The Titan of the Miami Valley: The Rise and Fall of Ohio Edison’s Mad River Plant

In the annals of Springfield, Ohio’s industrial heritage, one edifice stood as a towering exemplar of human ingenuity and ambition – the Ohio Edison Mad River power plant.

In the annals of Springfield, Ohio’s industrial heritage, one edifice stood as a towering exemplar of human ingenuity and ambition—the Ohio Edison Mad River power plant. Unveiled on October 2, 1927, this behemoth, designed by the esteemed Springfield architect William K. Shilling, arose at the confluence of Buck Creek and the Mad River. Its imposing presence earned it the moniker “The Giant of the Miami Valley.”

As the Springfield Daily News eloquently articulated on that auspicious day, “Picture, if you can, a column of horses suddenly shot out from the High St. office of The Ohio Edison Co., four horses wide and 6,700 horses long. The work done by this mass of horses, four wide and approximately nine miles long, would represent in the popular mind 36,800 horsepower. This is the capacity of the new 20,000 kilowatt General Electric steam turbine installed in the company’s new Mad River generation station.”

Ohio Edison (Springfield, Ohio)

The fuel that fed this titan, coal, arrived via railroad cars and was subjected to a meticulous process. First, it was crushed and conveyed to the plant’s apex, where it was deposited into hoppers and passed beneath powerful magnets to remove any impurities in the form of bolts or metal fragments. Once purified, the coal was further pulverized into a fine powder and propelled into the furnace, meeting a torrent of air heated to 700 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve maximum efficiency. Within the confines of the furnace, temperatures soared to a staggering 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

The boilers’ lifeblood, water drawn from the Mad River, underwent a rigorous purification process before being heated to 700 degrees Fahrenheit at a pressure of 400 pounds per square inch. Later additions elevated the temperature to a scorching 900 degrees Fahrenheit and a pressure of 800 pounds per square inch. This superheated steam was then directed towards the three towering 70-foot boilers, setting the turbines that generated electricity in motion.

The heart of this mechanical leviathan was the turbine itself, activated by high-pressure steam channeled through nozzles that impinged upon the blades mounted on the turbine shaft. This shaft spun at a dizzying 3,600 revolutions per minute, or 825 miles per hour, driving a rotor that, in turn, generated electricity as it spun within sets of heavy copper wire coils. The current thus produced was initially expelled at 12,500 volts to an adjoining substation, where transformers boosted its potential to 69,000 volts for transmission via power lines.

To maintain this cyclical process, a condenser, utilizing untreated water from the Mad River, cooled the spent steam back into nearly pure water, which was then returned to the boilers. This created a vacuum that facilitated the continuous flow through the boiler system.

The Mad River plant’s capacity grew as the electricity demand grew. In 1939, a 20,000-kilowatt generator was added, followed by a third unit in 1950. The facility underwent physical expansion, and a towering 280-foot central stack was erected to vent the plant’s emissions.

Yet, as the march of time progressed, the Mad River plant’s once-lauded prowess became a source of environmental concern. On May 23, 1973, the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued an edict to Ohio Edison, demanding the cessation of all air emissions at the Mad River facility by June 24. This order came in the wake of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s denial of four variances for pollution sought by Ohio Edison, citing the company’s failure to submit an approvable compliance schedule to adhere to state and federal air regulations.

While all emission sources were mandated to achieve compliance by July 1975, Ohio Edison repeatedly requested variances to continue operating the non-compliant boilers until 1978. The Mad River plant, which supplied approximately 33% of Springfield’s power, was initially slated for closure on June 24 but was granted reprieves until 1981.

Ultimately, the plant’s fate was sealed, and demolition commenced in July 2010 and concluded later that year. However, the deconstruction process was not without incident, as undetected cracks in the towering stack caused it to topple in an unintended direction. Instead of falling eastward as planned, the stack crashed to the southeast, taking down a building housing backup generators and two 12,500-volt power lines.

In the aftermath of the demolition, a handful of peak-use generating units and a substation remained on the 45-acre site, silent sentinels to the bygone era when the Mad River plant reigned as the Titan of the Miami Valley.


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Thanks for the pics, my father was superintendent of this plant for several years(H.Ray.Caldwell) it brings back memories of getting to walk through the turbine hall as a young person and being in awe of the immensity of the building at the time, times have changed

My husband, Steve Snyder, started his career at the Ohio Edison Company working in this power plant before moving on to other company positions before retiring 7 years ago. His Grandpa, Harold Snyder, worked and retired from this power plant as well.

AG Samuelson was the builder of the Ohio Edison. Still located on Clairmont Ave in Springfield Ohio. There are many more historical pictures within the hallways of AG Samuelson. Eric Samuelson is the current owner.

Hey Sherman, this is a very nice write-up. My first "tour" of the place was back in March 2009. It was a great place and I'm sad to see it go. If you're ever in the Dayton area, hit me up and we'll check out some places.

So was this demolished or not your copyright on photos read 2012 and you say it was demolished in 2010. I am looking for places in springfeild area for upcoming day in august let me know thanks.

Yes, it was demolished in 2010. The photos were processed only last month after being in queue for two years.

The Shawnee had a village I've learned right there, I have canoed (sic) right by, had a nice destruction video, these pixctures make me wish I had visited, a landmark of my childhood! Thanks Sherman!

Thank you for the wonderful pictures and history, and allowing me to peek inside the power plant before it was gone forever.

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