Erie Canal (05:29)
The Erie Canal is a 400 mile long waterway from Lake Erie to the Atlantic Ocean; New York City Mayor DeWitt Clinton took up the project in spite of challenges, employing land surveyors as engineers and men with shovels for labor. Eighty-three locks provide a passage through the 565 foot elevation change between Hudson River and Lake Erie; Baer explains how they work. The canal opened October 26th, 1825 after eight years of digging.
John A. Roebling Bridge (04:53)
John A. Roebling Bridge was the longest suspension bridge until its engineer built the span in Brooklyn sixteen years later. Baer and Paul Tenkotte explain construction and difficulties of obtaining charter during the Civil War era. German-born Roebling invented iron cables; he began work on the bridge in 1856, but war and economy halted progress; when the project was finished, he was living in New York.
Transcontinental Railroad (05:18)
American government wanted railroad passage across the nation, but could not agree on placement; Theodore Judah proposed a middle path through the Sierra Mountains. After the South ceded, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act in 1862; thousands of skilled Chinese laborers built tunnels, ledges, and bridges for the project. In 1869, the railroads linked at Promontory Summit, reducing transcontinental travel time from six months to one week.
Eads Bridge (05:34)
Lyn Joss and Baer discuss entrepreneur James Eads, the historical need for a railroad bridge spanning Mississippi River and the project's construction. Eads design utilized Roman arches, a new stronger steel and stone piers anchored to bedrock. People worried about its integrity; in 1874, fourteen locomotives crossed simultaneously and it publicly opened two days later.
Reversal of the Chicago River (04:21)
As Chicago grew to a metropolis, its river became an open sewer flowing into its drinking water source, Lake Michigan; Ellis Chesbrough proposed and built intended solutions, including a sewage system and intake crib. His concept to reverse the river's flow to divert waste to the Mississippi River included a west canal and was not popular in St Louis. April Summit, Tim Samuelson and Baer discuss the project's engineering, technology, and environmental impact.
Holland Tunnel (05:16)
Carbon monoxide fumes complicated engineering of the first underwater tunnel for cars; Clifford Holland and Ole Singstad designed two cast iron tubes laying ninety feet below the river bed, and ventilation towers changing air every 90 seconds. Angus Gillespie and Baer describe the project's technology, labor force, and dangers; the tunnel opened two years after Holland died.
Hoover Dam (05:12)
The Colorado River is powerful and dangerous; a dam was conceived to provide consistent water supply and furnish electricity. Its manufacture required 70 stories of concrete and incorporation of six construction companies; Baer, DC Jackson, and Michael Green explain engineering, building, beneficiaries and human cost of the project. After two years of constant concrete pouring, Lake Mead formed; the dam's seventeen turbines generate power for three states and transformed the Southwest.
Colorado River Aqueduct (05:04)
Southern California drinking water travels 240 miles across the desert via the Colorado River Aqueduct. William Mulholland, superintendent of Los Angeles water department, saw California as a growing state; his concerns over shortages propelled the construction from Colorado River at Lake Havasu to Lake Mathews. Jeffrey Kightlinger and Baer discuss waterway construction and components; the first drops arrived at Pasadena in 1941.
Interstate Highway System (04:45)
The United States Interstate Highway system is the largest engineering project in human history; Dwight Eisenhower felt it critical to national defense; it was civilly promoted as an economy booster. The Senate overwhelming approved the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956; three months later, the first stretch was opened in Kansas. Baer explains the construction of 41,000 miles of steel and concrete roads; he and Dan McNichol discuss its economic and landscape impacts.
Hurricane & Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (06:21)
New Orleans was founded by Sir de Bienville in 1718 and saw its first flood in one year later; past attempts to control water led to further complications. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina invaded through canals designed to drain the city; 2000 people died from the catastrophe. A storm surge dispersing, the two-mile long, 26-foot high barrier was erected; Rene Poche and Baer discuss its engineering and construction.
Credits: 10 Modern Marvels That Changed America (00:30)
Credits: 10 Modern Marvels That Changed America
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