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West Cofferdam

This is a close-up of the 5000 foot long west cofferdam taken March 20, 1935. The purpose of the cofferdam is to
divert water away from the excavation area so that the ground can be prepared down to and below the level of
the rive

Aerial Overview
This is an aerial view of the dam site taken on May 05, 1935. As can be seen a major amount of
earth removal had already occured on the west (right) bank at the time of this photo. An extensive
cofferdam is visible on the west bank near the center of the picture

First Concrete
Governor Clarence Martin using an air vibrator to settle the "first" concrete pour at Grand Coulee
Dam. Photo taken December 12, 1935.

West Side Dam Base Flooding

This is a photo taken of the construction area behind the west cofferdam. Sections "H" and "I" of the cofferdam
have been removed to allow water to flow into the west side diversion channels. Eventually the west cofferdam
was removed entirely and the completion of the east cofferdam forced the entire flow of the Columbia through
the diversion channels. This allowed work to proceed on the rest of the dam without interrupting the flow of the
river. The Contractor's Camp (Mason City) can be seen in the background. Photo taken

Aerial Overview of West Dam Construction

This photo was taken from the upstream side of the dam on March 16, 1937. Note that the west (left) cofferdam
has been removed and water is being diverted through channels in the west dam base by an extensive
cofferdam on the east side of the river. This technique of protecting only half of the construction site at a time
allowed the base of the dam to be built without interrupting the flow of the river

Close-Up of West Side Diversion Channel

This is a close-up view of the west side diversion channels used to accommodate the flow of the river while work
proceeded on the east side of the dam (see photo above). Photo was taken on April 29, 1937.

Construction of Outlet
Tube Trashrack
Here workmen are seen
placing the steel grates (or
trashracks) into the
trashrack assembly of one
of the dam's sets of
spillway outlet tubes.
Photo taken on November
30, 1937.

Dam Base Completed

In this picture both the east and west cofferdams have been removed and the two sides of the
dam are joined together. This shot was taken shortly after the completion of the dam base
construction phase which marked the end of the MWAK Co. construction contract. (Two prime
contractors were used to build the dam. MWAK was responsible for constructing the dam's
base while Consolidated Builders Incorporated finished the project). The construction trestles at
elevation 1024 (feet above sea-level) top concrete which had been poured to a maximum
elevation of 1010 in the abutment sections and to 945 in the spillway section with the exception
of blocks 39 and 40 which were carried to elevation 1000. The powerhouse foundations were
completed to elevation 948.8 and the training walls to elevation 980. Photograph taken on
March 8, 1938.

Hand Driven Air Pump

Here workmen are seen operating a hand driven air pump which provides breathing air
to divers as they inspect submerged areas of the dam. There was no date associated
with the photograph.

Outlet Tube Gate Valve

This is a close-up of two
of the
sets of gate valves which
control flow through the
dam's 60 outlet tubes. The
outlet tubes are 102
inches in diameter. Photo
taken on May 02, 1939.

Spillway Construction
This photo shows one of the large
cement buckets transporting a load of
concrete to the spillway area of the
dam. Notice that the dam was
constructed as a series of blocks each
of which was about 50 feet square and
five feet tall. The block numbers are
still used at the dam as reference
points. For instance, the right
powerhouse tour elevator is located at
block 84. Pipes embedded in the new
concrete carried cooling water from
the river to remove heat generated by
the cement as it cured. These pipes
were subsequently filled with grout.
Photo taken on November 14, 1939.

Outlet Tube Gate Valves

Here is another photograph of a set of outlet tube gate valve assemblies. Note the
welder to the right of the upper set of valves. Photo taken on January 02, 1940.

Generator Penstock
Shown is a workman standing
in one of the dam's original 18
foot diameter generator
penstocks. The penstocks carry
water from the upstream side of
the dam into generator's turbine
area. Photograph was taken
January 10, 1940.

Pumping Plant Trashracks

This is a picture of the back side of the pumping plant foundation. Each pump inlet tube
is shielded by a vertical column covered by steel grates. These grates, known as
trashracks, protect the pumps from sucking up debris from the river. Photo taken on
October 23, 1940.

Outlet Tube Assembly

Two workmen catching a ride on a
section of outlet tube being installed
in the spillway section of the dam.
The dam contains 60 outlet tubes in
all which are laid out in three rows of
twenty tubes each. The 102 inch
diameter tubes were initially used as
a means to divert the river as dam
construction proceeded. They now
serve as a supplementary method of
controlling the level of Lake Roosevelt
behind the dam. As can be seen, the
outlet tubes are placed in pairs. In this
photo the upstream- and downstream
gate valve assemblies are installed
and can clearly be seen on the left
most tube. Sometime after dam
construction was complete the bottom
20 tubes were filled with concrete.
Photo taken in 1941.

Aerial View
This is an aerial photograph of the
partially completed dam taken on June
15, 1941. The normal Columbia river
flow is allowed to pass through a series
of 102 inch diameter outlet tubes which
pass through the dam's spillway. There
are 60 such tubes in all. They are laid
out in three rows with each row
containing two sets of five pairs each.
The outlets of the lowest row of tubes
are below the water level on the
downstream side. Note that the tubes
are not symmetrical on the spillway but
appear mostly on the east (left) side.
Other significant features include the
large depression above and to the right
of the dam. This became Cresent Bay
as the lake behind the dam filled. The
steel highway bridge in the foreground
serves as the primary means of travel
between the east and west sides of the
city of Coulee Dam.

Generator Scrollcase
This is the scrollcase for generator L-1 (now called G-1) in the left powerhouse. The
central depression in the snail-shaped scrollcase is the turbine pit. Water flows into the
turbine from all sides through the rectangular slots clearly visible in the sides of the pit.
The diameter of the pipe forming the scroll case steadily decreases from 18 feet at the
penstock outlet on the right. This provides an equal flow of water into all sides of the
turbine. The L-1 generator went on-line on April 07, 1942. Photo taken on September 11,

Left Powerhouse Generator Turbine

Here a workman is inspecting one of the generator turbines just before its installation
in the left powerhouse. Photo taken on December 18, 1942.

L-4 Wicket Gate Installation

Here men working in the left
powerhouse install one of the wicket
gates in the L-4 (now called G-4)
turbine pit. This and other wicket
gates form a ring of louvers around
the turbine which can be opened and
closed like venetian blinds to control
the flow of water. As the electrical
demands on a generator increase
more water is required to keep it
spinning at the same rate. Once a
generator is up to speed and on-line
minute changes in the position of the
wicket gates are used to keep the
the generator spinning at exactly 120
rpm (the exact rotation rate is a
function of the generator circuit
design. On the left- and right
powerhouse generators 120 rpm
results in 60Hz AC power). This
photo was taken on November 15,

Interior of Spillway Drum Gate #11

This picture shows two workmen standing inside one of the dam's large spillway drum
gates. As can be seen the gates are huge and hollow. The 135 foot long, 28 foot tall
gates float and they are raised and lowered by controlling the level of water in chambers
underneath them. Photo taken on January 05, 1944.

L-9 Stator Construction

Here workmen can be seen placing the thin sheets of iron which form the L-9 (now called
G-9) generator's stator core. Each iron sheet is insulated from the ones above and below
it by a thin layer of lacquer. This prevents the changing magnetic fields inside the
operating generator from producing eddy currents in the steel which would rob the
generator of power and create undue heating. Note the slots in the steel plates. The
copper coils which form the generator's stator winding fit between these slots (see photo
below). There is no date associated with this photograph but the L-9 generator first went
on-line on April 23, 1948 so I'd assume this picture was taken some time in '47 .

L-9 Stator Construction

Here workmen can be seen
placing the copper stator windings
into the slots of the laminated
steel stator core on the L-9 (now
called G-9) generator. As each
segment of the winding is placed
into its slot it is connected to the
other segments at top and bottom
to form a continuous circuit. The
winding segments are insulated
from the steel core by a
fiber/resin insulation. Again there
is no date associated with this
picture but I assume it was taken
some time in late '47 or early '48.

Generator Turbine Impeller

Ending a 5,000 mile roundabout
trip from Newport, VA., this 150,000
rated horsepower turbine impeller
is shown here being unloaded at
the dam site. The unit was built by
the Newport News Shipbuilding
and Drydock Co. It couldn't be
shipped directly to the dam
because it would not clear railroad
tunnels on the shortest route. At
the time of installation this and the
other turbines at Grand Coulee
were the biggest in the world.
Photo taken on June 25, 1947.

Feeder Canal Construction

This photo shows the construction of the feeder canal which carries water from the dam
to Banks Lake 1.8 miles to the west. There was no date associated with the photo.

Feeder Canal Construction

This photo shows construction on the feeder canal headworks. This is where water first
enters the feeder canal. The tubes in the center of the picture are the outlets from the
pumping plant below. No date was associated with the picture.

Water-of-all-States Ceremony
Fifty princesses and the queen of the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival
participated in a symbolic pouring ceremony as they emptied gallon jugs of water from all
the states, the territories of Alaska and Hawaii and the District of Columbia into the newly
completed feeder canal. This ceremony was to symbolize the contribution of all the
nation to the project and in turn, the benefit the project would mean to the national
wealth when irrigation started the following spring. Photo taken on June 14, 1951.

Irrigation Reservoir Begins to Fill

Water pours from the headworks of the feeder canal located 280 feet above the surface
of Lake Roosevelt and the pumping plant. In the foreground are the princesses of the
Washington State Apple Blossom Festival which participated in the symbolic pouring of
water into the canal during the dedication ceremonies. Photo taken on June 14, 1951.

Flooded Turbine Pit

On March 14, 1952 at about 10:30 a.m., some of the galleries
within the dam were partially flooded when an operator accidentally
opened an outlet tube gate valve on the 1050 level of Block 55.
The outlet tubes, which run though the east side of the spillway,
are used as an auxillary means to regulate the level of the
reservoir behind the dam. The operator was following a procedure
to drain a number of the outlet tubes in preperation for
sandblasting and painting. He mistakenly believed that he was
closing a valve which was already open. In fact, that particular
outlet tube was being used for paint durability tests and as such its
upstream gate valve was already closed. When the operator
activated the gate machinery he was unknowingly opening, not
closing, the valve. The outlet tube is normally isolated from the
service gallery by a bolted cover. Although the 200 pound access
cover was in place the men doing the previous paint testing had
not resecured it. As the upstream valve opened it allowed water to
rush into the outlet tube. Blocked by the closed downstream valve
the mounting pressure blew the access cover into the gallery and a
jet of water began to stream east and west through the gallery (see
the two photos below). Water entered the powerhouses at the 950
level and flooded a number of the turbine pits. Much of the
lubrication oil for the turbine guide bearings was displaced by the
heavier water and certain generators needed to be shut down to
avoid bearing damage. This photograph was taken in the pit of
turbine L-8 (now called G-8). The galvanized can floating in the
water and oil mixture was swept into the pit from the 951 floor.
Such cans were used in disposing of oily wiping rags. Oil
circulation pumps are shown in the background. Maximum depth of
the oil and water is shown by the oil on the stair rail in the right
foreground. Photo was taken on March 14, 1952.

Damage From Outlet Tube

This photo, taken the day after
the March 14, 1952 outlet tube
flood, shows a piece of the
ladder that had been bolted to
the shaft which led down into
the outlet tube. The ladder was
torn to shreds as the force of
the inrushing water shot the
200 pound access cover
through the shaft. Shown in
the picture are Milton Berg
(above) and Norman Holmdahl
(standing). Both men were
later awarded gold medals by
the Department of the Interior
for their part in eventually
shutting off the water and
saving the dam. Six other gold
medals and one silver medal
were also awarded. Photo
taken on March 15, 1952.

Block 55 Outlet Tube

Accident Site
This photo was taken at
block 55 along the 1050
gallery three days after the
accident described above.
The access cover can be
seen lying on the floor. The
gate valve control machinery
is visible against the right
wall. Photo taken on March
17, 1952.