pub-769827371306972 pub-769827371306972
top of page

Forgotten Bluffton: the Woodcock plant

And the answer to the question, Why is there a lake on Jefferson Street?

The Woodcock power plant - now the site of John's Body Shop on Lake Street

Why is there a lake on Jefferson Street between Riley Creek and the Norfolk Southern Railroad? The answer falls into the "forgotten Bluffton" category. Here's the story:

For viewers who may be unaware, the site of John's Body Shop on Lake Street was once a large coal-fired power plant. It was razed in the 1982.

And, the lake, now known as Cob Lake was originally called the National Quarry. Prior to it becoming a lake, it was a stone quarry.

This history of the quarry and Woodcock plant includes several photographs. At the bottom of this story you will find information about the photos.

A brief history of the stone quarry

The quarry, now filled with water, was once a working quarry operated by the National Lime Stone and Quarry Company.

On Sept. 19, 1929, the large building at the quarry was destroyed in an early evening fire. Damage was reported at $300,000 – the equivalent of $4.9 million in 2022.

Breaking out about 6 p.m. the fire was beyond control by the time the fire department arrived. With the entire upper story of the larger crusher structure a mass of flames, a continual rain of sparks was whipped by a high wind over residential and business sections more than a mile away, and several small roof fires had to be extinguished.

The stone plant was not rebuilt following the disaster, throwing about 25 men out of work.

Power plant built in 1937-38

The quarry grounds stood idle until 1938 when a $1 million power generating plant was erected near the site by the Central Ohio Light and Power Co. The quarry grounds were purchased by the company and water of the quarry used for cooling purposes in operation of the plant.

The plant generating the power was known as the Woodcock Plant. Central Ohio merged into the Ohio Power Co. in 1955. The plant was taken out of service in 1958.

In 1967 Ohio Power reactivated the generating station. In 1975 the plant was shut down for the final time. Eschlish Wrecking Co. of Louisville, Ohio, purchased the Woodcock building in 1982 for $65,000. The village purchased the National Quarry in 1982 for $25,000.

Featured in Model Railroader magazine

Model Railroader magazine published a detailed story of the Woodcock plant in its July 2011 issue. Fred Steiner provided the magazine with a black and white photograph of the plant taken in 1953, which Jim Hediger, senior editor, then described of each of the plant’s features. A portion of that story follows:

A larger version of this map is at

the bottom of this story

The Central Ohio Light and Power Co. opened this plant, named Woodcock Station, in 1937. At the time COL&P supplied service to 37 communities including Findlay, North Baltimore and Wooster.

The company’s Eastern Division had 310 miles of transmission and distribution lines radiating from Wooster. Its Western Division operated two other steam generating plants, one in Findlay and another in St. Marys that was used for standby service. They served more than 200 miles of transmission lines.

The company’s power requirements had been increased rapidly, and additional generating capacity was needed, so a new plant location was obtained just east of Bluffton. This site included an abandoned stone quarry that was turned into a 26-acre artificial lake to furnish cooling water.

The new plant used pulverized coal for fuel. A pair of steam generators supplied turbogenerators that produced the electrical power.

This typical plant received up to 11 loads of coal daily. Woodcock power plant served by both AC&Y and the Nickel Plate Road in Bluffton.

Equipment for the new plant came from the power industry’s leading manufacturers: • Combustion Engineering made the fuel burning equipment and pulverizing mills; • Fort Pitt Bridge Works fabricated the structural steel and coal bunkers • General Electric made the switch boards, main switch gear and substation transformers • Ingersoll-Rand built the condenser •Riley Stoker Co. produced the boilers •Westinghouse supplied the turbogenerators; and •Worthington made the boiler pumps.

At peak production, this plant received 10 to 11 carloads of coal a day plus occasional transformers, generators and other replacement parts.The steam coal was purchased form a variety of sources including mines on the Chesapeake and Ohio, New York Central and Nickel Plate. The coal moved through interchanges to the AC&Y for final delivery to the power plant.

The Woodcock station had masonry construction with steel-framed windows typical of the 1930 utilities. A separate two-story wing along the south side of the plant was provided for the officers.

Coal was delivered on what appears to be a double-ended siding parallel to the AC&Y main line. The railroad would deliver the loads at the east (right) end Hopper cards have roping staples under each corner.

A heavy rope was hooked into the nearest staple on a loaded car and the rope was then looped around a capstan-type car puller to move the car into the dump house and spot it over a receiving hopper.

There the hopper doors were opened to dump the coal into the conveyor system for transfer to the plant’s internal bunkers or out of the reserve coal pile.

A vacuum system controlled the dust. In most cases, the coal was pulverized just before it was fed into the boilers. Finally, the empty hopper was pushed out to roll down a gentle grade to the west end, where it hand brake would be applied to hold the car as a bumper to stop the following empties.

A separate spur track entered the main building from the east end to receive heavy components. Power plants have internal heavy-duty overhead cranes to service the heavy equipment.

Finally, there’s a transformer yard at the east end where the power is modified for transmission to the customers. This area includes circuit breakers and automated switch gear to round the electricity and protect the plant. Of course, this high voltage yard I fences for safety and security.


Continuing soundings at National Quarry

The following story is reprinted from a 1937 issue of the Bluffton New. It related to Central Ohio’s purchase of the National Quarry.

Soundings in the large National quarry preliminary to projected pumping operations are being continued this week under the direction of Harvey Hurlburt, residents engineer for the Central Ohio Light and Power Co.

Hurlburt also is directing erection of 200 feet of new cyclone fence between tourist grounds and the swimming pool at Buckeye Lake, which also is Central Ohio property.

The new fence runs from the dike on the banks of the Big Riley to the diving platform in the pool. Gates will be placed in the fence.

Large electrically driven pumps will be installed in the National quarry after soundings have been completed to pre-determine the depth.

The water level will be lowered about 22 feet until the first ledge in the quarry is brought above the surface.

Following this, a water intake will be placed in a deeper channel near the center of the quarry.

This channel, approximately 28 feet lower than the first ledge will give a total depth of about 50 feet from the water intake after the quarry is permitted to re-fill.

In lowering the quarry, water will be pumped into Big Riley creek.

It is estimated approximately two weeks to 20 days will be required to lower the water to the first ledge.

Number of pumps and the type to be used in pumping operations at the large quarry will not be determined until soundings and investigations of the grade levels are completed.

About the color photo

Jim Diller’s father, Paul Diller, took the color photo of the plant in operation and captured the plant and the trees in a perfect reflection in the National Quarry on a summer afternoon sometime in the 1950s.

You can see wisps of smoke coming from the stack. When this photo was taken the bank of the quarry were clear of brush. There's also the remains of a building no longer standing on the east side of the quarry, near the railroad tracks. That building was part of the National Lime Stone and Quarry Company.

This photo was published in Model Railroader magazine

Black and white photo

There are several things to notice separate from the description from Model Railroader. The railroad is now abandoned and no rails remain today. However, the depot remains.

Notice how clean (absence of trees and brush) are the banks of the National Quarry.

Notice a side track (passing track) on the Nickel Plate Road on the bottom of the photo. That track is no longer there.

Notice the number of houses on North Main Street. Compare that number with today's houses.

Today the Woodcock plant is part of forgotten Bluffton.


bottom of page