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Pictures from the Heritage Archives

Power generation

Another unusual use for an engine designed for an aeroplane.

When most people think of Princetown, high on Dartmoor, the first thought is 'isn't that where the prison is?' Well, yes it is, but there is so much more to a village with a population of approximately 1500.

Naturally many work at the prison but there are hotels, guesthouses and let us not forget the brewery. One of their brews is cheerfully named Jail Ale. This area of natural beauty, cared for by the Dartmoor National Park, is much visited in spring and summer but less hospitable in the dead of winter, and here is where the Bristol Siddeley Porteus engine comes into the story..

The South West Electrical Board (S.W.E.B) provided power to the village which was fine, except the demand of an evening in the winter months exceeded the supply capability causing blackouts and unhappy customers. What was required was a backup system which could supply extra power when needed. When Mr A.W. Irons joined the S.W.E.B he became aware of the problem. In his previous post as Chief Electrical engineer for the British Aeroplane Company he had heard of aero-engines being used to drive a generator.

Individual Electricity Boards were not permitted to generate their own power so it took an act of Parliament to effect a concession for the situation at Princetown. Thus ' Pocket Power Stations' were authorized and this picture shows the interior of Princetown's pioneering station.

Commissioned on the 11th of December 1957 our second photo shows the Bristol Siddeley Porteus gas turbine engine which spun the generator providing an auxiliary 2.7 megawatts of power. Notable for powering the four engined turbo prop Britannia airliner this well proven engine was chosen for its reliability. Initially it was run on diesel but there was a tendency in the very cold weather for waxing up. The fuel was changed to kerosene, which was probably its favourite 'tipple' anyway. This Pocket Power Station was operated, as required, remotely by telephone line from S.W.E.B headquarters in Bristol.


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