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Infrastructure: 1910

Infrastructure: 1910

Detroit circa 1910. "Excavating for the new Union Station." A century later, the mammoth Michigan Central Station that eventually rose here still stands, if just barely. Note the two "moonlight tower" carbon arc lamp standards in the distance. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Date is incorrect

Ground was broken May 1912, there is a photo set from insurance company Manning Brothers that resides in the Avery Collection at Columbia University NYC in the Warren and Wetmore Collection.

[Excavation had commenced at least by the spring of 1910. Below, headlines from May 16 and Oct. 17, 1910. Also, "circa 1910" does not necessarily mean "in 1910." - Dave]

I Believe in the Communion of Saints

Are the two fellows in the foreground "waterboys" (or perhaps more appropriately, watermen) for the crew? If so, it appears the fellow holding the ladle is an unhappy customer, who seems to be a little suspicious of the cleanliness of their wares. In 1910 I suppose they weren't as keen on hygienic issues and had no qualms about sharing the common cup with their fellow workmen.

Real Manpower

Although the topic is "excavating," it appears these men are moving gravel or road base off the flatcars and spreading it as a foundation. There is a similar running pile alongside the tracks on the right that is being attacked. Regular Shorpy readers know about the evolution of the steam shovel, which is working its way along the distant bank, whose curvature reflects the swing of the shovel arm. Presumably the weather is brisk enough to dress warmly.

Well Employed

Forty four men working. Today: possibly two for the same job.

Track Jacks

In the foreground, on the wooden planking there are two track jacks and a pair of "Texas Toothpicks" used to operate them. The ones I've encountered were rated at 100 tons, I on the other hand wasn't.

How Are The Mighty Fallen

Here is a website showing the degradation of this once-magnificent structure.

One goes up, another comes down.

It looks like the building to the right just suffered a fire on the second floor.

Re: Short Handled shovels

The trick is to take small shovel-loads, quickly. Too often, one tries to make the job easier by taking big "bites." Harder work, and less effective in the long run! What my dad always referred to as "a lazy man's load."

Evolution of earthmoving

This photo shows the past and the future of earthmoving: men shoveling the earth to the steam-powered shovel at the left of the photo.
But no bulldozers. Perhaps diesel/gas engines had not yet developed a power/weight ratio suitable for the needs of a bulldozer - but you had the idea on the front of locomotives: the cow catcher (and snow plow).
Everyone wore a hat, but no protective headgear. Why wear a vest during such strenuous activity?

Short Handled Shovel

Hated by laborers everywhere through the years. They appear in numerous folk and blues songs and the dislike is justified. I had to use one in a summer job as a kid and they are back breakers.

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