Dunston Power Station was the site of two consecutive coal-fired power stations between 1910 and 1985. The site was situated on the western outskirts of Dunston in Gateshead, and is currently occupied by the MetroCentre. The first station to occupy the site was known as Dunston A Power Station, and the second station, which replaced it, was known as Dunston B Power Station. The B station is the greater recognised of the two stations, and featured as the backdrop to a scene in the 1971 gangster movie Get Carter.
Dunston A had a generating capacity of 30,000 kilowatts (kW) and Dunston B had a generating capacity of 300 megawatts (MW). Electricity from the station powered areas in Northumberland, County Durham, Cumberland, Yorkshire and as far north as Galashiels in Scotland.
With the expansion of the electric supply industry in the early 1900s, power stations were built to supply homes with electric lighting. The Newcastle-upon-Tyne Electric Supply Company commissioned the first power station on the site, which had been a flood plain. Construction began in 1908. In 1910 Dunston A power station opened to supply the local households and industries with electricity. The station was of a similar design to other local power stations at Wallsend and Lemington, and was a large triple-gabled brick building. However Dunston A was built several years after the other local stations, and so because of advances in power station design, was larger and was able to produce more electricity than the others. The station used three steam turbines to produce a total of 30,000 kilowatts (kW). These turbines were manufactured by Brown Boveri of Switzerland and by AEG of Germany.
As part of a transition from the 40 Hertz (Hz) system, used by the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Electric Supply Company, to the 50 Hz system, used by the new UK National Grid, which took place in the early 1930s, a new power station was built to replace the A power station. The new Dunston B Power Station was designed by consulting engineers Merz & McLellan. Its design differed from the design of other power station at the time because it enclosed the machinery in glass, which would be cladded onto a steel frame. This was differed from usual power station designs which normally placed the machinery in a concrete or brick wall. Dunston B is thought to be the first power station in the UK to have used this type of design and could possibly be the first power station in the world to have done so.
Construction of the new power station started in January 1933, but was not fully completed until 1951 because of the Second World War. The station was opened in stages throughout its construction as generating units were able to be put into production while the other sections were still under construction. Once all of the stations units were working in 1951, Dunston A power station was closed and demolished. Dunston B power station became the station which was generally recognised as Dunston Power Station.
The new station had a total capacity of 300 megawatts (MW). This was provided by six 50 MW generating sets, which were made by Parsons. The station was an early example of the use of reheated steam in its turbines, and had one of Britain's most efficient systems until the 1950s. The plant's water system was cooled by using the nearby River Tyne, rather than using a cooling tower system. Coal for the station was supplied from various coal mines in the North Durham coalfields, and was brought to the station by train on what was a freight only line which, since the station's closure, has been upgraded for use by passenger trains and is now used as part of the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway. Tugs towed hopper barges full of fly ash down the River Tyne to dump in the North Sea. A tug known to have done this was known as "Mildred".
After some units having been in operation for about 40 years, the station closed and ceased to generate electricity in October 1981, due to having become outdated. For some years prior to its closure, the station had only been used as a stand by station, used only at peak electrical demand times.
The station was demolished in 1985 to make way for the MetroCentre, which became Europe's largest shopping and leisure centre. The land which the MetroCentre was built upon was bought for only £100,000, because the site was water logged and had been used for dumping ash produced by the power station. A Costco cash and carry now stands on the actual site of the power station, although the power station's large indoor sub-station still stands nearby.
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