What can happen when the right components come together? You know the answer. Amazing things can be accomplished. This post highlights one such joining of forces in the construction of Hoover Dam. This country was in the depths of the Great Depression when Hoover Dam was constructed 1931-1935. The labor force was ready. Science, mathematics, engineering, ingenuity, motivation, and technology came together with the support of government to complete one of the most impressive projects the world has seen. I have seen documentaries about it. They pale in comparison to seeing, and being inside, the real thing. Join me below for some visual highlights from our visit to this important place.
The view above is courtesy of Google Maps. At left is the visitor center and observation level. The four round tower structures top center and lower right are water intakes. They stand nearly 400′ tall from their bases and provide the water flow to the generators in the structures at the lower left. From the top of the dam to the river level below is 726′.
This is the view from the visitor’s center. The dam is so large, four separate images were merged into this one. Two of these vertical structures housed restrooms decorated beautifully in the art deco style, as were most of the public areas.
Inside Hoover Dam
The tour started by riding the elevator down to the level of the 30′ diameter steel penstock pipes that carry water to the turbines on the Nevada side of the dam. We traversed through a tunnel in the rock which opened into a room directly above one of the pipes. You could feel the muffled vibration on your feet as the water rushed toward the generators. Another pipe of equal size is on the Arizona side of the dam. The drawing above shows some of these structures and dimensions.
We went back to the elevator and up one level. After walking a long distance through another rock tunnel, we emerged into the generator hall. There is one on each side of the river at the base of the dam. A light on top means that generator is operating. It was early in the day and the temperatures were cool. Less electricity demand meant they were not all operating. Note the stairs and railings for scale. The top of the railings are about 3′ tall.
This picture is of a full sized model in the visitor’s center. The rotating steel shaft is 3′ in diameter. Spinning magnetized electromagnet coils move past stationary coils of wire to generate the electric current.
One other smaller generator is in the floor of the hall of generators. This one supplies electricity for the various needs of the dam site. The main large generators above provide electricity directly to the grid. Notice the ladder in the upper right for scale.
Outside Hoover Dam
Standing on the observation deck gave a view down to the Arizona and Nevada generator halls nearly 700′ below. Electric cables emerge from the roof of the halls and up the wall of the canyon. There they are guided by cantilevered towers to keep them from touching each other or the rock walls. The cables are connected to transformers and the grid.
Here are the two intake towers on the Nevada side. A matching pair are on the Arizona side of the dam.
This overview shot was taken from the new bypass highway bridge recently constructed.
Building Hoover Dam
I am not going to go into details about the building of the dam. Instead, I will provide some links at the end to URLs for you to follow if interested. Here are a few interesting things from the visitor’s center. First is the manpower needed and their pay scales. Shovel operators were relatively well paid.
Large buckets transferred and poured concrete day in and day out 24/7.
Hoover Dam was the first man-made structure to exceed the masonry mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The dam contains enough concrete to pave a strip 16 feet wide and 8 inches thick from San Francisco to New York City. More than 5 million barrels of Portland cement and 4.5 million cubic yards of aggregate went into the dam. If all of the materials used in the dam were loaded onto a single train, as the engine entered the switch yards in Boulder City, the caboose would just be leaving Kansas City, MO. Curing concrete releases heat. If the heat produced by the curing concrete could have been concentrated in a baking oven, it would have been sufficient to bake 500,000 loaves of bread per day for three years.
Here is a short time lapse video of the growing dam from the visitor’s center. It takes less than a minute.
The Bypass Highway Bridge
Traffic formerly all crossed the top of the dam. In October 2010, a new bypass highway bridge was opened allowing traffic to flow more easily and quickly between AZ and NV and to make the dam more secure. These pictures of the bypass bridge were taken from the top the dam. Again, multiple images were merged because the bridge is so large. Cars can park in a lot to the right on the Nevada side to allow tourists to walk safely to the center of the bridge.
Here is a time lapse movie of the construction of the bridge from the Federal Highway Administration. It takes less than 2 minutes to view.
Hoover Dam was a vast and impressive project. It was formerly called Boulder Dam. If you ever get a chance to see it and tour inside, I urge you to do it. It is a monument to the resourcefulness of people when they set their mind to a goal of this magnitude. For the day, it was like striving to send humans to the Moon.
There are continuing controversies about water rights and other issues, of course. But, the building of such a facility in the depths of the Great Depression illustrates well how the right components can, and should, come together. I think this should be a lesson to us all. We are capable of great things. We can do them.
For additional details, visit these URLs.
Hoover Dam Home – http://www.usbr.gov/…
Articles from the past – http://www.usbr.gov/…
Essays about the dam – http://www.usbr.gov/…