The Pacific Northwest Forum
Second Series Volume I, Number 2, Pages 17-34
Spring, 1988

Photo Essay: Construction of the
Bonneville Power Administration's 'Master Grid'

by Craig Holstine

Pictures on the pages that follow were taken by government photographers during the building of the transmission line system that brought federal electrical power to many parts of Washington and Oregon. These photos are part of a collection housed in the Bonneville Power Administration headquarters in Portland.

The BPA photo archives provided them for Craig Holstine in 1986-87 while he was writing a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The nomination included substations and transmission lines of the original master grid network --and helped commemorate the 50th anniversary of the BPA. In 1987 the Advisory Councils on Historic Preservation in Washington and Oregon unanimously recommended that the facilities be listed in the National Register of

Historic Places.

An article by Craig Holstine, following these photographs, tells the story of the building of the Master Grid.

A map on page 22-23 shows the transmission system as of 1944.

Wagon hauling a 'gin pole' used in erecting transmission tower - February 13, 1940

Use of 'gin pole' to erect 'bridge' joinging two arms of a
high voltage transmission tower - September 1, 1940

Splicing tansmission cable on the Bonneville-Grand Coulee 230 kv line - May 7, 1940

Assembling steel tower components in Eastern Washington - January 11, 1940

Stringing transmission cable on the Bonneville-Grand Coulee 230 kv line - My 7, 1942

Stringing cable on the first high voltage transmission lines, leaing to J.D. Ross Substation
in Vancover, Washington, the hub of the system - August 29, 1939

Worker on power lines near Grand Coulee - March 16, 1942

Another precarious perch: working on a tower insulator - May 7, 1942

Vernita Ferry, used to carry BPA building materials across
Columbia River near Richkand, Washington - May 21, 1942

Untaking tower (in which electrical equipment was serviced) at Midway Substation,
an oasis of tecnology near Vernita, Washington - May 21, 1942

Columbia River crossing at Bonneville Dam, one of the most difficult natural
challenges in stringing transmission lines - November 14, 1942

Volunteer near Vernita, guarding supposedly vulnerable
river crossing during World War II - April 1, 1942

Small beginings: first BPA substaion (South Bank) under construction
at Bonneville Dam - July 7, 1939

Big power for big industry: Glenn H. Bell substation and
Permanente (Kaiser) Aluminum Plant near Spokane - May 23, 1949