The question has been asked - what is the minimum size of town that will support a lighting plant? That there are thousands of small villages or hamlets all over the country where an enterprising man could make a living by operating a small lighting plant is shown by the history of the Burton, O., central station, says the " Electrical World. " Burton is a pretty little village of 700 population located in the hilly district of the Western Reserve, about 30 miles from Cleveland. This is a dairy farming country, the town is an old one, there is little or no manufacturing, and the people are fairly prosperous.
The history of the plant dates back nearly ten years when Mr. Earl C. Bliss left the village to enter the electrical engineering course at the Case School in Cleveland. After two years he was obliged to leave school and go to work. He spent about a year in the machine shop of a prominent engineering concern, and during that time he saved about $125. With this capital he went back to his home and made a proposition to the village fathers to light the town. With considerable scepticism they gave him the franchise and a contract for one arc lamp in the center of the public square. His first investment was for an old traction combined engine and boiler, a small second-hand generator, some wire and a few lamps. His plant he set up in the basement of an old building in the heart of the town. Gradually he secured new business and improved his plant. At present his outfit consists of a 50-h. p. boiler, a 50-h. p. engine, one 20-kw, one 15-kw and one 7 1/2-kw generator, all belted and generating direct current at 125 volts.
Mr. Bliss did all his own work of setting up the machinery, wiring the building, built his own switch-board, equipping it with instruments, built a boiler feed-pump, heater, etc. He operates the entire business without assistance, fires the boiler, strings the wires, wires buildings, trims and repairs lamps, keeps the books and collects the bills. Once a year for ten days he hires a substitute to run the plant while he takes a vacation, but the balance of the year he is on duty about 14 hours a day. He now owns the building where the plant is located, has paid for all of his outfit and has a home nearly paid for, all out of his earnings of the plant. Of course, with some assistance he might have time to engage in other business, but he prefers to devote his entire time to keeping his system in first class condition and improving his business.
At present the load consists of two arc lamps at $60 per year, 54 incandescent lamps at $6 per year and four commercial arcs at $60. All the stores, the town hall, several churches and about 50 residences are illuminated by incandescents. Formerly all lights were on a flat rate, but the first of this year Mr. Bliss adopted a meter rate of 15 cents per kw-hour for residences and 10 cents for churches and places of business. This has cut out considerable waste and increased his income proportionately. The announcement of the change in policy was made on the back of a handsome calendar at the first of the year and circulated to all townspeople, attracting considerable attention. He uses an electrolyte meter, a simple and inexpensive device, which has proven very satisfactory. Meters are installed on payment of $10 which is returned when the meter is returned in good condition. If used less than one year. $1 is deducted from the refund.