Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Seventy Years

Much historical interest attaches to the hydraulics laboratory at Chaffinsville, five miles north of the Institute campus. It was a pioneer development, and one that was to add materially to the Institute's prestige. Professor Alden is credited with the original conception of such a plant during the summer of 1893. He and Professor White made preliminary studies, but final plans were prepared by Elbert H. Carroll, '90, at the Washburn Shops, and it was he who supervised the construction. The property on which the plant was built, including the mill privilege, large storage reservoir and two smaller ponds, belonged to Mr. Salisbury, who gladly donated it to the Institute when informed of the use to which it would be put. In fact, he had previously advocated the building of a plant in which hydraulic tests might be made for mill owners.

The first structure, a frame building 90 by 40 feet, was built during the summer and fall of 1894 on the site of the old woolen mill. Through the efforts of Charles H. Morgan, the 36-inch Venturi meter used at the Chicago World's Fair was secured - Mr. Salisbury paid for it - and installed in the laboratory. A horizontal control gate was built at the outlet of the storage reservoir, and a 40-inch main was laid from there to the laboratory, providing an effective head of water on the 18-inch Hercules turbine of about 32 feet. The water then flowed through a draft tube to one of the dynamometers invented by Professor Alden. A 30-foot tower on the building provided access to piezometers installed in the Venturi meter. Other equipment included a hydraulic ram, a water meter donated by Phinehas Ball, two ten-foot weirs, and a weighing tank built on Fairbanks scales, which had been on exhibition at the Centennial of 1876. Water was let into the plant in December, and the first student experiments were made there in May, 1895. The whole cost of the laboratory and its equipment was about $12,000.

The Power House was completed early in the summer of 1895, at which time two 100-HP vertical boilers were


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Last Modified: Fri Jul 30 11:15:25 EDT 1999