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Power House

Fig. 10  Power House

The generators at the Lowry sites were offset from the center.  Placement of the generators varied widely from squadron to squadron.


If the Control Center is the brain of the Titan complex, the Power House is the heart.  While the Control Center orchestrated the functions of the Titan, the Power House provided the means to carry out operations.


The 2nd and larger of the 2 domed structures of the Titan I complex at 130' in diameter and 54' in height, the Power House was a massive concrete and steel reinforced structure that contained 4 diesel generators and switchgears to supply the entire complex with electrical power.


The Power House also housed cooling equipment for the generators, a massive water treatment system and many other services such as compressed air, deep water wells and air handling to supply both itself and the generators.  The Power House was very loud and dangerous with the generators and compressors and all the other equipment running in chorus and with a large array of various drive shafts and belt assemblies spinning at high speed waiting to mutilate anyone lapse about safety.


There was acoustic baffling surrounding the mezzanine and at the apex of the ceiling (see below) but it strikes one as ineffectual given the size of the room and the equipment.  As the Power House was so dense with equipment, that alone may have served to break up the din more effectively than a few rows of cellulose panels.

Fig. 11  Power House - Side Aspect showing mezzanine level

At a height of about 16 feet a mezzanine level ringed the edges of the Power House.  The floor of the mezzanine was heavy steel grating (though some other sites outside Colorado had solid floors of concrete) and was dotted with large tanks used in the raw water processing systems, much like a giant water softener.  Figure 11 above shows the placement of some of the water tanks on the mezzanine level and general placement of other major features.

The diesel generators were removed by the Air Force before taking bids on salvage contracts.  I have heard they were all sent to Vandenberg AFB but cannot verify this.

The above photo shows an operational view of the Power House taken from the mezzanine level looking in the general direction of the fresh air intake which was located behind the large tanks at the upper left of the picture.  You can see how the Airman is dwarfed by the equipment around him.


The arm of central pivot crane can be seen at top and of course the diesel generators dominate this photo as they do the entire room.  The generators were manufactured by Worthington and each could produce 1000 kw of 2400v 3-phase power at 60hz.  This capacity was capable in 1960 of providing electrical requirements to a community of 5000 people.  Of course that was before the whole house became wired and crammed with electrical appliances like big screen TVs and microwaves.  Today's households would of course suck up far more power than the average 60's household.


Looking from inside the Power House towards tunnel junction #10.  A lot of junk lies all around.  Stairs up to the mezzanine are partially visible at left and a small shop with a rollup door is on the right.  A doorway to a small latrine is located at left behind the stairs and blocked by piles of acoustic tiles and other junk.  When I finally cleared a path back there I found the urinal and toilet smashed like most other porcelain fixtures in the complex.  How rude.


Looking into the Power House you can see that even a good flash cannot adequately penetrate the darkness.  All manner of debris clutters the floor where the generators once sat.  Most of it is just old piping, insulation, nuts, bolts, wire, plywood and of course asbestos.  The water treatment system was enormous and some of the large tanks are visible on the left in the image below.


Footing in the Power House was treacherous.  Scrappers made quite an obstacle course of the place.  My first visit to this area made me very paranoid of falling through holes in the floor that were covered over with rotting plywood.  Deep trenches run around the generator pads to provide access for piping and exhaust to and from the generators.  At the bottom of these trenches (as you'll later see) was some extremely nasty looking water.


Though most equipment was long gone, some larger items requiring shock mounting and vibration damping left very obvious footprints in the Power House.  The chillers and ice banks had massive suspension systems to not only keep them from harm in an attack, but also to prevent them from shaking the place with heavy vibration during operation as shown below.


Construction photo of the water chillers.  Best educated guess sees these units keeping the generators running at the proper temperature.  The "feet" you see supporting the chillers are comprised of a multi-layer sandwich of rubber and steel disks to arrest vibration as well as help protect from outside forces.  Steel grating around these units has not yet been installed. (see next photo)


Like a lot of other equipment, the water chillers were removed for sale or re-use.  This is also a nice shot of the powdered asbestos (and a big chunk!) covering this entire area.


Operational or construction photo taken from the mezzanine level showing the ice banks (at lower left) and diesel generators and their motor control panels.  Behind the control panels there was the process water system which dominated the upper quadrant of the powerhouse.  The process water system was basically a massive water softener which took water directly from the wells (raw water) and softened it before it entered the complex water systems.


A present-day view of the above region only taken from the floor.  Tanks on the mezzanine are about the only identifying features as just about everything else is gone.  This shot looks in the direction of the Air Intake tunnel which is on the mezzanine level but not very visible in this image.


There was a small office in the Power House with a nearby latrine (behind the stairs) in the Power House.  It was very messy having become a depository for old pipe insulation (both fiberglass and asbestos plaster), pipe hangers, odd bits of steel and other junk.  It was in this room I made the most interesting discovery when I found approximately 5000-10,000 pages of original Technical Order publications strewn about and buried under a large pile of junk.


It appeared that someone had decided to keep the very nice binders that the TOs had been kept in and simply opened each one and hastily dumped its contents onto the floor where they became buried under the mess.  It was pure luck that I found them at all-- I was collecting binders of maintenance logs for the diesel generators that were laying on top of the mess when I found stacks of paper underneath the junk as well.  The more I dug, the more I found, including a nearly complete (only missing one page) dash-1.


The dash-1 is basically an executive summary and user's manual for the Titan I weapon system, detailing the purpose and operation of the complex including general maintenance, safety, nomenclature and the launch procedure.  Also among the pages were field maintenance manuals for the launch and facilities consoles, maintenance checklists, guidance system manuals and many other illustrated manuals.


I have been cleaning and scanning these documents to preserve them.  Many pages were damaged or destroyed by water, mildew or other ravages of time, but most can be largely recovered.  It is my intention to preserve these historical documents and make them freely available for research.


Looking toward the chiller banks (now empty pads) past the office at left.


The office and stairs (actually a "ship's ladder" which was horribly steep) where the archeological "dig" was made.  This room yielded the cache of technical manuals which I'm still working to clean and scan years later. (yes, I'm that slow)


Outside the office, more trash and asbestos.  The pipe trench with its steel grating leads right into the office door to a hole covered with flimsy plywood.  This trap almost snared me on several occasions.  Inside the office lies a mess of insulation, pipe hangers and other debris discarded during the salvage operations.


There was a small maintenance shop to the left of the entrance as one enters the Power House.  Aside from an old boiler there was not much in here when I arrived.  I like to think there were probably spares and/or tools in here for the most part.  I have not seen an operational photo of this area so its uncertain as to what was in here.


Inside the maintenance shop.  Note again the 12" of rattle space provided between structures and sealed with black neoprene.  The neoprene seals were as always remarkably undamaged (for the most part, some were deliberately cut in places) and looked brand new.  A electric boiler unit stands at the right of the photo.


This shop is now crammed with junk moved from the main tunnel junction, though this picture was taken before all the junk arrived.



An electric boiler, most likely to provide hot water heating for the shop, office and restroom.


To provide services (and to provide exhaust and effluent to escape) a 6' deep pipe trench ringed the generators.  Very large water and exhaust lines (up to 18" in dia.) and many other pipes ran through this trench.  Being the lowest point in the Power House, this trench accumulated any water or other liquids that got loose.  Every nasty bit of diesel fuel, lubricant, acid, water and other nastiness settles into the pipe trench as you can see below.


This coffee and cream colored water is a tasty blend of iron oxide, heavy metals produced by corroding metal, lubricants, asbestos and cellulose fibers and God knows what the hell else.  This 6' deep trench has become the "catch-all" for every bit of liquid nastiness in the Power House.  It is the lowest elevation in the area and so all infiltrating water washes dirt and filth into this trench.  This was once covered with a steel grating but most of that was removed by scrappers in the 1970's so step lively.


Another look at the tasty trench-water.


The water for the Titan complexes was supplied by 2 (yes two) deep water wells located in the pipe trench of the Power House.  The wells were all drilled to different depths at different sites and relative depths varied widely from one state to another from a few hundred feet in depth to nearly 3000 feet depending on local geology and hydrology.  Water demands at a Titan I site could be considerable in a launch since the silos would be flooded with thousands of gallons in a short time to prevent damage from the heat of the rocket exhaust.  At 724-C the wells were approximately 1800 feet deep and penetrated multiple aquifers including the Denver aquifer.


Unfortunately, like all other aspects of the salvage, the wellheads and pumps were hurriedly removed without concern to any potential environmental impact.  The following pictures show the exposed wellheads as they are today, laying exposed and open at the bottom of the filthy pipe trench and surrounded by contaminated water. 


The water level changes with the seasons in the complex.  In summer, fall and winter the levels tend to drop, but in spring when the snow melts water infiltrates the complex from a myriad of sources and most flows to the lowest point: the Power House.


More specifically the water flows into the pipe trench carrying the dirty water with it and washing some of it down the open wellheads as it has since the sites were salvaged in the 1970's.


Located near the exhaust tunnel end of the pipe trench, one of the 2 deep water wells swallows all the contaminants flushed into it by seasonal water seepage.  The gap is clearly visible in this picture.

The wellheads were shock mounted like everything else as you can see here with springs supporting the entire assembly.


The second well shows more clearly how the rusty muck is being washed into the well.  Other sites in Colorado have had the wells sealed to stop infiltration of contaminated water into the local aquifers, but not all of them.  In truth I know of only one site for certain that has had its wells sealed: 725-A.


Looking around you'll see quite a mess of hastily discarded junk left over from the stripping of the area.


The process water system employed caustic chemicals like lye (sodium hydroxide) to treat the water.  This is the smaller of 2 sodium hydroxide vessels I noticed in the Power House, the larger being well over 10 times this size.  The lettering on this tank reads: "DANGER - Sodium Hydroxide Solution".  Sodium hydroxide is a miracle cleaner-- it removes tough stains from garments by removing the entire garment!  Nasty stuff!


This is a shot above the entrance to the Power House showing some of the many high voltage lines entering and leaving the area.  The largest conduits typically carried 2400v and sometimes 4800v lines.  


Moving on, let's take a closer look at some of the mess on the mezzanine level.  Click below to continue up to the mezzanine level.



Power House Cont. - Mezzanine


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