PHOENIXVILLE - Over 600 past and present employees, families and friends gathered under a huge tent to help Exelon Power's Cromby Generating Station celebrate its 50th Anniversary on Tuesday afternoon.
The power plant was marking a half-century of providing power and community support to the Chester County area with a plethora of activities. Such activities included a feast consisting of chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers and assorted extras, along with various guided plant tours, train rides and amusements for everyone of all ages.
To begin the celebration, JoEllen Burns Muntz, general manager, welcomed everyone in attendance.
"We're proud to host this celebration, which marks 50 years that Cromby Station has been providing electricity to the region," said Muntz. "We remain one of Exelon Power's most valuable assets here, and for those who work here are proud of that, and we're glad you came out to celebrate with us."
Muntz presented contributions to several community groups that were on hand, such as Schuylkill Canal Association, St. Mary's Franciscan Shelter, East Pikeland Township Parks & Recreation Department, and Spring-Ford Rescue Squad.
On behalf of the East Pikeland Township Parks & Recreation Department was Tim Cahill, East Pikeland supervisor. "We've had a long-running dialogue with Exelon regarding our parks and recreation issues," said Cahill. "I was invited to attend today, and was presented a check for $1,000 from them. This will go towards our summer programs and will help offset some of our costs. We're certainly glad to have Exelon as our neighbor and an asset to the community."
Muntz and event organizer Nancy Horning passed out various raffle prizes to employees whose names were drawn.
"It took us two months to prepare for this celebration," said Horning, a 32-year employee. "I like the people here, and everyone I work with is great."
After starting out as a junior stenographer, Horning is currently administrative assistant to the general manager.
"We as a plant has grown so much over the years," said Horning. "We're even more into safety and the environment than the past. We were the first power plant to install the scrubber system and emissions control system."
Another speaker at the celebration was Ted Jennings, vice president of engineering & operations support, who works out of the Kennett Square office.
Jennings welcomed everyone and spoke of the generating stations' history.
According to Jennings, the history of Cromby Generating Station began back in 1904, when the first generator on the Cromby site was a 1904, 350 kilowatt water turbine, Rasor's Meadow Electric Plant. It was replaced in 1918 with a modern 10,000-kilowatt building, which was retired in 1929. The present Cromby Station, a $59 million facility at the time, began commercial operation on July 23, 1954.
With a capacity of 388 megawatts, the station operates two units, one coal burning and the other oil and natural gas. Cromby Unit 1 is Exelon's most utilized generator, with more than 322,000 operational hours, said Jennings.
"This is a good plant for Exelon, and we're serious in making it work for us, being clean and reliable," he said. "We worked on maintenance projects such as the boilers and heaters, new rotors, improve the controls of the plant, and improve emissions."
One employee who was honored for his longevity was fuels supervisor Earl "Butch" Weaver, who has been with Cromby since May of 1968.
"This is my 36th year here, and I've been in the same department," said Weaver. "Back then, we only burned coal, and now it's oil and gas in one unit while the other unit still burns coal. We didn't have as many silos back then. We don't handle as much coal as we used to. Now, we're trying to keep things cleaning and working. Before we used to burn a full load in response to what Philadelphia needed. Now we burn a full load regarding what everyone else may need, and it can go away real fast. We average two trains of coal a week, that way we can build up enough inventory prior to the summer."
Several employees enjoyed the time off from their shifts to share their thoughts on the power plant and the changes over the years.
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather Gene and father Paul, Paul Pulcher II is one of several third-generation employees at Cromby.
"I'm just keeping up the family tradition. This is where my grandfather and father worked. While they held different position, I'm a shift foreman," said Pulcher. "I take care of the electrical part of the control room. I help synchronize the generators to the rest of the units. Since I began in 1981, a flux of modern instrumentation has made the plant more efficient."
Making the drive from Philadelphia every day since 1987 is auxiliary operator Dave Ford.
"I'm responsible for keeping oil in all of the machines," said Ford. "I arrived here from working in Philadelphia. Due to technology, it takes less people to make the plant run over the years. I tend to work alone, with a lot of shift work. It's a great place to work."
Site safety chairman and production technician Jim Turnbull said he takes safety issues very seriously inside the plant.
"I pass out the new safety procedures and upgrades to the employees," said Turnbull. "I've helped revamp the current safety program at Cromby. It's more peer-to-peer, because it's not only looking out for yourself, but for others. It's a tough road, but then you get a lot of positive reinforcement. Safety is important to us and we take it seriously."
As the festivities concluded, both Erin Malone and Ted Caddell, communications specialists, said the celebration was more like a "homecoming" for a lot of current and former employees.
"We certainly had a lot of activities going on here today," said Malone. "It was nice seeing as many people come and join our celebration. From the employees to the children, it seems like everyone had a great day."
"This is more than just the people who work here," said Caddell. "It's those who came back to help us celebrate today. They are a huge part of our history, along with family and friends. That shows what a special place this is to work. This is one of those plants that when you come to work here, it becomes a part of your life."