• Welcome to the new NAXJA Forum! If your password does not work, please use "Forgot your password?" link on the log-in page. Please feel free to reach out to [email protected] if we can provide any assistance.

What was this for?(pics)


NAXJA Memeber #293 URF Racing
NAXJA Member
San Bruno, CA.
Came across this at work today. I'm doing some dryrot repair and prevention in an old building's basement.


The electric motor said Westinghouse on it and "Induction motor type CS for elevator service" but looks like it was driving some sort of compressor...

...interesting old stuff.
Evil hallway...

...I did not investigate what was behind the cobweb covered door at the end.

Either that or a pump of some sort (REALLY old, tho, piston pumps have been out of use for years for anything other than CA.)

If you don't want to explore that door, I'll go! Where is it? Remember, I'm the same sort of guy that would like to spend a week or two crawling thru the tunnels under Alcatraz... I'm serious, tho, it would be interesting to see if that doorway leads anywhere. There are an awful lot of tunnels thru SF - ever go down alleys in Chinatown?

I'll post what's behind the evil door on Monday. :D

The compressors(or pumps?) hooked up to the aparatus that's on the wall behind them. Almost looks hydraulic. Whatever they are they're pretty old as this bulding looks 1890ish.

How tall is the building? It may well be a compressor/pump for a very early hydraulic elevator. I didn't know they had them that long ago, but why not? Virtually all elevators under six or seven stories today are hydraulic.
Eagle, I was thinking the same thing as the building is only 3 or 4 stories. Only thing is, I didn't see any evidence of an elevator shaft. I'll have to snoop around more on Monday.
Sean, all sorts of old looking sump pumps around and several wells full of cristal clear water. Kinda sppoky in the dark with the sound of dripping water.

Looking at the bores of those pumps, the small fittings and the fact that they're pistons, my money is still on refrigeration, unless there was some need for large amounts of compressed air. That two-cylinder one on the right is made for relatively high pressure and low volume. Way too small for a water pump, but a little big for hydraulics.
Is there any chance the building contained a refrigeration or cold storage plant? The setup looks like an old Ammonia refrigeration compressor plant (condenser heat exchanger on the wall, but it also could be a condensor drain trap for pneumatic air).

The other option is an early pneumatic air compressor.

Compressed air was used for many things in the late 1800's and early 1900's (controls and other actuation needs). In the taller buildings of the age they even used compressed air to lift water to the roof mounted pressure tanks with bubbler systems (much like a fish tank filter system). Pneumatic air was also used for early door lock systems, and to atomize coal dust in boilers.

The long flat belts driving these machines were notorious for reliability, but also for snagging anything nearby when they became frayed. One of my Great-grandfathers lost a forearm to a belt drive much like this during the construction of connector pump plants for the Owens Valley Aqueduct (California, 1918).

What building (address)? The company I work for has many refrigeration mechanics that collect and restore this type of equipment for the Pipefitters Union training center (provide a little history to education).
Can you find out what the building was used for. It looks like a steamer that drove a belt to the Elec to create elec for the building.
You see alot of that type of config in the old mining camps in Colo. Calif. and Nevada.
I do like the other theories on what it is.
Finding out what the building was used for might give the answer.
Really like seeing complete machinary like that. It really says something about our technology today and how advanced we have become in such a short time.
Have fun exploring.
OK.. now I'm interested as well..... let us know how long should we wait till we should report you missing after you go through that door :)

Looks like the cellar of the charter school I networked in philly this past summer, only cleaner....
Keep your eyes open, the chinese built extensive underground tunnel systems in most major cities back in the `1800's to keep them out of sight and trouble. Some need air supplies and such to get new air in. Also look for fancy glass sidewalks, they used them for light by casting in prism windows. The tunnels were later used by hooch sellers and gangsters during prohibition.