‘Quiet Giant’ entertained scores of visitors

A little rain didn’t scare visitors away from coming to see the ‘Quiet Giant’ on Sunday.

Louisville Water completed two years of renovation work of Pumping Station No. 3, which houses this historic 100-foot-tall steam engine. More than 200 people toured the giant Allis Chalmers steam engine that was considered an engineering marvel – it could move millions of gallons of water and is a site to see in person with its massive flywheels, spiral staircases and arrays of dials.

Guest also toured the WaterWorks Museum and the grounds of Louisville Water Tower Park to celebrate the re-opening of the station. This event also marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of Pumping Station No. 3 and operating of this steam pumping engine back in 1919.

Engineers used to climb up and down the stairs and back and forth across the decks of the enormous machine to check pressure and oil parts. Although this triple expansion steam pumping engine ceased operation in 1970, Pumping Station No. 3 is still used today. Electric pumps now move water from the Ohio River for Louisville Water’s daily production of drinking water to nearly one million people in the Louisville Metro region.

Highlights of the $6.6 million renovation to Pumping Station No. 3 include:

– The Allis Chalmers steam engine was completely stripped and repainted.
– All windows were replaced with historically correct window units.
– The only two original window/door assemblies were restored.
– Original cast-iron transoms that had been covered up were discovered and restored to original condition.
– Original copper cornice was repaired.
– Historically accurate slate roofing was installed.
– Interior original plaster finish on walls was repaired and repainted.
– Terra cotta tile was restored to its original finish on all window openings and arched passageways.

Historical signage and educational placards were added to enhance visitors’ tour experience of the building. In addition, visitors watched a film from 1938 of the Quiet Giant operating. Also on Sunday, the Maker Mobile, a maker space on wheels, showed visitors how to make and fly air-pressure propelled ‘water tower’ rockets, and had laser printers cutting wood. They also had 3-D printers working to make a variety of models.

Regina Stivers, Deputy Secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, praised Louisville Water for preserving historic buildings like this.

“Louisville Water’s historic buildings are community landmarks, and we are very grateful for their stewardship of these important structures,” said Stivers. “The Crescent Hill Reservoir and Gatehouse and 1860 Water Tower, and now Pumping Station No. 3, give residents and visitors visual histories of important eras in Louisville’s timeline.”

Stivers pointed out that historic preservation is key to tourism dollars and a driving force for Kentucky’s economy. Kentucky tourism generated more than $15 billion in 2017 and is the third largest industry in the state. Additionally, Kentucky has more National Register of Historic Places sites than 46 other states—and all 120 Kentucky counties have at least one historic site.

“Corporate citizens like Louisville Water are important to our state economy and tourism industry,” said Stivers. “We thank you for preserving a tangible part of our past to be enjoyed today and for future generations.”

Tours of the facility are available for schools, community groups and the public. To make a reservation, call 502.897.1481 or visit LouisvilleWater.com and click on the Water Tower Park tab.