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Mystery solved: cement pyramids thought to be water tower foundations

Courtesy photo. Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Department.

Mystery solved.

Last week, Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Project Manager Roy Townsend asked the community to help him solve a baffling mystery.

He was trying to find out the previous use for four cement pyramids found partially submerged in the ground while contractors were working on the Border to Border trail.

He said in an email Monday that based on numerous reports, he believes that the structures were foundations for a water tower that used to be in the area.

Included in those responding were members of the Downer Family, who purchased the land in the 1820’s from then President Andrew Jackson, and still live along this trail segment.

He also viewed a video from Nathan Dawson provided by Chelsea Grain.

He said based on responses, water was taken from Four Mile Lake and stored in the water tower, which was used by the steam engines.

“The unique part of this,” Townsend says, “is that this segment of track had a belly loading on the fly “track pan” or also known in Britain a “water trough”, which allowed steam engines to load the water without having to stop.”

This system was more efficient than stopping to pick up water, and allowed the train to carry less water and more payload, Townsend says.

So, “we believe the concrete foundations supported this water tower,” he says.

Townsend thanks the many people who assisted him with their ideas that led to solving this mystery.

And there are plans to reuse these concrete structures as for a to be determined use and we are looking at an educational opportunity in this area, too, he says.

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2 thoughts on “Mystery solved: cement pyramids thought to be water tower foundations”

  1. I would propose these be used as B2B Trail mile markers with signage about their history, like State Heritage signage.

  2. The Chelsea Area Historical Society recently were given some photos showing a train scooping up water from the track pans referred to in this article. The water sprayed out the sides as the trains scooped up the water.

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