Compressor Building, Sluiceway, Gate & Dam.

    The Compressor Building and all its "accessories" near the East Portal is a very interesting place to visit. The purpose of this building was primarily to provide compressed air to the Burleigh Drills at the tunnel heading. A series of 4 compressors each mounted at the base of the building dropped below floor level to a turbine. These turbines were spun by water that traveled down a sluiceway (canal) from behind a dam about a mile upstream Deerfield River. The compressed air was piped into the tunnel bore by a pair of 8 inch cast iron pipes at 65 PSI then connected by rubber tubes to the drills. At times when the water level was too low to reliably run the compressor turbines, steam power was employed to supplement the lack of waterpower. 

     This building was a stone building, three stories in height, most likely made from spoilage from the tunnel bore. The first floor housed the compressors, and the remaining floors were used for repairing tools. The structure rested water side just north of what is presently the iron and wood rail trestle over the Deerfield River. It can be clearly seen from the rail trestle year round. Over the last 60 years the building has continued to crumble to its present state, some photographs below will demonstrate this. Portions of wooden beams can still be seen in the remains of the compressor holes which still to this day backfill with water when the water level is too high.

    The Compressor Building was not built until 14 years after tunneling commenced. The air powered Burleigh Drill, invented in 1865 created the need for compressed air. There was an abundance of water power potential near the East Portal which created great opportunity for the tunnel engineers. Thomas Doane ordered the construction of the water powered compressor building to run these new drills.

    A map showing the location of the building ruins, and the sluiceway/dam can be found here or on the map page.

Compressor Building Images

All images can be clicked on to view a larger version.


     These pictures complement each other nicely don't they? Both are from around 1869 or 1870 One is pen and ink, one is a regular photograph (can you guess which one is which?). Notice the lack of bridge in the foreground! Also notice the artists additions. The sluiceway comes in from behind the Compressor Building which is of course the large building in the center. Other points of interest in this picture are the octagonal managerial building, the large piles of spoilage on the riverside and the worker houses scattered on the hillside.

    In this picture you get an nice view of the Compressor Building looking northward. You can also see the first generation trestle crossing the river, the sluiceway which runs more or less parallel to the river, and what I believe is the signal man's building (building with the octagonal top portion). If you enlarge this picture you will be treated with a lot of interesting things to look at. This picture is likely a late construction era image from around 1872 or 1873

From left to right: Compressor Building, Deerfield River, Giant mound of spoilage used for the rail grade.


This picture taken after construction was finished shows the second generation iron rail trestle in the foreground. Behind it are the ruins of the Compressor Building. You can tell from the water reflection that the south wall is completely gone. Also notice how the abutments of the trestle are built up on tunnel spoilage.

Another image from the 1866 era

A Burleigh drill on the machine shop floor of the compressor building.



These are the ruins as viewed from the rail trestle. Interestingly enough the original picture here was taken the day after the October 2005 flood. The water was so high that it obscured a lot of the view however it would have been higher if it weren't for the flood control provided by Bear Swamp Hydroelectric just a few miles up stream. This picture is taken later after most of the foliage was gone. The building didn't sustain any damage in the flood, but it did do a nice job cleaning out the compressor holes!

This picture is taken from behind the compressor building at the sluiceway terminus. Notice the still square angles and the large notch.

This picture was taken from the same spot as above but in a different direction. You can see damage in this shot. I am not quite sure what the purpose of this notch or the notch in the previous photo was.

This picture taken inside the ruins facing north. The foundation here is very sturdy and well cemented.

This picture taken from the top of the foundation shows the west wall. This wall is filled with all sorts of interesting holes and notches, this too is a sturdy and well cemented wall.

This picture taken inside the ruins facing NE shows the crumbling remains of the east wall. This wall is the one that had all the windows. You can see the large white stones which were placed across the top of the window holes for support strewn about like legos.

The purpose of this strange arch located on the south portion of the west wall is a mystery to me. Perhaps it housed some sort of machinery, or maybe even some of the furnace used for the backup steam power.

This picture facing south shows the water filled holes where the compressor turbines sat.

This picture is the same as above but has green circles around the turbine holes for better emphasis.

This picture shows a plank hole inside the turbine hole. Notice how portions of the plank are still there after 130 years! Also notice the water level. It is not usually high, however the flood pushed the water level up considerably. Typically these holes are dry.

The same darned hole as above, only weeks after the flooding. You can see the cement and a vertical metal bar

This is a particularly exciting image. I think these metal rings similar to cooper rings, held a wooden penstock tube which brought the water to the turbine blades. This penstock is coming in from the river road side (west).

I have no idea what this notch was used for, perhaps for bracing the turbine?

This picture is on the river side of the turbine hole. I don't quite know what the purpose of these bolts was.

A picture from above looking into the turbine hole (from the above 6 images). The flooding from early October did a nice job cleaning the hole out believe it or not.



    The sluiceway was what carried the water held back by the dam to the Compressor Building. Most of it is still very traceable today, but all of it is on private property! This sluiceway is hand dug and stretches for about a mile.


Historical Sluiceway Images

This old stereographic image shows the sluiceway facing SWW.


Contemporary Sluiceway Images

These pictures are ordered from southernmost vantage point to northernmost

At the base of the sluiceway looking north. Notice the remains of the large stone wall of the Compressor Building. You can see the depression in the ground heading northward.

This picture is taken about 75 yards north of the ruins looking south. You can see the NW corner of the foundation. Notice the vegetation growing near the foundation. This is a swampy area most of the year because water gathers behind the foundation.

This picture is taken from on top of the wall of the sluiceway looking southeast near the compressor building ruins.

Looking north about 1/4 mile north of the the Compressor Building foundation. The raised banks of the old waterway are quite clear here.


Looking south about a quarter mile north of the ruins.

A southerly view of the sluiceway just south of the gate near the dam. Notice the waste that people have decided to dump here! Bad!

A northerly view of the rock cut at the mouth of the sluiceway. This is where the gate was. Now it is the home of fallen stone and leaves!


Sluiceway Gate

This picture taken facing east shows the foundation of the gate house. The building bridged across these 2 foundations. Operators inside these buildings controlled the opening and closing of the flood gate. They are surprisingly well preserved.

Here is the same picture except facing west and taken from the bottom of the sluiceway. Pretty deep isn't it?

These 2 pictures show the east side of the gate-cut wall. Notice the two 8 or so inch cuts leading from the top to bottom. Iron nails remain embedded in the rock. In the lower right corner bits of wood remain even after over 130 years!

This is the same as above except showing the west side of the cut. Notice the large rock which has fallen from above. This side also has a piece of wood remaining on the south side! I am not quite sure if the 2 grooves signify that there was a double gate here, or if they were part of a single gate support.

This picture facing north shows (again) the width of the cut. There are still plenty of drill holes lurking around on the walls. Looks like this was cut in a similar way to the tunnel which was done by first drilling then blasting. Digging here was most likely easier! Also I would think that its a fair guess that this portion was hand drilled (because the sluiceway was built for the compressor building which was being built to run the Burleigh drills!).

This picture taken on the west part of the gatehouse foundation shows a little side cut which was used as an overflow "valve".

A sluiceway level view of the overflow valve cut. The rust color vertical line is where the gate for this water escape was. It is the same as the main sluiceway gate (two vertical grooves with wood and spikes) except obviously much shorter.

Deerfield Dam

The Deerfield River Dam located right next to the sluiceway gate was a wood and rock crib dam consisting of wooden cells filled with tightly packed crushed rock. Amazingly timbers from this dam are still visible when the water is low and clear. When the gate was open water that had built up behind the dam was allowed to flow down the sluiceway to its final destination at the Compressor Building where it ultimately powered the compressor turbines which powered the Burleigh Drills at the heading.


Historical Dam Images

This picture likely taken in the earlier years of the Dam shows 2 buildings on the left: The larger one is the main gatehouse which is build on top of the gate and sluiceway (see sluiceway gate pictures above). The smaller one is the same scenario except built on top of the smaller diversion channel gate.

Same picture as above but taken later, notice the mill off in the distance upstream. I am unsure of what its purpose was or whether it was related to the tunnels construction or not.


Contemporary Dam Images

This picture taken from the Rowe side of the Deerfield River shows in the center a pile of rocks extending out. This pile of rocks was the bulk of the dam. Behind it (to the right) is sediment that collected behind the dam during its lifetime. The notch of water seen at the center left is chock full of timbers and metal pegs which were part of other levels of the dam. The pegs and underwater wooden beams go all the way across the water to this day.

Some wooden beams with metal pegs which are still alive and well underneath water level. These are not hard to find on the Florida or Rowe side of the river. It is absolutely amazing that these wooden beams still exist after 130+ years. Most people who tube or kayak the Deerfield in the summer are no strangers to these beams and pegs.

This picture is at the end of the Rowe side of the dam remnants. Notice that the stones are cemented together. I have no idea if these were cemented after the dam was abandoned or not (why would they be afterward anyways?). I haven't seen anything in print to suggest that cement was used. Cemented stone can be found on the Florida side too

A picture of the Rowe side retaining wall taken from the Florida side. Notice the vertical notches. Honestly I have no clue what the purpose of these notches was. It appears that timbers were placed in these notches, not sure why, Inspection of the historic pictures doesn't help me much.

The same as above but on the Rowe side. If anyone knows what these notches were for I'd like to know!

The extension of the above picture heading east. This part isn't in as nice condition.

The profile of the dam. The large holes appear to be where timbers were seated. The triangle shape appears to be the actual profile of the bulk of the dam. The stones jutting into the river line up with this profile perfectly. Notice the metal pegs in abundance.

I should have been a photographer! (better keep my day job just in case) this view is at the triangular notch shown above. This gives good perspective on the depth of the notches and the length of the pegs.

The white stone formation is a stalactite, a limestone deposit that forms when water drips from the ceiling of the notch. These slowly form over the decades. Interestingly enough stalactites can be found in the Haupt Tunnel at the west end.


Copyright 2000 - 2005 Marc Howes
Trespassing is illegal and dangerous especially when inside the tunnel with a train! If you go inside and see a light run and hide! that is unless of course its the portal, then you don't have to run nor hide. Trains burn diesel fuel and produce among other things carbon monoxide and deafening amounts of noise! Trains also have people in them and people have eyes used for seeing things.. Like trespassers! Just be careful use your head and stay safe.