Metcalf Buys the Control Division of the Pelton Water Wheel Company
The steam engine died after the war, but one merged company, Baldwin Lima Hamilton, did a lot of business during the war. Their big order was to build train engines for Russia for the lend lease program. Russian tracks are wider than European ones, but that did not matter because the ships which carried that cargo were sunk by our own Navy to keep the engines out of Russian hands just as the war ended. This company tried to survive by purchasing the Pelton Water Wheel Company, which manufactured water-driven turbines. The company went downhill on a steady basis until the stock value was much less than the value of its land in Pennsylvania.
The Armor Meat Company attempted to buy the stock for the land value, so BLH sold their stock to Greyhound Corporation. Armor bought Greyhound to achieve their original objective. The company was shut down so the land could be sold for a large profit. Another reason for closing the company was to reap the windfall profit of not having to pay large pension payments to its aging employees. That was the reason for mergers of many companies during that period before Congress changed the laws. Parts of the company that had business and backlogs were sold off so the company would not be in legal trouble with their customers.
Cheston arranged to buy the part of the company that made governors for water-powered turbines. About four million dollars in orders were on the books and in progress. The fixed inventory of parts had a value of almost two hundred thousand dollars, but we later discovered that most of the inventory was over-valued and obsolete. It appeared to be a steal at fifty thousand dollars.
I tackled this business with great energy. One order was for three units to control 200,000 kilowatt water driven generators. These units were glass enclosed so visitors to the largest dam on the Colorado River could see the details inside. The Inductotherm "I" was inside the "C" of Cheston's nameplate.
The generator was sixty foot in diameter and spun at sixty revolutions per minute. Its shaft and rotor weighed about fifty tons and the rotating part of the water turbine and its shaft weighed about one hundred tons. According to the laws of physics a body at rest wants to remain at rest. It takes a pretty good rap to get this mass to sixty revolutions per minute, but that energy in minuscule when compared to the million kilowatts this generator would produce.We were allowed seven seconds to get this mass up to speed and precisely synchronize the frequency with the electrical grid. Any delay would mean this mass was in a runaway mode and could tear itself away from the dam. If it was not synchronized it would be like changing gears without pushing in the clutch. As I was writing this I realized that huge parts of the population have never driven a car with a mechanical gearbox. You will just have to believe that slamming two spinning gears that do not mesh together will cause trouble.
Part of the Pelton purchase included machine tools and one machine was a radio tube controlled numerically controlled milling machine with tools to make the governor parts. Lona and Marino used this automatic machine to improve the quality and cut the production costs of the Cheston resistance heater so sales were profitable but limited. Raufer took charge of the sales of governor spare parts and raised the price of this captive market by 400%.
It was becoming a joke on Indel Avenue as we watched Rowan waste his hard-earned money buying companies that were losers. One of the purchases, Trident, reportedly had a $7 million loss carry forward and its only remaining product was drill bits used for drilling for water. The hardened steel forging they were using needed precision holes drilled into them where tungsten carbide tips would be inserted. Our automatic milling machine was just right for the job. In addition to a full shop building governors and resistance heaters we began round the clock operations to drill these bits for a time.