Unveiling Cleveland’s Electrical Heritage: The Cedar Avenue Substation

The Cleveland, Ohio Cedar Avenue substation was constructed in 1917, and was the first automatic substation completed for the Cleveland Railway Company. It was closed in 1948.

The Cedar Avenue substation in Cleveland, Ohio, constructed in 1917, holds the distinction of being the first automatic substation completed for the Cleveland Railway Company. It was situated across the street from the Cedar Avenue power plant, which at the time was the largest non-condensing direct-current plant in the United States. The power plant operated in a non-condensing manner because the exhaust steam was sold to an adjacent salt company at a price that made it challenging for the central station companies in Cleveland to compete with the Cleveland Railway’s power house on a per-kilowatt-hour output basis.

Subsequently, it was determined that the cost of upgrading the Cedar Avenue power plant would be prohibitively expensive. The production value at the Cedar Avenue facility was $1,265,565, and this figure, deducting the salvage of machinery and equipment estimated at $115,565, could be paid off at a rate of $20,000 per month. The cost of outsourcing electric production to the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company was less than 6 mills per kilowatt, while the cost of energy production at the Cedar Avenue plant was approximately one cent per kilowatt.

The new Cedar Avenue substation featured eight rotaries, each with a capacity of 1,500 kilowatts, comprising 60-cycle 514-RPM Westinghouse machines. With this installation, the railway company boasted 20 rotaries of 1,500-kilowatt capacity each and two 1,000-kilowatt-capacity units, with controlling apparatus sourced from General Electric. The transformers were air-cooled Westinghouse 550-kilovolt-ampere, 11,000/410-volt single-phase units installed without shells.

The decision to utilize smaller capacity rotaries instead of four 3,000-kilowatt units was driven by considerations of redundancy. If a serious overload were to occur, disabling one of the units, an even greater strain might have been imposed on the remaining units. However, a load of only 1,500 kilowatts, spread across seven units, would result in a slight overload for each unit. It was determined that there would be little efficiency loss.

The exterior was finished with pressed brick in the front, complemented by cut stone trim, while the interior and side walls were constructed with shale brick laid in cement mortar. The interior also featured a tile finish. The roof was concrete, supported on steel girders. After the exterior was completed, the interior electrical equipment, switchboards, and related components were installed within a span of just five weeks.

On June 15, 1948, the Cedar Avenue streetcar line was replaced with a trackless trolley, which was subsequently replaced with buses on April 12, 1963, marking the end of an era for this iconic piece of Cleveland’s electrical infrastructure.

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