I mentioned in Monday’s post that the first dam across the Connecticut River failed within a matter of hours. I also
threatened promised to discuss some of the technology associated with the dam and canal project. The construction of the dams not only gives me the opportunity to talk about some of the technology, but it offers a great one-liner.
The first dam (1848) was a “timber-crib” dam. Essentially, an open grid of heavy timbers that was filled with stone and rubble. More in a moment…
The second dam (1850) was also a timber structure, with rocks and stone for ballast and support. Although it was anchored to the bedrock, which the first dam was not, the angle to the river was incorrect, and problems developed due to vibrations caused by the water spilling over the dam. An attempt was made to mitigate these design problems by adding timbers and stone to the down stream side of the dam for support. The modified dam was stable, but the mill owners who relied on the power derived from the water stored behind the dam were concerned about its long-term viability. In 1895 construction of the third dam began. This was (still is) a gravity dam, meaning that its sheer weight prevents the water upstream from moving it. The dam is made of granite. Large blocks were assembled with the aid of two technical innovations. A narrow-gauge railroad was built to move the base stone into place, and a cableway was suspended from one side of the river to the other to move stones to the upper levels of the dam structure. At the time, it was the longest cableway in the world.
Back to that first dam, and the one-liner. The first dam was constructed within a matter of months. The following information was reported in Harper’s Weekly in 1848.
Upon completion the gates (which allowed the river to flow around the dam) were closed at 10 AM and the reservoir behind the dam began to fill. The head engineer, proud of his accomplishment, exclaimed:
“There! Those gates are shut, and God Almighty himself can not open them!”
By noon the dam was leaking. By 2:00 PM it was evident that the structure was weakening. At 3:20 PM, the dam failed.
This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner, If you would like to join in on the fun, you can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.