Dreams to Reality
In Paris, Tesla was referred to a junior engineer position with the Compagnie Continental Edison, the branch of the American company set up to expand that inventor's DC generators and lighting systems. Advancing quickly, Tesla became one of the traveling repairmen sent to work on installations throughout Europe. He continued to be a strange, phobic character and to talk enthusiastically about his AC system. He received little attention from colleagues who were too busy expanding the DC system. The company had stunned the public by illuminating the 1881 Paris Electrical Exhibition and was setting up generators to light-restricted areas such as factories, but the one-mile transmission range for practical DC transmission limited sales to larger installations such as towns and cities.
The German city of Strasburg did purchase an Edison system but the dedication ceremony for the railroad station lighting was disastrous. Throwing the switch caused an immediate explosion which blew out a wall of the train shed. The German-speaking Tesla was dispatched to deal with the problem. He spent a year doing the repairs and waiting for various levels of bureaucracy to approve the work.
During the slow time of waiting, Tesla was able to convert his dreams to reality. In a rented machine shop, he built the solid version of the dynamo he had preserved in his mind's eye during the previous year. The model worked beautifully. On returning to Paris, Tesla's plan was to collect his Strasburg bonus for start-up funds and find French financial backers as he built his new AC generators and motors.
The bonus did not materialize, either through lack of funds on the Edison company's part or misplaced expectations on Tesla's part. Edison managers advised Tesla to take his dreams and plans and try them out in America. The 28-year-old who had studied, worked, and traveled through much of central Europe set out for the United States.