the tunnel will be subjected to the action of water only, and that at such velocity, as has been found not destructive to the "Shale."##The rock formation through which it is proposed to carry the tunnel is the same as has been laid bare by the gradual recedence of the falls to their present site. We know that this rock does yield to the action of the elements, but the mind is staggered in contemplating the ages required to care the river bed out of such material.##Those who live close to the mighty torrent and have been used to watching the motion of the water, can one but little change for year to year. Careful sureys made of intervals have demonstrated, that in the most concentrated current of the Horse She Falls, the wear has been so much as to carry the edge of the fall back 160 feet in about 35 years, but the recedence of the breast of the American Fall has been less marked, and what is to be particularly noted, the recudence of the bluff of Goat Island is quite as great as that of the bluff of the American Fall. From this we must infer, that frost and moisture have had more to do with the destruction of the rock than the force fo the water alone, as the frontage of Goat Island is not subject to water wear. ##The more than 4,000,000 horse power representing the power of the ffall in water as it passes from the site chosen for the present enterprise to the river below the falls, have with the water, carried rocks and ice, to help in the wear of the ntaural dam, but the cold of the northern winter has done the most damage in following the moisture as it penetrates the surface of the softer rocks and shale. It is this frost action that is now at work disintegrating the exposed shale so slowly as to be little noticed.##In taking the water from the river to each wheel pit by canal I have assumed a elocity of only 1 1/2 feet per second and given a section to the canal at its mouth sufficient to deliver the amount of water needed to develop 20,000 horse power along the length of the canal. To diminish the cost of construction of this canal I diminish its cross section as it advances into the land, so that from a mouth 120 feet wide, the last mill site is reached with a width of canal of only 24 feet. This plan being carried out with all the canals will make the mill sites between the ccanals available for mill construction greater in length as they recede from the river.##The water arried to thw wheel pits at a moderate velocity is carried to each pair of wheels in flumes of sample size, that velocity of current exists only where it can do work, namely, in the metal case of each turbine wheel. From the wheels the current is lessened to the main tunnel where it passes at a mean velocity of 25 feet per second through the same kind of rocks, that show so little wear at the falls, where to enormous velocity is added the action of frost. The water passing through this tunnel is freed from all the rough matter tha helps to slowly pound the rocks of the falls to pieces and is also protected from the frost of the cold winters.##I havve spared no pains to assure myself of the lasting qualities of the rock and shale when protected from frost and refer to the authorities quoted at the beginning of this report. I do not give detail of the statements made by the persons who have the broadest experience on the subject, who have noted the action of water under the conditions that obatin in the present enterprise, but feel certain that the shale will wear well and NEED NO LINING.##The section of tunnel proposed is that commonly adopted on railroad work. The shape being that of a horse show, the top arch being semi-circular of 15 feet radius; width at base of the arch 30 feet; the sides will slope from a width of 28 feet at floow to 30 at the spring of the arch and height of the sides about 7 feet 6 inches, while the floor will be curved to a central depth of 1.5 feet. See drawings C, acompanying this report. The total height of the tunnel will be 24 feet in diameter. All the tunnels will be of similar form, but will be mentioned (in speaking of size)m by the diameter of circular tunnels of equal area.##The first cross tunnel will begin with 15 feet diameter and end with 10 foot fiameter, while all the inlets from the wheel pits will be equal to 6 foot diameter circular tunnels. The 6 foot openings from wheel pits have been lengthened to the manifest saving of the volume of the cross tunnel as is shown in the drawing acompanying this paper marked D, showing sections through wheel pits. It is proposed to work this main tunnelwith ibur breasts requiring two vertical shafts one at the upper and 6,020 feet from the mouth, and the other on the property of the railroad any 2,040 feet from the mouth; 1,320 running feet of the excavation will be thrown into the Niagara river below the falls, about 5,010 running feet will be taken from the first shaft end by overhaul costing say $22,000. will be carried to the property of the Company and be used in making land, so will also the remaining 1,690 feet delivered from the upper shaft, the letter without cost of oerhaul. If it is found desirable to shorten the time of tunneling a third shaft can be driven and two more breasts worked the cost being perhaps $15,000. for such shaft. This however, will somewhat reduce the overhaul cost. I advise the two shafts only.##For the tunnel proper below the first canal, which must be made large enough to develop the whole power required, the cost will be as follows:--##Open out at the mouth----$25,000##Driving tunnel----702,130.00##First shaft, 16,600.00##Second shaft, 14,200.00##overhaul 22,000.00##Masonry at portal &c. 10,000.00--$787,980.00##Cost of 1st cross tunnel, 22,242.00##Outlet tunnels 6 feet each, 5,352.00--$27,594.00##Cost of first canal 120 feet wide at mouth 20 feet deep the water at ordinary height being 15 feet deep and flowing at speed of 1.5 per second.##Rock excavated from canal##$44,000.00##earth cut, 7,000##Out in reiver, 30,000.00##Rock cuts to pits, 1,500.00##Stone work on canal, 40,000.00##Dressed stone at gates, 10,000.00##Coffer dam at mouth, 10,000.00--&142,500.00##In sinking one pit to each two mills and bringing the ropes from the wheel drums up into each mill site the operation of each mill will be separate from the other but economy of cosntruction will be reached.##10 pits will cost, $157,500.00##Brick lingin of pits, 25,000.00##Stone at top, &c. 25,000.00--$207,500.00##Bids having been asked for wheels to give the power in blocks of say 1,000 horse power to each wheel under a herd of 90 feet, I have based the cost of placing 10 pairs of wheels in the 10 pits, selecting data from what I consider a high cost. 10 wheels to deliver 1,000 horse power from each sharf 20,000 in all:##10 double wheels,....$150,650.00##cables to surface to first jack shaft……..14,350.00--$165,000.00##To cover the whole cost say, Land at option, rights, &c., as given to me by Mr. Stetson,…$515,000.00##Estimate of proposed additional land to give sufficient length to the first canal, 36,000.00--$551,000.00##Interest during construction, and incidental expenses, 85,000.00--85,000.00## Main tunnel, 787,980.00##First cross tunnel---27,594.00##Canal and masonry----142,500.00##10 pits---207,500.00##Wheels and cables----165,000.00##Total cost, $1,966,574.00##This sum which covers the whole cost of developing the first 20,000 horse power that can be rented, also covers the cost of all the land and the most costly part of the main tunnel and applies to the reduction of the cost of power of all other mill sites on the land of the Company. The total ost diided by the horse power developed now, say by 20,000, whows that each horse power will cost the Company only $98.30 power to the amount of 20,000 H.P rented at $5. per H.P per annum will pay the interest on the whole investment and all receipts beyond that price will be profit. The calue of the investment, is however, better shown by the still further development of the scheme. If a seccond canal be built and the main canal carried to it, the coat of such construction on the basis of the first estimate, that is, not counting the gain to be made by the Company using their own power to drivve the work which use of their own resources I feel sure will reduce the cost of the constructions at least 1/6, we have##Main tunnel,---$155,000.00##Cross tunnel,--25,000##Outlet tunnels----6,500---31,500.00##Canal----150,000.00##12 pits----250,000.00##12 sets of wheels----180,780.00##Cables, &c.,----17,220.00##Incidentals----5,000.00=$889,400.00##This sum divided by the 24,000 horse power it represents makes each H.P $38.00 or reduced one-eigth by reason of the use of the power at command of the Company, we have a cost per horse power of about $32.66 as $1.63 per H.P for 24,000 H.P will pay the interest on this, all rental above the price will be profit.##In estimating the cost of this work, I have taken figures that will coer aderse conditions not likely to be met with in the prosecution of the enterprise. From those familiar with the ground about Niagara I find the water is obtained at from 20 to 25 feet, and that below 30 feet the rock is tight. The water found in digging wells on the property of the Company has been reached at or before the depths named, and the record of the boring of the gas well showed the solidity of the rock below 30 feet. The nature of the rock formation is favorable to the construction of an unlined tunnel. The stone lies in almost level layers and can be taken out to leave a comparatively smooth wall and regular floor. In calculating the capacity of the tunnel I have worked with Kutter's formula taking as the value of the roughness of the walls the co-efficient for "rubble" n=.017 checking the calculation by formula of other engineers and assuming a roughness with such formula of n .02.##Nature in offering this great water power has placed it where it can be taken advantage of at low cost. The dambuilt by other than human hands, is for all time so far as this property above the rapids is conccerned: The rocks lie ready to afford a smooth water way upon removal and furnish the defence against wear. Authorities differ in the estimate of water passing down this river, Mr. Dwight estimating as high as 361,392,742 cubic feet per minute; Mr. Perkins as low as 3,087,533 cubic feet per minute; and Mr. Darby with that of Mr. Barrett gives us 24,000,000 to draw from. If this company prosecutes its enterprise and succeeds in developing 120,000 horse power and can rent that much force they will then be drawing from the mighty stream only 970,000 cubic feet per minute a matter of .04 per ccent of the lower estimates of volume. So far as the appearance of the great Water Fall is concerned the water taken by this and other industries such as the Erie Canal and Hydraulic Canal and the present enterprise, will not be noticed. Variations in height of water from the action of the ice, winds, &c. make from time to time changes so vastly greater than this amount, without seemingly detracting from the wonder of the world.##The value of water power as compared to steam power has indued manufacturers to go to vast expense in building dams on rivers and developing power by artificial means that require constant attention and heavy expense to maintain. The scattered powers afforded by the rapid flowing rivers and by mighty springs particularly in the south have been attractive inducements to manufacturers to seek such water powers even at distance greatly removved from trade centres.##The property at the option of the Niagara River Hydraulic Tunnel, Power and Sewer Company extending for a distance of over eight thousand feet along the river bank can be very much increased in aron by the material taken from the excaations and will also be able to furnish such valuable building materials for the mills. Beyond the railroad that bounds its lend on one side lies an immense territory for the dwellling houses of those employed, and presenting building sites attractive and healthy. The railraods and canals besides the river navigation offer facilities for transit unequaled by any approximately similar enterprise.##Those interested in this attempt to use the power of Niagara have the example of the Hydraulic Canal now worked to its utmost present capacity to judge of the relative advantage of the two systems. The Hydraulic carries the water to the mill sites below where this tunnel will discharge and that a great cost in surface canal more costly in construction and maintenance than unlined tunnels. The low cost of power obtained from the said river by the present enterprise must for many years be a bar to the profitable enlargement of the Hydraulic Canal when the value of the property for mill sites on the bluff are taken into consideration.##The digging of this one tunnel up to the first surface canal will offer mill sites and power at lower cost than any location now known. A rental sufficiently attractive to bring manufacturers to the place will pay a handsome profit on the investment while the extension of the enterprise to its completion, will add vastly to the profit even if that profit is not increased by the transportation of power by known means to more distant localities.##For the purpose of the present estimate the surface canals have been placed 1350 feet from each other, but the problem is one that should be carefully considered in relation to the kind of industries and the yard room required by each, before the ground is laid out. Buffalo Street passing diagonally through the lands may perhaps require re-locating but the present estimate is based on its remaining as now located. I can see no reason why it may not be made to serve as one of the many streets in the great manufacturing town proposed.##The uniform distribution of power of 2,000 horse power to each wheel pit and the carrying of this in blocks of 1,000 H.P. to each of the mill sites one on either side of the pit, will enable the property to be rented to advantage even to small users as the rope transmission in some cases will enable whole rows of small industries to take the place of any one large factory.##If the present report results in the prosecution of the enterprise I feel sure that careful consideration of each of the many considerations that go to make up the whole will result in a very marked reduction from the present cost as estimated.##The limited time at my disposal has made me reluctant to advise alternates from the plan submitted that may make reduction of cost by exchange in the location of the main tunnel. It is now placed an near to the line of the railroad as possible, but should it be located about 200 feet nearer to the river bank the cross tunnel will be shortened that amount and the six feet tunnels to the main not much increased. Such change of location would save at least $2,000.00 for each cross tunnel and may be very well worth considering. The change however cannot be at present recommended as the careful consideration of this and other plans to reduce cost will keep back my report, when its main features are so much needed. Hinting at such methods of reducing cost I now conclude this stage of one of the most interacting engineering problems ever given me to consider.##Very respectfully, Coleman Sellers





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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
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