2017-2018 Nevada County Gold Magazine 2017-2018_Nevada County Gold Magazine - Page 129

PIONEERS H I S T O R Y A Cow, A Hose, A wAterwHeel Pelton Wheel displayed near Miners Foundry Cultural Center. A N UNSCHOOLED quiet bachelor, who was a failure at mining, observed his neighbor using a garden hose to drive away a stray cow and had an “aha” moment. It was 1878, and Lester Pelton watched as the cow was hit full face with a stream of water and noticed the water split, circled the cow’s wide nostrils and emerged at the outer edge. He rushed to his Camptonville workshop where he was conducting experiments with the hope of inventing a more efficient waterwheel. Nothing had worked, but now he had the answer. Pelton soldered a central partition in each bucket on his model. The buckets were arranged around the rim of a wheel and activated by a jet of water played into the cups. The water jet was split by the parti- tion and exerted its force on the sides of the buckets, as well as the bottoms, guar- anteeing maximum power. Shortly after his discovery, Pelton took his invention to Nevada City and George Allan owner of the Nevada (now Miners) Foundry. Allan saw the potential. However, the pair had to experiment two years before reaching a point where Pelton received patents on his wheel. At first, sales were slow, but in 1883, the Idaho Mine in Grass Valley held a competition for waterwheels that had been improved. Pelton’s was unconventional; it was also the best and easily won. Word spread, and representatives from large firms came to Nevada City to see the wheel and place orders. About 6,000 were made at the foundry and delivered all over the world. An interesting order came from Grass Valley’s North Star Mine. They wanted a 30 foot wheel, but the company hesitated and agreed to construct an 18 foot 6 inch one instead. It was so efficient, it was soon replaced by the requested 30 foot wheel which was used for 30 years. It is on dis- play in the mine’s original power house, now a museum. In 1887, Pelton moved his manufactur- ing operation to San Francisco. Originally conceived for the mining industry, the Pelton Wheel was a major factor in the development of hydroelectric power. It had been invented in time to be used in early water powered electric generation plants and pointed the way for the huge turbines generating hydroelectric power. Pelton Wheel on display at North Star Mining Museum is the largest in the world.  Learn More NORTH STAR MINING MUSEUM Grass Valley Room Devoted to the Pelton Wheel MINERS FOUNDRY CULTURAL CENTER Nevada City Pelton Wheel First Produced Here See Pages 25 & 34 N E VA D A C O U N T Y G O L D . c o m 129