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wooden water pipes

Pipes – Wood

Bored elm pipes from the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, England. The use of bored elm pipes underground with quills of lead running off into the houses of the well-to-do seems to have begun in London as early as the 13th century. All the old London water companies that appeared between the 16th and 18th century used bored elm pipes for distributing water. – Text from information display at the pumping station (see photo). Source: Roger C. Cracknell, Bibby Transmissions, UK; with permission from Matthew Wood, Wastewater Archivist, Thames Water, Reading, Berkshire.

Bored hemlock (wood log) water pipe, laid about 1754. Early wood log pipe was used often for either water or sewage conveyance. Source:

Hollowed wood log pipes in the Museum of Edinburgh, Scotland. Hollowed-out tree trunks were the earliest sewer disposal method used in the city, according to the Museum. Date unknown. Source: Frans Lamers, Costa Rica.

A hollowed-out wood water supply pipe around 500 years old put in by monks, Bristol, England. Bristol started sewer construction around 1854, although a famous slave trader, Goldney, was one of the first to lay a sewer at Randall Road in Bristol, probably around 1780. The Bristol City Council put in all Bristol sewers prior to the formation of Wessex Water, and was also the inventor of the energy dissipation vortex and the concept of dynamic separation in the early 1950’s. The concept was adopted by new York and Chicago in the early 60’s. Source: Julian Britton, Senior Engineer, Wessex Water, Kingston Seymour Village, North Somerset, England.

Philadelphia wood log water pipe. This piece of wood log pipe was taken out of service in 1909 at or near the Neshaminy Water Treatment Plant in Pennsylvania. The date of its installation is unknown. During its service life, it conveyed potable water within the noted 13 million gallons/day water treatment plant. The spiral-wound steel strapping was applied to give the wood log pipe the ability to acceptably withstand higher internal operating pressures. Source: Courtesy of Dick Riegler, Philadelphia Suburban Water Company.

Fire plugs and wood pipe. When hollowed-out wood log pipes were first used for water conveyance in the late 1700s – early 1800s, it became apparent that they could also be used as a source of water to fight fires. When a fire occurred, the firefighters (volunteers) dug down, found the log pipe, and augered a hole through it. [Note: In some early water systems, such as Philadelphia’s — followed soon thereafter by systems in New York and Boston — wood plugs were installed at specific locations (mid-block, etc.) when the main itself was installed, so that the firemen would know where to find a plug in advance.] Water would fill the firemen’s excavation, forming a “wet well” to either get buckets of water from, or serving as a reservoir for pumps to pull water from. When the fire was out, the hole in the pipe would be sealed by driving a wood (oftentimes redwood) plug — similar to those shown here — into it. The plug’s location was often noted and marked before the pipe was covered over, so the plug could possibly be used as a source the next time — instead of creating a new hole in the wood pipe. This procedure is the basis of the term “fire plug,” a name which is often still applied to modern day fire hydrants.

Bored log pipes laid in Pennsylvania before 1820. Hollowed-out logs were often used for water and sewage conveyance in early times in the U.S. The raw material (wood) was readily available and the 3′ – 4′ lengths could be hollowed out by hand augering or burning. Source: Cast Iron Pipe, Standard Specifications Dimensions and Weights (Burlington, New Jersey: United States Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Co.,1914).12

A section of wood water main that the Lansing Board of Water and Light excavated in downtown Lansing, Michigan, circa 2000. It may have been installed to serve the Capitol Building around 1879. The wood pipe in these four photos appears to be the machined type that came along after the Civil War when the machinery was available to take a log and machine the outside, and then machine auger out the interior flow-carrying area. Wyckoff Pipe, manufactured by the Michigan Pipe Co. of Bay City, MI, made their wood pipe in a way that looked similar to these photos (starting in the 1880’s), but they used strapping and a separate machined wood spline to in effect create the bell and spigot joint for their wood pipe. In these photos, it appears the spigot protrusion is integral to the barrel, not a separate spline (to form the spigot). Source: Mark Witalec, surveyor for the Lansing Board of Water and Light, and Timothy S. Hogg, Engineering Technician / GIS, Delta Charter Township, Lansing, MI.

Wood log pipes in Holly, Michigan. Located in the far northwestern hills of Michigan’s Oakland County, Holly is a vibrant community with a rich cultural heritage rooted in commerce and transportation. In 1864, Holly became the first Michigan community with a railroad junction, called the Holly and Flint line. The Holly, Wayne and Monroe Railroad was introduced in 1870 and later consolidated with the Holly and Flint line to become the Flint and Pere Marquette. The railroad brought new growth to the village, and Holly quickly developed into more than just a whistle stop. By the 20th century, homes, schools, churches and businesses took root and provided the very foundation for a community that still thrives today. The summer of 2007 marked the beginning of an $800,000 streetscape project, designed to freshen up downtown Holly while at the same time, maintaining the quaint Midwestern village style for which Holly is best known. Construction crews unearthed some of Holly’s earliest infrastructural artifacts including this thimble that was used to join two Wyckoff wooden pipe segments. It is believed the village purchased the wooden water pipe system from Bay City Pipes out of Bay City, Michigan sometime in the late 1800s. Source: Donated in conjunction with Tri County Times, Fenton, Michigan, on behalf of the Village of Holly by Village Manager, Aaron Oppenheimer, and Director of the Department of Public Works, Marv Swanson.

Wood water pipe types, 1886. In later times wood pipe was insulated when used for hot water or steam conveyance. Source:

This slice of wood log water pipe, created from a tamarack tree log, represents the type of pipe used to deliver water as early as the 1830s in the Detroit, Michigan, area. It has been out of service since the early 1900s and was removed from the ground in the mid-1970s. It has a two-inch diameter passage within a six-inch outside diameter tamarack log. Source: Courtesy of George McDonald, P.E., R. S. Engineering, Tucson, Arizona (previously with the firm of Rust Environment and Infrastructure).

Design for outlet sewers at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, 1897. Note detail of wood stave pipe. Source:

Installation of wood stave water pipe in a trench. Spiral wound wire or iron rod reinforcing being installed on outside surface of the pipe. Location unknown. Date: Late 1800s – Early 1900s. Source: Garrick Fafard, Westland Resources, Inc.

Wood stave pipe that has been in service for a long time (and, is still in service) as a storm water culvert pipe within Mount Rainier National Park near Paradise, Washington. Photo date October 2010. Source: Gaylord D. Mattes, Puyallup, Washington.

Redwood stave pipe under 160 feet head, Santa Ana, California. Circa 1908. Source: Frederick E. Turneaure, Editor-in-Chief, Cyclopedia of Civil Engineering, Vol. VIII: Hydraulics, Water Power, Waterways, Index (Chicago: American School of Correspondence, 1908), p. 251

Redwood stave pipe (52-inch) crossing Warmsprings Canyon, near Redlands, California. Circa 1908. Source: Frederick E. Turneaure, Editor-in-Chief, Cyclopedia of Civil Engineering, Vol. VIII: Hydraulics, Water Power, Waterways, Index (Chicago: American School of Correspondence, 1908), p. 253.

Gravity outfall sewer from Salt Lake City to sewer farms. Pipe made of wood stave pipe assembled in the trench. 1908. Source: Utah State Historical Society, Photo no. C-601 #1651. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.

Wood stave gravity sewer pipe, Salt Lake City, Utah, circa 1908. Assembled in the trench. Source: Utah State Historical Society, Photo no. C-601 #1652. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.

Old wood pipe showing bell and spigot ends and valve, New York. Early wood pipe (especially those with bell and spigot connections between the individual laying lengths) used no gaskets. When the wood was in service, it became wet, swelled and helped seal the joint. Source: Cast Iron Pipe, Standard Specifications Dimensions and Weights (Burlington, New Jersey: United States Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Co.,1914).

Wood stave pipe used at the Garoga River Plant in Fulton, New York. Top photo: The original power plant built in 1850 and taken out of commission in 1903. The hard pine wood staves used in pipes here were in good condition after 50 years. Bottom photo: The power plant was rebuilt in 1913 using douglas fir 78-inch wood stave pipe. Source: J. F. Partridge,

The 14-foot diameter pipeline of the Montana Power Company, near Great Falls, Montana, one of the two largest continuous stave lines in the western U.S., circa 1918. Photos are marked

Comparisons of the cell structure of douglas fir and redwood (summer and spring wood). Source: J. F. Partridge,

Band pressure tests use to determine the strength values of different types of staves. Source: J. F. Partridge,

Advertisement for redwood pipe, manufactured by the California Redwood Pipe Company, Los Angeles, circa 1924. Source: Classified Buyer’s Guide, 1924.

Wood log pipe, original water supply line in Hartford, Connecticut. Source:

Cross-section of continuous wood-stave pipe and illustration of machine-banded wood-stave pipe, circa 1931. Source: Harold E. Babbitt and James J. Doland, Water Supply Engineering, Second Edition (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1931) pp. 402. Courtesy of Raymond D. Hamilton, P.E., D.E.E.

Cast-iron shoe for holding bands on wood-stave pipe, and joint for machine-banded pipe, circa 1931. Source: Harold E. Babbitt and James J. Doland, Water Supply Engineering, Second Edition (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1931) pp. 403. Courtesy of Raymond D. Hamilton, P.E., D.E.E.

Typical cast-iron connection for wood-stave pipe, circa 1931. Source: Harold E. Babbitt and James J. Doland, Water Supply Engineering, Second Edition (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1931) pp. 404. Courtesy of Raymond D. Hamilton, P.E., D.E.E.

This wooden water main in Fernandina Beach, Florida, is owned by Rayioner Inc., a manufacturer of paper. Water from local wells is fed into this main for delivery to the papermill. It is a 24” dia main, built in 1934. The main is in service 24/7 (as of 2010) and has an operating pressure of approximately 40-50 psi. Source: Don Arch, John Mandrick and Dave Shortz.

Details of wood-stave pipe construction, circa 1934. Source: H. K. Barrows, Water Power Engineering, Second Edition (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1934), pp. 378. Courtesy of Raymond D. Hamilton, P.E., D.E.E.

Erection of wood-stave pipe line, circa 1934. Source: H. K. Barrows, Water Power Engineering, Second Edition (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1934), pp. 379. Courtesy of Raymond D. Hamilton, P.E., D.E.E.

16-foot wood-stave penstock at Copco Plant 2 of California-Oregon Power Company, circa 1934. Source: H. K. Barrows, Water Power Engineering, Second Edition (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1934), pp. 380. Courtesy of Raymond D. Hamilton, P.E., D.E.E.

Method of connection steel and wood-stave pipes, circa 1934. Source: H. K. Barrows, Water Power Engineering, Second Edition (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1934), pp. 380. Courtesy of Raymond D. Hamilton, P.E., D.E.E.

Wooden cradles for wood-stave pipe lines, circa 1934. Source: H. K. Barrows, Water Power Engineering, Second Edition (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1934), pp. 381. Courtesy of Raymond D. Hamilton, P.E., D.E.E.

ubstitute materials used in WWII: a shipment of 1,488 feet of 18-inch, 24-inch, 30-inch and 36-inch wooden pipe on one flat car. Weight 70,020 pounds. An equal footage of reinforced concrete pipe weighs 455,412 pounds and requires over ten cars. These pipes, used in place of corrugated iron or reinforced concrete pipes, were made of sections cut from short lengths of wood. Locking of adjacent rings with hardwood dowel pins produced a flexible structure. About 100,000 feet of these wooden pipes were installed in 1942 in drainage culverts, storm sewers and conduits, under highways and at army camps, naval stations, airfields and ordnance plants. Photo date 1943. See article. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, reproduction number LC-USE6-D-008208 DLC (b&w film neg.).

Substitute materials used in WWII: interior view of two-foot section of built-up wooden pipe, twenty-four inches in diameter. These pipes, used in place of corrugated iron or reinforced concrete pipes, were made of sections cut from short lengths of wood. About 100,000 feet of these wooden pipes were installed in 1942 in drainage culverts, storm sewers and conduits under highways and at army camps, naval stations, airfields and ordnance plants. Photo date 1943. See article. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, reproduction number LC-USE6-D-008207 DLC (b&w film neg.).

Substitute materials used in WWII: wood culverts for steel. Assembly of an emergency sectional wood pipe, twenty-four inches in diameter. These pipes, used in place of corrugated iron or reinforced concrete pipes, were made of sections cut from short lengths of wood. Locking of adjacent rings with hardwood dowel pins produced a flexible structure. About 100,000 feet of these wooden pipes were installed in 1942 in drainage culverts, storm sewers and conduits under highways and at army camps, naval stations, airfields and ordnance plants. Photo date 1943. See article. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, reproduction number LC-USE6-D-008206 DLC (b&w film neg.).

Wood water pipe from Arizona. This piece of 6″ internal diameter wood water pipe has a long history. Initially, it was used in Jerome, Arizona as a part of a water distribution system for a mining operation. In the mid-1930s, the pipe was removed and re-installed in Sedona’s potable water system, where it remained in active service until the early 1960s. Please note the authentic Muellar corporation stop. This stop was manufactured especially for use with wood water pipe. Source: Courtesy of Marcus McCutchan of the Sedona office of the Arizona Water Company.

Wood stave water pipe from Colorado. This piece of 10″ internal diameter wood stave pipe was used starting in the mid-1950s at the Pandora Mill (Idarado Mining Company) near Telluride, Colorado, in gravity service — both buried and above ground — to convey tailings from the mill to the tailings pond. The sand content of the tailings was so high that it was extremely abrasive to the inside surfaces of the pipe. Mining staff had to physically rotate the pipe every few months to move the worn surface to the crown and unworn surface to the invert (flow line). After several years of use, the wood pipe was taken out of service and replaced with lined asbestos cement pipe. This pipe was made in laying lengths of approximately 18 ft. The bell and spigot joints were gasketless — when the pipe was wetted during service, the wood would swell, sealing the joints. Redwood, Oregon fir, oak, spruce, or whatever was readily available were used to make wood pipe. Often, the exterior surfaces of the spiral-wound wood pipe was coated with asphaltic materials to slow down corrosion of the windings. Sometimes the wood itself was treated with oils/creosote to lengthen the wood’s life expectancy. Note: wood pipe (log and stave) was used from the 1700s to the mid 1900s for both water and sewage conveyance. It worked well for water service since the wood remained wet all the time — some is still in service today. For sewer service (especially gravity) the longevity of the wood was often shorter. While the bottom (invert) of the pipe remained wet, the top was dry, causing moisture differences that led the pipe to deteriorate. The corrosive nature of sewage also caused deterioration. Source: Courtesy of the Idarado Mining Company, Ouray, Colorado.

Wood stave sewer main beinginstalled in Seattle, Washington circa1930’s. Appears to be an outfall sewer for discharge to river/waterbody Photo provided courtesy of JonSchladweiler”

Photo shows two early types of connectors to or corporation stops for connecting a small dia water service pipe to a wood water main. The one on the left was used early on; a hole drilled through the pipe wall and the tapered end of the connector (shown on the left) was pushed into the hole and held in place by compression. Then the water service line was connected to the other end of the fitting. Later on, the special corp stop (shown on the right) was used to make such connections. First a hole was drilled into/through the wood water main’s wall; then the corp stop – with special tapered and wider spaced threads – is screwed into the hole. Thereafter, the water service pipe was attached to the downstream side of the corp stop. Source: Jon Schladweiler; photo taken at Louisville (KY) Water Museum,March 2016

A piece of 18” ID wood stavewater pipe – spiral wound with wire. The pipe was used within the Louisville (KY) public water system – early 1900’s. Note the degree of deterioration of the wood on the inside surface and, that the thickness of the wood pipe’s wall pieces is quite thin compared with the pipe of other wood stave pipe manufacturers of that time. The key feature of this pipe is the spiral wound metal wire wrapping around the outside of the pipe; the wire is what held the pipe together under pressurized (50-60 psi) flow. Source: Jon Schladweiler; photo taken at the Louisville Water Museum,March 2016

2015 article regarding theunique (and, often required) use of wood to make things (such as wheels for farm tractors) hat are normally made of metal – but, due to the shortages of metal during WW II, had to be made of other materials – in this case, wood.

An early article (circa 1915) re cypress wood log water pipe installed in the New Orleans, LA area. And, a photo of a cypress tree in the wild.

Pipes – Wood Bored elm pipes from the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, England. The use of bored elm pipes underground with quills of lead running off into the houses of the well-to-do seems to have