Era of Water Power

The ERA OF WATER POWER is introduced with thsi display.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

In 1815 Springfield Armory superintendent Roswell Lee reported that fully half of the operations in the manufacture of muskets were performed on machines driven by water power. Machinery, whether powered directly from waterwheels or through line shafting connected to the machines by leather belting, brought significant improvement to the production capabilities of the Armory.

Machines eased the labor of men, but more importantly, their ability to perform repeated tasks and produce almost identical results made interchangeable parts a reality. As greater reliance was placed on machines, the cost of making a weapon was reduced and fewer skilled craftsmen were needed to do the work. Mass production was at hand.

Exhibits of workers and manufacturing in the late 18th & first half of the 19th century

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

The ERA OF WATER POWER exhibit area, cases 61, & 62
This case displays three early Springfield Armory muskets and two flintlock mechanisms.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Transition to Interchangeable Parts

Before the introduction of techniques to make completely interchangeable parts for musket locks, the mechanism had to be completed using hand filing and finishing to final fit the parts. Since a part would work only in a lock to which it was fitted each part was parked to identify the mechanism to which it belonged. You can see these marks on the back side of the lock.

U.S. Musket Model 1816 Type III Springfield Armory Flintlock .69 SPAR4654

U.S. Musket Model 1842 Percussion .69 SPAR1189

U.S. Rifle-Musket Model 1855 Type II Percussion .58 SPAR4428

Lock for Model 1795 Type III Flintlock Musket SPAR4999

Lock for Experimental Musket SPAR4992


tools in the chest
Some of the tools on view in the chest

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

The story of the Watershops

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

The Introduction of the Machine

Three separate facilities, the Upper, Middle, and Lower Watershops, were built along a nearby stream to house heavy equipment such as trip hammers, forges, and barrel rolling machinery. Eventually, these three units were combined into one facility, known as the Water Shops, which remained in service until the end of the Armory.

Watershops late 1800s
The Watershops in the late 1800's, much as it looks today, on Walnut Street about a mile south of the Hill Shops where the Museum and National Historic Site is to be found.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

The Watershops Pond
In this view taken from the other side of the Watershops, the Watershops Pond that powered the machinery is seen in thsi early 20th Century photograph from a postcard dated 1907.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Machinery in use at Springfield Armory at the start of the Civil War, 1861.
In this newspaper image, some of the machinery that mass produced the Springfield rifle musket is proudly pictured in use.

Harpers Monthly Magazine, September 1861.

A trip hammer in use about 1880
The trip hammer in this image (found in CASE 61), shown working at Springfield Armory about 1880, allowed for the mass-production of small metal parts.

King's Guide to Springfield, 1884.

The introduction of barrel rollering increased production of barrels.
Improved and innovative methods of manufacture were constantly sought at Springfield Armory. This period model of a barrel rolling machine combines several steps in making a barrel. Note the enlarged indentation in the grooves which permitted shaping the squared breech while rolling the round barrel.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Model of barrel rolling machine SPAR711

In 1810 the only tasks performed by machine on the other parts of the musket were hollow milling of tumblers and slitting screws. By 1825 this list had ex­panded, to include:

Cutting the bands and side plate

Drawing the ramrod

Welding the bands

Boring the bayonet socket and the pan

Turning the bayonet socket and the head of the side screw

Milling the breech plug, bayonet socket, guard bow, band spring, side screw, tang screw, butt plate screw, guard screw, tumbler, bridle, cock pin, and lock screws

Slitting the side screw, tang screw, butt plate screw, lock screws, guard screw, cock pin

Threading the cock pin

Drilling the barrel vent, bands, guard plate & bow, lock plate, frizzen, cock, tumbler, bridle, sear, upper jaw, cock pin, main spring, frizzen spring, and sear spring

Punching the side plate, butt plate, and the square hole in the cock

Countersinking the guard plate and butt plate

Grinding the bayonet, ramrod, bands, guard, side plate, butt plate, and lock plate

Polishing the bayonet, ramrod, bands, swivel, guard, lock plate, trigger, side plate, band spring, butt plate

Turning, boring, inletting (the lock), fitting bands, fitting butt plate of the stock.

Extracted from: FORGE OF INNOVATION: An Industrial History of The Springfield Armory, 1794-1968, Michael S. Raber, Patrick M. Malone, Robert B. Gordon, Carolyn C. Cooper (Raber Associates, South Glastonbury, CT 06073), edited by Richard Colton, 2008, Ch. 7, p. 214.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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