Sunday, September 20, 2009

Francis S. Kinney's Ram Pump

Image courtesy of Green and Carter. See How Ram Pumps Work.
Green and Carter: How Ram Pumps WorkNext, a post about the Ram Pump as I promised in my last post about Francis S. Kinney's Bathhouse and Boathouse. I had thought that the Ram Pump 'powered' the Bathhouse pool.


As Tom Kline wrote in an email: The Ram pump that existed at the dam had nothing to do with the operation of the bath house. The bath house was fed by gravity, the top of the pool surface being a good 8-10 feet below the water level of the lake. A series of valves on site could direct the water into the pool or divert the flow into the ram pump.

The ram pump consisted of a large pipe laid horizontally. This horizontal pipe was a good 12" or better in diameter, There was also a smaller vertical pipe that was perhaps 5" in diameter. The large pipe would fill with water, a float would rise when the pipe was full and allow the water to escape down through the smaller pipe. The difference in diameter between the two pipes created hydraulic pressure. Pretty sure that the pump had ceased operations in the mid to late sixties. It made a loud rhythmic melancholic noise that sounded like a base drum being hit about every 10-12 seconds. It made the area quite scary.

A series of pipes left the dam area and traveled underground past the stable to the carriage house, delivering water into a large metal tank located in the carriage house attic. That water was then used to gravity feed the greenhouses.

Can you imagine?

The greenhouses, carriage house and stable were built in 1914. Electric lines weren't introduced into the newly formed Kinnelon Borough until about 1926. It sure seems to me that a mechanical pump requiring no electricity, powered by water, in an area as rural as Kinnelon must have been considered the height of modernity and technology!

According to Tom, the greenhouses were fully operational through the 1980s, although each year more of the original glass was broken until finally the remaining glass was completely removed. When he was younger, a family lived above the carriage house. The father had been hired by Morris Kinney to be the caretaker for the greenhouses. The caretaker's two sons are who shared so much information with Tom regarding the ram pump and the storage tank in the carriage house.

Tom further described: The ram pump was still operating when I was quite young. I remember my father once taking me on a canoe trip on The CHK and hearing it and the water flowing over the dam. It made a low, eery rhythmic sound. I was about 8 and it was incredibly scary. Needless to say we weren't supposed to be there as we were on Private Property which added to the drama of the whole event!

As a reminder, all of this was and continues to be on private property!

For those of you wanting intensely to see one in action, here is a 7:44 min video of a Hydraulic Ram Pump. Subscribers, please click on this link to see the clip.]

Amazing, in my opinion.

What do you think?

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Michael Moody said...

My father, Raymond C. Moody Jr. was the caretaker in question. Living on the Talbot property during the '50s and '60s was a magical experience. Part of that magic might have been the sound of the Ram Pump. :)

CB Whittemore said...


I can only imagine the magic!

What was growing in the greenhouses? How many horses were around? What kind of pagentry & events took place around the year?

Thanks so much for sharing your memories.


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