Silvergate Power Plant

Silvergate Power Plant

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History -

San Diego as it has grown over the years has built a number of power plants. The Silvergate Power Plant unit #1 was constructed by San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) in 1941 as a conventional natural gas plant. Over time, units 2, 3, and 4 were contructed; the last in approximately 1952. Silvergate was needed to augment the aging oil-fired Station-B Power Plant across from Union Station at Broadway in downtown San Diego. Generators operated at 12KV, which were connected via 2 control houses to the 12KV switchyard on the East side of the power plant. Transformers then stepped the voltage up to 69KV which fed the switchyard across Sampson Street to the South, and finally connection made by transmission lines into the San Diego power grid.

The Prototype -

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In these days of California power de-regulation, the Silvergate Power Plant sits quietly just South of the Coronado Bay Bridge on the corner of Harbor Drive and Sampson Street. It last generated electricity in 1986, was taken off-line and refurbished, and then, for mysterious reasons, was mothballed by San Diego Gas and Electric Company. It is a modern natural gas fired plant capable of generating 240 megawatts of power, and would go a long way to making rolling blackouts a thing of the past in San Diego County.

Although the Silvergate Power Plant does not currently produce electricity, the switchyards are still in active service. Power feeds from the grid through the 69KV gear, and is stepped down through the main transformsers to 12KV. Many customers are still dependent on the 12KV switchyard for electricity.

SDG&E still owns the Silvergate Power Plant as of 2001, but rumors persist that it is being sold (to whom and will it produce power again?). The San Diego Model Railroad Club built the model long before the current California power crisis began, and before the Silvergate Power Plant became the subject of political wrangling and media coverage.

Building the model -

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This model was constructed by Jack Lowe using eighth inch masonite for the basic walls and roof. Wood bracing was added in the corners to improve the strength. This construction technique was possible because it is a very large structure with few windows or other openings. The office section on the South end was constructed in styrene. The stacks on the roof are PVC tubing with brass details. Aircraft warning lights top the four stacks.

A spur track leads into the Silvergate power plant. Although the opening is narrower than NMRA clearances, the shorter cars usually used do not have a problem. A lot of coal is routed to the Silvergate plant, which seems strange since it is fired by natural gas. Generators and transformers on flat cars should be found on the spur instead of the ubiquitous hoppers.

Sadly, Jack Lowe passed away soon after the model was completed. Still remaining to be completed is the 12 KV switchyard on the East side of the plant. Due to space limitations, the 69 KV switchyard across Sampson Street cannot be modeled.

Historical Photo: Unavailable
Model Photos: Rob Hanson