Holtwood and Safe Harbor weren’t Lancaster’s only hydroelectric dams. Enter the Colemanville Water & Power Company

I have been repeatedly asked if I knew anything about the foundations on the Conestoga Township side of the Pequea Creek near the Colemanville Covered Bridge on Fox Hollow Road. Here’s what’s found.

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The ruins of the Colemanville power plant as viewed from the Pequea Trolley trail.

Colemanville Water & Power Company

They are the ruins of the Colemanville Water & Power Company. It was a steam and water power station that supplied power for the Lancaster & York Furnace Street Railway Company. The trolley company ran a line from Millersville to Pequea. Click here to learn more about the Pequea Trolley.

The power plant also provided electricity to the village of Pequea located about 2.5 miles away. It was built in 1905 and locally owned until it was sold to the railway company in 1911.

The dam was a rock-filled timber crib structure backed with earth on the upstream side to a slope. The reservoir was 1.1 miles long and eventually silted up to be almost entirely filled. Twenty-inch flashboards were used to secure the pondage and head.

The headrace and tailrace are still visible on satellite photos. It has been highlighted in yellow.

The headrace was about 450 ft long formed by an embankment parallel to the hillside. The tailrace was of about the same length, is lined with masonry on the sides. Both are still visible today in the Google map below. Under light load and with flashboards, the operating head was 30 feet, but under average conditions was 28 feet.

The hydroelectric plant consisted of two 30-inch wheels on a single horizontal shaft, which produced a combined 550 hp under the full head. They were belted to a 425 kW AC generator, which operated a 17 kW exciter. The water channels were of riveted steel, the penstock was six feet in diameter, and the draft tubes flaring from 4 to 5 feet in diameter.

Power House
Power House

The steam auxiliary included one 600 hp engine with a condenser and one 400 kW 3-phase 11,000-volt generator. There was also a 300 kW DC reserve generator. The steam plant ran three months of the year in conjunction with the main water plant.

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When the hydro plant was in service, the current is was stepped up to 11,000 volts. Both at a substation, seven miles east, and at the powerhouse were 250 kW rotary converters. When the steam plant was, the generated current was 11,000 volts DC.

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Colemanville Iron Works

A hydroelectric station wasn’t the first thing to occupy this location. In 1828 Edward Coleman erected a forge, rolling mill, and slitting mill in the area.

For clarification, a forge is a type of hearth used for heating metals to a temperature where it becomes easier to shape the material. A rolling mill passes iron bars through one or more pairs of rollers to reduce the ore to a uniform thickness. Finally, a slitting mill is designed to slit bars of iron into rods.

Lower Forges at Colemanville

The plant was equipped with four heating furnaces and two trains of rolls driven by water. It also had other crude machinery for rolling and working iron.

Pig iron was hauled from the Elizabeth Furnace near Brickerville, and the coal came from Pequea. Its chief product was charcoal iron blooms for boilerplates. It produced about 1,600 tons a year of plate and bar iron out of pig metal. A nail factory stood behind the forge and operated for over sixty years before closing in 1899.

Colorized postcard of Colemanville with the hydroelectric station in the center. The covered bridge is visible on the left.

The Colemanville Forge closed in the spring of 1865. It lay idle until 1881, when William J. Ruttler restarted operations. The venture lasted five years until 1886 when all activity ceased for good. Later a flour mill operation there.

Colemanville, with several homes visible along the banks of the Pequea Creek taken after 1907.

Today, all remains of buildings are long gone except for the old ironmaster’s mansion house, which has been converted into apartments.

The former Colemanville Ironmaster’s house, also known as the Colemanville Mansion.

Planning Your Visit

The ruins of the Colemanville Water & Power Company are visible from the Martic Township side of the Pequea Creek near the Colemanville Covered Bridge on Fox Hollow Road. The Conestoga Township side, where the buildings were are owned by Lancaster Conservancy but are still marked as no trespassing.

This photo was taken circa 1920 from the Conestoga Township side of Colemanville. The covered bridge, hydroelectric plant, and tailrace are visible in the picture.

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