Power for Progress…
A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority
Ask anyone who has taken a tour of the Grand River Dam Authority’s Coal Fired Complex (CFC) and coal yard about their favorite part of the visit and their likely response will have something to do with unloading coal trains.
That normally stands out to visitors because the process involves a large component known as the rotary railcar dumper. Located in a building near the complex’s coal yard, the dumper can turn over a railcar full of coal without ever unhooking it from the rest of the railcar set. It rotates the car to empty the coal into a hopper under the building before setting the car upright again. A railcar positioning device then clamps onto the train and pulls it ahead, so that the next car can be emptied. Without using any heavy equipment – no loaders, no buckets, no shovels – an entire trainload of coal can be emptied by pushing a button.
When the facility was constructed in the early 1980s, the dumper was one of the automated, innovative components that helped GRDA produced abundant electricity round-the-clock. And just as you expect, it has been used thousands of times over the years. So much so that is has been refurbished and reworked on occasion so it can continue on with its one simple, but vital, task: emptying coal cars. That was the task on day one and that remains the task today.
So today, just like 25 years ago, the dumper is still a CFC tour highlight. It still plays its part in the effort to fuel the boilers that produce the steam that turns the turbine-generators that create low-cost, reliable electricity.
But speaking of those brand new days, there are GRDA employees whose relationship with the CFC goes back that long too. Today, they still oversee, maintain and operate everything involved in turning coal to kilowatts. Like the rotary dumper that continues to do its job day after day and year after year, the workforce also keeps pace.
For those who benefit from GRDA’s power for progress, that may be the real highlight.
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