After two years of construction, Electron had become its own community, equipped with saloons, restaurants, hotels and its own post office. There were eight camps that provided residence to workers and their families, as well as a schoolhouse for the children. It came to be known as the “Town of Electron.”
Trains were used to transport people and materials about the project site. Many of the tracks were later replaced with paved roads, however the footprint of these historical pathways remains the same.
Most of the materials used to construct the flume, as well as other aspects of the project were brought in by pack trains. Approximately 600 teams of horses towed lumber, while workers cleared timber and built roads on the unforgiving land. To this day, much of flume is accessible only by a rail car that travels on top of the structure, on which only Electron Hydro employees are authorized to ride.
The ten mile long flume and reservoir were the brainchild of Stone and Webster, an engineering firm from Boston. Stone and Webster faced many challenges in their design. It was estimated that the slope of the hillside was greater than fifty degrees for more than fifty percent of the length of the flume. They also incorporated numerous curves into the flume to help steady the flow of the water moving through its channel. These famous curves are responsible for the flume's most popular nickname: the Crookedest Railroad in the World.
Electron began to generate energy for the first time in its history on April 14, 1904. For the past fourteen months, a crew of 1,500 to 2,500 men had worked to build one of the most innovative examples of hydropower of its time. Bihler and Rydstrom, a company from Tacoma, Washington, worked to design and construct a powerhouse that would be forty-two feet deep and 150 feet long. The Porter Brothers of Spokane built the diversion and intake structure.
-Lawrence D. "Andy" Anderson, Author & Historian, In the Shadow of the Mountain
In 1985, the flume was rebuilt. Crews of men worked to replace much of the wooden support posts, called bents, with new steel supports. They also lined the inside of the flume with new wood. Much of the steel and wood used during this reconstruction are what hold the flume today.
Electron was under the ownership of Puget Sound Energy until November of 2014, when the project was purchased by Electron Hydro, LLC. Our objective is to restore the facility to its full potential while maintaining its historical integrity. We also plan to erect a memorial in order to honor those who gave their lives to the construction of the project.
Copyright 2013. Electron Hydro, LLC. All rights reserved.