The Wachusett Dam & Reservoir

The North Dike

It’s big all right…over two miles long in all. It contains the topsoil that was painstakingly stripped by hand from over 7 square mile of farmland…nearly six million cubic yards, a volume twice that of the Great Pyramid.

It would be, in 1895, a world class structure and it would earn its chief engineer, Frederick P. Stearns, a recommendation from President Theodore Roosevelt to assist in the design of the Panama Canal.

The new Wachusett Reservoir would pose serious problems for the west side of Clinton. The elevation of the proposed surface was 56 feet higher than the level of Coachlace Pond. The solution would be a dike, an earth dam really, like no other.

The North Dike was divided into two parts, each with very different existing conditions. The westerly portion from South Meadow Road to Chace Hill Road (7,000 feet) a dry and flat plain and could be dug with relative ease.

The easterly portion from South Meadow Road to South Main Street (4,500 feet) would pass through two sizeable ponds, a cemetery, would require the construction of a temporary bypass highway and a construction railroad, purpose built for hauling millions of cubic yards of soil up an incline a hundred feet from the valley floor.

It would take 25 steam locomotives, 800 hundred of dump cars, 700 horses, nearly six years to get the job done and more than 2,000 men, eight of whom would lose their lives.

This is the story, the first of a series about the North Dike, of how the engineers and the principal contractors met and solved these and other challenges.



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