Drive launched to save historic Lusk water tank
Efforts are underway to acquire and restore the 93-year-old water tank located just east of Lusk. And the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad has given the project a big boost by agreeing to contribute one-third of the cost. A letter from the railroad officials announced the offer, according to Annabelle Hoblit, organizer of the drive to save the water tank.
The C&NW donation would be sizeable, since acquisition cost has been figured at $5,000 and restoration cost at $2,000.
The water tank price tag has been set by Lusk Livestock Exchange which owns the water tank. Livestock Exchange officials also are considering a donation to the cause, Mrs. Hoblit said.
While negotiations and fund raising continue, the owners have granted Mrs. Hoblit permission to arrange for temporary repairs to keep the tank from collapsing.
Mrs. Hoblit said she has begun coordinating the work project but details havenâ€™t been finalized.
One look at the sagging redwood water tanks tells how badly it needs repair, said Mrs. Hoblit, who became concerned with the water tankâ€™s fate about five years ago. â€śIt wasnâ€™t in too bad of shape back then but it really started to fall apart lately,â€ť she said.
Without restoration, the tankâ€™s future looks dim, indeed, especially with the prospect of heavy-weight coal trains passing by at the rate of 24 trains a day by 1991.
A draft environmental impact report on the coal train project, proposed by C&NW, states the rail traffic vibration will lead to the eventual demise of the water tank.
Mrs. Hoblit said that the water tank is worth saving because itâ€™s the only one of only six left in the United States.
â€śAnd itâ€™s important to Lusk because there wasnâ€™t any Lusk until there was a railroad, she said. The water tank was built in 1886 when the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri railroad moved into eastern Wyoming. The railroad later became part of the Chicago & Northwestern.
The tank originally stood some distance to the west, near the location of DeCastro Court. A nearby windmill supplied the tank. Eventually, it was moved to its present location, where it was supplied by a well directly underneath the tank, and it continued to supply steam locomotives until the advent of diesel engines.
In its present location, the water tank was situated near the C&NW roundhouse. Eventually, James Christian bought the property, including the water tank, and converted the roundhouse to a livestock sale barn.
For a time, the water tank supplied the livestock facilities.
Since then, the tank has fallen into disrepair, but it continues to be one of Luskâ€™s best-known landmarks. And Mrs. Hoblit is fearful of the day when the tank will be no more.
She urges people to contact her to help save the water tank. Her address is P.O. Box 1396, Lusk.
From "Niobrara Historical Brevity" published by the
Niobrara Historical Society, in observance of the Lusk Centennial 1886-1986
The redwood water tank was built to furnish water for the steam engines of the Fremont Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad. It came to Lusk July 13, 1886. It was a part of the North Western Line and later became the Chicago North Western Railroad. Water was furnished from a well by a windmill.
The original site was several hundred feet west of the present location. Water came from a hand dug well and steam power. Later another well was drilled and the old one was abandoned. The tank is one of six left standing in the United States.
Niobrara County Historical Society has been in the process of preserving the tank for several years (15). We were assisted by Chicago North Western Railroad, Town of Lusk, and contributions by others too numerous to mention.
Dedication of the tank will be held on July 15th at 1:30.
From Stagecoach Museum Archives
The site of the Lusk Water Tower is near the east boundary of the town of Lusk, which is located in Niobrara County. Originally, the water tower was built in the center of Lusk near the depot. The water tower was moved to this location in 1919 when the depot was rebuilt in the center of Lusk. The Lusk Water Tower is now directly to the north of the Chicago and North Western Rail Line. The water tower is enclosed by a chain link fence on a site less than 1/4 acre in size. Immediately surrounding the site is a rail line to the south, pasture land to the west and east, and a residential rural subdivision to the north. Beyond the pasture to the east of the water tower is a roundhouse that was constructed by the C&NW Railroad and is now used as a livestock sale barn. The move has little effect on the historic integrity of the structure, as its new setting is clearly associated with the rail line and reflects the continued development of the railroad and its functions.
The structure is a round water tank approximately 25 feet in diameter and approximately 25 feet high, supported by a wooden column structure that is approximately 25 feet high. The tank rests on 12 wooden floor joists, approximately 12 inches deep and 6 inches wide spaced at approximately 2 feet on center. These joists are supported by five large wooden beams, approximately 13 inches square, which span five rows of wooden columns. These wooden columns are approximately 13 inches square by 20-25 feet tall. Each column is supported on a concrete pedestal approximately 2 feet by 2 feet in plan and approximately 12 inches above grade. There are two columns each on the two outside rows and four columns in each of the interior three rows. These columns are cross braced with wooden diagonals, approximately 4 inches wide by 10 inches deep. In the center is the standpipe which is enclosed by a wooden structure approximately 6 feet square. Type of wood is presumed to be Douglas fir.
The floor of the tank is assumed to be tongue and groove. The outside walls are composed of vertical redwood staves, appproximately 4 inches in thickness and in varying widths of 4 to 12 inches. The height is approximately 25 feet. The staves are held together in the same manner that a wooden barrel is constructed; i.e. with 13 metal bands around the outside circumference of the tank - at approximately 18 inches on center. When water is placed within the tank, the redwood staves swell and become tightly sealed to each other, preventing leakage. When the tank is empty these wooden staves dry and contract. The metal bands serve two purposes: to provide external support when the tank is full and to hold the staves in place when the tank is dry. The metal bands can be tightened in order to maintain the integrity of the tank.
Inside the rectangular central core there are two cast iron pipes, one that is approximately 6 inches in diameter, and the other is 12 inches. It is likely that water was pumped from the well up into the tower through the 6-inch pipe; and the 12-inch pipe, which has a valve, was used to fill the steam engine boilers. This pipe went to an overhead supply system next to the track which swung over the train when filling. Many layers of wood were used in the core walls to create some insulation so that freezing of the water in the pipes would be less likely. There is an access port on the north side where the water valve could be turned on. The pumps were powered by a windmill. The entire core stands on a concrete base.
The conical-shaped roof is topped by an ornamental finial at its peak. Wooden rafters and undersheeting provide support for sawn wood shingles. Access to the roof is by a metal ladder which extends from the ground to the roof. A sign on its southeast elevation reads, "Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad 1886-1986" with a drawing of a steam locomotive.
A photograph and more information on the Lusk Water Tower can be found on the website for the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office