This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's coal outside

What do you think these trucks were delivering on the Saint Joe's campus?

If you guessed coal, you were right. SJC still uses coal in its power plant, which does not produce any electricity but which does produce the heat and hot water that the campus uses. Under the campus are steam lines that run to the buildings, and when those lines spring a leak, the campus can look a little like Yellowstone with steam vents.

I wonder if there are any other places in Rensselaer that are still using coal as a fuel. At one time coal was a very common fuel for home heating. Many old houses had coal bins in their basements, and unless the basement has undergone major remodeling, traces of those coal bins are still visible. But long ago home heating converted to fuel oil and then to natural gas. SJC did not convert, mostly because it was too expensive.

The coal at SJC is stored in an underground bunker next to the power plant. I recall a few times long ago when the threat of coal strikes caused the college to stockpile coal. It was piled up above ground next to the power plant, and in at least one occasion there were coal piles in the Sparling Road parking lot.

The chimney is a campus landmark that some visitors have said is an eyesore. At one time smokestacks such as this dotted the industrial Midwest. Are there any others in the area other than those at the NIPSCO Schahfer Generating Station up near Wheatfield?
Do you think it is an eyesore?


Sheila said...

It's amazing to me that I can live here all my life (even go to SJC for college) and still learn new things every time I read your blog!

Gene said...

My dad used to tell about how his first job after The Great Depression was scooping coal 12 hours each night into the boilers that produced steam to heat the Jasper County Jail, Courthouse, and Hospital.

He was paid one dollar a day and was overjoyed to have the job.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I don't think it's an eyesore at all.