Mulholland believed that the driving of the longest tunnel
would control the aqueduct’s completion.
He scheduled the work so that the portals of the five-mile long
Elizabeth Tunnel were opened simultaneously with the beginning of the
massive preparations for the rest of the construction.
The “Complete Report” gives this description:
“Included in this work were 215 miles of road, 230 miles of pipe line,
218 miles of power transmission line and 377 miles of telegraph and
telephone line. Fifty-seven
camps were established along the line of work, most of them in the
mountains, and good roads made to reach them.”
Sleeping tests and bunks were furnished to the laborers who
numbered, at their peak, 3900.
There was no railroad to the Owens Valley from the south,
although there was a narrow gauge track from Nevada at the north end.
The construction superintendents considered hauling materials by
wagon, but road construction costs and maintenance of mule teams was too
City officials approached several rail companies to provide
service from Mojave to the Owens Valley. City engineers justified construction costs by estimating
freight of 14 million tons and the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed
the line north of Mojave. The
new branch of the railroad constructed by Southern Pacific was known as
the Nevada and California Railway.
The route extended north from Mojave to a junction with the
narrow gauge line near Lone Pine.
Cuddleback Ranch, five miles east of Tehachapi, was also on
the main line of the Southern Pacific.
There the city found the materials for making 1000 barrels of Portland
cement a day
They purchased 4,300 acres of land covering limestone
quarries, clay deposits, and deposits of tufa also used for making
concrete. In addition to
the cement produced at the Monolith Mill built at Cuddleback Ranch, the
City also used 200,000 barrels of cement bought from other sources.
An intimidating array of formidable construction challenges
faced the engineers and work crews.
They blasted and drilled 142 tunnels totaling more than 43
miles in length. They built
34 miles of open unlined channel, 39 miles of concrete lined channel,
and 98 miles of covered conduit which was cast in place.
Some of the conduit was large enough to drive a car through.
Concrete was the most prevalent construction material for
the Aqueduct, although in some cases the engineers might have preferred
steel pipe. The use of
steel pipe was limited by its tremendous cost, a result of having to
transport it to California from its place of manufacture on the east
coast by way of Cape Horn.
The construction of 12 miles of steel siphon in the
Aqueduct provided some of the greatest challenges. In a canyon 120 miles north of Los Angeles, the aqueduct’s
engineers designed their most imposing work, an 8,095 foot steel
pressure siphon across desolate Jawbone Canyon.
The siphon varies from7.5 feet to 10 feet in diameter and drops
the water 850 feet to the canyon floor before its journey up the
southern canyon wall. The
heaviest steel plate of the siphon pipe is more than an inch thick and
the entire siphon weighs more than 3,216 tons.
The longest siphon in the project is the pipe crossing
Antelope Valley. It is
21,800 feet in length, 15,600 of which are steel.
Of the three large reservoirs constructed: Haiwee, Fairmont
and San Fernando, Haiwee was the largest. It had a capacity of 63,800 acre-feet, or enough to run the
original aqueduct at full capacity for 80 days.
The most difficult and time-consuming facilities were the
tunnels. In the first 11
months of work, 22 miles of tunnel were driven.
The Elizabeth Tunnel set the record for hard rock tunnel driving:
604 feet in one month.
At the beginning of the Aqueduct construct, the Board of
Public Works estimated that a reasonable schedule would be eight feet
per day for each end of the tunnel.
They initiated a bonus of 40 cents per man for each foot more
than the schedule. The
bonus increased the workers daily wages by about 30 percent but saved
the City 10 to 15 percent overall as well as releasing equipment for use
elsewhere. The average
progress on the Elizabeth Tunnel climbed to 22.1 feet per day, or a
little better than 11 feet for each end.
The Board of Engineers had estimated it would take five years to
finish the five-mile tunnel. The
men beat their deadline by 20 months.
Competition grew between tunneling crews in different parts
of the world. The Elizabeth
Tunnel hard rock crew had raced with the government men on the Gunnison
Tunnel drew in Colorado and beat them.
The Red Rock Tunnel crew raced with the Swiss drivers at the
Loetchberg Tunnel for a rail line in the Bernaise Alps and won the
world’s record. In August
1909, the Swiss had beaten their own record by driving 1013 feet working
with four air drills. The
Red Rock crew beat that record by driving through 1061 feet of soft
sandstone using hand drills. More
than six million pounds of blasting powder were used by the builders of
the aqueduct. Concern for safety and use of the highest quality blasting
supplies regardless of cost, kept underground fatalities to five men.
Only highest quality German fuse was used, passing tests for
timing and reliability which less expensive American fuse failed to
When the 226 miles of aqueduct were completed, the work of
the division engineers and construction superintendents was recognized
throughout the world. The
“Complete Report” states: “An engineering company; having trouble
in driving a difficult tunnel in Spain, engaged at a large salary one of
the men who broke the record in the Elizabeth tunnel…Another went to
Argentina on a big public work, and the man who made the record drive in
the Red Rock tunnel went to the Catskill Aqueduct.
All over the world, the capable builders of the Los Angeles
Aqueduct are doing big work and making good on their well-earned
reputations for efficiency.”