I thought it might be an intriguing subject for a post here, but the whole engineering mechanism has defeated my feeble brain. So here’s a link if you absolutely need more explanation on how the wheel works. http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Pelton_wheel.html
But the history behind it…that I can do. Inventor Lester Allan (Allen?) Pelton, (1829-1908) significantly changed hydro-power in the Old West by inventing the Pelton Water Wheel in the late 1870’s. His mechanism proved to be the most efficient design of the “impulse water turbine” so critical to mining.
Lester was born on September 5, 1829, in rural Ohio to a local pioneer family. His grandfather, a sea captain, had lost most of the family’s fortune in the War of 1812. After family-farming it for a while, Lester and a bunch of pals hurried to California in 1850 for the Gold Rush.
He never struck gold, but made it as a fisherman on the Sacramento River, then worked as a millwright and carpenter in the Mother Lode country, observing everything he could about mining technology.
He saw that steam-powered heat was required for most mining activities, but the process required tons of wood for fuel, thereby decimating nearby forests. “Turbine wheels” were starting to come into the picture, particularly from the Knight Foundry of Sutter Creek, California, but Lester noticed that most wheels did not efficiently convert to horse-power the kinetic energy of water rushing in mountain streams.
Lester experimented upon the designs of existing wheels and came up with the “Pelton Runner” (the term later came to be used just for the “double-cup” blades of the wheel) and installed his first operational wheel in 1878 at the Mayflower Mine in Nevada City.
In an intense competition in 1883 with wheels from the the industry favorite Knight Foundry, the Pelton Wheel was declared to perform with 90% efficiency in converting stream-flow kinetic energy to horsepower; the nearest competitor at 77%. (Most existing water wheels at that time rated less than 40%) In 1888, Lester Pelton founded a company in San Francisco to satisfy the growing need for hydro-electric power in the West.
He died on March 14, 1908, and his designs are still used today around the world. In 2006, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
For more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pelton_wheel_(patent).png
How about you? Any inventors in your circle of friends and kinfolk?
A beautiful city slicker and a rugged cowboy…The perfect Wild West adventure.
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