Thursday, April 18, 2013

Old Hidalgo Pump House

The Old Hidalgo Pump House is now a museum and yet another wing of the World Birding Center.  Originally constructed in 1915 on the Rio Grande River, visiting was a bit of deja vu for me.   Except that here the water was moved by steam not gravity.  Construction of the pump house was a huge boon to agriculture in the Valley (think Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit!) until a hurricane/flood in 1933 moved the course of the river 1/2 mile south.  A canal was quickly dug to divert water back to the intake pipes of the pump house.

Entry into the grounds is across a set of sluice gates. (Yes, hand operated!)  The old water ways are grassy (not so green) lawns now.

The Pump House is a combination of brick and tin siding.  (Feeling very much like the old Intake Powerhouse).

A self guided tour takes visitors around a catwalk on the main floor over the pumps and penstocks.

The 125 foot smoke stack is visible from several miles away.  (OK, yes I did think it was a surge tower when I first saw it, but no gravity flow here!).   

Current employees of the Water Co are featured in a short film in the museum.  I had to laugh when they mentioned the happy day that electricity replaced steam to run the pumps; how well I remember when our manual values were converted to power!  The story here is also very similar to California's Central Valley:  fertile farming land becoming urban sprawl.  I'd hate to loose those Texas Ruby Red's for another Walmart.  

(Note to travel pals:  the parking is around a very tight turn; best to find a place down on the street)


  1. OK, so I have to admit being partial to steam pumps but only because IMHO they are a lot more fun to re-build! LOL! I haven't been there, but I can understand the joy of having electric pumps vs the PITA boilers. Wish I could have toured the facility with you, Diana!

  2. LOL Sharon! I knew you would appreciate the pumps!

  3. I love the photo you got of the sluice gates and the old swimming hole. I missed that view entirely.


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