Wachusett Dam & Reservoir


Construction Site Management

Wachusett Dam, looking southerly, downstream side, Clinton, Mass., Nov. 11, 1902

“Every picture tells a story”, so the saying goes, and this one is not any different. It’s one of my favorites because it shows nearly all of the major activities used by the contractor to construct the dam.

For the “sidewalk superintendents” among you, I put together this overview to help you understand what happens at a large site.

In the fall of 1900, McArthur Brothers of Chicago, won the contract to build the masonry dam, powerhouse and, once the Central Massachusetts Railroad realignment was settled, the contract to construct its tunnel, viaduct and railroad cut.

Basically, the dam is simply a stone wall consisting of large rocks (called rubbles) piled one upon the other and mortared solid until the top was reached. In practice, it was a bit more complicated.

There were no utilities existing at the site then (it was mostly pasture land) and McArthur Brothers was obliged to build whatever systems it needed to complete this heavy work – lifting devices, mixing devices and, of course, transport (there being no roads or heavy trucks in existence).

There was steam and coal to be had in abundance, dynamite, mortar (sand, cement and water) and the horse. We shall see how the contractor masterfully combined these resources to build this magnificent structure.

At the time this photo was taken, midway through the project, the systems are all busily at work and we shall look closely at each of them.



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