Hydro-Electric Power Substation

Hydro-Electic Power Substation - Bodie.comThis brick building, attached to the Wheaton and Hollis Hotel, helped bring Bodie into the 20th century. It houses transformers once used for powering the Standard Mill. You can see what is left of the white paint that covered the walls.

Originally, the mill was run by steam power, but wood was a costly resource that was expensive and eventually became more and more scarce. Prior to November 1892, Tom Legget convinced James Cain to invest in his idea of transmitting power over a long distance. The power was to be used to in the mill, which would reduce the amount of wood needed. Cain agreed and work began. The mill had new electric equipment installed, this power substation was built, and lines were run from the mill to the substation, and from the substation to Green Creek, where the Hydroelectric Power Plant was built. In fact, the lines were run 13 miles in a straight line! At the time, engineers were afraid the power running through the lines would not be able to turn sharp corners and that it would ‘jump out of the line and into the ground’.

Transformers inside substation - Bodie.comLocal newspapers and residents thought the whole idea was crazy and wouldn’t work. They had been calling the whole operation “Legget’s Follie” and expected the worst. Thousands and thousands of dollars had were being spent to build buildings, run lines, purchase, and install equipment at the mill. It was a big deal in Bodie.

So, November 1892 a large group of people met at the mill for the magical moment. A signal was sent via telephone line to Green Creek, and the switch was thrown. Nothing happened. People began laughing and chattering, believing that they had been right all along. Several minutes passed, and suddenly the motors at the mill began to hum! What an exciting moment!!

Bodie became the first town (in the world?) to have an electric stamp mill! A huge party was thrown that night and everyone celebrated this new technology and the further success of Bodie.

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