Monday, September 13, 2010

The Col. Francis G. Ward Pumping Station Tour

The 1,100 Ton Holly Steam Pumps

Condensing Side of the Engines
   Buffalo's Hidden treasure are the Holly Steam Pumps at the Col. Francis G. Ward Pumping Station on Porter Ave. Built by the Holly Manufacturing Co., Buffalo N.Y. in 1914, they still exist today in their original configuration complete and intact. The five engines each stand 60 ft. tall and weigh in at 1100 tons apiece and capable of pumping up to 30,000,000 million gallons per day each. They were the largest engines ever built by the Holly Company. They operated, pumping Buffalo's water till about 1980.  The building itself is magnificent with it's large arched windows, tile walls, iron railings and street lights lining the balcony.
  The Industrial Heritage Committee, Inc. is sponsoring a public tour of the Pump House, and these incredible engines, on Sunday, June 18th, 2017, doors open at 1 p.m. Presentation about 1:30.  The history of the pumps and the pumping station will be explained.  Also learn about plans now in the early stages, to restore two of the engines back to operating status. If you have any steam engine experience or other expertise or interest, and would like to help in that endeavor, I encourage you to attend. No reservations are needed. Tour is free but donations are gratefully accepted but not required for entry. 
  The pumping station is located at the foot of Porter Avenue, Buffalo New York near the Peace Bridge. From the North take the 190 to exit 9 Porter Avenue, then turn right. From the south take 190 to exit 8 Niagara Street, turn left on Niagara then six blocks to Porter Ave., turn left and continue to Pumping Station. Turn left onto D.A.R. Drive. Parking while available, will be at the Centennial Park Pool lot, then on the street. Entrance to the Pumping Station will be at the southeast corner of the building. 
  It is a rare opportunity to see this one of a kind array of steam engines. I will talk about the history of Buffalo's water system, explain the steam engines and other related interesting stories about the pump house, and answer any questions.  

View of  Engines not long after they were installed. Note the fancy street lights around the balcony.


Video below: Kempton Triple Expansion Steam Engine U.K.
Largest in world still under steam. These are similar in type and size 
to the pumps at the Col. Ward Station.


Jerry M Malloy said...

From American Heritage of Invention and Technology Magazine Fall 1999
Buffalo’s Big Steam
AS A LIFELONG STEAM-MACHINERY BUFF and engineer, I was delighted to read about the Col. Francis G. Ward Pumping Station, on the Buffalo waterfront. In the early 1960s I visited Buffalo, and it was my luck to learn that early the evening I was there one of the steam engines was going to be put in service. Standing on the balcony next to the enormous machine in the dim light, I was almost hypnotized by those flashing rods and whirling flywheels. Using the built-in cat-walks, we were soon standing on top of the 98-inch-diameter lowpressure steam cylinder nearly 30 feet above the balcony floor. It wasn’t until I was down next to the pump end below the balcony floor, watching those three pump plungers flash up and down as they pushed 947 gallons of water into the Buffalo water system with each revolution, that I really felt the enormous power of the machine.
The Holly Manufacturing Company, which made the engines, was organized in Lockport, New York, in 1859. It moved to Buffalo and joined forces with the Snow Steam Pump Works in 1902, and the resulting Snow-Holly Works continued to make reciprocating steam pumping machinery well into the 1920s.

Buffalo has a treasure in the Col. Ward Pumping Station. It should be designated a National Historic Site and opened to the public.

Irving E. August
Lakewood, Colo.

Tom Cooper said...

A very similar steam engine is located in Boston at the Waterworks museum. It has been open since March 2011. The museum also has an even larger Allis steam engine manufactured in Milwaukee. You can learn more about the museum at

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