#Industrial Heritage - Latvia: The construction of the Kegums Hydro Power Plant and the rise in living standards
The construction of Kegums Hydro Power Plant (also known as Kegums Power station) was one of the most important events in Latvia in the 1936-1939 period. It was positively welcomed by the entire society, which recognised it as an opportunity for rapid economic growth, electrification of the Latvian territory, and general improvement of the living standards.
The construction was in line with the trends prevailing in global power engineering, as hydropower technologies developed very rapidly in the 1930s and were considered a promising area of power engineering development.
The Kegums Power station was actually very innovative: state-of-the-art technologies were used for the construction, and the new facility was one of the most modern in Europe. The project involved solutions which were truly innovative for the time: flap gates for the passage of large ice masses in the spring, a rafting canal for raft and barge traffic, an extremely advanced fishpass, and many other engineering solutions, some of which used for the first time.
The plant is still working today, the oldest of three hydropower plants of the Daugava River, and the third largest hydropower plant in the whole of the Baltic area. In 2018, it produced 457 GWh of electrical energy.
Here we present several photographs and documents of its construction, from the State Archives of Audiovisual Documents of the National Archives of Latvia (LNA LVKFFDA) and State Historical Archives (LNA LVVA).
View of the construction of a Kegums Power Station, 1938-1939. Author Grāveris. LNA LVKFFDA, 1. f., 100333N
The Construction Inspectorate of Kegums Power Station was established for the construction of the plant; it was in charge of the organization and management of the construction works, in cooperation with Sentab engineers and designers.
Excerpt of the building diary of the Kegums Hydro Power Plant from 11th August 1938. Entries in the diary were made by technician Ēvalds Šics. LNA LVVA, 7319. f., 8. apr., 75.l., 48 lp.
Cameraperson and film director Eduards Kraucs (1898 – 1977) documented step by step the construction of the Kegums Hydropower Plant from 1936 to 1940, producing a relevant quantity of films and photographs
Between 1929 and 1940, E. Kraucs shot more than 550 newsreels and 20 cultural films about the important events in the cultural, social, and economic life of Latvia. Kraucs's fundamental work, namely 1736 glass photographic plates and photo negatives, has survived. Some parts of this important heritage are now stored at the National Archives of Latvia, Latvia State Archives of Audiovisual Documents. You can see more at this link
In November 2009, the collection titled "The Process of the Ķegums Hydropower Plant Construction 1936–1940", archived by the Museum of Energy of Latvenergo Group, was included in the Latvian National Register of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. Here you can see a few examples.
Construction works of Kegums Hydro Power Plant from Autumn 1936 until Summer 1937 filmed by cameraman and film director Eduards Kraucs. The full film is available at this link
Letter of photographer to Minister of Finance of Latvia with an idea of memorializing in picture the building process of Ķegums Hydro Power Plant. August 1936. LNA LVVA, 7319.f., 1., 68., 424. lp.
In 1934, the Latvian government began the negotiations with Swedish companies for the construction of the Kegums Power Plant; on the 1st August 1936, it signed an agreement with the Swedish company Sentab.
View of building a dam, 1936. Author unknown. LNA LVKFFDA, 1. f., 158105N
During the first year of construction, surveying of the power plant building site was carried out. A sawmill for the preparation of building materials was set up on the left bank of the Daugava River. In order to organize work on both banks of the Daugava River, a temporary bridge over the river and a narrow-gauge railway for the transportation of building materials was constructed. Also, the construction of temporary living quarters for the workers engaged in the power plant construction began on the Daugava River.
On 22 May 1937, the foundation stone of Kegums Power Plant was laid. The result of the intensive work was the completed construction of the permanent steel bridge over the Daugava River, as well as the constructions of the concrete mixing plant, mechanical workshops and carpentry and warehouse buildings.
22 May 1937, the foundation stone of Kegums Power Plant. Author unknown. LNA LVKFFDA, 1. f., A114-117.
The construction of the power plant attracted many hundreds and even thousands of Latvian workers. In the period between 1937 and 1940 around 1400-2000 workers of different occupations worked simultaneously in various sections of the construction site.
Author unknown. LNA LVKFFDA, 1. f., 158102N
In 1938, the riverbed was strengthened, the reinforced concrete structures of the dam were erected, the power plant building was being constructed, and the assembly of the equipment was started.
View of the construction of a Kegums Power Station, 1938. Author unknown. LNA LVKFFDA, 1. f., 12539P
The year 1939 was marked by extensive assembly operations: workers assembled the turbines and generators, raised the section of the bridge at the design height, installed the dam gates, and constructed outdoor switchgear at the high-voltage substation. In autumn, the increase in the water level began after strengthening the protective dikes of the water reservoir.
On the 15 October 1939, the first hydropower unit of the Kegums Power Plant was started; the Kegums-Riga power line, together with its intermediary stations Jaunciems and Parks in Riga, were switched on. That night, the residents of Riga started to receive the electricity generated at Kegums. In December, the power of Kegums was transmitted to Jelgava, Bauska, Dobele and other cities of Latvia.
View of the construction of a Kegums Power Station, 1939. Author Melngailis. LNA LVKFFDA, 1. f., 119754N.