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Vulcan: The First Hundred Years


Although Vulcan became a "one-product" company with the success of the Warrington-Vulcan hammers, it furnished a wide variety of accessories and other products to go with its successful pile hammers. From the turn of the century until the Great Depression, Vulcan issued one catalogue to cover the entire line of steam hammers, drop hammers, accessories and, towards the end, extractors. (And the sales catalogue included the service manual!)

Below we present some samples of the rigs and leaders which Vulcan offered. Most of these appeared in Vulcan's comprehensive brochure through several revisions from 1906 until the last comprehensive catalogue in 1931.

Standard Contractors Pile Driver: for drop hammers in the 1-3 kip range. Note the vertical steam boiler at the left which power the rig.

Contractors' Pile Driver, Fitted with Rigid Extension Leaders. Useful when the piles were well below the rig or barge. The drop hammer shown uses the "Casgrain" style cap. The wood cushion block between the driving accessory and the hammer has a steel band around the top. Drop hammers and wood piles went together for many centuries. Although the wood itself had good hammer cushioning properties, the pile head was subject to brooming during driving. It was possible to install a metal band on the pile before driving, but getting it off could be a challenge. The Casgrain system obviated that by eliminating the band installation and replacement. It was the ancestor of the cushion pot that have graced most Vulcan air/steam hammers since.

Spool Roller Pile Driver. Until commercial cranes were developed to the point where they could be used to handle pile driving, rigs were almost always "skid" rigs (as is the case with the rigs shown on this page.) One of the major drawbacks to skid rigs was mobility. The spool roller pile driver was an attempt to address this problem. The roller setup allowed both fore and aft and side to side movement of the rig. Also note the pile line and levelling protractors. This isometric view (one of the few found in Vulcan literature of the time) also clearly shows Casgrain's cap, and the fact that most of these rigs were constructed out of wood. The hammer rode in iron channel liners which were embedded into the timbers.

Batter Leader Pile Driver: an early version of the "moonbeam" system. The hammer swivels about its upper mast connection. The lower end of the leader is guided by (and secured to for fixing the angle) with a curved moonbeam. Vulcan produced moonbeam type systems until the 1970's, when the telescoping spotter overtook them.

Swivelling Pile Driver: Adding a turntable to the system greatly improves the ability of the operator to position the hammer, especially with skid rig. The next step from this is to add a tractor to the bottom of the rig, which makes for the dedicated piling rigs that are common outside of the U.S. (Note: for those of you who find the use of UK spelling irritating, the Vulcan catalogues of the era spelled "swivelling" in this way.)

Swivelling Pile Driver, arranged with Telescope Leaders: An expansion of the rig above, it's adds what amounts to an elongated inboard extension to enable driving piles below the rig. Note that this drawing and the one above show a steam hammer rather than a drop hammer, reflecting the change in Vulcan's business.

"Joe Heaver" Pile Driver. A leader system designed primarily for railroad construction. Piling is to be driven in advance of the strack.

It was designed for drop hammers ranging from 1.5-3 kips in weigth and the leaders could be from 30'-50' long. As the catalogue said, it was designed for use by "horse-power," a reminder that the use of these animals for serious work is not as far in the past as one would like to think.

Note the guy lines at the top, which were used to maintain the vertical position of the leaders. Also noted in the catalogue was the use of manila rope. Although not really appropriate today, manila rope was extensively used in pile drivers in the age of steam.

Township Pile Driver. (Right) Designed for smaller (0.5-1.2 kip) drop hammers, this rig was designed for operation by horse-power. It ranged from 24' high (0.5 kip hammer) to 28' high (1.2 kip hammer). It came complete with hammer, sheave system, toggles, nippers (to release the hammer,) channel iron liners (so the hammer would not ride directly on the wood,) and working drawings.

Fence Post Drivers, #1 (Left) and #2 (Right). Designed to be mounted on an "ordinary farm or mountain wagon," It could be used for either new fence lines or repair work. Like the Township rig, they were designed for horse-power. The #1 driver ran the driver on the front of the wagon while the #2 ran it on the side (better for repair of exsting fences.)

The first of Vulcan's product line to rate its own, two-colour, letter sized catalogue was the Super-Vulcan closed type hammer, which was introduced in 1928. 1931 represented the last year of the comprehensive catalogue; in 1934 (shortly after Chet Warrington took over the business,) the catalogue was broken up into product lines. By World War II all of Vulcan's sales and service literature was in the letter size, two-colour, product specific format. This would continue until the late 1970's, when four-colour literature was introduced and maintained until the end of the business.

Early Sheet Piling Caps

The Warrington-Vulcan steam hammer came into being just before some major innovations in driven piles were introduced. One of those innovations was steel sheet piling, which were introduced on both sides of the Atlantic around the beginning of the twentieth century. Vulcan quickly adapted its hammers to sheet pile installation and developed a set of driving accessories.

One of the challenges of adapting to sheet piling is to produce caps that adapt to the countours of the sheeting. Although it's possible to use a "flat face" cap (like the one on the right) to drive sheeting, generally it's better to use a cap with "islands" which are shaped to mate with the sheeting between the islands. In this way the hammer can assist in guiding the sheets downward.

Right: an early (1909) Vulcan sheeting cap showing the cushion arrangement. The teardrop shaped wood block was adapted from Casgrain's design for drop hammers, complete with the Norway iron band at the top to prevent brooming of the block.

The top of the block actually was inserted into a standard Vulcan base. That in turn is a reminder of another important fact about Vulcan air/steam hammers: the standard base, with its conical receptacle, wasn't developed first for the accessories familiar to Vulcan hammer users, but for direct insertion of a wood pile with or without (better with) a band to prevent brooming. It was later that the standard cushion pot was developed to mate with the existing conical base recesses.

The cushioning effect of the block was essential, especially because the original Warrington-Vulcan design used an integrally cast ram point. It soon became evident (especially with the deveopment of steel piling) that this would not do, and by World War I Vulcan was transitioning to steel ram points in its rams.

Below: two spreads from the 1914 catalogue showing various sheet piling sections current at the time from Lackawanna, United States Steel, Friestedt, Carnegie, Jones & Laughlin and Wemlinger. Note that Z-sheeting is missing from the lineups; it does not come into play until after World War I. Centre flanges are also common on sheeting at the time. The tee that Lackawanna made was riveted together with angle iron, and rivets still appear on both Friestedt and Carnegie sections.


Driven Pile Manual Volume 1a
Driven Pile Manual 1b
Driven Pile Manual 2