Modern Marvels The Tennessee Valley Authority

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Roosevelt: "Not for a moment have I doubted that we could climb out of the valley of gloom."

Dykeman i/v 5279/33:49

Dykeman: "To be able to hear Franklin Roosevelt, the man who had this idea. To be able to hear him make one of his great addresses over the radio, this I think was one of the great things. The radio was there and put us in touch with the world."

Dam shots

NARRATOR: TVA's system of dams worked like no single dam could. Storm water, captured by high dams in the mountains, was carefully dispatched down the river valley. At every dam down the line, the river whirled through electric turbines, putting water to work, again and again.

grain mill, cheese plant, dairy, chicken hatching facility

With nature's bounty of near-limitless power, came an explosion of industry. Grain mills opened. So did a modern cheese plant and dairy. One factory hatched chicks to launch a local poultry industry.

boats at locks

Along the river, navigation locks made it easy for merchants to ship their goods to market. A barge would enter the lock through a giant doorway into a chamber 110 feet wide and 600 feet long. The doors would close, and gravity powered pumps would adjust the water level. Locks work like a giant elevator, gracefully raising or lowering boats to get past a dam.

Graphic of river elevation

In the Tennessee Valley, locks were essential to help boats navigate the 513-foot elevation change along the run of the river. This steep elevation drop made the river a treacherous string of shoals and rapids. But TVA dams smoothed-out the ride, turning the river into a series of easy steps. Locks moved barges from step to step...changing elevation an average of 53 feet at every dam along the way.

children running to dams

TVA dams were true engineering marvels. For valley residents, they instilled a sense of pride, accomplishment, and optimism toward the future.

dip to black

Segment Title: Power Struggles

private power plants, men at control panel, throwing switches, generators

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