Energy History: Street Lighting Began with Gas Lanterns

The gas lanterns and I had a bad start – I must confess right at the beginning.Because when I was driving on the dimly lit streets of the Dresden district of Striesen during the night, I was scolded for gas lighting.I do not know yet that she is an outstanding invention.

Today, I give her a second chance and take a look at the energy story.Finally, Dresden and Rudolf Sigismund Blochmann (1784 – 1871), who played here, played an important role in the beginnings of the German gas industry.

But first we look at the island for Great Britain.In 1792 the Scottish inventor and engineer William Murdoch succeeded in developing a functioning gas lighting.In his own house, he experimented and used as a source of energy a gas, which emerges in the air after the combustion of coal.He led the gas into the house via copper pipes, thus feeding the gas lamps.

Since the beginnings of industrialization, manufacturers have been looking for ways to improve lighting in the production facilities.Consequently, the new gas light was used mainly in factories.The first gas-based street lighting went into operation in London in 1814, exactly 200 years ago.

In order to meet the increasing demand for the fuel, gassing plants were created.On the basis of coal gasification, the combustible gas was generated and fed into a pipeline network, which transported the energy carrier to the consumer.In Germany too, gas lighting became popular and sparked candles, oil and petroleum lamps as sources of light.

In Dresden the Rudolf Sigismund Blochmann, born in Reichstädt near Dippoldiswalde, committed himself to the new technology.The trained mechanic became an inspector of the Royal Mathematical-Physical Salon and the Kunstkammer in Dresden in 1818.

In 1828, RS Blochmann founded the first public gas station, which was independent from abroad – especially from the British competition.In the same year, in April 1828, the first 36 gas lanterns illuminated the Schlossplatz, the Hofkirche and the square between Zwinger and cathedral.I can hardly imagine it, but the gasworks founded by Blochmann was located on today’s theater, so close to the first lanterns.

Since the gas lanterns had to be ignited by hand, a new profession emerged: the lantern lantern.With a long fuse, he drew through the streets and flashed every lantern.Later the lamps were ignited with pressure shocks in the gas network.This presupposed, however, that a small flame always burned in the lantern.

The invention of electric light in the second half of the 19th century influenced street lighting.High energy costs and the expensive maintenance talked against the gas lanterns.The incandescent stock developed by Carl Auer von Welsbach, which improved the lighting output achieved with gas lamps, was also unable to stop the triumph of electric light.In contrast to the gas light, the electric lighting was safer, less maintenance-wise and consumed less energy with higher light output.

After the Second World War, most municipalities were still holding on to the gas lighting due to the existing pipelines.In the coming decades, however, electric road lighting was becoming more and more popular.Initially, fluorescent lamps were used, later mercury vapor and sodium vapor high-pressure lamps were retrofitted.Since the turn of the millennium, everything has been about LED technology in street lighting.

The modern LED luminaires are characterized above all by lower energy and maintenance costs, a long service life and a precise light control.They also make a significant contribution to the fact that the lighting systems become more and more efficient.

The LED technology is a superior option for municipalities, which can reduce costs in road lighting.My colleagues from ENSO NETZ GmbH advise municipalities and support them with a wide range of services relating to exterior and street lighting.

Back to the gas lantern: In Germany, it is still in use in about 40 cities.But also in some extraordinary places you can discover the historical testimonies.For example in Saxon Switzerland at the Bastei.Since 2012, a historically restored gas lantern has been lit at the entrance to the Bastei restaurant.Or visit the Gaslaternen-Freilichtmuseum in Berlin.The exhibition, which was opened in 1978, shows around 100 exhibits from more than 30 European cities and is, according to its own data, the largest collection of its kind in Europe.

On my next visit to Dresden-Striesen I will surely not be so quick on the dim light.Rather, I remember that RS Blochmann, the pioneer of the German gas industry, wrote energy history in Dresden.

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