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#141581 - 09/18/04 12:23 PM Siberian Oddysey
Hutch Offline
Member

Registered: 05/27/02
Posts: 383
Loc: South Oxfordshire, UK
Greetings All! I am sure that my lack of posting here for the last three weeks has gone completely unnoticed but I’ve been away. This time my work took me to a part of Siberia in the Russian Far East northwest of Magadan that in more sinister times was known as the “Gulag Archipelago”. I even got to visit a gulag camp where an untold number of wretched souls perished, winning tin and uranium from underground mines using hammers and chisels between 1935 and 1955. I have in front of me a souvenir – a piece of barbed wire from that surreal place, but such details are beyond the scope of these forums. To this day it is said that Magadan has one of the highest concentration of artists and writers in the Former Soviet Union – genetic testimony to their forbearer’s talents that often got them on the wrong side of Josef Stalin.

But I digress. I know that many of you like to see how things are wired (so to speak) in other parts of the world so I would like to share with you some pictures I took of the electrical systems of Siberia.

To give the post some type of order, I will start with power generation and finish with the recepticles. I will also split up the post to limit the downloads required each time. I have tried to keep the size of each image small with a hyperlink next to each picture for the full-sized version.

Part 1

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Here we have Senegoriye Power Station that supplies the whole of the Magadan Oblast. On my atlas, the place is shown as Ust’-Bokhapcha – 275km north of Magadan. We commented amongst ourselves that somewhere in the Pentagon, a red spot marked its location! Built in the 1970’s it has five turbines – only two of which were in use on the day of the visit. Russian phases are marked red, green and yellow. This was seen on this power station and on a substation in Susuman – no photos I’m afraid.

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From the dials, even at 40% capacity the wheels were spinning with very little in the way of customers. I read 10kV and 50A on one of the generator sets which from the scale on the MW dial is considerably under capacity. Interesting here is the use of the Latin alphabet for volts and watts and not Cyrillic – compare this to the next photo. The manager of the plant was keen for business. Built during a period of Russian history when the natural laws of supply and demand did not apply it was made far too big. And they’re building a second plant downstream of this one. Surely a hangover from an earlier time. It’s an ill wind that blows no good though. How does 15 kopeks (half a US cent) per kWh sound for bulk power cost? Sounds pretty good to me!

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For those of you that can decipher it, here what the Russian gen-set is capable of. The engineers have used all Cyrillic on this plate but I can work out it’s 13800 V, 50 Hz with a stator current of 8880 A and rotor current of 2063 A. You may need to click on the full sized image to see it all. Any volunteers to decode the rest or comment on the nature of this beast?

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Here is a typical Siberian power pylon made of round lumber. It was one of a pair of lines that had just been overhauled with new insulators. This pair is a back-up to the main pair of lines that feed Magadan by a different route. Talk about built in redundancy – no ‘just in time’ principal here. Northeast USA power utilities please take note. In common with most of the HV and MV lines I saw, there was no grounding wire provided above the phases.

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Ust’-Omchug is a desolate run down town 180km NNW of Magadan that is typical of the region. Mostly depopulated with many decayed and crumbling buildings, this substation supplied the centre of the town. Perestroika – the adoption of a market economy in the early ‘80s – was a near death knell for the region. Most mines and industry closed down, the people moved away and gradually the roofs of the abandoned buildings collapsed into their rotten shells. There were some people clinging on here. A local mining headquarters was behind me and children ran around smiling, dressed in brightly coloured Russian jerseys.

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My Babelfish translates the last line as ‘it will kill’. Even in Cyrillic Russian, the sign on the Ust’-Omchug substation door is quite clear in its meaning.




[This message has been edited by Trumpy (edited 06-24-2005).]

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#141582 - 09/18/04 12:27 PM Re: Siberian Oddysey
Hutch Offline
Member

Registered: 05/27/02
Posts: 383
Loc: South Oxfordshire, UK
Part 2

Full size

By one of the portals of the still operational Shkol’skoye Gold Mine stands this transformer – a typical example of the district. The name of the mine means Scholar as it was discovered by school children! Apparently, on a school field trip organized by the local geological survey, a young girl brought the geologist a lump of quartz and asked him why there was so much fool’s gold (iron pyrite) in it. “Where did you find this rock?!” demanded the geologist. It was not fool’s gold but the real stuff and the goldmine was in production some five years later.

Now down to the domestic scale. Russian wiring leaves a lot to be desired and the only examples I ran across were aluminium. I never came across any grounding that I could prove and two core ribbon cable was the norm.

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Here is a rotary switch from inside a hut at a field camp we stayed at near the settlement of Kulu some 320km northwest of Magadan. The ribbon cable can be made out quite well in this example. Under the soft, semi-translucent plastic coating there were two ~2mm2 aluminium solid wires with no further insulation or markings. Polarity was not indicated and I think is of no concern to the Russian installer.

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Here is the distribution box in my hut. Fuse and a switch that fed two lights and a socket. Hey, we had power and I wasn’t expecting that! Other than that it was kind of basic. The long-drop hut had light fixture but no lamp in it. Maybe it was just as well!

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A loop-in Russian style down to the switch below. Simply break into one of the pair of wires and connect a ribbon pair to the switch. I don’t know how the join was effected under the black tape. There is not a noticeable bulge and the wires are solid aluminium.
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A more conventional switch underneath the loop-in which worked one of the lights in my hut. The other was the rotary one above.




[This message has been edited by Trumpy (edited 06-24-2005).]

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#141583 - 09/18/04 12:36 PM Re: Siberian Oddysey
Hutch Offline
Member

Registered: 05/27/02
Posts: 383
Loc: South Oxfordshire, UK
Part 3

Full size

This is a pretty fancy Russian socket in the best hotel in Magadan – hence the gold coloured braiding around it. Most were much plainer but the lack of any earthing was the rule.

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A double switch from the same hotel room – much fancier that those in the field camp. There were no power sockets provided in the bathrooms which was probably just as well! A photo I have of the bathroom would raise interesting comments on a plumbing forum.

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Back to the field camp where this magnificent beast performed the job of outlet. Was it installed to cement Russian-American relationships? My US 100/240V power transformer fitted it beautifully. Outlets in Russia are nominally 220V but does this outlet allude back to earlier days when there was 127V phase to ground and 220V phase to phase? A bit like very old American double ‘T’ receptacles that can accept both 120V or 240 V plugs – 15 or 20 amps.

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At the only hotel in Senegoriye I found this interesting beastie that was gradually disappearing under layers cream coloured paint. At least something is being painted! When I took the photo I was sure that I had discovered a unique Russian configuration of a three pin grounding socket but alas when processing it prior to posting here I saw that one of the two fixing screws had fallen out of a standard two pin socket. Russia appears to have adopted the schuko plug for use when grounding is required …

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Above is a photograph of a Russian ‘grounded’ socket which supplies a computer at the Senegoriye power station. It is a standard schuko with a schuko plug inserted in it but look how this addition is wired. I can see only the standard two core ribbon cable feeding it. I don’t know if they jumpered the earth and neutral but I suspect the grounding contacts just float uselessly. I strongly suspect that all of the schuko sockets I observed in the Russian Far East could have been wired like this.




[This message has been edited by Trumpy (edited 06-24-2005).]

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#141584 - 09/18/04 12:42 PM Re: Siberian Oddysey
Hutch Offline
Member

Registered: 05/27/02
Posts: 383
Loc: South Oxfordshire, UK
Part 4

Just a couple of oddities to finish this odyssey.

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Every schuko socket at the poshest hotel in Vladivostok looked like this with the bottom grounding contact bent up and flat. I couldn’t work out if this was done on the install or if everyone of them had been systematically damaged by inserting a non-schuko plug in them. Maybe someone from the schuko world could comment. The reason this one is marked ‘220V’ is that it is intended for general purpose use. There are other schuko sockets in the room powering the TV and table/bedside lamps but these are worked from a relay activated by inserting your credit card style room key into a pocket by the door. In English(!) these sockets are marked ‘Warning-not for general use. DC only’ The lamps were standard Edison screw with no voltage markings on them and the TV was plugged into the same socket. It was a South Korean based hotel chain and I’ve seen similar installations in Australia and North America. Would any installers be able to comment on the ‘DC’ remark?

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Back at the hotel in Senegoriye was this interesting receptacle marked ‘RADIO’ in Cyrillic letters. It fed a small wall-mounted speaker unit with only a volume control/on-off switch. I assume that both power and signal was derived from the outlet that was a standard Russian two pin in size. I never tried plugging anything else into it so I have no idea what the voltage was.

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And finally, the only way to travel he says with tongue pressed firmly in his cheek. The orange backed truck was our transport around the district. We traveled 1000 miles in it, often without being able to see out of the windows due to mud being thrown up by the rear pair of wheels. It is a 6x6 KAMAZ and goes anywhere. That thing went places where I wouldn’t take a jeep and I driven some pretty rough terrains in my time. At times it felt like we were doing 120km/h but it turned out to be more like 65 km/h flat-out. I now know what a FedEx Ground parcel feels like!




[This message has been edited by Trumpy (edited 06-24-2005).]

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#141585 - 09/18/04 12:43 PM Re: Siberian Oddysey
Trumpy Offline

Member

Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8540
Loc: SI,New Zealand
Wow, Hutch!,
Thanks a heap for all of the pics and the accompanying story.
Most enjoyable post I've read in a wee while.

That would just about have to be Post of the Year.
Hope, your fingers have recovered.

{Message edited for typo's}


[This message has been edited by Trumpy (edited 09-18-2004).]
_________________________
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

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#141586 - 09/18/04 01:20 PM Re: Siberian Oddysey
Texas_Ranger Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 2343
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Wow!!!
That panel with the fuse and the switch sure looks like it was designed to hold a meter. All meter bases I've seen in Europe have this arrangement of three holes with sliding nuts that adjust to different sizes of meters. The fuse looks like a strange version of good old Diazed, and the switch almost lloks like an oldfashioned circuit breaker!
That flat stuff looks like GDR NIZAY cable. The Western version is NYIF or YM-STEG, which have an inner insulation on the wires and copper instead of alum. However, here it was never legal to use it mounted to the surface, only buried in plaster. The switches look old-fashioned but familiar.

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#141587 - 09/19/04 01:22 AM Re: Siberian Oddysey
pauluk Offline
Member

Registered: 08/11/01
Posts: 7693
Loc: Norfolk, England
Hutch,

Great photos, and many thanks for taking the time to cross-link to the full-size images. You certainly get to some interesting places!

It's kind of fun trying to decipher that specification plate. Isn't GOST the old Soviet standards agency? I would imagine GOST 5616-72 means either that the set complies with standard #5616 of 1972, or that it complies with 5616 and was built in 1972.

The next line down (on the right) seems to be the nominal rating of 212,000kVA (consistent with 13800V * 8880A * 1.73), and I would think the following line ("coefficient 0.85") is the allowable power factor. That works out approximately correct with the 184,000 kW rating on the left.

Presumably the two lower specifications are rotor speeds in revs/minute, but what about the three "M" specifications on the left? It seems to say minimum and maximum on two of them, but min and max what?

 Quote:
Back at the hotel in Senegoriye was this interesting receptacle marked ‘RADIO’ in Cyrillic letters. It fed a small wall-mounted speaker unit with only a volume control/on-off switch.

Could it be something like a 70 or 100V PA line?

I came upon this Latvian ad a while ago which seems to be a similar wired radio system, and C-H confirmed that a similar system was used in Sweden at one time.


[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 09-19-2004).]

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#141588 - 09/19/04 03:03 AM Re: Siberian Oddysey
C-H Offline

Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 1508
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
You are a good writer Ian.

Paul, standards typically have the year they were issued or updated tagged on at the end. It seems plausible that 72 is the edition the transformer was designed for. The year of manufacture is probably in the bottom right corner where is says 19__. I imagine that the number above is the serial number.

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#141589 - 09/19/04 07:20 AM Re: Siberian Oddysey
C-H Offline

Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 1508
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Did you check the fuse rating?

Dares one guess that the cable is 2.5 mm2 APPV? Did it have any markings?

Here is a little information about the Russian wire broadcasting system:

...practically all urban and rural houses was equipped by the original telco-based wire broadcasting system. It was intended for receiving from 1 to 3 radio channels with a simple cheap receiver, and the 1st channel was able to receive with the cheapest device (so-named “radio-point”) containing only a speaker, a transformer and a volume control, without need of any additional power source. The reason why the telco gave the much attention for the broadcasting service was the civil defense. The wire system is able to function at the hard conditions such as air radio interferences and a power failure at the customer’s location.
Source: www.telephonetribute.com/international.html

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#141590 - 09/19/04 12:39 PM Re: Siberian Oddysey
Hutch Offline
Member

Registered: 05/27/02
Posts: 383
Loc: South Oxfordshire, UK
Thanks for the compliments Guys,

I was inspired to snap these photo by your posting of interesting local electrical variants, plus Joe Tedesco’s holiday snaps that were posted recently. I made a conscious decision that on this trip I would snap as many examples of the electrical systems of Siberia that I could. The power station visit was an unexpected bonus. A new 128 KB CompactFlash Card for my digital camera with a capacity of 450 shots all at a cost of $25 really helped!

Paul, thanks for the generator calculations – I tried it myself but forgot the root 3 and hence I could not get it to balance. I think the ‘M’s on the left hand side are head of water in metres, this being a hydroelectric plant. I suspect they are maximum, minimum and optimal(?).

Thanks for the comments on the piped radio – it seemed to be everywhere, even the railway compartment we over-nighted in from Khabarovsk to Vladivostok.

2.5 sq mm could be correct for the wire gauge but there were no markings I could see what so ever on the cable and I didn’t check the fuse rating. As it was the board was so high up that I had to hold my camera above my head to get the picture. On one old mine site I came across a discarded length of 3-core flat, white ribbon cable with nothing to differentiate the wires under the outer (and only) insulation. I can only assume, with the lack of any earthing evident that the cable was intended for travelers.

It was interesting talking to my Russian counterparts. They remarked that Stalin was a great admirer of the Tennessee Valley Authority electrification schemes of the 1930’s and sought to emulate it throughout the Soviet Union. Certainly there was electric power of sorts in even the most basic of settlements.

Apart from the towns, it is a beautiful part of the world with the bright yellow and orange autumnal shades giving New England a run for its money. There are big rivers, rolling hills and snow capped mountains but I suspect the winters are brutal. Khabarovsk is a beautiful ‘European’ city with China just across the Amur river quite an anomaly and obviously receiving lots of federal money as the capital of the Russian Far East.

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