The Abandoned Kincaid Power Plant

Kincaid Power Plant

Kincaid Power Plant is about four miles south of Columbus, North Dakota, in Burke County, about seventeen miles southwest of Flaxton. It reached the end of its journey and was abandoned in 1966.

Kincaid Power Plant

The 1971 Burke County and White Earth Valley Historical Society book describes this plant as follows.

The Kincaid Power Plant had it’s beginning in 1925 when the small d.c. plant at Kenmare and the a.c. plant at Crosby, together with an isolated plant at Noonan were consolidated at Kincaid as the United Power Company. Two skinner uniflow engines, capable of carrying 250 kw each, were installed.

In 1926, the property was purchased by Mr. Heskett and made a part of the Montana – Dakota Power Company. The demand for electric power increased steadily and in 1927 a new brick building was constructed to house a 2500 KVA turbo-generator unit. The old boilers were in use until 1932 when a new boiler room addition was built in which two Springfield boilers of 408 HP each were installed. In 1935 a 500 KW Allis-Chalmers turbo-generator unit was installed as an emergency unit. The total installed capacity is 2500 KW but on occasions the plant has carried a peak load of 3100 KW.

This plant is the key station for the workings of the Baukol-Noonan Lignite, Inc., and the Truax-Traer Coal Company, who operate two of the largest lignite open-pit mines in the country. Each company operates huge stripping shovels and load from 50 to 60 carloads of coal daily.

The plant is located less than 300 feet from the Truax-Traer loading tipple thus affording us easy access by bulldozer and dragline to the screenings piles from which we use 70 – 90 tons a day as fuel. Despite the fact that it is a coal-fired plant and is located in the midst of coal mining operations, the Kincaid plant is always kept scrupulously clean. A recent improvement at the plant was the installation of a Marley cooling tower in the fall of 1945 to replace the old spray pond. Elmer Brenno was the chief engineer at the plant twenty years and was until the plant shut down August 31, 1966.

Tom Pence contributed these photos of the plant in 2010 with the following comments:

I met the current owner of the property and he stated that he is slowly attempting to further reclaim the land, using it for cattle grazing. He was very friendly and offered a little of his history of purchasing the land and building. There were workers “dorms” across the highway but they are nothing more than foundations, barely. Kincaid 32 gives you a view from the highway, showing water filled trenches from the strip-mining.

Kincaid Power Plant
Kincaid Power Plant
Kincaid Power Plant
Kincaid Power Plant

More of the Kincaid Power Plant

Photos by Tom Pence. Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media

31 Comments on “The Abandoned Kincaid Power Plant

  1. this is fantastic! i had no idea this old power plant existed! i work for a cooperative that operates power plants, and i’m fascinated by them. i love glimpses into our industrial past. how far we’ve come!

  2. My Grandfather was the Kincade plant engineer during in the thirties. My Dad was raised in Kincade and worked in the plant for a number of years. Thank you for the fine photos.

      • That would have been my Uncle Art also known as Brother Pius from Assumption Abbey in Richardton. Art passed away a few years ago. He was the last of that generation.

  3. Does anyone know exactly where this is in Burke County? I cannot find any record or location or picture anywhere, other than here. Thanks

    • In Google Earth or Google Maps, look up these coordinates. 48°50’41.82″N Latitude and 102°48’1.18″W longitude

      • Is there any portion of the station not in the pictures? I’m looking to make a short film evolving an old control room of some sort and was wondering if there was one located at this power station?

    • This is located about 5 miles south of Columbus, ND on Hwy 40. My parents (with 5 little kids) lived in one of the Camp Houses which was located a short distance across the road from the power house. We lived in that little house until 1962 when I started first grade when moved to a farm East of Columbus. I still have a lot of memories from there… like all the coal trucks going up and down the roads from the mine to the plant. As a teenager we would explore all those old buildings and ride our motorcylces up and down all the old coal roads and spoil piles surrounding the plant.

    • its about 2 or 3 miles south of Columbus on highway 40. about the last thing before flatland turns into hills. you should be able to see it from the highway

  4. Is there a back room with old controls in it located at this power station? I’m asking because I’m interested in doing some minor filming at this sight and want to get some controls in the scene.

    • Shea, while individual power plants might be different, in these older and smaller plants there would likely be boiler controls in the boiler room, while the switchboard and switchgear would be located in the generator room along one of the walls. The oil switches for the generators, buses, and feeders would be in an enclosed area behind the switchboard. In this plant you might have two generator panels, another panel with with recording watt-hour meters, and feeder panels sending power out to the substation or for local service (Columbus, ND).

  5. Source materials for my comments include: The Way It Was, by Walter Doebbert. He was an engineer for the neighboring Otter Tail Power Company and worked at the similar Harvey, North Dakota power plant. He mentions the fact that by the 1950s they began to build power plants with centralized control rooms.

    Booklet for the new K Street Power Plant of the Iowa-Nebraska Light & Power Company, 1931; pages 10 and 11. On page 10 they show pictures of both the switchboards in the generator room, and the separate boiler controls in the boiler room.

    Stories of my wife’s uncle Jim who was a boiler operator at the South Omaha Power Plant of OPPD.

    Having read numerous engineering books on the subject, and poking around the entrances of some old power plants.

    • Walter Doebbert was my grandfather. He later moved to Fergus Falls, MN.

      • I became familiar with Otter Tail Power on a trip to Jamestown, ND in 1993. Later I encountered a “line geek” who photographed Otter Tail and MDU installations across the northern plains. FYI: A line geek is somebody who has an interest in power utilities and might be a utility company worker, a historian, an old insulator collector, or a rail fan. I found a copy of your grandfather’s book on eBay and I love the detailed description of the Harvey, North Dakota power plant therein. My copy of the book has made some rounds. My wife’s uncle, who worked at OPPD’s (Nebraska Power Company) South Omaha Station (long gone) read the book, and an acquaintance of mine from Sioux Falls borrowed it. It is part of an extensive collection of books about Midwestern utilities and electrical engineering. I consider it a very valuable addition to my collection. My interest in public utilities is multifaceted. I grew up in the Public Power State of Nebraska, I wanted to be a line worker when I was young. I also have an interest in meteorology/climatology/ environmental science and have two undergraduate degrees in environmental science. I am a rail fan with an interest in electric traction (electrified railroads). Finally, I am an amateur historian with a particular interest in the evolution of the public utilities industry; electric, gas, transit,and water. Your grandfather wrote a very good book. I have read it twice, and I will probably read several more times. I would like to see somebody publish a copy of it with more pictures of the Canby, Minnesota, Harvey, North Dakota, Crookston, Devils Lake, and Jamestown power plants. The 1940s and early 1950s were an interesting time in the history of power utilities.

  6. There is no hardware left in the plant. There is A LOT of manure in the basement where the local cattle have sheltered.

  7. My Dad worked at this plant. I remember going out there as a kid. There were kittens everywhere. Some of the town people that worked at the mine went out there to take showers. I have good memories of this place. If it could talk I bet there would be stories until hell won’t have it! Thanks for Sharing this!!!!

    • My first 10 years of my life I spent living beside it. My first step dad worked there as an engineer
      John Lunstad

  8. If you do visit this site, with the owners permission of course, be very careful; the transmission switch yard located next to this site is energized at a high voltage. While the power plant might not be used anymore the transmission lines are still used.

    • Yes, please contact the owner, me and my father. As for the switch yard, mdu has it all fenced off and there is no danger as long as u don’t break into it. Be careful around there as there are large holes in the building and outside along with other things to injure yourself.

    • Correct – those transmission lines into the substation are energized at 57,000 volts!

      Certainly would be nice to see a picture that shows the substation a bit closer.

  9. I worked for Burns and Roe who designed and built the Basin Electric Power Plant south of Stanton – it was at the time (I believe) the largest lignite-powered generating station in the country. Truax-Traer was the company that provided the coal. They brought in this huge piece of equipment – as long as a football field — called the LachHammer to dig up the coal and put it on the conveyers which crossed the road and delivered it to the plant. Memories.

    • You remember correctly – Leland Olds Station was the largest lignite-burning power plant in the entire Western Hemisphere. And the LachHammer bucket wheel excavator didn’t last long at Glenharold Mine. I’ve seen pics of it, but I heard it broke frequently because it would hit boulders, and was replaced by a dragline.

  10. I have driven by there a number of times,but stayed on the highway

  11. I lived at Kincaid until I married and moved to Fargo. My dad was the agent-telegrapher at Kincaid for many years. Last time I visited Columbus was when i moved back to the Twin Cities, MN from Washington state in 2008. I drove around town for a bit but I finally had to leave. It was so sad to see what was left, tears rolled down my face most of the time. My old church was gone! Where did it go? I don’t even know if there is anyone living there that I would know anymore. But I have the memories of all those years ago!

  12. Eugene Brumfield says:
    I lived in Kincaid with my parents Vance and Ella. I worked at the mine riding loaded box cars of coal from the tipple where they were filled with coal by a power machine that would go inside the door with coal and fill the car to about 3/4 full, back out, I would ride the car standing on the platform by the wheel brake downhill slowly over a scale where it was weighed and once past the scale I would release the brake and ride the car down an incline to the flat part of the track, stop the car, get down and walk back to the tipple and wait for the next car to be loaded. There was two of us at that time and we’d take turns riding the cars for eight hours. The pay at that time was $2.04 an hour, which was excellent pay in 1950.
    I graduated from Columbus High School in 1951 in a class of 20 or 22. Ahhh the good times.

    • Great info!!! Wow where did the time go, back when America was red white and blue

  13. I was a land man for Consolidation Coal Company in Bismarck during the 1970’s . Consol had a lot of coal leases in ND. also had what we called the Woburn and Kincaid Coal Reserves. Consol had purchase the Traux Traer lands. They had the Glenharold in Stanton and the Velva Mine. It is interesting to see the past history of the power plants.

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