Thomas Edisons Menlo Park
The Edison dynamos, or electric generators, were assembled and tested in this building. Workers were constantly adjusting and repairing equipment in search of more efficient and reliable operation. Part of the area of the metalworking shop, and room upstairs, became the world's first electric generating plant. These dynamos supplied power to the laboratory and nearby houses, and later to the lamp factory located about a half-mile east of the laboratory.
Machines like the ones in Edisons shop were the backbone of Americas industrial revolution. Lathes, drills, milling machines, and planers were powerful enough to cut and shape iron and steel with great precision. Machines were essential to produce new kinds of consumer goods and industrial products. While the shop could produce many of the items the laboratory needed, Thomas Edison relied on larger shops nearby to produce massive parts for the larger inventions.
Edison employed about a dozen journeymen machinists along with numerous apprentices and general laborers. Several of these men, some of them Europeans, wrote letters to Edison requesting jobs so that they could learn the new field of electrical engineering.
A C.H. Brown steam engine made in Fitchburg, Massachusetts provided the power for generating electricity. Directly behind the engine room wall was a 16-foot-long, 75-horsepower Babcock and Wilcox boiler that provided the steam for the C.H. Brown steam engine. The steam engine had a flywheel that was 12 feet in diameter and 25 inches wide and used a 65-foot belt to transmit power to the dynamos using the main overhead shaft.
The chemical energy created by the fire in the boiler was converted into the mechanical energy of the engine and this was transformed into electrical power by the dynamos. Edison proved that electricity was more adaptable and convenient than steam power.
The building contained a contraption that measured the mechanical power supplied to the dynamos by the larger C.H. Brown steam engine. Edison compared this measurement with the electric power generated by the dynamos in order to calculate the dynamos efficiency. The dynamos proved to be about 80 percent efficient. The small vertical steam engine was used to power the metal working machinery.
When Edison or one of his assistants had an idea, John Kruesi figured out how to make it.
Kruesi, a Swiss-trained master machinists, first worked for Edison in Newark, New Jersey.
He followed Edison to Menlo Park and became foreman of this first rate machine shop. Kruesi
ran the shop with an iron hand directing the workers, monitoring the progress of specific
projects and keeping track of materials and tools. His office contained a drawing table,
machine shop manuals, expensive drill bits, and his monogrammed tools.
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