Tools and Machinery of the Granite Industry, Part II

Tools and Machinery of the Granite Industry, Part II

Wood, Paul


This article, the second in a series of four on granite working, completes the description of the quarrying process. The final two articles, dealing with granite finishing and other granite working topics, will appear in the next two issues of The Chronicle.

Lifting and Moving

A s long ago as the 1420s, Filippo Brunelleschi had invented an ox hoist with a five-foot diameter solid elm drum that lifted a total of seventy million pounds of marble, brick, stone, and mortar during the construction of the main dome on Florence’s cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore (Figure 1). Brunelleschi also invented a balance crane that was similar to the modern tower crane with a long, horizontal, asymmetrical, counterweighted boom. Four centuries later, Solomon Willard (circa 1820s) invented or perfected a boom derrick (called a “hoisting apparatus” in Figure 2), which is in most respects the derrick used in today’s granite quarries. He also invented or perfected other stone lifting and moving devices, including the geared lifting jack, the screw hoisting jack, and the pulling jack (Figure 2). A fifteen-ton capacity double-geared lifting jack, very similar to Willard’s jack, was still being made and sold for $125 at the turn of the twentieth century (Figure 3). A modern counterpart of Willard’s pulling jack is the “tugger,” a small, one-drum, compressed-air hoist mounted on the front of a steel plate. The plate rests on the quarry floor and is secured in place by a wire rope fixed to two holes in the back corners of the plate and running around a two-inch steel anchor pin driven into the floor of the quarry. The operator stands on the back of the plate behind the hoist and controls the hoist by a lever that causes power to be applied to the drum and a second lever that brakes the drum. The tugger is most useful in areas that the boom derricks cannot reach.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century, the boom derrick did the majority of the heavy lifting at the quarry and in the finishing shed yard. The “derrick sticks” (mast and boom) were made of Douglas fir, up to four feet in diameter and up to a hundred and fifteen feet long, and were fit into derrick irons made in local foundries. The derrick sticks were shipped on three forty-foot flatcars from Oregon and Washington. Although quarrymen liked the elasticity of wood, by the end of the twentieth century steel derricks had supplanted the wood derricks. Most derricks were guy boom derricks (Figure 4) with up to a dozen 1 ½-inch diameter guy ropes radiating out from the guy plate at the top of the mast and secured to granite ledges or deadmen (large buried blocks of granite).

The terms cable and rope were used interchangeably to refer to steel wire cables. (We will use the term rope.) Often adjacent derricks were guyed together, from mast top to mast top, with “sky guys.” If there was not sufficient space for the guy ropes, a stiff-leg derrick (Figure 5) might be employed where the guys were replaced by two wooden poles secured to the top of the mast and anchored in the ground behind the mast. The boom, up to one hundred feet long, was attached at the bottom of the mast and swung as the mast rotated on an iron base called the “kettle.” A six-foot diameter cast iron wheel, the “bull wheel,” was fixed to the bottom of the mast and was used to rotate the mast and boom via the swing rope. The boom could be raised and lowered by the boom rope that came out of the derrick engine house roof and was reeved over the “rooster sheave” at the top of the mast. A derrick with a hundred-foot boom could reach any point within a circle of almost three-quarters of an acre in area. In the mid-19OOs, a typical boom derrick (including hoist equipment) cost twenty thousand dollars.

There were three moving derrick ropes, the swing rope for swinging the boom (¾-inch diameter), the boom rope for raising and lowering the boom (¾inch diameter), and the non-twisting fall rope (1 ¼-inch diameter) for raising and lowering the hook. Each derrick used about a mile of rope for guys, swing rope, boom rope, and fall rope. The fall and boom ropes, in constant motion, were replaced two or more times per year.

Early derricks were called dead-boom derricks (Figure 6) since they had no swing rope and the boom had to be manually swung by pulling sideways on the hook. The hoists for these early derricks had two drums, one for the boom rope and another for the fall rope, and were either manually-powered or horse-powered. The manually-powered hoist (Figure 7) was fastened to the base of the mast and had one or two crank handles for one- or two-man operation. A gear shift allowed power to be selectively applied to either the fall rope drum or the boom rope drum. Usually, the hoist had a pawl mechanism that prevented backward rotation of the drums. Many hoists had gearing for two speeds, fast for light loads and slow for heavy loads. Two men with the slow gear could lift five tons and with the fast gear twenty-five hundred pounds. Also, hoists usually had handles on the rims of the large gears that allowed rapid take-up of slack rope. A ‘lazy shaft” was often provided so that the load (granite block or boom) could be let down without the crank handles turning. The horse-powered hoist (Figure 8) had a sweep that consisted of a long horizontal “sweep” pole that drove the drums through bevel gears. One or two horses were tethered to the end of the pole and walked in a circle. The sweep and hoist were normally located at some distance from the mast base so as to be out of the way of derrick operations. The rope from the hoist to derrick was recessed in a trench (note the trench in Figure 6). The horse-powered hoist provided much more lifting power-four to five tons in fast gear and twenty-five to thirty tons in slow gear.

Later, hoists were located in an engine house and were driven first (circa 1870s) by steam, then later by compressed air, and finally by electric motor. The typical steam, compressed air or electric hoist (Figure 9) had two drums, one for the fall rope and one for the boom rope. A separate, smaller hoist was used for the swing rope. Each drum had a friction clutch on one side and brake on the other side. Each brake foot pedal had a holding ratchet. Pushing down on the foot pedal released the ratchet. Above each foot pedal was a hand lever to apply power via a friction clutch to the corresponding drum. Usually, the engineer sat in a seat suspended from a chain attached to a roller on a ceiling track. Although some large derricks could lift sixty to eighty tons, the typical capacity was forty tons. The average saw block shipped to the sheds weighed about twenty tons-leaving a wide margin of safety. Today, most wood derricks have been replaced by steel derricks with 110 to 160-foot tall masts and capacities ranging from 100 to 250 tons (see front cover).

The derrick was also used for moving equipment -for example, channel bars, drill bits, oil barrels and tanks, and warming sheds. Usually a head quarryman worked with each derrick. He was the one who called for the derrick. Also, he periodically checked the derrick ropes for wear or cuts. Given the distances involved and the high noise levels in the quarry, the head quarryman used hand signals to communicate with the derrickman, including signals to raise (thumb up with arm rising) or lower (palm down with arm falling) the boom, to raise (hand open with arm rising) or lower (hand bent at the wrist and palm down with fully-extended arm falling) the hook, and to swing the boom left (a sweeping motion with the left arm) or right (a sweeping motion with the right arm). A rigger had to grease derrick sheave (pulley) bushings twice a week, but later, following the introduction of ball bearings, that task was reduced to weekly. One of the sheaves, the “rooster sheave,” was located at the very top of the mast, and at first riggers had to climb up the mast ladder to reach it. The initiation of novice riggers often involved their making the scary climb up the mast to grease the rooster sheave. Some froze part way up and had to be brought down in a sling! In later years, riggers were pulled up by the derrick. Riggers were also responsible for the formidable job of moving the derricks as the locations of active quarrying changed. The boom would be raised to its maximum height, temporarily guyed and used to lift and move the mast.

Ropes and Cables

The saw blocks that were split by wedges and shims were “glutted out” with steel gluts (Figure 10) wedged between the blocks to make room for a rope to be put around them. Notches were cut in the block edges to hold the rope. After the rope was attached to the block, the rope was tightened by the derrick to see if everything was secure, and then the load was lifted out of the quarry.

Manila rope was used only for lifting light loadsrarely in the quarry. For the same breaking strength, hemp ropes were two to three times the diameter of wire ropes. For equal strength, steel wire rope was just as flexible as manila rope. Wire ropes were both more durable and more efficient (less friction) than hemp ropes. The typical wire rope had a hemp center with six surrounding wire strands, each strand with seven, nine, twelve, or nineteen wires. Wires for the best quality rope were made of crucible cast steel. Wire rope wear was greater for higher speeds and for smaller sheave diameters. Wire rope was used for boom derricks, cableways, and overhead traveling cranes. Seven-wires-per-strand rope (Figure 11) was normally used for standing ropes, such as guys, and nineteen-wires-per-strand rope (Figure 12) was used for hoisting (moving) ropes. The working load for ropes was usually kept at one-fifth or less of the breaking strain. Some example diameters and their corresponding breaking strains for H.H. Harvey’s Hercules hemp-center, nineteen-wires-to-the-strand, tempered steel, hoisting rope were: Vs-inch (eight tons), 3/*-inch (29 tons), 1s/8-inch (95 tons), and 2’/4-inch (235 tons). In 1912, the Clyde Iron Works of Duluth, Minnesota, had for sale flattened-strand hoisting rope that presented a 150 percent greater wearing surface. This resulted in less wear to the rope and also less wear on the pulleys, sheaves, and drums over which the rope passed.

The hitches that wrapped around the stone and were suspended over the derrick, cableway, or crane hook to lift the stone were made of rope or chain. Chains could be formed into various sized loops to surround a stone by the use of a grab hook, round hook, or grab link at one end of the chain (Figure 13). However, ropes were considered safer than chains because a broken rope strand was usually easier to spot than a crack in the link of a chain. A quarryman requested a rope or chain of a certain size by the use of hand signals. For example, to call for 1 ½-inch rope-he passed his hand across his stomach; for 1 ¼inch rope he passed his hand across his throat; for 7/8-inch rope he would with one hand grab the thumb of the other hand and wiggle his fingers; and for ½-inch chain he faced both his palms toward each other.

Wire rope could be spliced very much like manila rope, and if properly done, the resulting splice was a very strong and secure join. To splice a rope, the ends were unraveled three feet back. The wire strands were taken two at a time one from each rope end, crossed over, wound around each other, and the ends tucked in so they wouldn’t catch. Eyes could be formed by doubling back a rope over a thimble (to protect the rope from wear) and secured with multiple (usually five) rope clamps. Socket shackles (Figure 14) could be secured to the ends of a rope by pushing the unraveled end of the rope (cleaned with acid) into the socket into which molten zinc was then poured. The U-shaped shackle had a removable pin that was itself secured by cotter pins.

A choke hitch (Figure 15) used a rope (approximately fifty feet long) with a socket shackle on one end and an eye on the other end. The rope was passed once around the stone and through the shackle. The eye was placed over the derrick hook. As the derrick hoisted the block out of the quarry, the choke hitch tightened. A baling hitch (Figure 16) used a rope (approximately fifty feet long) with socket shackles on both ends. One end was looped around one side of the stone and through its shackle, and the other end was looped around the other side of the stone and through the other shackle. For this hitch, the edges of the block were notched just below the upper corners, and the rope loops were placed into these notches on each side of the block. The middle of the rope was reeved over the sheave of a shackle, which was hung on the derrick hook. Many quarrymen believed this was more secure than the choke hitch since the two loops pulled in on the block from opposite sides and would hold the block even if there was a hidden crack. If a problem was going to occur, it normally didn’t occur as the stone was being raised, but rather when it was stopped prior to the boom being swung.

The stone lewis (Figure 17) was a lifting device that fit into a hole cut wider at the bottom than the top. The stone lewis consisted of two iron wedges that were placed against the sloping sides of the hole and one or two flat iron pieces that fit tightly between the two wedges. A shackle was passed through holes in the tops of the iron pieces-securely holding their relative positions and providing a place of attachment for the derrick hook.

The stone lewis was often used to lift and set bases to avoid rope or chain damage to the finished stone. A lewis hole in the middle of the base would be hidden by the stone above it. Brunelleschi used the stone lewis to lift stone for the dome of Florence’s cathedral. The pin (or chain) lewis (Figure 18) was a lifting device consisting of two pins that fit into holes drilled near opposite block edges. The bottoms of the holes slanted in toward the center of the block, and a chain or rope was passed between the pin eyes and over the hoisting hook. Today, the stone lewis and chain lewis are not considered safe and are no longer used. Lifting dogs (Figure 19) was a lifting device consisting of two hooks that grasped opposite sides of the block and a loop of chain or rope that passed through the hook eyes and over the hoisting hook. Lifting dogs are also not used any more-they can slip off the stone if it has hidden cracks under the dogs.

If a block could not be moved enough to put the rope around it, two “tail holes” were drilled into the block corners with a jackhammer and two lifting chains were passed through these holes. Each chain was hooked to itself into a loop that was then passed over the derrick hook. This approach was also used if the block has a crack in it; a tail hole was drilled through the piece that might break off and it was secured by a chain through the hole to the derrick hook. Tail holes were mostly used on large pieces of grout. A tail (or loop) rope could also be used. One end of a twenty-foot piece of old boom rope was pushed through the tail hole, and the ends were tied together with a square knot, forming a loop. The knot was hammered flat, and the ends sticking out of the knot were hammered back at a sharp angle to secure the knot. The loop was then hung over the derrick hook.


A block could be lifted out of the quarry and imxVmediately placed on a railroad flatcar for delivery to the finishing shed (Figure 20) or it could be temporarily placed in a stone yard at the edge of the quarry. Stones in the yard could be further reduced in size by trimming to fill current orders from the sheds. This was accomplished using a bull set and striking hammer (Figure 21 ). The bull set head had a narrow flat surface on one end that was placed against the stone and a beveled striking surface on the other. The striking hammer was similar to the drilling hammer, only larger at six to sixteen pounds. The bull set, usually held by the quarry foreman, was moved along the stone following a chalked line marking the desired edge of the stone. At each position, the bull set was struck by the quarryman with the striking hammer-knocking off a piece of granite (Figure 22). The trimmed off pieces were sent to the grout pile thereby saving on shipping costs to the finishing sheds.

Lifting and Moving Waste Granite (Grout)

Railroad grout cars and flatcars were filled with large pieces of waste granite by derrick. Derrick-raised grout boxes were used for small pieces. The grout cars were run up onto a grout trestle, railroad tracks that ran on top of remotely-located grout piles, where they dumped their loads (Figure 23). Two types of grout cars were used-the end-dump grout car (Figure 24) that dumped grout over the end of the trestle and the sidedump grout car (Figure 25) that dumped grout along the sides of the trestle. The dumping mechanism was powered by compressed air from the locomotive and was activated by a trainman after pulling on a release lever.

Grout could also be removed by a Blondin, an aerial crane or cableway (Figure 26), that carried a suspended grout box, or skip (Figure 27), from the quarry to a distant grout pile. Blondin was the stage name used by Jean François Gravelet, a French aerialist, who in 1859 gained fame by walking across a cable suspended 190 feet above the gorge of the Niagara River one mile below Niagara Falls (Figure 28). The cableway was supported by a horizontal or near-horizontal main rope (typically 2 ¼ inches in diameter), often several thousand feet long, 2 ¼ inches in diameter), often several thousand feet long, suspended between a head tower and a tail tower. A carriage on wheels was driven in either direction along the main rope by a loop of rope called the traversing rope. A fall rope with fall block and hook was suspended beneath the carriage. A steam, compressed-air, or electric twodrum hoist, located at the head tower, drove the carriage in either direction and raised and lowered the fall block and hook (Figure 29). One cableway manufactured by Lidgerwood Mfg. Co. of New York City used a seventy horsepower hoisting engine that could lift an eight ton load on the fall block at three hundred feet-per-minute and could move the carriage at one thousand feet-perminute. The traversing rope was wound four or five times around the traversing rope drum, so there would be no slippage. The traversing rope and fall rope drums were of equal diameters, so when both were revolving, the carriage could be moved while at the same time holding the hook at a constant height. Both hoist drums had brakes so the carriage could be held in position while the hook was raised and lowered and so that a load on the hook could be supported without applying power to the drum. Since at times the fall rope was slack (when there was no load on the hook), it was necessary to support the fall rope so the unloaded fall block and hook could be lowered and so the fall rope did not sag down and get in the way of quarry operations. The solution was the use of fall rope carriers, the number depending on the length of the main rope (Figure 30). The fall rope carriers were supported by a “button rope” that had regularly-spaced “buttons” clamped onto it that increased in size with increasing distance from the head tower. As the carriage moved away from the head tower, each carrier was in turn picked up by and positioned at its own button, hence spacing themselves out and supporting the fall rope. When the carriage moved toward the head tower, the carriers were collected on a “horn” attached to the carriage.

Since the grout pile was distant from the cableway operator, it was necessary to design a mechanism that allowed remote-controlled dumping of the grout box. erator raised the fall block above a certain point. When the carriage reached the desired dumping location, the operator lowered the fall block. As the fall block was lowered, the mechanism released at a certain point and the grout box was tipped-dumping the load of grout. Another solution employed an additional rope called the dump rope that was attached to the back of the grout box. The dump rope did not support the weight of the grout box but was only used to tip and dump the box. The fall rope carriers were modified to also support the dump rope ( Figure 30). This solution required a third hoist drum for the dump rope that had two sections, one with a diameter equal to that of a fall rope drum and the other with a slightly larger diameter. When the carriage reached the dump site, the hoist was reversed, and the dump rope was shifted to the larger diameter drum section. Since the fall rope and dump rope drums rotated at the same speed, the dump rope was pulled in faster than the fall rope and the grout box was tipped and dumped while the carriage was moving back for the next load. As soon as the load was dumped, the dump rope was shifted back to the smaller diameter section of its drum and the grout box returned to its level orientation, ready to be refilled.

For grout that had to be hauled over longer distances to be used for paving blocks, road foundations, railroad ballast, jetties, breakwaters, piers, and such, standard flatcars for large pieces or gondola cars for small pieces were used.

Transporting from the Quarry

One of the earliest transport methods employed wooden rollers under a sledge-like base that supported the stone (Figure Sl). Granite equipment suppliers were still selling wooden rollers well into the twentieth century-one advertising hardwood rollers up to twelve inches in diameter. Several workmen were assigned to moving rollers from the back to the front as the stone moved along. For muddy conditions, wooden planks were placed on the road as tracks for the rollers to run on. In ancient times, large gangs of men-often slaves-would pull and push the stone. In America, oxen and horses were used-the oxen providing the pulling power and the horses the directional control. For a large stone, the progress on rollers was very slow, often averaging as little as one mile per day. On very steep routes, a block and tackle might be used for short distances. The sledge, a sled-like conveyance without runners that was pulled along the ground, was less efficient than the rollers but might be used to drag small stones short distances. If the ground was snow or ice covered, a sled, similar to a logging sled but with a flat bed, was an efficient means of transporting large stones.

Heavy-duty, horse- or ox-drawn wagons (Figure 32) with three or four axles and wide-rimmed heavy wheels were the most common form of granite transport over roads. One drawback was the crushed culverts and deep ruts that had to be constantly repaired after the heavy loads had passed. It was not uncommon for the heavy wagon to be immediately followed by a repair wagon with men and tools to repair the damage! To deal with muddy roads, granite teamsters often “double teamed”-one teamster would wait for the next to come along and they would combine their teams to pull the loads through the quagmire, one at a time. Downhill braking for extremely heavy granite loads required expert teamstering since horses do not tolerate a heavy load pushing on them from behind. Wagon braking was usually provided by brake shoes on the rear wheels activated by a chain or cable tensioned with a brake wheel (Figure 33). Braking was also accomplished by “wheel drags” placed under wagon wheels and “clog chains” placed under sled runners. (Note the wheel drag in Figure 32 being pulled behind the wagon.) Often the teamster would hitch horses behind the wagon or sled as well as in front to help brake the load. An out-of-control load could easily lead to the injury or death of horses and teamster as well as the destruction of the wagon or sled.

As mentioned before, coastal quarries used coastal sloops or schooners (Figure 34) to ship to the major cities of the East Coast. Although some coastal schooners had four or five masts, most granite-hauling schooners had two or three masts. Some quarries used a “garymander” or “gallamander,” a vehicle with two large wheels (up to twelve feet in diameter) pulled by oxen or horses, -to transport granite from the quarry to the schooners (Figure 35). The stone was suspended below the axle. A few inland quarries with a nearby canal could ship by canal barge. However, most inland quarries had to wait for the arrival of the railroad before they could be fully developed. The first quarry railroad, the Granite Railway at Quincy, Massachusetts, employed a horse-drawn rail car that carried a suspended granite block (Figure 36) . The principal granite-hauling railroad car was the standard flatcar, which at first was constructed mostly of wood and had a capacity of twenty to forty tons and later, as steel was used for the flatcars the capacity increased to up to one hundred tons.

For quarry railroads with moderate grades and gentle curves, a standard rod locomotive could be used. As the grade increased, a saddletank locomotive might be needed in which the locomotive water tank was draped directly over the drive wheels to increase traction (Figure 37). For the steepest grades (7 percent and more) and tight curves, it would have been necessary to use a geared locomotive in which small wheels (thirty-two to thirty-six inches in diameter) were used, all of which were driven (Figure 38). Ephraim Shay of Haring, Michigan, was issued a patent in 1881 for the geared locomotive in which the wheels were driven by vertically-oriented steam cylinders through a horizontal shaft with bevel gears, universal joints, and expansion couplings-allowing the wheel trucks to turn and follow the curved tracks and resulting in reduced track wear (Figure 39). The manufacturer was Lima Locomotive & Machine Co of Lima, Ohio. Shay locomotives, due to superior pulling power, had their principal application on steep-track lumbering and quarry operations. However, they were slow (twelve to fifteen miles per hour) and were used only where rod or saddletank locomotives were inadequate. By the 1950s, the diesel engine flatbed truck had become the primary granite transport from the quarry.

Quarry Pumping

Water from rain or snow melt, from wet drilling, and from underground water seepage ran down into a sump hole at the very bottom of the quarry. From there it was pumped with a sump pump up into a holding pond at the quarry edge. The water in the pond was then reused in wet drilling or to replenish water evaporated from steam engines. Hot water from a boiler and storage tank was used during the winter for drilling. Quarrying in the early spring would be carried out in the upper part of the quarry-away from the spring flooding in the lower part. Each day, this water had to be pumped out, and it often took until mid-morning before the bottom could be worked.

The Pulsometer steam pump, introduced in the early-1870s, was a popular and highly efficient quarry pump of the late-1800s and early-1900s (Figure 40). This pump was of a unique design, having no pistons, rods, cylinders, glands, cranks, or flywheels. It was a two-chambered cast iron pump that operated by the direct action of steam on water. One side acted as a suction pump as the steam condensed while the other side acted as a force pump as new steam under pressure was injected. Then, by the slight movement of a small rubber ball, the roles of the sides were alternately reversed so that the water was first suction pumped and then force pumped. For quarry pumping, the pump was suspended down a quarry wall with the suction pipe (ten to fifteen feet long) extending down below the pump into the sump hole on the quarry floor and a discharge pipe (fifty or more feet long depending on the available steam pressure) extending up above the pump to the quarry rim (Figure 41 ). If the pump was used for suction operation only, it could be driven by the exhaust steam from a steam engine at little or no extra fuel cost. The pump used rubber flap valves of a unique design that experienced little wear during operation. The rubber steam ball and valve flaps were the only moving parts. When the valves finally did wear out, the pump housing had access ports that allowed on-site replacement of the rubber flaps. The valves of a normal pump would quickly wear out under the onslaught of the highly abrasive slurry of water and granite debris.

The diaphragm pump, a currently popular quarry pump, consists of a cast iron housing divided into two chambers by a flexible diaphragm. Water enters the pumping chamber through a suction pipe and leaves through a discharge pipe. Both pipes are fitted with one-way check valves so that water can only flow in through the suction pipe and out through the discharge pipe. The diaphragm is mechanically driven by a rod attached to its center. When the diaphragm is drawn away from the pumping chamber side, water is drawn into the chamber through the suction pipe and when the diaphragm is pushed toward the chamber side, the water is forced out through the discharge pipe. Like the steam pump, this is a long wearing design -the diaphragm and check valves requiring infrequent replacement. Centrifugal pumps are also used for quarry pumping.

Air Compressing

Quarry air compressors were initially driven by steam turbines, then electric motors, and now often by internal combustion inglnes. A compressed air system had a relatively low efficiency (4O-55 percent in the 1890s) due to heat loss during compression; however, the convenience of compressed air more than compensated for this inefficiency. The five large quarry air compressors at the Rock of Ages Barre, Vermont, quarry required a total of 2,200 horsepower to produce 9,000 cubic feet of 100 pounds-per-squareinch compressed air per minute or about 4 cubic-feet-per-minute per horsepower. A typical quarry drill required about 200 cubic feet of air per minute. An unloading valve was used when starting up a compressor, which took the load off until the compressor was up to speed. Initially, single-stage compressors were used. Today, two-stage compressors with intercooler (Figure 42) are the norm with the first stage producing 60 pounds-per-square-inch of compressed air and the second stage boosting the pressure to 100 pounds-per-quare-inch.

Most compressors used forced oil lubrication. Compression both heats the air and raises its relative humidity. Excess water in the compressed air took the oil out of the drills resulting in excess wear and also the drills would freeze up in the winter. The compressed air was cooled between the stages in an intercooler and at an output cooler with a condensed water trap. Cooling water came from a cooling pond outside the compressor house. Compressed air pipes ran down into the quarry at several points. At the bottom, “bull hoses” carried air from the rigid iron pipes to the quarry drills. A crew of pipe fitters was employed to maintain and move water and compressed air pipes as the active quarry faces changed (Figure 43).

Quarry Whistles

Derrick whistles were the primary signaling devices at the quarry. Each derrick had a whistle that was located on the derrickman’s shack at the quarry edge. The derrickman was in charge of the derrick; he had full view of the quarry operations and relayed derrick commands to the engineer who operated the derrick hoist. The derrickman could blow the whistle, and also a quarryman in the hole could blow the whistle by pulling on a rope that hung from the whistle down into the quarry. Two long blasts signaled that a powderman was about to shoot. The first whistle was blown where the shoot would happen and then was repeated by the adjacent quarries. All quarry workers stopped working and took cover. They would actually go up out of the quarry in the ride box, a steel box (similar to but larger than a grout box) with a roof.

The ride box held a dozen or so quarrymen and was lifted by a derrick. There was a deadman switch on the derrick hoist. When the deadman was active the top speed of the hoisting cable was limited, and the derrick engineer had to keep his foot on a pedal. If he removed his foot, the brake was immediately applied to the hoist drum. There was a pin on the hoist that was locked in place to activate the deadman switch. When the pin was in place, a light went on outside the derrickman’s shack. The quarry workers would enter the ride box only if the light was on.

A short toot was a signal to gain attention. Either the derrickman was warning that the derrick was going to move, and everyone in the hole looked up at the derrick to see what the situation was, or a quarry worker in the hole needed the derrick and wanted the derrickman’s attention. The short toot would be repeated until the desired person’s attention had been gained. A long blast signaled an injury. Either the derrickman or a quarry worker in the hole, whoever first saw the accident, would blow the whistle. The derrickman would direct the removal of an existing load in the fastest possible safe way and would send the ride box down into the hole for the injured quarry worker-often with a safetyman on board. Also, a call was made from the telephone in the foremen’s shack to notify the office and alert medical personnel.

In addition to the local derrick whistles at each quarry, there were large compressor room whistles that marked the divisions of the quarry worker’s day:

* Five minute start of day warning whistle or starting whistle, which indicated that quarry workers should be down in the hole and dressed;

* Morning water whistle, which warned during the winter that hot water was going to be sent through the water lines. When hot water came out, each valve was closed down to a trickle;

* Lunch whistle and end of lunch whistle;

* Afternoon water whistle, which warned during the winter that the water lines were going to be blown out with compressed air; and

* Closing whistle, which was important since the ride box started out of the hole at exactly 3-.30 P.M. and if a quarry worker missed it, he had a lot of ladders to climb. (Note the many ladders in the center and on the left of the cover photograph.)

The third article in this series, which will be published in December 2006, will begin the description of the granite finishing process. Please see “Tools and Machinery of the Granite Industry, Part I” The Chronicle 59, no. 2 (2006): 52 for a list of references.


EAIA member Paul Wood is a retired electrical engineer, who worked his entire career in the computer industry. He is interested in the tools, implements and machinery of the granite industry and of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century farming in New England.

Copyright Early American Industries Association Sep 2006

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