ASME-Landmark:Boyden Hydraulic Turbines


These two water turbines at Harmony Mill No. 3 in Cohoes were probably the largest and nearly the most powerful ever built in the United States, supplying direct mechanical power to a manufacturing plant. Their installation between 1871 and 1873 makes them among the oldest surviving water turbines.

In America, one of the earliest industrial centers was in the geographical region at the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, partly because of the substantial power provided by the 104-foot difference between those two rivers, which exists at Cohoes. The growth and prosperity at Cohoes, and even the layout of the streets in the city, were closely tied to this water power.

A dam at Cohoes diverted water to mills and factories along a power canal system. The vertical-shaft turbines at the mill were said to run at 800 horsepower (600 kilowatt) under a head of 20 feet and were connected to an overhead shaft by bevel gearing. Large pulley belts reached from the common horizontal shaft to the line shafts on five floors.

Boyden type water turbines, invented in 1844 by Uriah A. Boyden (1804-1879), were the first to be manufactured in quantity in the United States. Compared to its immediate predecessors, such as the Scotch turbine, it was a more sophisticated design and consequently was more efficient, with an outward-flow turbine in 1844 that improved the performance of the Fourneyron turbine and was, in time, superseded by the Francis-type inward-flow machine. See ASME website for more information