By U.S. ArmyApril 9, 2019
Since 1879, Rock Island Arsenal has used the power of the Mississippi River to provide manual and electric power to the buildings located on the island. The first power system was telodynamic, which used four water turbines and a system of cables, belts, and pulleys. In 1899, a fire destroyed the powerhouse and the decision was made to replace the telodynamic system with a hydroelectric system. Situated across the back channel of the Mississippi River on the south shore of the island, the hydroelectric plant has been in continuous operation since 1901 and generates 20 percent of the island's power.
The history of water power on Rock Island Arsenal is a long one, but the most noticeable trace of it is seen at the hydroelectric dam and power plant located on the backwaters of the Mississippi River and Sylvan Slough. The original design used turbines, cables, belts, and pulleys within a system that delivered power to the ten stone shops located at the center of the manufacturing complex until 1899. This system of transmitting power through belts, cables, and pulleys was called the telodynamic system.
The turbines in the dam would feed into a system in the power plant. Wheels within the plant would spin, feeding a series of cables through the wheels. The cables traveled from the plant to the back of each stone shop, where they were then attached to belts that fed into each individual shop. The belts were then attached inside the shop to power individual pieces of machinery. The only remaining piece of the telodynamic system that can be seen today is the piece at the back of the stone shops where the cables would feed into the buildings.
This system was used until the power plant was destroyed by fire in 1899. The arsenal then switched to a total hydroelectric power supply, using the Mississippi River has a source.
Each time improvements were made to the capacity of the power dam, legal battles followed with private interests in the city of Moline. Power generated from the hydroelectric dam has been shared with the city of Moline since it was first constructed in 1872.
Hydro Dam Facts
Systems: Telodynamic, Hydroelectric
Owners: Rock Island Arsenal, Moline Water Power Co.
Length: 675 feet
Drive Wheel: 15 feet
Appropriation: $1,624.750 (1866-1901)
Repairs: $246,150 (1888-1908