Ardnacrusha scheme wins prestigious award

The ground-breaking venture to generate electricity in Ireland 75 years ago today took its historic place among international engineering feats like the Eiffel Tower and the Panama Canal.

The River Shannon hydro-electric scheme, based in Ardnacrusha since 1927, won two awards made by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

It secured the Landmark prize - previously won by the Eiffel Tower, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the Panama Canal - for being a ‘‘huge achievement’’ in civil engineering terms.

And the scheme collected the Milestone award - once made in respect of the invention of colour television and America’s space shuttle - for the impact it had on the social, economic and industrial development of the then-fledgling independent Irish state.

The awards were made jointly to the Electricity Supply Board and the Siemens group, responsible for the construction.

ESB chief executive Padraig McManus, speaking at a ceremony in Co Clare’s Ardnacrusha power station, said the awards marked a huge tribute to both the past and present staff of the two companies.

And Siemens managing director Richard Crowe added: ‘‘Most serious historians acknowledge that the scheme provided the platform for the economic, industrial and the social development of Ireland. And it continues to inspire both Siemens and the ESB.’’

The Shannon scheme, which harnesses the river for power production and runs for seven miles from a dam to Ardnacrusha, cost almost €9m when it was built by 5,000 men.

It required the construction of 60 miles of railway and the use of 138 locomotives.

Ahead of the opening, four major bridges had to be built, four streams were diverted and seven million cubic metres of earth and 1.2 million cubic metres of rock were shifted.

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