And Now For Something Steampunk: The Waterworks Museum

Last weekend, I decided to hie on out to the Waterworks Museum in Chestnut Hill, outside of Boston. I didn’t expect much: just how interesting could water pumps be? Actually, the pumps at the museum don’t run anymore, so you don’t even get to watch things move. But I figured I should visit it so I can say I’ve been there. Anyway, it’s a nice enough looking building in the late 19th century sorta Gothic style:


So, I enter, leave a donation, and walk through the doors, and…WHAM! It was like walking into a beautiful cathedral. These machines, even stilled, have power (although when they ran they were so well-made that they were virtually silent). In an era where everything is designed to be compact and fluid, the sheer size of the pumps is amazing. One understands how, pre-World War I, people were so optimistic about technology, and how the image of the factory was so triumphant (whether a capitalist or a Marxist). It really was one of the best ‘accidental’ museum visits I’ve ever made.

(Note: Tomorrow, I’ll blog about the role the Chestnut Hill station played in water safety microbiology).

But enough talk, let’s have some pictures. Here’s one of the first things you see upon entering:


And some gears:


To give you some idea of just how big these pumps are:



Here’s what I meant by cathedral:




They’ve even kept the original tools:


That’s a big wrench! More tools:


Here’s the Worthington Snow Pumping Engine, made in Buffalo, NY (not sure what it did, but probably good to have):


And here’s the info:


Of course, we need gauges (which are about two feet in diameter):


The workmanship is amazing–for insulation and to prevent ‘sweating’, the machines were covered in polished walnut:




The above picture could only be taken through glass, but if you look carefully, you’ll see that the flat surfaces are covered with a checkered pattern. Again, the attention to detail is amazing, and indicates a certain awe and respect. But no true factory setting would be complete without some big ass pulleys and chains:




Finally, some second story (about 30 feet up actually) shots that might give you some indication of the size. In the first picture, the bright green dot in the middle is a person:



The Acknowledgments section:


Definitely worth visiting. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the importance of the Chestnut Hill Biological Laboratory.

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4 Responses to And Now For Something Steampunk: The Waterworks Museum

  1. physicalist says:

    Didn’t know that was there. I’ll definitely have to check it out.

  2. John Deamer says:

    What a spectacular structure and machinery.

    Speaking of steampunk, the Brooklyn Pratt institute still maintains their 1887 steam power plant –
    Steam whistles video
    More photos

  3. Janet says:

    FYI- admission to the museum is totally free, and it’s right next to the resevoir so you can stop in after a run.

  4. Pingback: Steampunk News » into the vortex of April we go

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