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1906 Cincinnati Waterworks Triple Steam Water Pump

MilanD Member Posts: 1,160
edited May 2018 in THE MAIN WALL
Hey guys, been a while since my last check-in. Just came across this - was totally unaware it was still here and open to public for viewing. Perhaps some of you will enjoy the site and videos.

It was the largest ever steam water pump built in the USA, maybe even the world. In operation from 1906 to 1963. A gem!





HenryTurbo Dave


  • BenDplumber
    BenDplumber Member Posts: 49
    Thanks for the info. Tours are offered the first Thursday of each month you do need to register first. I'm going 7 June 18 and will report back!
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,160
    edited June 2018

    Thanks for the info. Tours are offered the first Thursday of each month you do need to register first. I'm going 7 June 18 and will report back!

    Super! How did you like it?? I couldn't register until the October date. Looking forward to it - I'm giddy like a little school-girl!
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,160
    So, the weekend finally came - the Cincinnati Triple Steam Water Works Pumps visit. This pump supplied the water for entire Cincinnati and worked pretty much without a hitch from 1906 to 1963. Then, the more powerful electric pumps took over and several other aquifers were tapped.

    I learned where 'balls to the wall' expression came from, and for all that don't know it now, here it is: that big 'governor' ball! When working at full speed, it expands out and touches the protective 'wall' (that spinning thing was at head-level and could kill you!). When you asked the station engineer how it was going, they would answer, 'balls are down', or 'balls are high', or 'balls to the wall' - to explain they are at capacity. So, get your minds out of the gutter, people. Now you know better - our predecessors were not pervs.

    Some fun facts: there were 9 boiler that powered the engines: Sterling 4-Drum Water-Tube Boilers. Total HP: 4,500.

    Steam Piping?? Fourteen inch pipe delivers steam to the engine room arranged to use either saturated or super-heated steam and branches into two lines with two engines taking steam from each branch. Exhaust steam from the LP cylinder flows through the exhaust heater into the condenser. The air pump removed air, oxygen, CO2 and uncondensed steam from the condensate chamber while maintaining a near perfect vacuum (-13.8 psig) in the chamber.

    Unfortunately, most of it has been removed from the boiler room and no pictures survive of it (what a bummer!). It was scrapped when they switched to electricity. The only reason the pumps survived is that - well, they are now holding the water pressure back and the building in place. So, can you say - a beautiful paper-weight?

    The website describing all the tech stuff is here:

    The scale of this thing is quite amazing. 60 ft from the top deck to the bottom of the pump. The intake tunnel is dug another 60 ft down from the bottom of the pit where the pump sits (so 120 ft total), and then a 7ft tunnel goes under the Ohio river, to KY side, where the intake tower is located. I'm standing in one of the pics pointing at 6ft marker. We are 6ft UNDER the bottom of the river bed.

    It was all dug by hand. HAND! With shovels and buckets. It took them 6 months to dig it using a round caisson, 6ft thick interlocked pine, that swelled 6 inches in the middle and gave them a headache. It took another 4 years to get it pressed back down, by placing, after the fact, 20,000 tons of cast iron in the middle of it, a stack of cast iron going up 40 or so feet, on top of the pine caisson while waiting for low river for it to dry and be pushed down.

    All my photos are here:

  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,160
    edited October 2018
    Btw, cell phone service works fine in the hole. The water gauge there in the pit serves to measure how much they need to flood the pit when the Ohio is high.