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The Wouda Gemaal

Built at the end of the First World War
600 HP tandem compound.

We were impressed by the majestic silence of steam. All four engines were running. The Wouda gemaal was built in the end of the first world war, and the war situation resulted in problems during the building, delays and budget overruns. On top of that once finished, but before commissioning the brick chimney was struck by lightning adding another 50% to the budget. The gemaal (dutch for pumping station) was commissioned by Queen Wilhelmina in 1920. The gemaal serves the major part of the province of Friesland and is situated near the town of Lemmer in the southwest of that province. When built it discharged into the Zuiderzee that was a salt water tidal estuary before the Afsuitdijk was built. The afsluitdijk is the 20 mile dam running from Noord Holland to Friesland and this dam was closed in 1932. So after this the Wouda gemaal ceased to discharge into tidal water and also the waterlevel behind the afsluitdijk is kept below the average seawater level that used to be. Hence the head of the pumping station is only about 6 inches and the number of days per year the gemaal is required for pumping is only a few days per year. Hence it survived functioning as a steam station into the nucear age. The boilers were replaced after the second world war and fitted with automatic stokers. But after the closure of the Dutch mining industry in the late sixties, the boilers were converted to Heavy oil fireing. The startup of the boilers requires some 36 hours because the first boiler is fired on light fuel to provide steam for the fuel preheating system in the heavy oil. This is another reason for the low utilisation. and for its survival. Today we learned that the station was not required at all during the entire year 2005 and as at this moment the head is less than two inches the only reason to run it was to train new staff as some of the existing staff members are due for retirement. The staff is six people (three shifts of two), but we saw more than double of that number being instructed. Of course all the staff double up as lock keeper or bridge operator or some other job within the water board.
Specs of the engines 600 HP tandem compound HP is single acting, LP double acting uniflow. Each engine drives a huge centrifugal pump on either end of the crankshaft. The four engines have a common exhaust into a single surface condenser in the basement. The cooling water for this is circulated by a steam engine driven centrifugal pump also in the basement. This engine is also a tandem compound but of a different size and design. It is also fitted with a wet airpump driven off the extended piston rod to maintain the vacuum.
I include some of the photographs I made.
Regards Arnoud and Nita Carp,

Arnoud and Nita Carp sent in this link to an even larger engine

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