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The 510-feet Span Steel Arches of the New Harlem River Bridge, New York.

the piers of a bridge founded upon wooden piling.

In many cases it would be impossible to drive piling in such a way as to insure the durability of the structure above it. This is particularly true of the foundations of structures crossing many of our rivers, where the bottom is of material which, in time of flood, sometimes scours to very remarkable depths; the material often being replaced when the flood has subsided. The expedient adopted is the pneumatic tube, or the caisson. Both are merely applications of the well-known principle of the diving-bell. In the former case hollow iron tubes, open at the bottom, are sunk to considerable depths, the water being expelled by air pumped into the tubes at a pressure sufficient to resist the weight of the water. Entrance to the tubes is obtained by an air-lock at the top, and the material is excavated from the inside, and sufficient weight placed upon the tube to force it gradually to the desired depth. When that depth is attained, the tubes are filled with concrete, and thus solid pillars of hydraulic concrete, surrounded by cast-iron tubing, are obtained.

The pneumatic caisson is an enlargement of this idea of the diving-bell. The caisson is simply a great chamber or box, open at the bottom; the outside bottom edges are shod and cased with iron so as to give a cutting surface; the roof and sides are made of timber, thoroughly bolted together, and of such strength as to resist the pressure of the structure to be finally founded upon it. The chamber in the open bottom is of sufficient height to enable the laborers to work comfortably in it. This caisson is generally constructed upon the shore in the vicinity of the structure and towed to the point where the foundation is to be sunk. Air is supplied by power

ful pumps and is forced into the working chamber. The pressure of the air of course increases constantly as the caisson descends; it must always be sufficient to overbalance the weight of the water and thus prevent the water from entering the chamber.

Descent to the caisson is made through a tube, generally of wrought iron, and having, at a suitable point, an air-lock, which is substantially an enlargement of the tube, forming a chamber, and of sufficient size to accommodate a number of men. This air-lock is provided with doors or valves at the top and at the bottom, both opening downward, and also with small tubes connecting the air-lock with the chamber below and with the external air above. Entrance to the caisson is effected through this air-lock. The lower door, or valve, being at the bottom, closes and is kept closed by the pressure of the air in the caisson below. After the air-lock is entered the upper door or

Granite Arched Approach to Harlem River Bridge.

valve is shut, and held shut a few moments, and the tube connecting with the outer air is closed; the small valve in the tube connecting with the caisson is

then opened gradually and the pressure in the air-lock becomes the same as that in the chamber below; as soon as this is effected the valve, or door, at the bottom of the air-lock falls open and the air-lock becomes really a part of the


A sufficient force of men is employed in the chamber to gradually excavate the material from its whole surface and from under the cutting edge, and the masonry structure is founded upon the top of the caisson and built gradually, so as to give constantly a sufficient weight to carry the whole construction down to its final location upon the stable foundation, which may be the bed rock or may be some strata of permanent character.

The problem of lighting the chamber was until recently of considerable difficulty. The rapid combustion under great pressure made the use of lamps and candles very troublesome, particularly on account of the dense smoke and large pro


duction of lampblack. The introduction of the electric light has greatly aided in the more comfortable prosecution of pneumatic foundation work. The construction and operation of the caisson are illustrated on pages 16 and 17.

The removal of rock, or any large mass, from the caisson is effected through the air-chamber; but the removal of finer material, as sand or earth, is accomplished by the sand pump or by the


pressure of the air. A tube, extending from the top of the masonry and kept above the surface by additions, as may be required, enters the working chamber and is controlled by proper valves. Lines of tubing and hose extend to all portions of the chamber. A slight excavation is made and kept filled with water. The bottom of the tube, or the hose connected with it, is placed in this excavation, and, the material being agitated so as to be in suspension in the water, the valve is opened, and the pressure of the air throws the water and the material held in suspension to the surface, through the tube, from the end of which it is projected with great velocity and may be deposited at any desired adjacent point. This method, however, exhausts the air from the caisson too rapidly for continuous service. The Eads sand-pump is therefore generally used. This is an ingenious apparatus, somewhat the same in principle as the injector which forces water into steam-boilers. A stream of water is thrown by a powerful pump through a tube which, at a point near the inlet for the excavated material, is enlarged so as to surround another tube. The water is forced upward with great velocity into

The Old Portage Viaduct, Erie Railway, N. Y.

the second tube, through a conical annular opening, and, expelling the atmosphere, carries with it to the surface a continuous stream of sand and water from the bottom of the excavation.

This system has been used successfully in the foundations of piers and abutments of bridges in all parts of the world. The rapidity of the descent of the caisson varies with the material through which it has to pass. The speed with which such foundations are executed is remarkable, when one remembers with what delicacy and intelligent supervision they have to be balanced and controlled. In some instances it has been necessary to carry them to great depths, one at St. Louis being 107 feet below ordinary water level in the river.

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