Handling Excavated Material at Jerome Park Reservoir
Scientific American—July 6, 1901

This article and accompanying 6 photographs comes from a time before The Bronx, NY was made a County.

In a recent article describing the important work now being done in creating a reservoir on the site of the old Jerome race course, it was shown that the site of the reservoir is a natural depression in a high ridge of land which runs in a general north and south direction between the valleys in which are located the New York and Putnam and the Harlem Railroads. Although the site is naturally adapted for the excavation of an artificial basin, there is, nevertheless, a huge amount of material to be taken out before the reservoir will reach its designed capacity of 1,850,000,000 gallons. The completed reservoir will have a length in a north and south direction of a little over a mile, and a greatest width of half a mile, its area being 229 acres. As the whole of the bottom is being excavated to a uniform depth of 26½ feet, and the natural basin itself is filled with some stretches of high ground which rise considerably above the described high-water level of the reservoir, it can be understood that the total amount of material to be taken out reaches a very high figure; in fact, the estimated excavation at the present writing is a little under 7,000,000 cubic yards. The excavated material, however, occupies considerably more space than it did in the solid mass, the increase in the case of excavated rock being from 80 to 100 per cent. Hence it follows that the contractors, at the time the excavation is completed will have handled about 10,000,000 cubic yards of material, measured at the dump.

It is evident, then, that the question of getting out the rock, sand and earth, is only part of the problem, for this huge quantity has to be carried away and deposited on suitable dumping-grounds. Fortunately, there are within the boundaries of New York city, and within convenient distance of the reservoir, certain low-lying, swampy lands which must be filled in or reclaimed, if they are to be rendered serviceable; and for this work of refilling the Jerome Park material offers an abundant supply. Of 4,000,000 cubic yards which have been taken out to date, about 20 per cent has been used in filling near the Kingsbridge road and in Bronx Park. For the disposal of the other 80 per cent a single line of track has been laid for a distance of 4 miles, through Bedford Park, across the Harlem Railroad tracks, through Bronx Park and down Pelham Bay Parkway to the stretch of tide lands formed by the head waters of Westchester Creek and Westchester Bay, which is known as the Meadows. Commencing where the Parkway leaves the edge of the sloping grounds, this enormous mass of 3,200,000 cubic yards of sand, gravel. hardpan and solid rock has been dumped out upon the tide lands, until now a large proportion of a square mile has been filled in to a depth of 18 to 20 feet.

The illustrations which accompany this article show the modern methods of handling and transporting this material, without which the cost of carrying it away for a distance of 4 miles and dumping it would be vastly increased. At the reservoir the cars are run in trains of from ten to fifteen cars alongside the bluff which is being excavated, and the material is loaded by derricks, if it be rock, or by steam diggers if it be soft or loose material, directly on to the flat-cars. The train-load is then run down to the Meadows, where the engine is uncoupled and a train of empties coupled on, to be taken back to the reservoir. The train-load of material is now unloaded by means of a huge scraper-plow which is known as the Barnhardt Side Plow. The unloading locomotive engine, of which there are several employed at the dump, has coupled in front of it a strongly-built flat-car, upon which is bolted a Lidgerwood hoisting-engine of 180 horse power. The locomotive. with its hoisting-engine car is backed down and coupled to the front end of the train-load of material, while at the rear of the train is coupled up the car on which is mounted the massive side plow. The latter is so clearly shown in our illustration that it needs no detailed description. The face of the mold-board is a heavy plate of steel, which extends diagonally across the car, the rear edge of the mold-board projecting slightly beyond the side of the car platform. The line side of the plow consists of a heavy stick of timber which is shod with steel. A 2-inch steel cable extends from the head of the plow across the whole length of the train to the hoisting-engine, and short heavy stakes are set in the stake-pockets on the right-hand side of each car to form an abutment for the line side of the plow, and keep the plow on the cars and up to its work. The mold-board is backed up by a series of vertical oak timbers from which a series of diagonal struts, heavily reinforced with iron, extend to the timber on the land side of the plow. When the train has been run into the desired position, the hoisting engine is started and the whole contents of the train are crowded off the cars, as shown in our illustrations. The saving in time and labor is considerable, as may be judged from the fact that in unloading a train of fifteen cars the services of 150 men are dispensed with, that number being necessary to unload a train with the ordinary laborer's shovel. Moreover, it would take this number of men from fifteen to twenty minutes to do the work which is now accomplished by the plow in five minutes.

Another labor-saving device for the rapid unloading of material, which is also extensively used at Jerome Park Reservoir, is the Goodwin Patent Dump Car, of which we present two views. In cross-section the car is of hopper form. The sloping sides of the car are hinged so as to open outwardly, the hinges being locked by suitable catches. When the dumping-place is reached the catches are released, and the whole contents of the car are immediately discharged, as shown in our snapshot view taken at the instant of unloading.

Stories Page | Contents Page

Do you have any information you'd like to share on this subject? Please email me!
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,
are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery