Monday, May 24, 2010

Gasometer Miniature Replica

The industrial revolution is long over, but reader Scott D. found a miniature souvenir building representing a relic from the gas industry.

"I know I have seen these before next to the highway. Tall, strange structures that never seemed to be the same every time you looked at them. I wasn’t sure what they were. Recently, a presentation piece gasometer (or gas holder) was offered on eBay. It was inscribed of all dates, September 11, 1909, Northern Indiana Syndicate, Northampton Trust Company. Over a hundred years ago. Made by Bailey Banks & Biddle in Philadelphia. Its sterling silver and brass are highly detailed. William Murdoch, the inventor of gas lighting, coined the term gasometer in the early 1800s. They are large containers where natural gas or town gas (manufactured from coal) is stored. The volume of the container follows the quantity of stored gas, with pressure coming from the weight of a movable cap. There are two basic types of gas holders - rigid waterless and telescoping. Telescoping holders fall into two subcategories. The earlier of the telescoping variety were column guided variations and were built in the 19th century. To guide the telescoping lifts they have an external fixed frame, visible at a fixed height at all times. This is what the souvenir presentation piece represents. Gasometers tend to be used nowadays for balancing purposes (making sure gas pipes can be operated within a safe range of pressures) rather than for actually storing gas for later use. For this reason, many old gasometers are being decommissioned or demolished by major gasworks throughout the world. Gasometers are often a major part of the skylines of European due to their large distinctive shape and central location. The pollution associated with gasworks and gas storage makes the land difficult to reclaim for other purposes, but some gasometers, notably in Vienna, have been converted into living space and a shopping mall. Gasometers are comparatively rare in the United States. The most notable of these were erected in St. Louis by the Laclede Gas Light Company in the early 1900s. These gasometers remained in use until the early 2000s when the last one was decommissioned and abandoned in place. The most recently used gasometer in the United States is on the southeast side of Indianapolis but it was to be demolished in 2009 along with the Citizens Energy Group coke plant. It’s sad how many of these interesting industrial structures are being destroyed. Being how rare gasometers are in the United States, I can only imagine how rare the miniature version is that was made in the US. It’s an interesting piece not only for the souvenir building enthusiasts but also those who like the industrial past."- Scott

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