Photos &repeated posts 27 Dec 2009 09:26 am

Steam City – recap

- I was just reminiscing about the steam rising in front of the Raggedy Ann studio and how irritated it seemed to make Dick Williams. Remembering that I’d written about this already, I searched out the piece and think it worth recapping. Here it is.

- Steam is the secret energy that runs my city. There’s an article in a local paper called The Gotham Gazette which describes the system in full detail. It’s a good read, so I urge you to go there if you’re interested in further understanding the system.

Atop ground we get to see steam leaking out of sewers, see giant pipes spewing steam into the air, and read about exploding steam pipes that cause damage. (There was a recent explosion at 42nd Street near Grand Central Station. Another in Murray Hill, a couple of years back, destroyed a building and closed a city block for several weeks.)

We pass by these steampipes and stewing manhole covers without thinking about it. It’s like some primeval force out of the Rite of Spring hiding underground.
(Click any image to enlarge.)

For the times Con Edison is working on the system at specific locations, they construct barber-pole colored pipes which emit large bursts of steam into the air. That wonderful scent you get when walking into a dry cleaners often surounds these pipes.

Back when Raggedy Ann started, there was a very large construction and similar pipe steaming up the entire front of the Brill Building in which we were located. I seem to remember we were originally on the fourth floor, so any offices that faced the front of the building saw nothing more than steam flowing all day long.

Dick Williams had one such office; the conference room was another.

The steam would make a very loud SHUSSSHHH-ing sound as it flowed out. This was often accompanied by workers jackhammering their way underground.

There was a Saturday rush to complete the art for the rough animatic. Dick and Gerry Potterton and I were in the conference room for at least 8 hours madly coloring storyboard drawings with colored pencils. We had a great time laughing and joking and gossipping about everyone under the sun. I was a lowly Asst. Animator, but they treated me like an equal. It was fun, needless to say.

All day long that incessant SHUSSSHHH; all day long that steam flowing up and pass our large bank of windows. It was crazy-making.

Dick finally broke from a conversation we were having to scream out at the steam and the workers. He was sure that New York was ready to burst out and blow up underneath us. Gerry and I had a good laugh at the rant.

Obviously, not all of these pipes are striped in the Con Edison orange and white. I found
this black, short pipe.

You can see it coming out the sewer caps. Sometimes heavy, as in the left; sometimes
light, as in the right.

Often close to invisible. I had to go closer to see the steam coming out of this cap.

This truck trailer has been parked on Fifth Avenue and 8th Street for a while. Apparently Con Edison isn’t supplying all the steam needs for the city.

I found this guide to where things are underground. It gives a good, informative view of what’s flowing underneath us in this town. Maybe it will blow up someday.

One Response to “Steam City – recap”

  1. on 29 Dec 2009 at 1:58 am 1.John said …

    There was also the steam explosion about 20 years ago in the Gramercy Park area, at Third Ave. and 20th Street. Didn’t destroy any buildings, but it spewed asbestos particles into the air and all over the nearby buildings, which left them wrapped in plastic for several months afterward while the gunk from the sewer and the asbestos was cleaned off the walls.

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