Photo Gallery: Piping System


The Photo Galleries explain how the City of Kingston in Victorian times pumped its water from Lake Ontario through the Kingston Water Works pump house up to a water tower at the highest level of the town and from there distributed it through cast iron pipes to the houses, businesses and fire hydrants. Here you find some interesting snapshots of the distribution system. Most of the photos show artifacts from as early as 1849 and 1898.

piping layout fig 4The layout of the piping system in the pump house, at the left is he intake pipe that leads to the pumps in the main engine room built in 1887, at the right. The busy drawing to the left of the engine room is an addition built in 1917 to house centrifugal pumps driven by electric motors. From that time, the steam engines were on stand-by until 1944 when this pump house was closed.

clarence st detailThis is a page from a logbook drawn in the mid 1940s by a utilities engineer, the log shows all the water distribution pipes serving the downtown, this sketch shows the Clarence Street and neighboring areas. All sketches were hand drawn on heavy acid free paper. Note the pipe sections are to a smaller scale, while each connection is shown to the right scale. All valves and parts are detailed…

pipe joint.lead gas 6 inchAn eight inch cast iron pipe with joint. One pipe end slides into the bell shaped end of an adjoining pipe section. Sections can vary in length, up to 12-16 feet  but also shorter if needed to fit them all together in a certain space. Most joints would be made water tight by casting lead in the junction and then hammering the lead deeper into the joint, a technique called “caulking”. Note the fracture when the pipe was dug up and torn out by a crane. Cast iron is brittle, but it is easy to manufacture in complex shapes and is corrosion resistant. It is still used for many applications, for example in the frame of a grand piano! Or in engine foundations.

pipe cast 24 inch from phsm up west street oct 2011 aA large 24 inch diameter main water pipe dug up along Ontario Street near the former Kingston Water Works, now the Pump House Steam Museum. There is some debris inside the main, settlement from the many years of usage. The century old pipe is in remarkably good condition. The wall thickness is unaffected by the years of transmitting water to the city.

pipe cast water main 24 inch od 2Discarded cast iron pipe at the scrapyard, destined to be recycled into new cast iron products or refined into steel products. Your new car or piano, cooking ware or sun umbrella stand might contain some of this recycled iron. The 24 inch large pipe is a main, the other mostly eight or six inch diameter pipes are distribution pipes to houses and businesses.

pipe gas valve 1900sA valve with adjacent pipes attached. The valve is shown on the left. Note on the right at the edge of the photo is a bolted flange connection, so are the connections of the pipe to the base of the valve. No lead was used to seal these connections instead rubber gasket served this purpose. The rubber did not deteriorate over the decades of  being underground.

pipe 14 inch modern plastic cast iron valve west st  oct 2011A similar valve and pipe connections used to replace the century old ones. The valve housing is made of cast iron the pipes are made of high strength PVC plastic. The black lid at the left is temporary to protect the valve from sand and construction debris.

pipe plastic valves layoutA modern water distribution system with PVC pipes serving businesses downtown along Princess Street. The plastic pipes replace some of the more than a century old cast iron pipes. The smaller six inch diameter pipe comes off a larger main. Note also a valve just under the middle of the photo. The pipe connections are bolted sleeves with rubber seals. These PVC pipes are rated for up to 300 psi, four times the more common household water pressure. It remains to be seen if the plastic pipes will last as long as the  cast iron ones…but Dutch studies on an existing system almost 50 years old shows that 100 years can be expected. See: