Woburn 1908 Steam Pump

History and Development of the Woburn Water System

Woburn Water Works 18723 PlaqueIn May of 1871, the then Town of Woburn under an Act of the legislature began the planning and design of the Horn Pond water supply, which included a water pumping station, reservoir and appurtenant tin distribution piping to serve the growing needs of the community following the Civil War. The new pumping station had a Worthington steam pump, rated for 2 MGD, drew water from a filter gallery that was 82 feet long, 8 feet deep and 12 feet wide. The filter gallery was located in front of the pump station adjacent to Horn Pond and allowed ground water to be pumped to a 6 MG reservoir at the top of Horn Pond Mountain. From there, the fill and draw reservoir distributed potable water to the distribution system.  Construction of the reservoir was completed in 1872 and on September 1, 1873 potable water was provided to the citizens of Woburn for the first time from the new public water supply.

1871 Horn Pond Pump Station and 1908 Addition

In 1908, a well field was developed along Suckers Brook adjacent to Horn Pond using 50 two and a half inch driven wells. This supply source was pumped to a 20 foot wide by 30 foot deep gallery where a new suction line from the steam pump was constructed. This improvement added a capacity of approximately 1 MGD to meet the growing commercial demands of the community.

The original steam pump was replaced with a 5 MGD Platt Iron Works Corliss reciprocating steam pump in 1908. The steam engine is housed in the 1908 addition to the original Horn Pond pump station and can be seen on the right side of the building in the picture. This pump stayed in continuous service until 1924 and it remains a part of the Horn Pond Pump Station today.  In 1921, the backup Worthington steam pump that was installed in 1880 was replaced with a 5 MGD Morris Machine Works centrifugal pump operated by a Kerr steam turbine which remained in service until the 1930’s.

Modern Operation

Over time, wells in the Horn Pond area eliminated the need for surface water collection from the Pond, and the 1908 steam

pump was no longer needed.  It sat in place in the pump house until 2018, when a group of volunteers began cleaning and restoring the steam pump.  The pump is not needed for modern operations, but is now one of only a few steam pumps of this size and type left in the United States, and of those, we think it’s the only one in operable condition.  All thanks to the work of these volunteers.  Below, watch City Engineer Jay Corey operating the valve to start up the pump during a recent demonstration of the pump on May 14, 2023.

Steam puffs from the chimney of the pump house during seam pump operation in May 2023.

In addition, the 1908 Steam Pump was featured on WBZ news a few years ago.  You can view their story below.