S. Berliner, III's sbiii.com HISTORY of TECHNOLOGY Metropolitan Waterworks Page keywords = museum metropolitan waterworks Station Chestnut Hill Boston Massachusetts Holly Gaskill Leavitt Riedler Allis Worthington Snow Pumping Engine Architect Vinal Wheelwright boiler turbine

Updated:   02 Sep 2017; 22:15  ET
[Page createdd 03 Feb 2017

    original AT&T Worldnet Website begun 30 May 1996.]
URL:  http://sbiii.com/h2oworks.html

S. Berliner, III
Consultant in Ultrasonic Processing
"changing materials with high-intensity sound"

[consultation is on a fee basis]

Technical and Historical Writer, Oral Historian
Popularizer of Science and Technology
Rail, Auto, Air, Ordnance, and Model Enthusiast
Light-weight Linguist, Lay Minister, and Putative Philosopher

note - The vast bulk of my massive Web presence (over 485 pages) had been hosted by AT&T's WorldNet service since 30 May 1996; they dropped WorldNet effective 31 Mar 2010 and I have been scrambling to transfer everything.  Everything's saved but all the links have to be changed, mostly by hand.  See my sbiii.com Transfer Page for any updates on this tedious process.

S. Berliner, III's


Metropolitan Waterworks


Page Index

History of Technology page
    {unindexed - only links appear there at present} except for:
    BellTelephone Laboraries (Manhattan) and Mercury (h\Hg) (27 Mar 2012).
    The Metropolitan Waterworks {moved to this page 03 Feb 2017}.

This History of Technology Metropolitan Waterworks page
    The Metropolitan Waterworks, Chestnut Hill High-Service Pumping Station, Boston.
        Mood Shots (cell-phone snapshots).
        Holly-Gaskill Pumping Engines.
        Leavitt-Riedler Pumping Engine.
            The Leavitt's Boiler.   rev (02 Mar 2017)
        Allis Pumping Engine.
        Worthington-Snow Pumping Engine.
    Turbine Engines (oil- and gas-fired).
    Architects and Architecture.
    Low-Service Pumping Station (Station #2).
    Coal, Pipe, Boilers and Such.
    More SBIII Snapshots.

In addition, see The 1913 Phillipsburg Waterworks. Peoples Water Company Pump House, Phillipsburg, New Jersey.   ListingAdded (02 Sep 2017)

[See the disclaimer on the main History page and AUTHORITY on my Home Page.]

The Metropolitan Waterworks
Chestnut Hill High-Service Pumping Station
Chestnut Hill, Boston, Massachusetts

new (30 Jan 2017 / moved here 04 Feb 2017)

(Image from HAER/LoC - all rights reserved)

[known also as the:

Chestnut Hill High Station

Pumping Station #1

and later as the:

Boston Water Works]

Now restored and preserved as:

The Boston Metropolitan Waterworks Museum

Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, Inc., 2450 Beacon Street, Boston, MA  02467
http://waterworksmuseum.org, 617-277-0065

[A tall smokestack/chimney on the Low-Service Station (#2) had to be taken down a number of years back
because it had become a hazard; the stack on Station #1 still stands.]

In my personal opinion, few artefacts exemplify the history of technology better than the Metropolitan Waterworks, of Boston, Massachusetts, the Chestnut Hill High-Service Pumping Station, now a fabulous museum, the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum.

Spanning over a century and a quarter, much of that in active use, the Metropolitan Waterworks is a prime example of the fusion of Victorian and Edwardian archtecture and landscape design with the massive engineering projects so amply demonstrated, beginning with London's 1862 International Exhibition, and continuing through our own Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 and Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition, and perhaps culminating in San Francisco's 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, just to name a few.

[In what follows, which got so extensive that I moved it to this, its own page, from the History of Technology page on 03 Feb 2017, I have drawn very-heavily on the Museum's site, Wikipedia, the Historical American Engineering Record (HAER, Library of Congress), the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and a 1989 report by the Boston Landmarks Commission.  In addition, I have to thank Museum Docent Bernard Trubowitz for his invaluable help.]

Further, this page is enormous (at least in comparison to my other pages); I chose to place all the material about the Metropolitan Waterworks on a single page to facilitate reference.

HAER Survey MA-24 gives these "Building/structure dates":
    1875-1887 Initial Construction
    1897-1898 Subsequent Work
    1954 Subsequent Work

to which I would add some dates of mechanical and historical significance:
    1894 - Addition of Leavitt-Riedler Pumping Engine (#3)
    1898 - Installation of Allis Pumping Engine (#3)
    1901 - Construction of Low-Service Pumping Station (Station #2 with three Holly-Gaskill Triplex Engines)
    1911 - Addition of fourth Holly-Gaskill Pumping Engine to Low-Service Station
    1921 - Removal of Holly-Gaskill Pumping Engine #2
    1921 - Addition of Worthington-Snow Pumping Engine (#4) to High-Service Station
    1928 - Shutdown of Leavitt-Riedler Pumping Engine
    1931/2 Removal of Holly-Gaskill Pumping Engine #1
    1954 - Installation of Steam Turbine Pumping Engines
    1954 - Shutdown of Allis Pumping Engine
    1974 - Decommissioning of High-Service Steam Pumping Engines
    1976 - Installation of Gas Turbine Pumping Engines
    1976 - Final Shutdown of Worthington-Snow Pumping Engine
    2011 - Opening of Waterworks Museum (27 Mar)

An interesting (to me, at the very least) aside is that the original top of Beacon Hill, behind the State House, was lowered {really - and by hand, of course!} from 1807 to 1832 for developemnt of Back Bay, and was still too high for the planned 1848 reservoir; the excavated soil went to fill in the old Mill Pond (Back Bay).  It was an elevated tank; only the top 20 feet held water in a lead sheet lined masonry structure, in Egyptian Revival style, a block north of the State House, demolished in 1880 to make way for the State House extension.  But wait - it gets better:

Reduction of Beacon Hill (note the beacon at left)
{per the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and Wikipedia}.

Beacon Hill Reservoir
(with State House beyond, at left)
{per Wikipedia}

The Trimount area originally had three hills, Beacon, Pemberton, and Mount Vernon Hills; the name "Trimount" later
morphed into "Tremont", as in Tremont Street.  The elevation of Beacon Hill was reduced from 138 feet to 80 feet.
The eponynmous beacon had been used to warn Boston residents of an invasion.

[Looking back past the Allis and Worthington at the Leavitt and lobby]

"It’s like something enormous whispering at you."
                Eric C. Larson, Publisher, Horn and Whistle Magazine, Ipswich, MA

"Listen closely.  - It’s quiet, very quiet.  Even when they were working, the machines here would not have made much noise.  They were some of the most efficient pumps ever built.  They are silent now, but they still tell many stories."
{from the Museum website}        

Some cell-phone "mood shots" I took on 29 Jan 2017:


(29 Jan 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images - click on the pictures for larger images]

That last (lower right) photo is of two "plumbing tees"; I was in the plumbing supply business briefly ca. 1990 and we didn't deal in ANYTHING like THAT!  The "bull" (vertical) of that "unequal" lower tee is some 18" in diameter while the "run" (horizontal) is some 24" in diameter!

WWksMus1 WWksMus2 WWksMus4
(Waterworks Museum photographs - all rights reserved)

The pumping station was built in 1887 and expanded several times to supplement Boston's extant water system.  It is part of a massive system now stretching eastward some 75 miles from the Quabbin Reservoir and north and south from Boston.  It was coal-fired (manually!) from coal piles behind the building, against the Boston & Albany (now the MBTA's Riverside line) tracks from whence the coal came in.

note-right - The MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) dual trackage behind the Museum
is variously known as the "D" Branch of the Green Line, the Highland Branch, and the Riverside Line.
[It was formerly the formerly the Highland Branch of the Boston and Albany Railroad.]

First of all, let's locate the Waterworks:

(31 Jan 2017 satellite photo after Google Maps by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

(31 Jan 2017 satellite photo after Google Maps by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

(31 Jan/05 Feb 2017 satellite photo after Google Maps by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
Showing locations of Waterworks facilites

(31 Jan 2017 satellite photo after Google Maps by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

(31 Jan 2017 satellite photo after Google Maps by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

The remanent faciities at Chestnut Hill extend beyond merely the High-Service Station (the Museum); the extent, other than the reservoir itself, is shown on this excerpt from a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority map and a satellite view rotated to match:

ChestnutHillMap ChestnutHillSat
[Thumbnailed image - click on the picture for larger image]
(Map from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved ‖ Satellite image after Google Maps)

Chestnut Hill Map and Satellite View rotated to match

The other structures are not directly relevant to this coverage of the Waterworks equipment; the Low-Service Station and the garage have also been converted to co-ops, like the High-Service building's east end coal bins and Boiler Room, and the Pipe Yard and its buildings are long gone (see Two Architects, below).

Some background on Boston's water supply system {excerpted from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority history}:

(Image from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)
Boston Water Supply System - 1886

(Image from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)
Boston Water Supply System - 1895

(Image from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)
Boston Water Supply System - Maximum Extent (current)

[Thumbnailed image - click on the picture for larger image]
(Image from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)

Chestnut Hill Map

After the Irish Potato Famine of 1843-45, Boston grew rapidly and by 1870, its population exceeded 200,000 and consumed 17 mgd.  Planners had not anticipated this rapid growth; they thought that the existing (Cochituate) system would be adequate for many years.  The process of diverting water from a pure upland source was repeated.  In 1878, the mainstream of the Sudbury River was diverted via the Sudbury Aqueduct to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.  Between 1875 and 1898, seven major reservoirs were constructed in the Upper Sudbury River Watershed; aqueducts were designed to operate by gravity to fill the Chestnut Hill and Brookline Reservoirs, both of which are at Elevation 134.  The Cochituate and Sudbury Aqueducts were interconnected at Chestnut Hill.

[Note that the Chestnut Hill Reservoir was dug out BY HAND!
Beacon Street had to be relocated around it.]

In 1887, a high service pumping station was constructed at Chestnut Hill to lift water from the Chestnut Hill Reservoir to areas which could not be supplied by gravity.  Water was pumped to the Waban Hill reservoir in Newton and the Fisher Hill reservoir in Brookline. 

The Boston metropolitan area continued to grow rapidly through the 1890s; indoor plumbing became commonplace and planners had not foreseen this development.  Supply had become inadequate.  In 1897, the Nashua River above the town of Clinton was impounded by the Wachusett Dam and its water conveyed by the Wachusett/Weston Aqueduct to Weston Reservoir and then by pipeline to the Chestnut Hill and Spot Pond Reservoirs; work was completed in 1905 and the reservoir first filled in May 1908.

The Wachusett system was built to service a 10 mile radius of the State House; at the time, the Wachusett Reservoir was the largest public water supply reservoir in the world.  Water from the Wachusett Aqueduct could be released into the reservoirs of the Sudbury River system for transport to Boston via the Sudbury Aqueduct.  Water from the Wachusett Reservoir could also flow through the new Sudbury Reservoir to the Weston Aqueduct.  During this period, Chestnut Hill Reservoir was the hub of the system.

Quabbin Reservoir was Boston's fourth westward reach for a pure upland source of water that could be delivered by gravity; construction began in 1936 and filling, commenced on 14 Aug 1939 and was completed in 1946.  The 412 billion gallon reservoir was then the largest man-made reservoir in the world which was devoted solely to water supply and planners feel that the Quabbin will be sufficient to supply the metropolitan area at least until the foreseeable future {let us hope these are not futile dreams - SB, III}.

In 1936, the Legislature also approved the construction of the high service Pressure Aqueduct System to deliver water to the Metropolitan area. Two aqueducts would carry water from the Wachusett Reservoir to the new Norumbega Reservoir in the Town of Weston. Downstream from Norumbega, the aqueduct would split forming a loop around the metropolitan area which would terminate at a greatly expanded Fells Reservoir in Stoneham. A branch would be constructed off this loop to Quincy, terminating at a new Blue Hills Reservoir. The Pressure Aqueduct could be operated at a uniform rate of flow as the distribution reservoir storage would be sufficient to dampen out fluctuations in demand during the day. Work began on schedule in 1939 and by the outbreak of World War II in 1941, the Fells, Blue Hills and Norumbega Reservoirs had been completed, and the Pressure Aqueduct had been built from the terminus of the Wachusett Aqueduct to the terminus of the Weston Aqueduct. This portion of the Pressure Aqueduct is the Hultman Aqueduct.

After WWII, the remaining portions of the Pressure Aqueduct system came online and the need for costly pumping was reduced since more of the service area can be supplied by gravity; thus older facilities were eventually retired from use, with the Metropolitan Waterworks/Chestnut Hill High-Service Pumping Station being finally taken off-line in 1976.

With the construction of the Roxbury Standpipe in 1870 and a small pumping station nearby, the Boston Water Board had introduced water to the higher elevations of Roxbury and other parts of Boston. The original works, however, had been designed to supply an area of about 760 acres.  By 1875, with the annexations of Dorchester, Charlestown, Brighton, and West Roxbury, the area requiring high-service water supply had grown to over 10,000 acres.  To meet these demands, the city constructed at Chestnut Hill the existing pumping station, and about a thousand yards to the east in Brookline, a large distributing reservoir.  The work was designed and executed under the direction of City Engineer Joseph P. Davis (1837-1917).  The station, in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of the period, was designed by City Architect Arthur H. Vinal (1854-1923) and completed in 1887. Oldest engine extant is the 1895 triple-expansion steam pumping engine designed by Erasmus D. Leavitt (1836-1916) of Cambridgeport, then one of the country's leading mechanical engineers.  (The engine was designated a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1973).  With the creation of the Metropolitan Water District in 1895, the high-service requirements of the region were divided into northern and southern systems, the northern to be supplied by an entirely new plant at Spot Pond, with the southern region, extending as far as Quincy and Hyde Park, to be supplied from Chestnut Hill.

One interesting aspect of the Boston water system is that new parts work alongside old parts rather than replace them; new parts were built to serve growing demand, adding their capabilities to already existing ones.  When old parts of the system went out of use, they were left in place for financial and precautionary reasons.  Boston's water system includes technologies that embody engineering practices and theories that span more than a century.  The rapid evolution of steam and water pump technology is on display in the steam-driven water pumps in the Waterworks Museum.

- - - * - - -

The best way to see just how significant the 1897-98 Wheelwright addition to the Great Engine Hall was is to compare these "before" and "after" photographs taken from nearly the same vantage points:

MetroWaterworks1869 MetroWaterworks1899
(Images from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)
Waterworks in 1869 ‖ Waterworks in 1899 (cropped)

Here's at what we are looking:

(Image after Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)
Waterworks in 1899, as expanded

- - - * - - -

Before we get to the extant pumping engines, let us diverge a moment to see what the original Holly-Gaskill pumping engines looked like (per the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority):

HollyGaskillPumpEngine HollyGaskillPumpEngine
[Right image thumbnailed - click on the picture for larger image]
(Images from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)

The Boston Water Works originally awarded a no-bid contract to Worthington as they had done before but Boston Finance stopped the contract and forced a public bid; the Holly Manufacturing Co., of Lockport, N.Y., won and furnished the two Holly-Gaskill pumping engines, premium engines for their day and the first horizontal compound duplex to include a flywheel to smooth its motion.

[Many references show "Gaskell" but period illustrations from Holly show "Gaskill"
so I have done a global search and replace accordingly herein.]

The Holly-Gaskill Pumping Engines were arranged thusly in the Engine Room in 1887:

(Cropped from image after Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)
Engine Hall in 1887

The #2 engine was removed to make room for the Worthington Snow in 1921; engine #1 was removed in 1931-32.

Just for some idea of what was lost when the Low-Service Pumping Station was stripped out, here is an Apr 1917 view of the three of the four huge Holly-Gaskill engines that were removed:

(Image from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)

They were installed in 1901, with a fourth added in 1911, and pumped around 30 million gallons per day, comparable to the High-Service Allis, and were removed in 1931-32.

- - - * - - -

Leavitt-Riedler Engine {primarily after Wikipedia} - the Leavitt-Riedler Pumping Engine (1894) is a historic steam engine which has been declared a historic mechanical engineering landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

LRPumpEngineView (Image from Wikipedia - all rights reserved)

The engine, which drew steam from a coal-fired boiler, was designed by noted engineer Erasmus Darwin Leavitt, Jr. (1836-1916) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, built by N.F. Palmer Jr. & Co. and the Quintard Iron Works, New York, and installed in 1894 as Engine No. 3 of the Chestnut Hill High Station, later the Boston Water Works. At its normal speed of 50 revolutions per minute, it pumped 25 million gallons of water in 24 hours.

According to C. P. Miller, when first brought into operation, the engine attracted national attention as "the most efficient pumping engine in the world" (Power).

The engine's pump valve mechanism was invented by Prof. Alois Riedler (1850-1936) of the Royal Technical College of Charlottenburg (now the Technical University of Berlin) in Berlin, Germany, and was key to its high-speed operation at a hydraulic head of 128 feet.  The engine itself is of an unusual triple expansion, three-crank rocker design, with pistons 13.7, 24.375, and 39 inches in diameter and 6 foot stroke.  Each rocker is connected both to a crankshaft with a 15-foot flywheel and to a double acting pump's plunger.  The engine was taken out of service in 1928 but remains in its original location.

The triple-expansion steam engine cylinders, located on the second story of the engine, are supported by six vertical and six diagonal columns, creating space for three vertical pistons to move up and down.  The vertical rods with 6-foot (1.8 m) stroke from the engine drive a horizontal crankshaft which is also connected to a flywheel.  Each of the vertical rods is also connected to the back end of a rocking crank, similar to a bellcrank.  With the pivot point of the crank in the front side, the up and down motion of the vertical rod on the back end of the crank crates a motion that pulls and pushes the crank backward and forward.  There are also three horizontal rods that connect between the horizontal shaft and the cranks.  As the shaft turns, the rods move backward and forward nearly horizontally, adding force to the backward and forward motion of the cranks.

On the front end of the cranks, there are 30° inclined rods that are connected to the inclined plungers of the pump proper.  The unusual diagonal plungers were created in part by the limitation of the existing engine room.  The crank configuration is set in a way that the 6-foot (1.8m) stroke is reduced to 4-foot (1.2m) stroke for the inclined rods.  Each plunger pumps water in two pump chambers with total of six chambers for the pumping engine.  With the reduction of the strokes and the relation of diameters, a higher capacity for pressure can be achieved.  The efficiency of the engine also comes from the design of the pump valves by Prof. Riedler.  The pump valves are connected rings that can move up and down to open and close the valves.  The pump valve mechanism is controlled by a diagonal rod, powered from a 12-foot (3.7m) stroke horizontal rod which is connected to the crank.  The valve rods only close the valves on the reverse stroke and leave the valves free to open automatically to increase the speed of the operation.

LRPumpEngine LRToday
(Photos from Wikipedia - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images - click on the pictures for larger images]

L. - Overview of the Leavitt-Reidler Engine.
R. - Steam engine and pressure gauges on the second story.
[Note the wild ship's wheel for a throttle*]   rev (01 Mar 2017)

LRRodFlywheel LRInclinedPlunger
(Photos from Wikipedia - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images - click on the pictures for larger images]

L. - Flywheel and a vertical rod; a horizontal rod is on the left, a crank is between the two rods.
R. - An inclined rod of the pump plunger connected to the crank next to the red stairs.

LRPumpChambers LRValveGear
(Photos from Wikipedia - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images - click on the pictures for larger images]

L. - Six pump chambers; two chambers for each of the three pump plungers.
R. - Pump valve mechanism.

Note that there are rectilinear notches in the flywheel (true also of the Allis engine); these allow a lever** built into the frame to engage and pull the flywheel around until the piston is in a suitable position to start the engine.   rev (01 Mar 2017)

* - Well, that wheel is NOT a throttle, after all; it turns out to be the control for a mammoth clutch!  Can you just imagine a mechanical clutch big enough to handle an engine capable of pumping just over a milion gallons per hour?  On the Leavitt, you don't put the pedal to the metal, you put the wheel to the steel!   new (01 Mar 2017)

Here's the wheel, about 4' (1.2m) in diameter, up close:

(01 Mar 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed image - click on the picture for larger image]

and here are the gauge panel to the left of the wheel and a row of steam valve operators down on the platform:

LRGaugePanel LRValveOpers
(01 Mar 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images - click on the pictures for larger images]

** - As to the notches in the flywheel, there aren't any on the Worthington because it could motor itself and the ones on the Allis weren't used because the engineer could ease it off top dead center (TDC) by using back pressure.  Further, there isn't any lever on the Leavitt, either; there once was a motor that turned a gear train that turned a cog wheel that engaged the notches to move the flywheel. The motor mounting and the gear train survive, however:   new (01 Mar 2017)

(01 Mar 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed image - click on the picture for larger image]

Location of Leavitt cogging motor (note empty mounting holes in channels) - 1
with gearing and notched flywheel

(01 Mar 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed image - click on the picture for larger image]

Location of Leavitt cogging motor (note empty mounting holes in channels) - 2
with gearing and notched flywheel

Squeezed in between the Holly-Gaskills as it originally was, the Leavitt is still massive in all respects; this is a general view of one of the rocker levers in the up position and one of a rocker lever in the down position at near right foregound, deep inside the engine, with the non-notched flywheel beyond:

LRMassive LRRockerLever
(01 Mar 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images - click on the pictures for larger images]

Massive Machinery ‖ Rocker Lever

Because of space constraints in the Engine Room, the Leavitt-Riedler Engine was uniquely designed to fit IN BETWEEN the two Holly-Gaskill engines:

(modified after image from ASME- all rights reserved)
Leavitt-Riedler Boiler and Pumping Engine #3 Drawing

Note how the rocker lever (highlighted in RED) allows for a space-saving angled pump piston rod and cylinder.   added (01 Mar 2017)

The boiler for the Leavitt-Riedler engine was so big that a special 12-wheel heavy-duty railroad car had to brought in from the Calumet & Hecla Mine out in northern Michigan to carry it in 1895:

(Wikipedia image - all rights reserved)
Leavitt-Riedler Boiler on Calumet & Hecla Mining Company Flatcar № 1 - 1895

[Eagle-eyed e-buddy Vince Skibo, expert in such heavy-duty, depressed-center, flat cars, picked up on sliding shutters on what seem to be screened windows in what I thought was a spare parts and accessories crate; Vince sees it as a rider's compartment (a "rider" is an employee of a manufacturer, shipper, railroad, or consignee who accompanies special loads to assure proper handling - modified cabooses are currently used as rider cars).  Clearly a warm-weather operation - the man's outfit, the open shutters, and NO smoke-jack for a stove!  Also, for steam and RR aficionados, note the Belpaire firebox, as well as the access holes in the car sideframes to allow checking and packing (lubricating) the innermost journal boxes.  Could that dapper gentleman be the rider and might that be his signature on the sidewall of the cab?]   added (02 Mar 2017)

Although this was a major move, requiring special equipment, it was only local as both the boilermaker, the Atlantic Works, and Pumping Station #1 are both in Boston.  It's only some six miles by air across Boston harbor, but probably required heading out to Chelsea or further by rail before doubling back to Chestnut Hill, adding up to fifteen miles or far more.

[In fact, as another historical aside, the Atlantic Works building, which was erected in 1893, still stands at 3180 Border Street in East Boston, was renovated in 2007, and now holds a day care center and work and gallery space for many local artists:   added (02 Mar 2017)

AtlanticWorksThen AtlanticWorksNow
(East Boston Community Development Corp. images - all rights reserved)
Atlantic Works

That means the boiler was built by the Atlantic Works when the plant was only a year old (if that)!

In spite of being crammed in a limited space, the Leavitt is still a thing of beauty and awe; these views are taken looking axially through the engine:   new (01 Mar 2017)

LRBack2Front LRFront2Back
(01 Mar 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images - click on the pictures for larger images]

Looking Axially Through the Leavitt-Riedler Engine
NW from the Back ‖ SE from the Front

- - - * - - -

Allis Engine

(Wikipedia image - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed image - click on the picture for larger image]

Allis Engine

The pumping station was extended to the west in 1897-98 according to plans of Boston architects Wheelwright & Haven.  A new triple-expansion pumping engine (No. 4), built by the E.P. Allis Company, was installed.  This engine also remains in place.  The station pumped water from the Chestnut Hill Reservoir into the Fisher Hill distributing reservoir, some 125 feet above the level of the receiving reservoir.  The engines remained in use until 1954 when oil-fired turbines were installed.

(text extracted from The Engineering Record - 1896-1900 - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed image - click on the picture for larger image]

Allis Engine Tests in The Engineering Record - 1896-1900

Historical American Engineering Record (HAER/LoC) Images:

(Image from HAER/LoC - all rights reserved)

(Image 1 from HAER/LoC - all rights reserved)

(Image 2 from HAER/LoC - all rights reserved)

(Image 3 from HAER/LoC - all rights reserved)
3. GENERAL VIEW OF ENGINE NO. 4 (076454pr)

(Image 4 from HAER/LoC - all rights reserved)

(Image 5 from HAER/LoC - all rights reserved)

- - - * - - -

Worthington-Snow Pumping Engine

(image from American Society of Mechanical Engineers - all rights reserved)
Worthington-Snow Pumping Engine

The Worthington-Snow engine is the youngest of the three engines at the Waterworks Museum; installed and brought on-line in 1916, it was also the last pump running in 1976, when the entire High Service Station was shut down.

The Worthington-Snow is a dual-expansion engine, which means there are two steam cylinders, each driving its own water pump. Steam at 185 pounds-per-square-inch from the steam boilers was sent into the first of the two cylinders, the high-pressure cylinder. When steam had pushed the piston the entire three-feet of the cylinder, the steam was sent to the second cylinder, the low-pressure cylinder. Here the steam expanded a second time to push the piston the three-feet length of the low-pressure cylinder.

Per the Waterworks Museum, "On the left-hand side of the picture, you see four water pump chambers, two for the near high-pressure side of the engine and two for the low-pressure side of the engine.  The pump plunger chamber is the grey connection near the bottom of the two near chambers.  Water came into the pumping chambers from below and was pushed out of the chambers at the top."

"The steam chambers are on the right-hand side of the picture.  You can only see the high-pressure cylinder.  The low-pressure cylinder is right behind.  In the upper right-hand corner of the picture, you can see the steam pipe that carried the steam from the boilers into the high-pressure cylinder."

"In the little window-like opening, you can see the rod connecting the back-and-forth movement of the steam piston in its cylinder to the back-and-forth motion of the water pump.  This connector also turned the flywheel that you see in the middle of the picture.  The flywheel is between the two halves of the engine."

"Finally, if you look closely, in front of the flywheel is more of the connection between the steam engine and the water pump.  It is the round bar over the word WORTHINGTON. When the picture was taken, the water plunger, the high-pressure steam piston, and the rod connecting them were all the way to the right.  The gap you see at the end of the round bar is just a little more than three-feet long."

- - - * - - -

Turbine Engines - when the High-Service Pumping Station was shut down in 1974, leaks were found in the massive Dorchester Tunnel supply line that needed major repairs.  Three 35-million-gallon-per-day gas turbines had already been installed in 1954, replacing the steam turbines from 1931/2; they were re-started, along with the Worthington-Snow.  Two oil-fired steam turbine pumping engines were installed in the basement of the Low-Service Pumping Station plant and are (or one is) maintained by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority in standby condition, just in case.  One was installed in the basement of the High Service Pumping Station and two were installed in the Low Service Pumping Station by removing old Engine #12, the 40-million-gallon-per-day Holly-Gaskill engine to make space for the gas turbines.   :

LowServiceEngine#12 LowServiceGasTurbines
(Images from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)
Low-Service Station
Holly-Gaskill Pumping Engine #12 ‖ Gas Turbines

The turbines that power the emergency pumping system at Chestnut Hill have the same capacity as all the High-Service steam pumps combined:

(Image from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)
High-Service Station Emergency Pumps

These turbines, electrically-driven, are located in a bunker between the Low Service building and what was once the pipe yard (now a 102 unit condo building).

Electric drive is so much simpler and cleaner.  To get some idea of just what was involved in bringing in, unloading, and firing all the coal needed for the steam plants, see the photos below at Coal, Pipe, Boilers, and Such.

The Dorchester Tunnel obviated the need to pump to the Southern High system at Chestnut Hill in 1974 and the steam pumps were retired.  Leaks caused a need to pump for two more years and three gas turbines were added (two in the Low-Service Station and one in the High-Service Station) to get through the shutdowns.  The last active use of the three gas turbines was in the spring of 1980 when these pumps companioned emergency use for a possible major tunnel system failure (after the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency).

Although the station was officially closed in 1974, it was briefly re-opened in 1976; the Dorchester Tunnel, a massive underground bore which allowed water from the Quabbin Reservoir to reach southern Boston under direct gravity pressure, was improperly constructed and began to crack and leak.  Until it was patched, water was run by older aqueducts from Wachusett to the partially-filled Chestnut Hill Reservoir (the section where Boston College built their sports complex on was filled in 1954; it's still below grade and often floods) to the pumping station for distribution.

This 1931 whiteprint is from the 1931 modernization, done simultaneous to the turbine additions; several boilers were gone at that point, including the long Leavitt boiler, as well as three vertical coal boilers (the original pair of boilers for the Hollys being long gone):

(image from Waterworks Museum - all rights reserved)
HUGE drawing; click on thumbnail for very-much larger image.

1931 High-Service Station Boiler Room Plan

This 1931 whiteprint shows the location of the turbine pit under what is now the lobby (the Leavitt-Riedler #3 can be seen at the top of the plan):

(image from Waterworks Museum - all rights reserved)
HUGE drawing; click on thumbnail for very-much larger image.

1931 High-Service Station Turbine Plan

This 1932 whiteprint diagram shows the turbines as built: 1932TurbinePlan
(image from Waterworks Museum - all rights reserved)
HUGE drawing; click on thumbnail for very-much larger image.

1932 High-Service Station Turbine Plan

This specification sheet is for the bigger pump, #19, which pumped 50 million gallons per day:

(Image from Museum - all rights reserved)
[Click on thumbnail for much larger image]

Waterworks Turbine #19 Specifications

The gas turbines before removal; as noted above they were under the lobby, roughly where the bathrooms are today.

(Image from Museum - all rights reserved)
[Click on thumbnail for much larger image]

High Service Turbines (AG)

The accumulator dome for the turbines, taken shortly before abandonment; in the background is the Leavitt-Riedler and the turbine pit and steam feed line (grey) can also be seen, on the left.  The dome was roughly where the inner door is today; the view of the dome is as if you were standing with your back against the sign that said "The Water Is Ours" facing the engine hall.

(Image from Museum - all rights reserved)
[Click on thumbnail for much larger image]

High Service Turbine Expansion Dome

As to engine numbering, the Holly-Gaskills were #1 and #2, the Leavitt-Riedler was #3, and the Allis #4, all in the High-Service Station, which came first, but the Worthington-Snow is #16; there were only nine engines of various sorts in total in Station #1; even with Station #2, the Low-Service building, that still only adds up to thirteen.  ???

- - - * - - -

Two Architects, One Seamless Building {after the Museum}

The High Service Pumping Station, now housing the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, was designed by architect Arthur H. Vinal in 1886-1887 and seamlessly expanded by Edmund M. Wheelwright, in 1897-1898.  The building was constructed at the height of what is sometimes referred to as Boston’s "Golden Age", a period of great prosperity that lasted from the Civil War through World War I.

Both Vinal and Wheelwright served as Boston’s official City Architect.  Vinal designed the High Service Pumping Station while he was the City Architect, and the building is considered to be the high point of his career, which also produced many residential buildings in Back Bay.  Wheelwright’s addition to the Pumping Station is a distinguished design although it is less well-known than Vinal’s original building.  Wheelwright’s other works include the elegant Horticultural Hall across from Boston’s Symphony Hall, the whimsical Harvard Lampoon Building, and the monumental Longfellow Bridge that is best known to Bostonians as the "Salt-and-Pepper Shaker" bridge because of the shape of its central towers.

AdaGVinal ArthurHVinal
(photos courtesy of WWM - all rights reserved)
Ada Gates Vinal and Arthur H. Vinal (faces carved into Pumping Station facade)

I couldn't find those faces to save my soul, so I asked; a volunteer showed them to me - they are nearly invisible, 'way up high on the tower, at the base of the two double-collonades holding up the open "porch":

3WW02051733 Ada-Arthur
(left - 05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved;
right - cropped from HAER photograph 076456pr and annotated by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

Ada and Arthur in Situ

Now that I've given away the secret, here's a framed set of photos I found hanging on the wall in the entry foyer just inside the front door:

(01 Mar 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved
Arthur and Ada Image Quiz

(photo from Wikipediia- all rights reserved)
Edmund M. Wheelwright

The building was originally in three sections - the eastern half held three huge coal bins, the center section was the Boiler Room, and the western third was the Engine Hall, holding the two Holly-Gaskill double compound pumping engines (#1 and #2), and, in later years, the Leavitt-Reidler (#3) and then the Worthington-Snow Pumping Engine (#4), dated 1921.  The Leavitt-Reidler is a unique triple expansion, vertical three crank rocker engine with 575.7 horsepower and a capacity to pump 20 million gallons of water in 24 hours; it was bult vertically to squeeze between the two Hollys and taken out of service in 1928.  Next to it was a Holly engine, now the location of the present inactive Worthington-Snow.  In the 1897-98 Wheelwright addition is an Edward P. Allis Company triple compound engine (#16), built 1897-1900:

(image from Boston Landmarks Commission - all rights reserved)
1897 Building Plan

(31 Jan 2017 image after Boston Landmarks Commission by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
2017 Building Plan (approximated)

The western and central sections (the Coal Bins and the Boiler Room) were cleaned out and up and converted to condominia.

Garage -

The High-Service Pumping Station (Station #1) is at 2450 Beacon Street; as just noted above, the western end, the Coal Bins and the Boiler Room, were converted to condos (thus bringing in needed revenue); the adjoining Waterworks Garage at 2430 Beacon Street, also known as the Carriage House, and the Low-Servce Pumping Station (Station #2) beyond it to the north-east, also survived and were converted to condos:

ChestHillWaterworksGarage1989 ChestHillWaterworksGarage2017
(left image after Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved) /
right image after Google Maps by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

Garage in 1989 ‖ Garage in 2017

Note that the garage, while essentially otherwise intact, gained a second story somewhere along the way in the conversion to condos.

Low-Service Pumping Station (Station #2) -

Although stripped of its equipment, the Low-Service Station still stands at 2420 Beacon Street, just beyond the Garage to the northeast of the Museum (Station #1), so let us take a moment to consider what it once was.

Ca. 1895, "The Board of Health found that the existing 47-year-old Cochituate system was insufficient to supply many of Boston's new high-rise buildings.  In addition, the slower conduit flow encouraged the growth of algae.  Accordingly, the Board recommended that pressure be increased by pumping the water from Chestnut Hill another 29 feet higher to a new distributing reservoir at Spot Pond.  The new low-service pumping station, built 500 feet northeast of the 1877 high-service stations, was designed by Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge {who designed South Station}, and was completed in 1900.  The exterior classical facade is of Indiana limestone with a base of pink Milford granite.  Inside were three vertical triple-expansion steam pumping engines built by the Holly Manufacturing Company of Lockport, New York.  In 1901, the first full year of its operation, the low-service station pumped about 71 percent of the total amount of water supplied by the Metropolitan Works." (after the Library of Congress)

ChestHillWaterworksLowSrvc1889 ChestHillWaterworksLowSrvc1889a
(images after Boston Landmarks Commission
Low-Service Pumping Station viewed in 1889 from the northwest (left) and west (right)
[old caption directions are incorrect.]

(image after Google Maps by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
Low-Service Pumping Station in 2017

- - - * - - -

Coal, Pipe, Boilers, and Such -

Again as noted above, coal came in and was stored in coal piles, sorted into bitumninous (soft coal) and anthracite (hard coal), behind the building, up against the Boston & Albany (now the MBTA's Riverside line) tracks from whence the coal came in.  The gondola cars were emptied by hand.

LowSrvc1918CoalPile LowSrvc1918CoalPile2
(images from the Museum
1918 Coal Piles - in back of the Low-Service Station (#2);
note Station #1's stack in the distance beyond Station #2 in the left image (looking SW)
and the back of the Garage at left in the right image (looking NE).
Note also that the cars at left are loaded with pipe and those at right with coal
and pipe on the ground and that the coal carts on the loading dock are handcarts
BIG handcarts!

[I would guess that the sloped sheet at the far right in the left photo is a screen
for sorting coal - more hand shoveling - onto the screen and out from under!]

The two smokestacks can be seen to advantage here:

(image from Boston Landmarks Commission - all rights reserved)
Stations #2 (left) and #1 (far right), looking south in 1979

The one on the left, on the Low-Servce Station (#2), is the one taken down.

From the piles, the coal was shoveled, again by hand, into coal bins in the far northeastern end of the Pumping Station.  From the bins, the coal was then trundled into the Boiler Room where it was shoveled into the boilers (no fair - you guessed) by hand:

(image from the Museum; click on thumbnail for much larger image)
Firing a boiler

On a steam locomotive, the guy with the shovel is called a fireman; in a ship's boiler room, he is a stoker, part of the "black gang" (having to do with coal dust adhering to sweaty skin); only a long memory or old personnel or pay records can tell us what the Waterworks shovelers were termed.

The huge pipes used in the waterworks system came in by rail and were stored up beyond the Low-Service Station:

(1898 image from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)

Oh, good grief!  Let's look more closely at the stiff-leg derrick unloading the pipe:   new (01 Mar 2017)

(enlarged from 1898 image from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)

You guessed again!  Yep - it's HAND operated!

The pipe yards, long gone now, were at the far northeast end of the property:

(image from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority - all rights reserved)

Here's the boiler for the Leavitt-Riedler engine (the one seen being delivered on a heavy-duty flat car, above), as installed:

(image from Waterworks Museum - all rights reserved)

Similar vertical boilers from the Low-Service building as well:

(image from Waterworks Museum - all rights reserved)
Chestnut Hill Low-Service Station Vertical Boilers

Here is a "head shot" of one of the "new" oil burning boilers, #33; the gauge at top left is now on display on top of the cistern in the basement, along with the one at bottom right.

(image from Waterworks Museum - all rights reserved)
Chestnut Hill High-Service Station Oil-Fired Boiler

Note that it is called boiler "#4", despite being the boiler for the Leavitt (engine #3); that numbering is certainly mysterious.  Part of boiler #1 or #2 for the Holly-Gaskills shows at the right.

Two photos from the boiler room as abandoned follow:

AbandonedHiSvcBoiler1 AbandonedHiSvcBoiler2
(images from Waterworks Museum - all rights reserved)
Abandoned Chestnut Hill High-Service Station Boilers

- - - * - - -

A bronze plaque in the outside entrance area reads: "1887-88; High Service Pumping Station; Hugh O'Brien, Mayor; Water Commissioners - Horace T. Rockwell, Thomas F. Doherty, William B. Smart, Robert Grant; William Jackson, City Engineer; Arthur H. Vinal, City Architect."  I thought to take a picture of it on 05 Feb 2017:

(05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

Some more cell-phone shots I took on 05 Feb 2017; trying to give a feeling for the awe and majesty of the place (and to show more of the Worthington-Snow and Allis engines).  [It's quite dark under the engines and pumps and bright sunlight behind equipment and bare bulbs in front don't help much.]

I knew there was a Glass Gallery but hadn't seen it; it's above the lobby (take the stairs or elevator).  It's a conference/activity room with the entire wall facing the Engine Hall glazed.  I turned out all the lights for which I could find switches and it is really dramatic but, even so, there was still some lamp glare:

(05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
02 - Glass Gallery

Back downstairs, as you walk into the Great Engine Hall, you are greeted by the side of the Leavitt-Riedler Pumping Engine #3 with this massive 4" nut:

(05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
32 - 4" Nut

Next, I took a view looking directly into the end of the Leavitt-Riedler, showing the lobby at left and the engine number 3 on the left support strut, and another overall view of the Allis for the sheer grandeur of it:

3WW02051702 3WW02051707
(05 Feb 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images - click on the pictures for larger images]

04 - Leavitt-Riedler End-On ‖ 07 - Allis

[These picture are not all in chronological order.]

Here are two of the Pump Domes on the Worthington-Snow:

3WW02051705 3WW02051706
(05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
05/06 - Worthington-Snow Pump Domes

The domes are at the rear of the Leavitt but up front on the Worthington.

Around to the side of the Worthington, they put their name prominently on the frame (you can see the Leavitt domes beyond it) and then down into the gloom of the catacombs:

3WW02051708 3WW02051709
(05 Feb 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
09 - Worthington-Snow Side ‖ Catacombs

"Gloom" isn't really the right word; there is an abundance of natural sunlight (which doesn't penetrate very far in the basement) and electric lights all over the place, but the undersides of the engines and pumps and the giant plumbing are all painted flat black and so the proper term down under might well be "Stygian darkness".

Neck Strain!:

3WW02051710 3WW02051717
(05 Feb 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
10 - Looking Up at the Leavitt Front Flywheel ‖ 17 - Looking Up at the Worthington{?} Rear Flywheel

Anti-backflow valves are on a suitable large scale:

(05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
13 - Valves

These spare valve baskets measure about 18" across and each small valve is some 3" in diameter.

The attention to detail in Victorian-Edwardian engineering design is simply staggering:

(05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
19 - Steps

Hunh?  I heard water running!  Even though there is no longer steam and condensate running around, there is always some ground water seeping in and the drain (run-off) channels in the basement floor, now covered in clear plastic sheet for safety, are still very-much in use:

(05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
15 - Water Draining

To get a sense of scale, of the massiveness of the equipment, here's 6' husky Mike* and then Mike and a volunteer silhouetted agianst the sunlight:

3WW02051714 3WW02051716
(05 Feb 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
14 - Mike* (for Scale) ‖ 16 - More Scale

personal * - Mike is a tugboat engineer with a Boston harbor marine service firm and normally works with big diesel engines but has served on large steamships, so he is intimately familiar with massive steam engines and pumps, but not on THIS scale!  His very-simpatico fiancée brought him to the Museum and somehow (the Net?) knew me and immediately introduced us; we have a lot in common, hit it off, and had a ball!  Thanks, Élise!

More "mood" shots:

3WW02051718 3WW02051720
(05 Feb 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
18 - Off to Infinity ‖ 20 - Massive!

Back upstairs:

(05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
21 - Vista (through the Worthington and the Allis)

3WW02051722 3WW02051723
(05 Feb 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
22 - Worthington #16 Side Frame and Cross-Head ‖
23 - Worthington #16 High- (l.) and Low-Pressure (r.) Cylinders

3WW02051724 3WW02051725
(05 Feb 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
24 - Worthington #16 H-P Cylinder and the Allis ‖
25 - Through the Worthington off into Space

Back to the Allis:

3WW02051726 3WW02051727
(05 Feb 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
26 - Allis #4 Frame Strut ‖ 27 - Allis with Chain Fall

3WW02051729 3WW02051712
3WW02051728 3WW02051711
29 - End View of Worthington-Snow ‖ (high) ‖ 12 Massive Plumbing
28 - End View of Worthington-Snow ‖ (low) ‖ 11 Massive Plumbing
More Neck Strain!

3WW02051730 3WW02051731
(05 Feb 2017 photos by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
30 - Worthington Side ‖ 31 - Worthington Dome

Finally, I ducked through a break in the rear fence and grabbed this shot of the back of the Museum (Station #1) and the MBTA Riverside (Green) Line:

(05 Feb 2017 photo by and © 2017 by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
34 - Looking Northeast along the Tracks behiind the Museum

You can readily make out the back of the Garage, with it's second story addition, beyond, and not-so-readily the rear of Station #2 above it.

Whoa!  Let's look again at the area where the pipe yard was, northeast of this view, just past the Low-Service Station:

WWSpur200ft WWSpur5oft
(06 Feb 2017 satellite photos after Google Maps by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
Waterworks Pipe Yard Area

The trace of the pipe yard spur is STILL THERE!

[Ah!  Closure!  That should about do it (for the moment).]

- - - * - - -

You REALLY have to visit the Museum in person, if you can, or, at the very least, add it to your bucket list!

Again, the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum is at 2450 Beacon Street, Chestnut Hill, Boston, MA  02467, 617-277-0065, and their website URL is http://waterworksmuseum.org.  Admission is free but a $5.00 or greater donation would be greatly appreciated.

[Although there is a wealth of cultural information available about the building, and far more about the Boston water system, this entry is primarily concerned with the mechanical equipment preserved in the Waterworks Museum.  It should also be noted that the Museum is available for rental for weddings and other social events - what a great place to tie the knot!]

In addition to all this serious history of Victorian/Edwardian technology, the Museum should be a mecca for truly-dedicated steampunkers!

More historical background and illustrations to follow!

Stay tuned!

Cyclops automobili fans; see Cyclops on my Automotive page!

See also the main History page and the History of Technology page.


  What happens to all this when I DIE or (heaven forfend!) lose interest?  See LEGACY.


See Copyright Notice on primary home page.

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