Tools That Make the Water Works Man’s Job Easier

Tools That Make the Water Works Man’s Job Easier

Various Devices That Save Time and Lessen Labor for Water Department—Enable Superintendent to Accomplish More with Less Work

Alexander Milne

THE modern water works superintendent has many advantages over his predecessor of some years ago. The science of water supply has made great strides in many respects in the past few years. This is especially true in the case of the tools used in the daily routine of the water works department. It is interesting to read the description of these ultra-modern devices, as they arc advocated by one of the veterans of the water supply field, who might well have an excuse for conservatism. Mr. Milne has been a municipal ‘water works engineer since 1887. He took his present position at the head of the St. Catharines department in 1900. He served as president of the American Water Works Association in 191112 and was elected chairman’of the Canadian section on its formation in Montreal in 1920. He became a member of the A. M. E. I. C. in 1906.

The Wireless Pipe Locator

In the majority of well organized water works systems complete records are (or should be) kept, of the location of all piping valves, etc., but occasionally these records do get mixed (or the earth do move)—and the exact location is not known except perhaps, to the man who laid it forty or more years ago, and who may have passed to another sphere of operations, and in such cases the locator has proved a boon to many operators. The word “wireless” is rather a misnomer in the operation which, while quite a simple one, is performed by means of a battery set 4. 8 or 12 dry cells, depending on the length, and size of mains you put in circuit, a high frequency buzzer, some light copper wire, and an induction coil connected by an insulated wire to a sensitive receiver fitted to a head-piece. The process being to place your “lost” pipe within a certain circuit made by connecting to two fixtures on the mains, coupling the battery and buzzer anywhere on the wire circuit line, turn on the current, adjust the buzzer contact to obtain the loudest sound, then adjusting the head-piece receiver, hold the induction coil at arm’s length towards the ground. A loud buzzing will be heard everywhere within the produced circuit except when the coil is immediately above the pipe, which once being found can be followed by swinging the coil right and left across the pipe, and the exact location readily determined. Many hours labor in hunting with pick and shovel may thus be saved by a ten minute operation of the instrument, and as is natural, after a few practice operations the operator will soon become proficient in its use.

The Magnetic Dipping Needle

The Magnetic Dipping Needle, is another simple little instrument, whose relation to erratic records of location bears more particularly on valve and service boxes, which sometimes get covered up in pavement construction by careless contractors, through change of grades, etc. It is a very useful instrument in such cases. The writer has had them for several years, and found them a great time sav er, in locating the exact position of street boxes, even where covered by ice. earth or concrete to the depth of twelve inches or more.

Electric Leak Locator

The Electric Leak Locator is also very valuable in locating leaks particularly under paved streets where the water will sometimes follow the softened fill of the trench many feet before finding an outlet along the curb or gutter. This is another type of “wireless” apparatus, but unlike the pipe locator, has no wiring or attachment to the piping. The outfit consists of a 2-cell battery intensifier connected to a sensitive receiving disc or microphone mounted on a metal base plate, with tripod and a receiver somewhat similar to the locator. The function of the “machine” is purely “vibration”—and it does its work well. In case of a leak in a joint under the pavement, von simply slide the tripod along and you will have no trouble in determining when directly over the leak, the sound being very clear and distinct, even though the main be six to eight feet down.

Steam Thawing Apparatus

In the earlier days of his experience, the writer has vivid recollections of thawing out frozen services with a small hand pump, a pail and hot water from the householder’s tea-kettle and 40 to 60 feet of 1/8-in. pipe, sometimes a rather tedious oj»eration. In 1902, very severe weather brought an epidemic of freezeups. and we had a boiler maker make up a “steam boiler” 22 inches in diameter, 30 inches long, with four vertical flues, fitted with inlet and outlet valves, steam gauge, and safety valve. This was mounted on a lead melting fire pot and with 50 feet, of 1/2in. steam hose and the 1/8-in. brass pipe did efficient service for several winters. The boiler was operated at 75 to 100 pounds pressure and where the services were accessible in basements, without elbows, it took only a few minutes to thaw 25 to 40 feet of pipe, but often much longer to warm up the 2 1/2 feet of lead goose-neck. Many cities today use equipment of this type in larger size, transported on truck or sleigh, which gives efficient service in thawing pipes, hydrants, catch basins, etc.

Thawing by Electric Current

The more modern method, however, for thawing frozen service pipes or mains, is by the use of electric current, which after considerable experimental work is now practically standardized as to equipment..

The writer uses a (specialiv made) 20 K. W. transformer 2200 to 220-110-55 volts, with oil immersed rheostat for controlling amount of current, taking the current from the primary 2200, and for ordinary service thawing where only a short distance of main is in circuit, has found 55 volts at 175 to 225 amperes to l>e most efficient, the average period of application being about six minutes to start, the water flowing. This outfit, with about 1000 feet of No. 6 wire is carried on a light truck or sleigh, and the operating crew consists of a lineman obtained from the power company to make the primary connections, and three men from the water department, for the work on the ground, this crew thawing from 15 to 30 services in a day, in some instances, three or more being thawed from one primary connection, while frozen services at long distances from a 2200 line have caused considerable loss of time and expense t.o reach them.

Serviceable Portable Thawing Apparatus

A rather unique and efficient outfit is now obtainable which places the water department independent of the electric companies, viz., a small generator coupled direct to a gasoline motor, which can be mounted on a truck, and having its entire equipment as a unit, it would doubtless prove very serviceable, particularly in districts remote from electric service.

‘l’he more recent apparatus advertised (with which the writer is now experimenting) claimed by the makers to be efficient, although slower, with which the current is taken from the house wiring at 115 volts to a transformer reducing it to 11 volts, the claim being made that an ordinary service can be thawed in 15 to 20 minutes, this, while slower than the results from higher voltage, is offset bv the reduced cost of outfit and operating crew, and the facility of making connections—the whole outfit being readilycarried. if need be. by two men.

In electrical thawing, as in all electrical work, the prime factor is in making proper contacts with wires to the house piping or fixtures.

Pipe Pushing Jacks

Due to the construction of permanent pavements, the necessity for tools of this type is fast becoming more evident, the roadways departments naturally objecting to the frequent cutting of pavements and even when so cut. the cost of replacement is an expensive item in construction or maintenance of piping; hence any tool that will economically drill, bore lor or force a pipe through the soil under a roadway becomes a labor and cost saver.

The writer’s experience has been that the pushing jack can be profitably used in any sandy or loamy soil which can be dug with a spade or shovel, but did not find it useful in hard stratified clays, or in gravelly soils with large stones or hard pan formations. the clay soils being bored with a ZyZ-in. augur, and the coarse stoney gravel dug out. If the soil is too hard, there is always the danger of using too great pressure and thereby causing splitting of the pipe used.

Use of Pipe Joint Compounds

As to leadite and other composite joints and tools for their use, the topic is one of which the writer cannot speak from personal experience. While he has seen these jointing materials being used and has seen mains laid with them when uncovered after several years service, no special tools were in evidence in the handling of the materials used, the ordinary fire and melting pot, ladles, etc., being used, the only difference noted being in the building up of the pouring mould to a height of several inches above the joint, when after pouring and cooling the sprue was broken off flush with the hub of the pipe, The prime factor in its efficiency was said to be the proper temperature of the material when poured.

Tapping Machines for Services and Mains

The use of the service tapping machine has become so general in recent years that it seems needless to elaborate on its many advantages over the old method of making connections to the main, where not infrequently several blocks of water had to be shut off while the main was drilled, and if the old style drive cock was used, and not properly driven, or a careless laborer touched it with his foot or shovel, the not infrequent result was a trench filled with water to be pumped and the whole operation repeated, while numerous angryconsumers expressed their opinions of the department and its staff in language not generallypublished. There are a number of different makes of these machines on the market today, each claiming their good points, any of which will render good service if intelligentlyoperated and taken care of, and no water works system can afford to be without their use where continuous service and economical operation is to be maintained.

Main tapping machines, are also equally necessary in the operation of a water works system where continuous service and fire protection is to be furnished to the community. The writer was the first user of this machine in Ontario—and still uses the first one imported—(having been well taken care of it looks good for another twenty years of service). During that period, of the many connections so made, not one has required any attention, connections being made on sizes 6-inch to 36-inch. In some instances, without the use of the machine the work would have entailed shutting off the entire supply for a period of three to six hours under the most favorable operations, and perhaps much longer should a bad hand cut of a 24-inch or 36-inch have been made, a condition that should not be tolerated in modern service and one which our friends the Underwriters would quickly and justly resent should a lire occur in the meantime.

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Tools for the Water Works

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The operation of the machine is very simple, and the cost of the connection only slightly, it any, more than the cutting out and connecting a branch, while the element, of safety front fire danger and continuity of service is a factor not to be estimated in a few dollars.

A Short Item of History

May I add as a small item of history in connection therewith: The main tapping machine was invented and developed in present form by one of the earliest and most, enthusiastic members of the American Association. the late Anthony 1’. Smith, at that time engineer and superintendent of water works at New -ark, N. J., and his ideas were quickened by an occurrence in his work very much similar to the possible condition before recited. Having occasion to make an 8-in. connection t.o a 16-in. main for a fire service line to a large industrial plant, the water was shut off the 16-in. for several blocks in the then customary way, and the slow work of cutting out the 16-in., pumping out, etc., was in progress, with. I presume, the full equipment of tools to be had in a progressive city, hut before the job was half completed a serious fire occurred in the works, resulting in the almost total loss of the plant before the water could be turned on. Spurred by the criticism which naturally followed he at once set to work and evolved the tapping machine, shortly after leav ing the water works department and devoting his entire time to the development and production of the main and service tapping machines, valve inserting machines which bear his name.

Meter Testing Apparatus

Thirty years ago to install a meter on a consumer’s line usually meant invoking a storm of abuse on the head of the superintendent or official who was trying to get a record of the water used on that particular service, and the old slogan still often used was, the meter was the only means of properly fixing a rate, whereby every consumer paid only for what he used, etc. But does he always do so when the meter is set? Not unless regular and proper checking and inspection of the meters are made; and in making this assertion no reflection is implied on any of the meters now on the market, but simply that a meter, like any other piece of mechanism (even a Ford) will deteriorate with service, and a meter, like any other measuring or weighing device, should he kept as nearly correct as is possible, in justice to both the seller and purchaser. ‘The proper knowledge of this condition can only be had by regular periodic tests of all meters, which may be done by two methods customarily employed, viz.:

Portable Meter Tester

The use of a portable test meter of small size which may be coupled up to the service meter on the inside and the water wasted by a short section of hose to the sewer. These test meters may be had from any of the meter manufacturers, and for the smaller domestic service meters are a very convenient and efficient method of checking such meters; the accuracy of the test meter being readily proven hv running a measure test on it at any time.

For larger sized meters, however, a more accurate test may be had by using one of the many shop testing outfits now in general use. where both slow, small and volume tests can be made and accurately checked by both weight and measurement.

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Tools for the Water Works

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Portable Air Compressors

To the operator whose work is mostly in the smaller sized mains, with few pavements or rock work, this may not appeal very strongly, but on the larger systems where mains of 12-in. and upward are to be laid, pavements to be cut, backfilling tamped properly and economically. t.he portable air compressor is a great labor and time saver, and produces infinitely better results than can be had by hand work on the larger sized mains.

These portable compressors are now made by several firms, in sizes from 20 feet of air per minute upwards, strong, compact and serviceable, requiring but very little attention that the ordinary motor car operator can not give, and very economical as to operative cost. In caulking 30 feet of air will operate two hammers, which on large sized mains will do the work of six to eight men. and do it much better. In cutting pavements one heavy hammer with proper tools will perform the work of a dozen or more laborers with sledge and drill or picks, and equal results can be had in tamping back filling over mains, where it is essential to properly consolidate the roadway before replacing pavements.

Trenching Machines

Where soil and other conditions permit their operation, the trenching machine has become a very important factor ;n trench excavation, both as to cost per foot, and amount of work done, compared with manual excavation under present day labor results.

There are several styles of these machines on the market, all being good for their respective sized work from the smallest rotary, digging a drain 12×36 inches for conduit laying and its larger sizes, to the more ponderous largest sized “leg” machines cutting a trench 5 x 24 feet or more, while one machine (made in St, Catharines) with drag line equipment, is limited in width and depth of cut only by the size of bucket and length of cable with which it is fitted.

Since 1910 the writer has used several types under contract at a price per lineal foot, effecting a marked saving in cost, and materially increased speed in the work, it being necessary to limit the excavation to the working capacity of the pipe laying crew. A few records may he of interest: In 1912 laying 24-in.

pipe, with a rather delapidated old rotary machine, the trench being 2 feet 8 inches by 7 feet in a very hard clay, the machine travelled 90 feet an hour, while in 1916 with a machine of the “leg” type, cutting a trench 2 feet 4 inches by 5 feet 6 inches in the same soil, we averaged 800 feet of 6-in. pipe laid per day with a bell hole and pipe laying crew of 12 men. but t.he machine was held back 30 per cent, of the time. In 1922 in a very dry hard clay a rotary machine excavated 81? feet of trench 2 feet 4 inches by 5 feet 6 inches in five hours—a job which under the soil condition and extremely warm weather would have taken at least three days with a force of 30 present day laborers, and the saving in cost a corresponding amount.

(Excerpts from paper road before mid-winter meeting of the Canadian section of the American Water Works Association.)

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