Thursday, January 30, 2014

Old Technology



I found this article in Popular Mechanics through Instapundit.

Some is interesting; some a bit of a stretch. The idea of 'still in use' especially.

But there are some points that are inadvertently made. Points only I would probably notice, and point out.

Slide One of Nine talks about Philadelphia's 100 year old cast-iron water mains; yet shows the workmen building a Brick Conduit, probably from even earlier. Not the 1910 t0 `920 period, but 1885-1895. Are these even older brick conduits still in use?

Slide Two of Nine is the New York City Subway. it opened in 1904 with 24.7 miles of track. Subway track. Cincinnati is making a big deal about 2 miles of track on the surface 110 years later. The article mentions that the tunnel under the East River is over a hundred years old. Think about that the next time you are riding the subway between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Slide Three of Nine is an even bigger stretch. Yes, the technology of the railroad is still in use, but the rails can't be more than 10 years old; the ties even less. And even the B&O is gone. Nice spot for an old picture, but a stretch for old infrastructure.

Slide Four of Nine is a true survivor; a one hundred and twenty year old piece of concrete street. Yep; they are still using it for cars. Maybe we need to revive that recipe for our modern Expressways.

Slide Five of Nine is a stone bridge in Pennsylvania,  one just a bit over 300 years old. No wonder it is still here. Being solid stone, it is less trouble to keep using it than it is to tear it down.

Slide Six of Nine is a beast. Or at least the men who built it were. in 1825 they blasted a 729 foot tunnel through slate and limestone. IN TWO YEARS. The feds have been working on a bridge replacement for I-75 for 10 years now, and don't even have a route. And you wonder why this country is going to Hell in a hand basket. A second interesting point; the tunnel isn't really in use as a canal tunnel, but as a tourist attraction. The County that owns it uses it for boat rides. Which is the third interesting point. These are small boats floating about a thousand feet in a 200 year-old canal. But the Coast Guard has shut the boats down for repairs. What?

Slide Seven of Nine (why does that have a familiar ring?) Another 200 year old waterway, and again, the term in use is a little suspect. Originally built as a canal with 8 locks, not it is a sluiceway for an electric power plant. Still in use, but not as originally intended.

Slide Eight of Nine is legit; a 120 year old hydro-electric power plant; still putting out electricity. Probably not with the original generators, but still; rather impressive. Probably a good initial design.

Slide Nine of Nine; another power plant; a 1969 vintage nuclear plant. Not quite as durable as the hydro-plant; it is scheduled to be shut down in 2019 after only 50 years of use.

Part of what this proves is that good engineering pays; do it right the first time and it will last. Something that needs to be  learned by our modern engineers. Maybe we can build a stadium that will last a hundred years, instead of forty.


1 comment:

Sam Morton said...

Now ain't that grand? Hope a really good impression stays with your kid! Boats are really under appreciated by most people, especially in terms of travel. Which is odd, because that's what's gonna make the recreational aspect permanent. So yeah, that's pretty much the idea behind it. :)

NWRLI