Typical Plans & Sketches

Typical Examples




34.0 WATER TOWER Last Revised: August 30, 2005


This structure is one of several that make up the necessary infrastructure of a steam locomotive servicing facility. While there were many different styles of water towers in use during the steam era, the most recognizable in Indiana and Ohio would have been the open base wooden tank style. Steel towers were also fairly common. Most towers of the early to mid 1900’s would have ranged from 35,000 to 50,000 gallons capacity. The water tower structure would show the general function of these designs and would emphasize the importance of water as one of the key requirements of steam locomotive use. It may be explained as one of the many pieces of infrastructure no longer required in the diesel era. This tower could be a functional design that would allow water to be stored and dispensed using the spout (# 35.0) at some point.

Interpretation Methods:

Primarily through post mounted signage. Ideally, an operating steam locomotive would use the water spout connected to this tower to demonstrate its function.

General Structure Design:

Water towers have not survived well in Indiana since the steam era and none are known to exist in Indiana. The Huckleberry Railroad in Flint, Michigan moved a wooden tower from northern Indiana some time ago and this is thought to have been the last wood style tower in the state. A few steel water towers may exist and may be available for the museum. The only other option would be to create a replica based on standard railroad plans. Since an authentic tower is preferable to a replica, this option should be exhausted before a replica is considered. The advantages of a steel tower include long term stability and perhaps less maintenance.

The ideal water tower’s general dimensions would likely be a full footprint of approximately 30’ x 30’ with a total height around 40’. Height of the base is usually 20’ or more. Assuming a replica wooden tank is built, the open base of the tower may be constructed of heavy timber or steel, depending on the design chosen. A steel tank may not have the same type of platform construction, resting instead directly on the platform legs, though some types did. The tank itself would sit upon this platform and be of staved wood construction or steel. The center of the base usually has an insulated square section to protect the feed and delivery piping.

Typically the concrete or stone base foundation would include a valve pit in the center and four to eight concrete or stone piers depending upon the final base design chosen. The base of the tower should include a small section of piping that would leave the option open for a future connection to the spout open for later installation if it cannot be done during construction. A replica tank might include a spout directly from the tank itself. Water pipes feeding the tank could be fairly small as they do not have to rapidly fill the tank. With groundwater conditions on the site in the 15 feet range, a shallow well might be installed to supply water to the tank as water levels allow. A float switch installed in the tank could control the pump.

Many replica structures have been built in a scaled down versions on tourist railroads and some museums. Most are usually less than convincing when completed and given the difference in money saved, not a good investment. If a replica is determined to be needed, we will take extreme care to provide for an appropriate appearance. A poor replica would be worse than waiting. We will follow a standard design. If a replica wood tank is deemed to be the option chosen, several manufacturers of staved tanks are still in business and could build an appropriate tank. As an alternative, the tank could have an exterior of proper wood appearance hiding a smaller steel or poly tank inside. Another alternative would be to use a steel tank on a timber or steel platform.

Structure Usage:

While the tower may be used in the future when an operating steam locomotive becomes available, the appearance of the non-operating tower would still be an asset. If the tower can be filled and water stored, it could be plumbed with fire service connections that would be available for fire department use. Should we decide to provide dry pipe fire sprinkler service to the roundhouse or other structures, this equipment might be housed in the insulated base or below grade.

Priority Level in Museum Site / General Structure Complexity:

High / High

Special Location Considerations:

The water tower will be located to serve the spout near the turntable lead tracks. It will be located near the turntable area on the inbound track(s).

Supporting Artifacts Available:

The railroad does have the spout (#35.0) and has a variety of standard plans available.

Supporting Artifacts that would needed to complete this display:

An original water tower needs to be located and negotiations made to allow it to be moved to the museum. If this cannot be done, a replica would need to be designed and built. Funding methods need to be identified. This would be to move an existing tower, build a foundation, and provide for restoration as required. Alternatively, funding to build a complete replica would be needed.

Copies of standard plan sets for New York Central or Baltimore & Ohio water towers would be of interest. Photos of water towers in South / Central Indiana or Southeastern Ohio taken between 1900 and 1955 would also be of interest.

The Whitewater Valley Railroad is a 501 ( C ) 3 not for profit operating railroad museum dedicated to the preservation of a historic branch line railroad, to the restoration of railroad equipment, and to the conduct of educational railroad programs.