The Steward of the Sluice

Our resident craftsman, Ron Campbell, recently installed two new sluice gates and restored the lifting and lowering mechanisms on our hydro-turbine’s head race. Let’s break that down.

About 10 percent of our power at Centerbrook is generated by a low-head hydropower turbine. Installed in 1982, the turbine in the basement of our mill building uses the infrastructure that once harnessed waterpower to run machinery that manufactured drill bits. A “head race” diverts water from our pond to the turbine, through which it flows before exiting the “tail race” into the Falls River below. The diverted water collects in a concrete tank with a hydraulically-actuated control switch.

We clean the tank and a screen that catches debris (and the occasional northern water snake) before it enters the turbine. That’s where the upstream gates come in–they shut the inlets, stopping the water flow so we can drain the tank and do the maintenance. Problem was, the long-submerged gates leaked.

Enter Ron.

He planned to remove the gates by hand and rigged up a brace to hold them in place as they came out. Concerns about safety led him to instead enlist arborist Town Burns, who brought in a crane mounted on a flat-bed truck. Lashed to a harness, the gates came out in short order.

Using the old gates as templates, Ron fabricated new ones out of sturdy white oak, fastened together with stainless steel hardware. He restored the rack-and-pinion lifting and lowering mechanisms, which involved welding a broken toggle and fabricating new pinion gears. Asterisk, Inc. helped with this, cutting steel with a water jet. Ron sandblasted all the parts and finished them with a two-part epoxy-based blue/gray paint.

Installation was the reverse of removal.

Photos by Derek Hayn and Patrick McCauley

Chris Hill
Chris is Centerbrook’s Director of Business Development. A 1994 graduate of Gettysburg College, he spent six years in Washington, DC as an aide to U. S. Senator Joseph Lieberman and as deputy director of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation for America’s Heritage Abroad. He returned to his native Connecticut in 2001, serving for two years as a development officer at The Nature Conservancy before joining Centerbrook.
Chris Hill

Latest posts by Chris Hill (see all)

About Chris Hill

Chris is Centerbrook’s Director of Business Development. A 1994 graduate of Gettysburg College, he spent six years in Washington, DC as an aide to U. S. Senator Joseph Lieberman and as deputy director of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation for America’s Heritage Abroad. He returned to his native Connecticut in 2001, serving for two years as a development officer at The Nature Conservancy before joining Centerbrook.