Home to four of the world's largest steam engines and an ASCE National Landmark and AWWA Landmark

 River Station Construction History (Pictorial & Written)

River Station Construction History, Cincinnati, OH

River Station Construction History

"Acclaimed city water works system fueled growth"  from the Cincinnati Enquirer 3-18-2012

City of Louisville Packet Boat by Kadie Engstrom

A Remarkable Project
1898 began a unique period in history when four of the world's largest vertical, triple expansion, crank & flywheel, water pumping steam engines were incorporated in an equally unique pump house for the Cincinnati Water Works. Most everything about the design of the engines and the pump house was influenced by the wide dynamic range of the Ohio River from pool stage at two feet deep to over 75 feet higher at flood stage. Sitting deep in the ground , the pump house was built at ground level and lowered by hand to a depth of 105 feet.

rest on a wood caisson that was simultaneously lowered as the stone pump pit was constructed, the caisson was lowered to a depth of 105 feet by excavating under the caisson.

The rate of excavating closely followed the rate of stonewall construction on top of the caisson, which allowed the stone construction to occur mostly at ground level. Considerable challenges existed throughout the project, and all were eventually solved, but required innovation and creativity from both the engineers and the crew.

Why This Deep?
The pump pit was located at this unusual depth because dangerous conditions can occur when air enters the inside a large water pump. Eliminating that risk was important and easily accomplished by locating the floor of the pump house five feet below the bottom of the Ohio River. At low river levels this depth provided a small head pressure for the pump inlet allowing an easy prime of the pump, and allowing the pump to take suction without cavitating. The facility could pump 120 million gallons per day and supplied all of the water to the City of Cincinnati for nearly 60 years.

For the first time in the history of the Cincinnati Water Works an entire pumping "system" was purchased where a single designer and manufacturer had the ability and the responsibility for furnishing and installation of a highly efficient and reliable unit. The nearly 60 years of reliable operation of these units was a testament to the advisability of this concept.

River Station
The River Station, aka Eastern Pumping Station, for the New Water Works in Cincinnati, Ohio was designed by Cincinnati Architect, Gustave W. Drach, and built between 1898 and 1907 under contract to the F. H. Kirchner & Company of Cincinnati. This would appear to be a contradiction to the 1908 date on the nameplates for each of the engines, but it isn't. 1908 is the year final tests were performed on the engines and the Water Works accepted the four engines.

The facility included a circular pump house, a boiler room, an auxiliary building, and an elevated coal storage building, a coal-hoisting house, a deaerating plant and a water softening plant. Four vertical triple expansion, crank & flywheel water-pumping engines rest on the pump room floor eighty-five feet below grade, and extend to eighteen feet above ground. The engines, boilers and overhead radial crane were under contract to the R. D. Wood Company of Philadelphia, PA, and built by the Camden Iron works of Camden, NJ.

Pump House Construction
Construction began with a pit eighteen feet deep and 134 feet in diameter at the base, tapering outward to a larger diameter at the surface. A one-inch thick circular steel plate-locating ring measuring twenty-four inches high with an eight inch T-base rested on the floor of the construction pit. This ring defined the outer most edge of the caisson and served to restrict radial movement of the caisson shoes during the sinking operation.

Caisson Deck and Shoes
Eight crisscrossed shoes (four of which were end tapered to fit the knife-edge of the caisson) are three feet wide and seven feet high from 12 inch square air-dried and drift-bolted, white oak timbers. The shoes provide support for the circular solid wood caisson deck floor, 12 feet thick by 128 feet in diameter.

Walled space within the shoes provided twenty-one working chambers, twelve of which were provided with excavation shafts three feet in diameter that extended through the floor of the caisson deck. The twelve shafts provided for worker access and soil removal from the sinking operation. Thirty-two passage ways through the cross walls provided access among the twenty-one chambers to assist soil removal and communications for the sinking operation. The center chamber provides a circular steel encased opening, sized to fit the ten-foot diameter standpipe passing up and through the caisson floor, and was supplied by the Variety Iron Works of Cleveland, Ohio.

Completion of the caisson deck lasted twelve months and was delayed in part by a short supply of locally grown timbers. The deck has a finished diameter of 128 feet and measures nineteen feet thick at the outer most edge and tapers inward to a thickness of twelve feet. At the proper position for each engine, sixty-four one-inch bolts were installed vertically through the caisson timber deck to secure the crisscrossed timbers in preparation for the 18" high cast iron engine base plate. 256 vertical bolts were used to secure the closely spaced timber deck at the four engine locations. Twelve inches of concrete was poured on the deck floor after the construction of the pump pit wall and deck stabilization.

Sinking the Caisson
The caisson was lowered in 6 months beginning May 1, 1899 and ended October 12, 1899. That effort placed the bottom of the wood support shoes at 105 feet below grade and the top of the wood deck at an elevation of ten feet below the extreme low water level, which placed it eighty-five feet below grade and 5.5 feet below the bed of the Ohio River. Simultaneously, as the caisson was being lowered, the masonry stonewalls and steel liner was constructed on the caisson floor, and was intended to provide sufficient weight to keep the caisson from floating. The rate of excavating closely matched the rate of stone construction on top of the caisson, which allowed the stone construction to occur mostly at ground level.

The sinking operation was a coordinated effort from many workers simultaneously excavating the clay and sand in the working chambers and hoisting it through the twelve 36 inch diameter working shafts. Excavation progressed through about twenty feet of surface clay and the remainder through the water-bearing sand under the clay. Part of the sand excavation was deposited on the caisson deck floor as ballast to assist in overcoming the sinking friction after the caisson had reached the stage of ground water. The working air pressure in the standpipe was just above standard atmospheric pressure and did not exceed 17 p.s.i.

The First Surprise
As the sinking operation progressed, it became obvious from the movement of the caisson that the anticipated weight of the engine house and engines would not be sufficient to prevent shifting of the caisson as had originally been planned. It did not prove feasible to rest the caisson on bedrock and, as a result, the station had the undesirable possibility of "floating" during periods of high river levels from the hydraulic pressure that resulted from high groundwater levels.

Even the slightest movement of the pump pit floor would interfere with the smooth operation of the huge engines that were to be installed. A 1/8 inch movement to the level of the floor resulted in a 3/8 inch movement at the top of the 104 feet high engine. Engine alignment was to be within 1/100 of an inch and would not be feasible if the pit floor moved every time the river level changed.

After the sand ballast from excavations was removed from the deck floor on December 12, 1899 and prior to engine placement, the caisson wood deck deformed taking the shape of an inverted ice-cream cone. The center rose 3 5/8" while the wall-edge fell 1 inches. Deformation was caused in part for three reasons.

First, and prior to engine placement, a disproportionate amount of weight from the pump pit stonewall rested on the outer most section of the caisson. 100% of the walled weight rested on the outer most 25% of the caisson deck. This unbalance had a tendency to cause the caisson to sink at the outer most edge and rise at the center. Secondly, for the first twelve months or so, the caisson was under extreme radial pressure caused by the moisture expansion from the closely space and bolted timbers. Dry white oak can easily expand 5% or more when saturated with water. This high radial pressure had a tendency to destabilize the deck structure. Thirdly, hydraulic pressure from high river levels in the Ohio River provided the necessary force to nudge to center upward.

Below is the timeline for the "extraordinary effort" to deal with and correct this deformation.

[12 months] May 18, 1898 to May 1, 1899, Caisson construction.

[18 months] May 1, 1899 to October 12, 1899, sink the caisson to 105 feet.

[20 months] December 12, 1899, river rises, caisson deforms, center rises to 3 5/8", and the wall-edge falls 1 inches.

[32 months] November 30, 1900, high river level, center reached 4 inches above normal, the wall edge remained 1 inches below normal. The center fell about inch at low river level.

[37 months] April 27, 1901, high river level, center took a set at 3 5/8" at high water and fell slightly at low water.

[49 months] March, 1902, high river level, center took a set at 4 7/16" at high water and fell slightly at low water level.

[61 months] again in March, 1903, high river level, center took a set at 4 7/16" and fell slightly at low water level.

To stabilize the caisson a center counterweight was selected as the most appropriate solution. Supplied by the Bullman-Wilson Foundry Company of Cincinnati, the ballast took the form of a circular wall concentric to the pump pit standpipe. The ballast was constructed using 700 tapered cast iron sections, weighing 6 tons each, for a total ballast weight of 4,200 tons. The foundry poured all the ballast iron in 30 days and the counter weight was completely installed in the next 70 days.

[63 months] February 6 to April 15, 1904, 4,200 ton of cast Iron ballast installed.

The Second Surprise
[74 months] May 13, 1904, low river level, the center lowers an insignificant amount. Even at low river level and 4,200 tons of center ballast the caisson center resisted movement downward. This resistance was caused by the high friction from the closely spaced and bolted, water expanded timbers not allowing individual movement among the timbers inside the caisson. Four and a half years had passed since the original deformation of the deck, allowing for maximum pressure to build from the water soaked and expanded timbers.

The Third Surprise
[76 months] May 13 to July 7, at low river level, 31 feet of water was added to the bottom of the pit adding an additional 6,880 tons to the existing cast iron ballast of 4,200 tons, and served to lower the deck to within 3/8 inch of the original location, but no further.

[77 months] August, 1904, low river level, in an effort to nudge the center downward another 3/8 inch the engine bedplates were anchored to the caisson deck but no additional lowering of the center occurred.

[78 months] October, 1904, at low river level, a second major attempt was made to lower the caisson to its original location. 796 tons of engine castings were scattered about the pit floor and 34 feet of water was added for a total ballast weight of 13,000 tons. This extraordinary ballast weight was required to overcome high internal friction of the deck from the moisture-expanded timbers.

[80 months] December, 1904, the floor returned to within 1/16 inch of the original location. The engine castings were removed and the engine bedplates were re-leveled and set in twelve inches of concrete. Erection of the engines began.

[82 months] February 27, 1905, as engine erection continues, 15 feet of water was added to the pit floor to counter balance a rise in river level, and removed by late April as the river level fell.

[85 months] May, 1905, 10 feet of water was added to the pit floor because of a rise in the river level.
More Caution

[88 months] from May 23 to August 1, all four engines were quickly assembled without regard to alignment or leveling in order to add weight to the pit floor in anticipation of a river rise in November and December.

[93 months] January 10, 1906, one by one, each engine was disassembled and accurately reassembled with regard to accurate placement, leveling and bearing alignment.

More Success
[101 months] September 18, 1906, engine two was started for the first time, running a few hours on that day and the following day.

[102 month, October 29, 1906, engine two went online full time.

[107 months] April 28, 1907, engine three went online and by May 9, Engine 1 was online.

[110 months] August 13, 1907, engine four went online.

When groundwater reached a pre-specified level, water would be added to the caisson, foot for foot, with the rise in the groundwater. This precaution has been taken a number of times in over 104 years of operation.

Pump Pit:
The tapered pit wall is formed from circular blocks radial sawed inside and outside, Oolitic dimensioned Bedford limestone, with the inside face being plumb and fine-pointed. A cylindrical shell of riveted and caulked steel plate is built into the stone and masonry wall to render the pit watertight. The station standpipe is of caulked and riveted steel construction and extends to bedrock for intake from the river tunnel.

Pump House
The above grade exterior wall was designed using the Romanesque Revival architectural style. The limestone stone is from Bedford, Indiana, Oolitic* dimensioned with the outside surface being rock-faced and fine pointed. The above grade interior wall is finished with Tiffany white-enameled brick while the below grade interior wall is circular sawed and fine pointed.

At the top of the below grade wall three steel horizontal struts are anchored into the wall and riveted to the steel standpipe. Opposite the middle strut and in line with the entrance to the engine house a railroad plate girder is built from the wall to the steel stand pipe, and supports a standard-gauge, 4' 8.5" railroad track, which permits railroad cars being run into the engine house.

The pump house is covered with a cone-shaped conical steel roof using lantern frame construction, and covered with hard burnt American red vitrified** "S" tile.

*Oolite dimensioned limestone = grain size .25-2 mm.
**Vitrified Tile is a tile created by the Vitrification manufacturing process which has very low porosity and water absorption, making it stain-resistant and strong.

Bright Work:
A circular gallery six feet wide with polished brass railing four feet high is supported around the engine room at the floor level on steel brackets anchored to the pump-pit wall. This gallery is connected with the gallery around the pumping machinery. It was common practice during plant operations that when a worker walked long the brass railing they would carry a polishing rag in each hand and rub both the left and right rails as they traveled. On the return trip they would reach to the lower rails and polish as they walked.

Between pumping engines one and two and adjoining the pump-pit wall, an electric elevator and cab is provided for carrying men from the engine-room floor level to the pump-pit floor, or any of the main engine levels. Warner Elevator Manufacturing Company, Spring Grove Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio provided the 2,500 lb. capacity, 230 Vdc motor driven elevator.

The Warner Elevator Manufacturing Company was the third largest elevator manufacturer in the country and was the first to supply water driven hydraulic elevators to the local area. When electric power superseded water pressure in the late nineteenth century, Warner kept stride with progress by designing electric-driven elevators. They made every type of elevator, from the high-speed passenger and freight elevator to the dumbwaiter. An exclusive product was their electrically driven, plunger type elevator for residential use.

Dual Spiral Stair Cases
Two spiral staircases supplied by the Camden Iron Works extends from the pit floor to the eccentric deck. A railed staircase extends from the main engine floor to the wheel deck and several levels in between. Railing for all stairs and elevated walkways was bright work polished brass.

Circular Traveling Overhead Radial Crane
On a projection in the above grade wall is placed a steel track girder for the rail of a circular radial traveling electric crane. The inner end of the crane revolves on a track placed on the top of the standpipe rising from the center of the caisson.

Supplied from the Morgan Engineering Company (formerly the Morgan Crane Company) in Alliance, Ohio, the crane has a span of 49 feet 6 inches and a 30-ton lift of 110 feet. The three electric motors use Morgan controllers with adjustable speed and direction controls. All motors are 230 Vdc and include a 30 HP hoisting motor, a 25 HP bridge motor and a 5 HP trolley motor.

Design of the engine and its pumps allowed every principle part to be reached and removed by the overhead crane without disturbing any other part of the machinery. However, when the head for the intermediate pressure cylinder cracked at startup on engine two, requiring replacement, some steam piping was removed to access the engine.

Annex Building
A 55 foot by 54 foot annex building connects the pump house with the boiler house. This building housed a number of station auxiliaries such as a steam turbine electric generator, electrical panels, air compressors, and a machine shop.

Boiler House
A stone walled boiler house measuring 60 feet X 180 feet was constructed from Oolitic dimensioned Bedford limestone, with the exterior being rock-faced and fine pointed, and the inside sawed smooth and rubbed. The boiler room floor is concrete; the toilet room from red American tile, and the office and storeroom included matched yellow pine flooring. A steel roof using lantern frame construction is covered with vitrified** "S" tile. Individual lockers for all employees, toilet rooms with showers and other conveniences were provided.

The boiler plant consisted of nine Stirling Company water tube boilers equipped with American underfeed stokers for a total plant capacity of 4,500 HP. Later on, forced draught Riley Stokers replaced the American stokers. The four-drum boiler used 176, three-inch diameter steel tubes. There were four batteries of two boilers each at 424 HP and a ninth boiler at 529 HP. Each battery of boilers were provided with a Foster super heater, located between the boilers, and so arranged that the boilers could be operated with or without the super heaters. Each double battery of boilers was equipped with a Green economizer, and a Buffalo Forge fan engine using a Buffalo Forge fan of sufficient capacity to supply air to all the boilers. The exposed surfaces of the boiler settings, flues and economizers was faced with Hanover red pressed brick, laid and pointed in red colored mortar. New boilers in 1921 increased the plant horsepower to 4,500.

The coal work duty tested at 152,875,648 ft. lb. for every 100 lb. of coal, while the steam duty tested at 172,925,997 ft. lb. per 1,000 lb. of dry steam, weir measurement.

Each battery of boilers was capable of furnishing steam at 150 p.s.i.g. sufficient to operate each pumping engine at its full capacity under maximum load. A fourteen-inch pipe delivered steam to the engine room arranged to use either saturated or super-heated steam, and branched into two lines with two engines taking steam from each branch.

The boilers also furnished steam necessary for operating the electric generators and all auxiliary machinery, and for heating the building which consisted of radiators and coils distributed throughout the buildings.

Located in the boiler room and used to handle the exhaust steam from the ancillary engines, the plant included two Wheeler surface condensers equipped with grease separators, and two double-action Valveless suction Mullan air pumps.

A special eight-inch water line from the filter plant supplied the boilers and toilet rooms with filtered water.

A 175 foot high smokestack fitted with a cast iron top was located between the boiler house and the elevated coal storage building. An eight-foot inside diameter stack was built on a 35-foot diameter by 8-foot deep foundation. Lightning protection was not initially provided for the stack and as a result considerable surface damage occurred close to the steel ladder used to climb the stack.

Water Softening and Deaerating Plant
A water softening and deaerating plant was installed for the treatment of boiler feed water and proved to be very efficient in the elimination of boiler scale.

Coal Storage
Providing dry coal during periods of high water was an important consideration in addition to providing sufficient coal for periods of un-navigable low river levels. An elevated 69 foot X 225 foot coal storage building with a superstructure of steel supported on steel columns and covered with a roof from eight-inch plain boards was designed and constructed by Chas. L. Strobel, of Chicago.

Storage for 7,980 tons of Pittsburg nut and slack coal allowed for a ten-month supply. Coal was delivered originally by barge and occasionally by truck in the later years.

The lower section of the storage area contained 114 pocket hoppers with each pocket holding 70 tons of coal. A coal spout and valve on each hopper left six and a half feet of headroom above the narrow gauge coal tracks running lengthwise underneath the hoppers.

At the river end of the building a dual track narrow gauge incline rail system extended from the upper track system above the coal bins and from the hoisting house, down the riverbank to the low water line. Steam hoisting engines in the hoisting house used a dual cable-hoisting drum to lower one car as the other car was being pulled up the incline. Steel trestle bents were used for the elevated section. Steel aprons were provided to span the distance between the tracks on the incline and the tracks on the unloading barge at any stage of the river water above elevation 16. During the delivery of coal by barge it was found later that the distance between the center of tracks on the inclines did not always agree with the spacing of the tracks under the coal hoppers for the unloading barge, and some changes had to be made on the steel aprons to permit adjustment to the tracks on the barge.

From the barge, coal was unloaded into two-ton steel coal dump cars, which are drawn up the incline and dumped at will into the coal bin and onto a cross-belt conveyor. From the cross-belt conveyor coal was distributed by means of shuttle-belt conveyors to the 114 pocket hoppers.

Coal was supplied from the pocket hoppers into the boiler room using the narrow gauge charging cars which were switched into the boiler room by a narrow gauge electric locomotive called the "Dinky", which also moved ash cars to the waste pit.

During one of the tests in June, 1906, made in the presence of Mr. S. Vivian, the Architectural Engineer and draftsman for this department and who had charge of the work under the contract, an accident occurred which resulted in the death of Mr. Vivian a few hours later. The accident was caused by a loaded coal car, which had reached the top of the incline, suddenly leaving the track near the hoisting drum and pinning Mr. Vivian, who was but a few feet away, against the side of the hoist house. In the death of Mr. Vivian the Department lost one of its best men and an exceptionally careful, reliable, and competent engineer, and a modest and industrious coworker.

A rail suspended hopper system called the "Lorry", eventually replaced the coal shovelers and delivered coal to each stoker hopper. The Lorry was supplied by a coal hoist in a new three story poured concrete lifting house at the front of the boiler house. The railroad siding had been extended to the coalbunkers and a new river-side incline built, so that coal could be received either by rail or by river. However, rail delivery was never required.

Railroad Tracks
It was important that a railroad connection be established between the New Water Works and the Cincinnati, Georgetown & Portsmouth Railroad Co. This connection enabled contractors to deliver their tools and supplies as well as the construction materials and machinery with the least amount of haul by teams. The railroad along with the viaduct was built by the Fort Pit Bridge Works, from Canonsburg, PA.

4,850 feet of dual gauge railroad track on a 2% graded roadbed was laid from the main CG&P line to the New Water Works. The CG&P was a narrow gauge (19 inch) steam line constructed by the Cincinnati & Portsmouth Railroad company between 1876-1886, and converted to Standard Gauge (4' 8 inches) and Electrified in 1902. While the line never made it to Portsmouth, it was the first steam railroad in the country to convert to electricity. The branch to the California water works was built with dual gauge tracks to allow standard gauge freight cars from the Little Miami Railroad to be hauled to the water works with the CG&P s narrow gauge locomotives.

At the water works the tracks dividend with the standard gauge tracks ending at the center of the pump house and the narrow gauge continuing to the coal storage building. The tracks consist of three 60-pound rails for three feet and four feet 8 inch gauge track ballasted with gravel. The tracks were able to carry a live load of two locomotives coupled and followed or preceded by a uniform load of 3,000 pounds per lineal foot, moving at the rate of thirty miles per hour.

The Cincinnati-Georgetown Railroad Co. reorganized in 1927. Service was cut back and they eventually abandoned the entire line with the remaining route between Carrell Street and the New Water Works sold to the City of Cincinnati. The City Water Works use was suspended in 1943.

You can see additional pictures and documentation for the CG&P RR line

by Jeffrey B. Jakucyk  at www.jjakucyk.com/transit/cgp/index.html 

and more traction history at www.jjakucyk.com/transit/index.html

Electric Generation:
The electric generating plant, located in the Annex and supplied by Dravo, Doyle & Co., of Pittsburg, Pa, consisted of three units of two 75-kilowatt, 4-pole Crocker-Wheeler 230 Volt direct current generators. They were directly connected to two gear wheels, which were driven by a DeLaval steam turbine, fitted to operate either condensing or non-condensing. These generators were used when the current required by the station was greater than could be supplied by the power generated from the water wheels at the Filtration Plant.

In addition, a 60-kilowatt Northern electric 230 Vdc generator direct connected to a diesel fuel Russell engine installed in the Annex. The generator supplied current to the electric motor operating the tunnel pump and was used as emergency backup to the steam driven generators. A seven-panel highly polished black enameled switchboard, on which all the various instruments are mounted, was also located in the Annex, so as to be within observation from any point near the generators.