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Vulcan: The First Hundred Years

The rest of the 1950's was an era of prosperity and transition for Vulcan. In 1955 Henry Warrington became President; Chester retired to Palm Beach two years later and died in 1961.

Building the Interstate highway system was a boon to Vulcan, but it, along with the growing size range of the product line, strained the North Bell facility. Combined with the increasing costs of maintaining a manufacturing facility in America's traditional industrial heartland, Vulcan cast about for a new location to build its product line. After an extensive search process, Vulcan decided to relocate the company to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it built a new production facility and moved the company in 1960.

But location wasn't the only thing changing at Vulcan; the market for its products was shifting to the construction of offshore oil platforms. The smaller "onshore" product line became a smaller--and less profitable--part of Vulcan's revenue stream. We end this series on Vulcan's first one hundred years--and then some--by featuring some newer applications of Vulcan's classic hammer line.

Hammer in action: below, a video of a Vulcan 08 driving concrete piles in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, in November 1990. The contractor was M.R. Welch.

Vulcan 010 driving concrete piles, Port Canaveral, Florida. This hammer was one of the first cable hammers; note that the cables went all the way to the cylinder head, like the Raymond hammers. Cables to the head were especially important with hammers used on mandrel-driven piles. Most Vulcan onshore hammer cables only went to the lower part of the cylinder.

Mandrel or not, cable tied hammers were doubtless the most significant improvement from a maintenance standpoint Vulcan hammers underwent; eliminating column keys was a major step forward. This photo ended up on one of the Vulcan onshore tips. (Photo by Bill Blakney, Palm Beach Gardens, FL)

Vulcan 50C hammer, installing sheet piling, Chicago, 1974. Note the yellow Decelflo muffler on top of the hammer; this was one of the first uses of the exhaust muffler.

The 50C is one of the "Super Vulcan" differential acting hammers, as opposed to a single acting hammer like the 010 to the left. With their higher blow rate, they were able to install piles more quickly, but the downward assist added some uncertainties as to the output energy of the hammers. As a result they were not as popular as their single-acting counterparts, but on projects like this where bearing capacity wasn't important, they were fine. Details on the operating cycle of both are given in the Guide to Pile Driving Equipment.

We feature an entire page on the development and history of the Decelflo muffer; click here to learn more.

A cable assembly similar to those used for the Vulcan 010 shown above. The cable shown below shows two swaged fittings with a "button head" design on the lower (left) fitting and a threaded fitting with anti-rotational key on the top.

Below: a Vulcan 020 being prepared to drive square concrete piles for the original Dodge Island bridge, 1963. In the background is downtown Miami. Another photo from this job graced the cover of Vulcan Bulletin 68K for the single-acting onshore hammers. Note the use of the "offshore" type stub leader.


A Vulcan 030 driving pipe piles in northern Italy for Pali Trevisani, the Italian contractor. The 030 here is in reality an offshore hammer adapted for onshore use. In typically European style, the hammer runs in front of the leaders in what Americans might call an outboard extension. These photos found their way onto the Vulcan Onshore Tips.
Vulcan 50C, driving sheet piling. Vulcan hammers weren't known to be sheet pile specialists but, as these photos show, they got the job done anyway. As was the case before, an "offshore" type leader was used, where a stub leader was hung from a crane and lowered with the hammer. This is good when the pile is supported at the ground, either by a template or in this case other sheet piles.

Vulcan 80C hammer driving concrete piles in California; Santa Fe is the contractor. This is a good example of a fixed leader arrangement, which offers the best support for hammer and pile alike. This is especially important for concrete piles.

Vulcan 06 hammer in fixed leaders driving pipe pile in Tampa, FL. The contractor is Gulf Foundation. This photo appeared for many years on the cover of Vulcan's onshore hammer literature. This is a cable hammer cabled in the usual way for Vulcan hammers (compare it with the 010 at the top of the page.) The hammer is also riding in a sled or extension; this enables the contractor to maintain one size of leaders (in this case 26") and use hammers configured for smaller leaders (for the 06 20") in the same rig. Click here for more information on sleds or extensions.
Below and right: working in the dry, a Vulcan 512 drives the foundaton H-piles for the Lock and Dam 26 replacement near Alton, Illinois, in April 1986. The contractor was S.J. Groves.

Cellular cofferdams are probably the most massive "temporary" structure used in construction. Although they are massive and look very rigid (especially in the view on the right,) they are in reality giant steel bags filled with pervious fill.

In recent years the Corps has found it better to float dams out and install them in the wet. However, it is interesting to note that celluar cofferdams are to be used in the replacement of the Chickamauga Lock, not far from Vulcan's Chattanooga, Tennessee facility. It is also interesting to note that, when the original Chickamauga lock and dam was built, a Vulcan 800 extractor was used to pull the sheets when the cofferdam was complete.

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