Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology

Cholera outbreak prompts Hamilton to build waterworks system.

As you drive east on the QEW past Hamilton you may have noticed a sign along the way that reads “Museum of Steam and Technology, next exit”.  

Curiosity got the best of me, here’s my daytrip to Hamilton to see this museum, it was worth it. The guides are amazing. Ask questions, they have the answers. 

The 160-year-old site is the only intact mid 19th century waterworks site surviving in North America.  You will see the pump house and how it used steam pressure to move up to 2,650,000 gallons of water per day from Lake Ontario, to the open surface Barton Reservoir at almost 200 feet above Lake Ontario, then distribute water throughout the city of Hamilton. 

  • 1860 the pump station was placed into operation.
  • 1929 the pumps were stopped and repurposed as standby pumps.
  • 1938 the pumps ran for the last time.

It all starts at the lake.
A large 1,500,000 cubic foot sand basin was at the edge of Lake Ontario and served as a sand filter. A 1920-foot-long, 33-inch diameter wooden pipe carried the water on a downward free flowing slope from the basin to the pumping station. 

The stone engine house was built around the two 70-ton engines. The structure consists of three floors plus a basement. The interior of the pump house is of the Italian renaissance in design and retains its original machinery, floors, and balustrades. 

The two fore and aft compound condensing beam engines. Each engine was rated at 100 horsepower with a high and a low-pressure cylinder. Two walking beams are positioned high near the roof of the pump house. Each beam, 30 feet long and weighing 14 tons, transmitted the power from the steam engines to the pumps below by large connecting rods which resemble ornately carved pillars. The stroke of the connecting rods are approximately 6 feet. drove the two 24-foot diameter flywheels, each weighing 22 tons. 


The 150-foot chimney is built of brick and for many years was the tallest structure on the Hamilton skyline.


170 fire hydrants had been installed throughout the city thus providing a significant reduction in fires ravaging through multiple structures at a time. 

 As a symbol of Hamilton’s new waterworks system, the fountain in Gore Park was built to show off their new and never-ending safe water supply. 

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