Formerly known as "Creepy-chusetts, Strange-chusetts".

Friday, May 6, 2011

Wachusett Aqueduct, Northborough

The Wachusett Aqueduct was completed in 1905 to carry water from the Wachusett Reservoir to the Sudbury Reservoir*. The majority of this 10-mile route is in underground, and a few elevated crossings are visible from us. The crossing I introduce today is on the Assabet River by Hudson Street.

*The route changed when a new water treatment plant in Marlborough was constructed in 2005.

From a distance, the overhead aqueduct looks like a bridge across the Assabet. Indeed it could have been a pedestrian bridge. But a wired fence and sign of no trespassing currently blocks from entering. If it was open to public, it would be a great trail, I thought. Because Fresh Pond reservoir in my neighborhood is very popular with hikers, runners, cyclists, and dog walkers.

The ground that covers the underground part of the aqueduct is mowed and also a no-go zone. The scenery like the below photo goes on for miles. From a map, it looks like a disused railroad converted to a greenway park.

When I first saw the Wachusett Aqueduct, it reminded me an old aqueduct bridge in Kyoto. The overhead aqueduct called "Suiro-kaku" (Waterway Structure) is in the property of Nanzen-ji temple. This late 19th century industrial structure draws many tourist, local visitors, and civil engineer students alike.

The waterway of which Suiro-kaku is part of was constructed for a canal, generating electricity, and supplying drinking water. When the aqueduct bridge was planned to cross the 13th century  temple, the public opinion was split; some thought Suiro-kaku as the modern eyesore. But today, no modern visitor regards this quaint structure as such. Many enjoy how this modern industrial structure blends into the temple in an unexpected way.  

Suiro-kaku Aqueduct in Kyoto: circa 1890

The waterway still carries water for drinking and generating electricity. When I visited the aqueduct on a sunny weekend in May, a traditional marriage ceremony was going on. A limousine was parked under the aqueduct bridge waiting for the bride and groom.

I was too shy to take pictures from close, but the bride clad in white kimono is sitting on the rear seat of the lomousine in the above picture. Since the bride wears a huge headwear, the limousine has a special flap for the extra head space. Look where the chauffeur's hands are.

The Wachusett Aqueduct is as beautiful as Suiro-kaku. What if the Wachusett Aqueduct was also utilized as a recreational use like its Kyoto counterpart?

Locate Wachusett Aqueduct @ Google Map

Restoring the Century-Old  Wachusett Aqueduct (PDF): (photos of the underground tunnel)

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