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Our Yard History: Unsung Heroes of Public Works Maintenance

20 January 2023

From Marcus Robbins, Norfolk Naval Shipyard

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Unsung heroes; the men of Public Works past are whom we honor. Those men who kept our facilities functioning within this complex performance of basic shipyard facility support are the true backstage hands that the waterfront audience never really saw yet for brief public appearances such as a road closure for a utility or railroad track repair.

 Imagine having to take your horse and cart or perhaps an early Model T work truck on a detour to find another way around such a road closure repair that is featured in these images from November 1914 - about 108 years ago.

Facility work is somewhat like an unbroken circle of repair, upgrade and continued modernization in order to support this shipyard. When digging it is always important to attempt to combine all known repair work elements to get the job accomplished once and that is apparent within this series of images.

These various images show McKeever Avenue, the major north-south passage looking to the north with portions of Buildings 33, 32, 60, 65, 17, 16, 15, 14 and Quarters A in the views. I always say that "historic photos are a window upon our past." When you compare the historic Gosport District of the 19th Century to the 21st Century of today, well not much has changed with our building layout. These 1840s to 1900 structures were built to last and stand as a testament to prior Public Works craftsmen’s resilient construction techniques.

Building 60 was our original power plant and provided heat to the nearby buildings in the northern end of the shipyard. Heating was conveyed not with steam at that time but by hot water circulating pipes that eventually supplied individual radiators within various work spaces that then drained the cold-water condensate back to the power plant so the process could continue. Well, pipes by their very nature need maintenance and true to form most times these pipes are found underneath something else, in this case railroad tracks.

Railroad tracks and their ability to convey materials was and still is an essential element of support for this shipyard. Railroad repair work has always been labor intensive yet it must be done right and precise. With many miles of rail upon this shipyard it is truly a never-ending source of work and detours.

The men's names that preformed the pipe and rail work shown in these images are lost to time now but they were members of our local families several generations prior. They came to work in service to our navy yard in order to serve their country. They were not afraid of hard work because that in itself is honorable and the wage they received in turn supported their families.

These men of Public Works contributed their service by lending the strength of their hands and their backs while preforming extreme physical labor so that the industrial machine of this shipyard could continue to serve the waterfront support mission without fail.

 

News from Around CNRMA

Our Yard History: Unsung Heroes of Public Works Maintenance

20 January 2023

From Marcus Robbins, Norfolk Naval Shipyard

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Unsung heroes; the men of Public Works past are whom we honor. Those men who kept our facilities functioning within this complex performance of basic shipyard facility support are the true backstage hands that the waterfront audience never really saw yet for brief public appearances such as a road closure for a utility or railroad track repair.

 Imagine having to take your horse and cart or perhaps an early Model T work truck on a detour to find another way around such a road closure repair that is featured in these images from November 1914 - about 108 years ago.

Facility work is somewhat like an unbroken circle of repair, upgrade and continued modernization in order to support this shipyard. When digging it is always important to attempt to combine all known repair work elements to get the job accomplished once and that is apparent within this series of images.

These various images show McKeever Avenue, the major north-south passage looking to the north with portions of Buildings 33, 32, 60, 65, 17, 16, 15, 14 and Quarters A in the views. I always say that "historic photos are a window upon our past." When you compare the historic Gosport District of the 19th Century to the 21st Century of today, well not much has changed with our building layout. These 1840s to 1900 structures were built to last and stand as a testament to prior Public Works craftsmen’s resilient construction techniques.

Building 60 was our original power plant and provided heat to the nearby buildings in the northern end of the shipyard. Heating was conveyed not with steam at that time but by hot water circulating pipes that eventually supplied individual radiators within various work spaces that then drained the cold-water condensate back to the power plant so the process could continue. Well, pipes by their very nature need maintenance and true to form most times these pipes are found underneath something else, in this case railroad tracks.

Railroad tracks and their ability to convey materials was and still is an essential element of support for this shipyard. Railroad repair work has always been labor intensive yet it must be done right and precise. With many miles of rail upon this shipyard it is truly a never-ending source of work and detours.

The men's names that preformed the pipe and rail work shown in these images are lost to time now but they were members of our local families several generations prior. They came to work in service to our navy yard in order to serve their country. They were not afraid of hard work because that in itself is honorable and the wage they received in turn supported their families.

These men of Public Works contributed their service by lending the strength of their hands and their backs while preforming extreme physical labor so that the industrial machine of this shipyard could continue to serve the waterfront support mission without fail.

 

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