5815 Upper Valley Pike, Dayton, Ohio 45424.
In 1904 the City of Columbus, Ohio, began a complete renovation
of its water system. The lime and soda ash water softening and
purification system was installed and continued as the world’s
largest for over 30 years, By 1907 the new pump building was
completed and two Holly Vertical Triple Expansion Steam Engines
from Buffalo, New York, were ordered for installation.
The two new engines were equal in size to those at Kansas City,
then advertised as the world’s largest. Each engine required 32
freight cars to bring it to Columbus. Each behemoth would pump 20
million gallons of water per day as the 28 ton flywheels lazily
turned 18 to 25 revolutions per minute, gulping up 569 gallons on
each stroke. The great water cylinder is nearly a yard in diameter
and the three steam cylinders being 28, 54, and 80 inches in
Looking at these marvels of human creation one is immediately
impressed by the superb engineering that went into these machines.
The foundation was put in with great exactness, as to be off the
thickness of a sheet of paper would have thrown these 65 foot, 900
ton giants out of alignment. One could not perceive any deflection
in the 15 inch face of that 20 foot flywheels when in rotation.
Typical of this style of engine, four rods connected the water
piston to the cross head of the engine. The water pumps are below
the engine. The five foot stroke resulted in the output of 750 hp
at 25 rpm. The Corliss valve system made these engines very
efficient as steam entered from the Wicks 600 hp. boilers at 160
psi and was exhausted at 1 to 2 psi.
It is not surprising that thousands of visitors came to see
these black and gold machines doing their job. They were truly a
sight of the time.
In 1915 an even larger Holley engine was installed along the
side of the other two. This engine pumped 25 million gallons of
water a day. It was truly a wonderful sound when all three were
pumping away. The engineers could readily tell if everything was
right just by the sound.
By 1929 the need for more water resulted in the installation of
a steam turbine pump rated at 30 million gallons a day. This far
more compact unit certainly didn’t have the economy of the
The growing city required the installation, in 1950, of a large
V16 Cooper Bessemer diesel pumping engine rated at 25 million
gallons per day. This very fine engine was kept on standby and only
used when additional water was needed.
The doom of the Holley Giants was in sight. Modern time was
calling for modern equipment. Designers were busy with plans for
the new pumping system complete with acres of panel lights in an
In Aug. 1969, the sun shone through the floor to ceiling tinted
windows when the control panels became alive as the new electric
vertical turbine pumps began to hum. White shirt and tie was the
dress of the engineers as they moved about the polished floors
monitoring relays, adjusting rheostats, checking gauges. A new
science was taking over the business of pumping 100 million gallons
of water a day.
Next door, the old pumping station with its arched windows and
colonial doors looked tired and out of step with the times.
On October 4, 1969, the last of the Giants puffed for the final
time. No more would one smell the aroma of steam and oil, no more
would the coal move through the spreader-stoker into the
Wicks boilers; the oil cans and grease rags were put aside as
the last whiff of smoke went up the stack. These great machines
fulfilled their assignment nobly for over 60 years. What more could
one ask for? Are the new pumps better? One engineer said they would
probably last for 15 or 20 years. How about the old Holley Vertical
Triple Expansion Steam Engines now? Would you take one as a