Fossil Creek and its springs provided an ideal power source for a hydroelectric power plant. The springs gushed a constant water flow of over one million gallons an hour, and the terrain of the creek allowed for a drop of 160 feet in the less than 10 miles. The combination of great water volume and steep terrain were ideal for the turning of large turbines connected to electric generators. Unfortunately, the steep terrain, ideal for the plant, provided an enormous construction challenge.
The first task was the construction of a wagon road from the railhead at Meyer, Arizona to the site of the Childs and Irving powerhouses. Approximately 600 men, 150 wagons and 400 mules were used to haul material. The road was approximately 40 miles long and so rough that 5 to 6 days were required to traverse it with a loaded wagon. The very nature of the road prohibited the transportation of long loads such as water pipe and power poles. Consequently, other solutions to these needs had to be engineered.
Most of the flumes and piping were constructed on site, the terrain prohibiting the use of wood and ditches as was typical elsewhere. These items were made from concrete, mixed in wagon beds and poured on location. The completed system consisted of many thousands of feet of concrete flumes, concrete-lines tunnels and concrete pipe.
Approximately 120 to 150 linear feet of flume could be constructed in a day. Water pressure feeding into the turbines was so great that the steel pipe required in these locations had to be imported from Germany, no source being available in the United States.
An ingenious solution was developed to deal with the inability to transport long timbers for power transmission lines over the rough terrain. Engineers found that the towers used on pre-fabricated metal windmills would serve the purpose, and approximately 700 of these were hauled in and assembled on the spot, without the windmill portion, of course.
The successful completion of the Childs plant is an overwhelming tribute to the professionalism of the engineers and the dedication of the construction crews. Enormous challenges were met, and the Childs plant was completed and began delivering power only seven years after construction of the road began.