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Horace Field Parshall

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Dr. Horace Field Parshall (1865-1932). Electrical Engineer of the USA.


1932 Obituary[1]

"THE LATE DR. H. F. PARSHALL.

Dr. H. F. Parshall, whose death, we regret to record, occurred at Bayonne on Monday, December 12, at the age of 67, was one of those Americans, by no means few in number, who played a part in the early days of electrical development in this country. His activities in the fields of traction and power supply were evidenced by considerable foresight and breadth of outlook, and until a year or two ago he was still closely concerned with the great progress that has been, and is being, made in those directions.

Horace Field Parshall was born at Milford, New York, on September 9, 1865, and was educated at the Hartwich Seminary and at Cornell and Lehigh Universities, obtaining the degree of Master of Science at the latter institution. He was then engaged with the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Co as a motor designer, subsequently becoming chief engineer of the Wenstrom Dynamo and Motor Co, Baltimore, for whom he developed a slow-speed traction motor, which was for long used in the United States. His appointment to the position of chief designing engineer to the Edison General Electric Co (afterwards the General Electric Co of America) brought him into prominence as the designer of the generators, which were exhibited at the Columbian Exposition, in Chicago, in 1893, as these were then the largest machines in the world. Two years later, he began his long connection with this country and was responsible for working out a standardised system of supplying electrical energy for traction purposes, the features of which were three-phase generation and transmission, rotary-convertor substations and heavy locomotive or motor-car equipment. This was used on the tramways in London, Bristol, Glasgow, Dublin and other cities, as well as on the Central London Railway, in the supply of whose equipment his firm was closely concerned, and of which he was chairman for many years. He also took a leading part in the arbitration between the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways, which was held in the early part of the present century, and resulted in the low-tension direct-current system of operation being preferred to three-phase working.

At about the same period, the lightening of restrictive legislation in certain directions had turned the thoughts of electrical engineers to the possibilities of developing electricity supply over large areas by means of “ power ” companies. In the Parliamentary discussions, which were a preliminary to these schemes, Dr. Parshall played an active part, being concerned especially in the promotion of what are now the successful Lancashire and Yorkshire Electric Power Companies. He also acted as consultant to the London County Council when that body sought powers to operate as an electricity undertaking in the London District. That effort, it is unnecessary to add, failed. For many years he had an extensive practice as a consulting engineer, and, until his retirement a short time ago, was chairman of the Lancashire Electric Power Co. He was responsible for the design not only of the original Radcliffe station of that company, but for the more recent plants at Padiham and Kearsley, where, in spite of their comparatively small size and the low’ steam pressures and temperatures in use, extraordinarily low fuel consumptions and high thermal efficiencies have been obtained. This is perhaps the more remarkable since these stations contain none of those features which are generally believed to be conducive, and even essential, to high efficiency. At Padiham, land-type boilers fired by stokers and working with natural draught are used to generate steam at a pressure of 250 lb. per square inch and a temperature of 620 deg. F. only, while at Kearsley the corresponding figures are 315 lb. per square inch and 710 deg. F. The simplicity of the arrangements has also resulted in satisfactory low capital costs.

Dr. Parshall, who was a Doctor of Science of Tufts College, Massachusetts, was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1896, and obtained the Telford Gold Medal of that body for a paper on “ Hydro-Electrical Installations in Spain.” He was also awarded the Telford Premium for a paper on “ Railway Electrification,” the Crampton Prize for a paper on the “ Magnetisation of Iron and Steel,” and the Trevithick Premium. He was joint author with Mr. H. M. Hobart of several books, including a standard work on “ Electric Railway Engineering,” and had contributed articles on “ Rotary Convertors ” to Engineering and on the “ Standardisation of Electrical Plant” and “The Central London Railway” to Traction and Transmission."


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