Of humble beginnings

Of humble beginnings

Of humble beginnings
Have you ever wondered about how electricity came into being in our State? It all began when the post-Rendition period of Mysore (now Mysuru) witnessed a slew of modern developments in all fields such as public works, railways, mining and education.

One such major development began in early 1890s and it was the Cauvery Power Scheme, which focused on generating hydroelectricity at Shivanasamudra Falls.

Initially, an electrical engineer from Mysore, Edmund Carrington, sought concessions from the government to harness hydel power at the Falls in 1894. Along with Colonel Henderson, a British resident in Mysore, and Holmes from Madras, he prepared a proposal for producing electric power and its transmission across long distances. But unfortunately, his plan was rejected.

Meeting the demands

But when John Taylor and Sons Company, the owner mining firm at KGF, sought power to meet the intensive electricity needs of Kolar Gold Mines, the Government of Mysore, in 1899, decided to harness the potential power hidden in running water at Cauvery Falls at Shivanasamudra. So, under the guidance of the then Diwan of Mysore, K Sehshadri Iyer, and Colonel Campbell, the chief engineer at Madras, the project began.

However, this project is mainly credited to Captain A C Joly De Lotbiniere, the deputy chief engineer of the project. As a part of his preparation, he visited the United States and certain European countries, to study similar projects that were in operation. In London, he held discussions with the board of directors of John Taylor and Sons Company and the managers of gold mines at KGF, which consisted of professor G Forbes, an electrical expert and professor W C Unwin, a hydraulic expert. 

After this, Lotbiniere invited tenders for the purchase of equipment and necessary machineries. General Electric Company (America and Germany), The Westinghouse Company (England and America), Brown Boverie and Oerlikon from Switzerland took part in this process. Finally, General Electric Company, New York was given contract to supply electric equipment. Messrs Escher Wyss and Company, Zurich were awarded hydraulics. Insulators were brought from Italy, while timber for the erection of transmission lines called jarrah (redwood) was imported from Australia.

Permissions for constructing two low-level dams across the river for gauging purposes were sought from the government. As Madras was a riparian state of Cauvery, the approvals were hard to get. At this time, Colonel D Robertson, a British resident in Mysore, stepped in to ease the process by arranging meetings with the involved governments.

Under the Cauvery Power Scheme, four sub-divisions were created. Colonel D Mc.Neil Campbell, Captain A C Joly De Lotbiniere, Lt. JC Hunter, J Bhore, Jea D’Cruz, M C Madhava Rao, K. Sreenivasa Iyengar, F A Stede and H D Rice were given various responsibilities.

A temporary office-cum-camp was established at Rottikatte, nearly one mile away from the proposed spot. On August 10, 1900, excavation work commenced.

At Rottikatte, a colony for the staff came up, along with a general provision store, temporary telephone system, inspection lodges, patrol huts, a branch post office and other such necessary buildings. Subsidised tonga service between Maddur and Shivanasamudra also began. By using specially imported trolleys, heavy machineries were transported from Maddur to the site. Apart from this, services of eight state elephants along with several pairs of bullock carts were utilised. By June 1902, civil works related to the generation, transmission and distribution of the power plant had been completed.   

On June 30, 1902, Colonel Donald Robertson, accompanied by other dignitaries, formally inaugurated the plant. Power generation began and the generated power was transmitted to Kolar Gold Fields. The total approximate cost of installation stood at $3,40,100. The agreement was to supply 4,000 HP (full time) to mining companies for 10 years. The General Electric Company controlled and managed the installation till March 15, 1903. 

Harry Parker Gibbs was appointed as the chief electrical engineer of the plant. The department administered and maintained a generating station, transformer and switching station at the plant. Later, a 92-mile double circuit, 35,000 volt three-phase transmission line was erected to transmit electricity (it gained the recognition of being the world’s longest high tension transmission line).

Since this line passed close to Bangalore (now Bengaluru), it became the first town in India to get electricity and the transmission setup was formally inaugurated on August 5, 1905 by Sir John Hewitt, a member of the Viceroys Council. During 1903-04, the installation was expanded. For this, about Rs 13,01,870 was sanctioned. Preliminary and civil works were taken up and once again, quarters were built for the staff. During 1907-08, works connected with the third installation were taken up.

On September 26, 1908, electricity was transmitted to Mysore.

The transmission lines leading to Bangalore and Mysore were equipped with aluminium cell lighting arrestors and the extension of interior power and lighting were carried out in Mysore and in the civil and military stations of Bangalore. A building for locating the office and stores of the superintendent was constructed at Mysore at a total cost of Rs 8,914.

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