Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Cool Your Jets!
From Dave Brigham:
As I noted in the inaugural post for this site more than six months ago, rivers offer some of the best views of the backside of America (see Take Me to the River, 3-1-10). On a recent cruise down the Connecticut River on the Hartford Belle, I enjoyed seeing the wooded banks, the osprey nests and the boats. But I was more interested in the Wethersfield Cove warehouse, which is operated by the local historical society, and, especially, the hulking green slab you see above.
I asked the Belle's captain about it. He told me it was an old Pratt & Whitney jet engine testing facility. "They used to do things like toss dead birds into the engines to see how they held up," he said.
The facility's official name is the Pratt & Whitney Andrew Willgoos Turbine Laboratory. After a little research online, I found out that the lab was built in the late '40s, and that the with help of acoustical engineers, "none of the noisy operations inside the building [could] be heard at nearby residences," according to a 1952 report from the Acoustical Society of America.
I also found a real web gem (to steal an ESPN phrase): a copy of The Tech, , M.I.T.'s official newspaper, from 1956 that describes in -- surprise! -- very technical terms the kind of work done at the facility. Check out the file here; you'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.
As for the dock shown below, it seems as though supply boats tied up there to transfer oil to the facility. The lab also used an incredible volume of water from the Connecticut River to cool the engines and testing equipment, so it's possible that the wharf helped facilitate that process as well.
As usual with these places, there's no way to know what's next. I imagine taking this facility apart and cleaning it up will take millions upon millions of dollars, lots of time and effort and that it probably won't happen for a long, long time.