World's largest Pelton Wheel: 30 feet

Lenny La Rue, IPA

Sacramento, United States

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Artist's Description

A Pelton Wheel is a ‘water wheel’. Using flowing water, it spins and generates electricity.

This monster was inside the North Star gold mine complex (Nevada City, California) to provide air and water to the depth of the mine and various other tasks that needed electricity. The design of the buckets was created in Nevada County and that’s where the name comes from, not the entire structure. Pelton changed the way the water was redirected once it hit the buckets to make it 100% efficient. In the museum, there was also a very small Pelton Wheel that was less than 1 foot tall. It was used to power an entire kitchen for someone’s home from the energy it created. You can imagine what this thing fired up – spinning at 70 miles per hour – sounded and felt like? Wow.

Aside note: the entire area was abandoned long before the museum was conceived and local kids found it a wonderful place to have fun. One of the fun things they did was test each others courage by climbing onto this 30 foot piece of iron and letting friends spin it. I supposed the faster it went the easier it was not to fall off; but the faster it went, the less likely you were going to get off it any time soon either.

And a further aside from the extremely knowledgeable volunteer docent: sometimes the kids would trick a ‘newbie’ and stop the wheel while it was holding the kid upside down at the top! As far as anyone can tell, nobody died while being tested or teased on this huge piece of (then unguarded) machinery.

Freakin’ kids!!!! Geeeeeee!

Artwork Comments

  • linaji
  • Lenny La Rue, IPA
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