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Big Digger: 1910

Big Digger: 1910

Circa 1910. "Steam shovel removing a section of coffer dam, Livingstone Channel, Detroit, Michigan." Construction of the navigation channel along the Detroit River. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Digging the Livingston Channel

Below are some past Shorpy posts for context on the digging of the Livingston Channel at the "Hell-Gate of the Lakes." Based on what we can see of the boom, the steam shovel in the photo appears to be another variant from the Marion works, but with different rigging and traction than seen before.

Livingston Channel:

Steam Shovels:

And what's going on THERE?

Does anyone know what the guy way over to the right is up to or what his contraption does? My flying guess is some sort of leveling or measurement of depth.

And, while I appreciate the drama and satisfaction of massive engineering work, looking at this makes me really appreciate my warm, dry swivel chair and computer at work!

What's going on

You're right on target. The hoppers will move via the overhead cable system and tip to dump on the spoil piles in the background. I can see a laborer on one in the background, apparently hooking up cables, although I can't see the cables on my screen. The (large) steam shovel appears to be self-propelled.

What's going on here?

Anyone have any idea what's going on here? There are a number of scoops or buckets lined up here. Some are full, some empty. They can't be drag line buckets because they are straight across on the front and have no teeth to dig into the ground with. Are the towers and wires above some sort of skyline system for moving these buckets? They certainly aren't using trucks in that sloppy mess. Interesting photo.

Coffer dams

According to a Corps of Engineers site:

In 1908, work was begun on the Livingstone Channel, in order to provide a separate downbound channel 300 feet wide and 24 feet deep. The channel was cut across the shallow water east of Stony Island and extended downstream and west of Bois Blanc Island to deep water in Lake Erie. The upper portion, about 6,000 feet in length, was enclosed by cofferdams and dewatered. When work was completed, in 1912, the cofferdams were left as a form of compensation. Openings were made at each end of the cofferdam enclosure, 300 feet in width.

So, the big berms holding back the Detroit River were left in place, and the freighters needed to steer past them.


Here is a little PDF, care of the USGS, on the background of dredging and other fun stuff relating to the Livingston Channel...


Mike Mulligan would be proud!

Though the book wouldn't be published for another 30 years.

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