The innovative genius of the pioneering work was recently discovered by a Kondor construction crew.
Workers from the Northside Construction Partnership were digging to replace the city’s sewage system when they came across something unusual.
In his 40 years in construction, crew foreman Warren Jensen said he had never seen anything like it: buried six to seven feet underground was a wooden culvert still carrying water.
This primitive underground pipeline was discovered in two sections, totaling about seven meters.
The culvert is made using hardwood grooved along its length. Similar to the construction of the old barrels, these long pieces of wood were carved to fit into a hollow circle, the planks being encircled by bands of metal.
Jensen could only make out the first two numbers of the pipe’s year of manufacture, but he believes it was assembled by settlers in the first decades of the 1900s. “It must be 100 years old,” he said.
Due to the rarity of the discovery, Jensen spent three hours excavating the antique culvert by hand. He has since donated both pieces to the Sunnybrook Farm Museum in Red Deer. “I want people to appreciate what these old timers did,” he explained.
Long before factory machining and plastic or metal manufacturing processes, early settlers spent a lot of time and effort creating their own utility infrastructure to manage drainage.
“We take it for granted now, but back then people didn’t have plastic pipes. They make do with what they had,” said Jensen, who was also impressed to see shovel marks on the wooden pipe, suggesting that even the trench for the old culvert was dug by hand.
Ian Warwick, managing director of Sunnybrook Farm, said he was excited to see this rare example of early rural infrastructure.
“It’s a really cool artifact for our collection … We jumped at the chance to capture something like this that tells the story of how people came together in small communities early in rural Alberta history,” Warwick said. He believes the pipe may date from the 1930s.
After two sections of the culvert have been treated with a wood preservative, they are on display at the south end of Sunnybrook Farm, near the early grader used to make the roads. Warwick said the antique grader was once pulled by 18 horses.
Another exhibit from the past was recently donated to the Sunnybrook Farm Museum – an old, working Michener Center fire truck. Warwick said he was recently “transported home” after going to the Ukrainian Village Museum east of Edmonton for the first time.
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