|1997 marked the 100th anniversary of West Kootenay Power Company in the southern
interior of British Columbia, Canada. This historic little power company set
records for construction feats as a few men started a company in 1897 to provide a
mine and town with power. To this day the company still operates, supplying the
world's largest lead and zinc smelter and 90,000 households with power.
The first task of West Kootenay Power in 1897 was to deliver power to the mines and town of Rossland. They hired the Edison Electric Company to oversee the construction of Bonnington Falls 4000 horsepower hydroelectric power station and erect a 20,000-volt transmission line. The line went over a distance of 32 miles through treacherous terrain. Many said it wouldn't work. The distance was too far, and the area was notorious for heavy snowfall. Snowsheds were placed on the poletops of this line in an effort to keep the heavy snow from interfering with the power service. They were later removed because the large local ospreys were starting to build large nests in the covered area on top of the insulators. The insulators used on this 20,000-volt transmission line were U-934 Imperial Porcelain. The U-935, U-746 Imperials and U-964 Victor were also used on this line and on the parallel No. 2 Line.
In 1905 West Kootenay Power began construction of a second 14,000-horse power plant on the Kootenay River at Upper Bonnington Falls. It was called, "Plant No. 2". It was completed two years later in 1907. Around this time, West Kootenay extended its charter into the Boundary area. (Greenwood, Grand Forks and Phoenix). This was done through erecting a 60,000-volt line and acquiring the small Cascade Power and Light Company plant on the Kettle River. The new transmission line was built with the Locke M-4321. These multiparts are still used today on this and many other 60 KV lines through the Kootenays.
On the construction of the original 1and 2 lines, the structures had a high line telephone circuit strung on an under built circuit. Insulators used on this circuit were Fred Locke U-939, U-941B, U-610 and the U-192A. Rossland still has a few U-939 and U-941B within its 2400-volt distribution circuits and it only can be speculated that possibly this town was loaded with these beauties at one time.
Other insulators still in service today include the M-2150 European, the U-964 glazeweld, the U-746 Redlands style, and the M-2220. These were probably salvaged from the original 20 KV lines and later used on the 7200-volt distribution circuits in use today.
[This material was taken from several articles in the The Canadian Insulator Collector magazine, and is used with permission from Mark Lauckner . I have added some to it.]
Hugh Barbour, WKP
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Written Wednesday, May 25, 1999