50th memories: The arrival of the big plant

Ron Walker, left and Bill Fowler stand near the site of the groundbreaking for the liquid-helium plant. Photo: Fermilab

Way back when, I was in the Materials Supply Group, I was in charge of looking through lists of equipment that laboratories and government facilities had placed in excess — things they no longer needed — and that could be transferred to another laboratory.

I had heard through my boss Norm Hill and other higher-ups that they were looking for a liquid-helium plant. They needed it to cool the magnets in the Main Ring and to do their experiments for the future Energy Doubler. So I was looking and, lo and behold, I came across an air separation plant. It was thousands and thousands of dollars. We acquired the Worthington reciprocating compressors that were used in the plant.

We worked it out with Norm Hill and Jack Jaeger, the directorate approved it, and it was all free of charge. All we had to do was pay the shipping. It was a pretty huge acquisition. It was from a facility in California.

The compressors arrived in pieces on big flatbed trucks — huge trailer-type vehicles.

People were so happy to get it free of charge. I saved the lab mega bucks.

You can read about the liquid-helium plant in the Dec. 11, 1975, issue of FermiNews, page 1.