Con Edison will end 125 years of direct current electricity service


Active Member
I guess this goes in Lighting. If not, someone please move it to the appropriate topic.

from The New York Times: (

Today, Con Edison will end 125 years of direct current electricity service that began when Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street power station on Sept. 4, 1882. Con Ed will now only provide alternating current, in a final, vestigial triumph by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, Mr. Edison’s rivals who were the main proponents of alternating current in the AC/DC debates of the turn of the 20th century.

The last snip of Con Ed’s direct current system will take place at 10 East 40th Street, near the Mid-Manhattan Library. That building, like the thousands of other direct current users that have been transitioned over the last several years, now has a converter installed on the premises that can take alternating electricity from the Con Ed power grid and adapt it on premises. Until now, Con Edison had been converting alternating to direct current for the customers who needed it — old buildings on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side that used direct current for their elevators for example. The subway, which has its own converters, also provides direct current through its third rail, in large part because direct current electricity was the dominant system in New York City when the subway first developed out of the early trolley cars.

Despite the clear advantage of alternating current — it can be transmitted long distances far more economically than direct currentdirect current has taken decades to phase out of Manhattan because the early backbone of New York’s electricity grid was built by Mr. Edison’s company, which had a running head start in the first decade before Mr. Tesla and Mr. Westinghouse demonstrated the potential of alternating current with the Niagara Falls power project. (Among the customers of Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street power plant on that first day was The New York Times, which observed that to turn on its lights in the building, “no matches were needed.”)

But direct current clearly became uneconomical, as the short distances that it could be transmitted would have required a power station every mile or less, according to Joe Cunningham, an engineering historian. Thus alternating current in New York began in the outskirts — Queens, Bronx, Upper Manhattan and the suburbs.

The direct current conversion in Lower Manhattan started in 1928, and an engineer then predicted that it would take 45 years, according to Mr. Cunningham. “An optimistic prediction since we still have it now,” he said.

The man who is cutting the link today at 10 East 40th Street is Fred Simms, a 52-year veteran of the company. Why him?

“He’s our closest link to Thomas Edison,” joked Bob McGee, a Con Ed spokesman.


Not a New User
Fight Leukemia
Yet another sad chapter in the history of New York City.


Well-Known Member
Here is a link to the actual building

The NY Times article makes the point but it is easy to overlook, there are still thousands of buildings in NY that still use DC power for certain applications. NY in the 20's and on was building sky scrapers and installing elevatorsh In those days elevators were all controlled by an operator with a manual throttle for want of a better word (some of us old timers might remember the days of manned elevators) these controls were all run on DC since it was easier to vary the speed of a dc motor in the early days of electricity

The subway to this day still runs on dc, again not just because the electric street cars were dc but also for speed control. One of the downsides of being early with a technology is that sometimes that technology gets replaced and you still have a huge installed base.

One of the other oddities in NYC is that many of the buildings all got their heat from a central service, with steam pipes running all over the manhattan

ConEd is one of the largest steam providers in the world, they supply electricity, gas AND steam.

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Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
Oh thank goodness! Now they can finally stop using those resistance dimmers (piano boards) on Broadway.;) I wonder if this has anything to do with the IATSE Local 1 strike?


Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member
Oh thank goodness! Now they can finally stop using those resistance dimmers (piano boards) on Broadway.;) I wonder if this has anything to do with the IATSE Local 1 strike?

Na, the strike has to do with the cutting of labor due to the move from candle power to salt water dimmers. The wick cutters are in a huff because now 10 people can do the job that used to take 20. Who know, maybe someday we will only need 5 people to run a board!


CB Mods
"The more things change......."


Well-Known Member
wow I was not aware that any company still provided DC power.

DC power transmission is now state of the art, and was pioneered by the Europeans to allow transfer of large amounts of current between countries without having to synchronize the separate alternating current systems.

One recent system using DC is a 660 megawatt DC cable(s) that runs 65 miles from Sayerville, New Jersey, to Hicksville New York on Long Island, underwater and across the mouth of New York Harbor. Converter stations at each end convert the local power grid to and from AC.

Here's a WiKi article link about high voltage DC:


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