Pictures of the Low Service Building of the Chestnut Hill Pumping Station

These photos are by Al Goldberg who is very active in the movement to save the steam engines in the High Service Building which is adjacent to the building shown here.  Al has also sent along the text which accompanies the pictures.  Thank you Al for your contribution to the NEMES website. 

The following images were taken from December, 2004, to February, 2005. They document the demolition of the Low Service Building, a municipal water pumping station on Beacon St. facing the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and adjacent to the High Service Building, at the Chestnut Hill Waterworks.

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Low Service Building:

This building was completed 1899, shut down in mid-1970, now being renovated by a commercial developer. Until recently it contained 3 large Holly reciprocating steam engines driving pumps capable of 35 million gallons of water per day at a head of 45 feet. There were also 2 Solar gas turbines with centrifugal pumps, each rated at the same capacity. The building shell has historic protection, but none of the internal structure or machinery was included in that protection. As of the current date, 09/05, the shell still stands surrounding a roofless hole in the ground, to be filled with some 40 condominium units.

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Architectural detail:

 Shown is the front right corner of the building, and one of several window grills located some 20 ft above grade on the side of the building. As security wasn't a problem, the grills were simply done by people who cared.

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Holly Engine:

One of 3 identical steam engines, similar to the Allis in the High Service Building at the same site. This may be a unique image as there is little or no documentation available about this building.

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An elegant staircase:

Each of the Holly's had a similar one. Seen in the background is part of the decorative main entry.

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Basement water vessel:

A water pump was located directly under each steam cylinder in the basement, with a huge water vessel on each side. The vessels acted as plenums for water entry and discharge of the pump, contained water valves, and also had a substantial air chamber at the top to control the surging water flow due to reciprocating action of the engine. There was also an air chamber at each end of the pipe running through the inlet water vessels. This surging was a major problem in design of such large reciprocating pumps, and the advent of rotary centrifugal pumps sometime in the 1920's, in which the flow was steady with no need for valves or the large water vessels, was a significant advance in the technology.

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Crankshaft and flywheel hub:

Each engine had a two-piece crankshaft, each holding one flywheel and hub. Due to its weight the flywheel was removed separately in two pieces. Without the hub the 17 foot wheel weighed about 12.5 tons, and likely the crankshaft section shown was in the vicinity of 6 tons. This view shows one of the outer cranks, that is, either for a first stage or for a third stage cylinder. The far end of this shaft had a crank that was connected by a large pin to a similar crank on the second crankshaft. The connecting rod from the intermediate cylinder drove the pin.

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Bare flywheels:

Once demolition started entry to the building became difficult. This image shows what was left of an engine before the flywheels and crankshaft were taken out.

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Smoke and fire:

Cast iron can't be cut with a cutting torch, but can be melted by heat from an oxygen-filled iron pipe. Click here for a description of how and oxygen lance works. 

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Flywheel joint:

Before demolition there was a question about how the flywheel halves were fastened. The wedge shown, one on each side of a joint, is not a method commonly used on similar wheels in this country.

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Flywheel joints:

These images, taken of a smashed wheel lying on the junk pile, solve the mystery. This method was common in Europe, seems crude but doesn't require precise machining needed for the usual dogbone system of US practice.

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Shown are mostly smashed pieces of the hollow cast iron framing. The pile would change from time to time as various parts of the engines emerged from the building while a steady stream of trucks kept the pile viable.

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Every once in a while something interesting was seen. Here, a third stage cylinder head turned up showing a Corliss entry valve and a pair of poppet exit valves. The Holly's used Corliss valves for all but the final exhaust. The hole in the center seems too small for the piston rod; possibly it's a simple piston guide at the top.

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