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Water Powered Organs - A story from Paul Carey, personal friend, organ builder and owner of Carey Organ Co., Troy, NY.

Water power for pumping organs was had via a simple piston chamber.   There were two in-line valves activated via weighted arms.  The outer valve controlled the on/off from the city water main.   The second valve operated the "trim" somewhat akin to turning the water faucet down.

The first valve arm was connected via chain to an escutcheon w/miniature crank on the organ case; ergo ON/OFF.

The second valve was connected to the reservoir top.   As the top lifted with the wind pushed into it, the second valve began to gradually shut off the water.   The cylinder filled with maybe 1 to 2 quarts of water that emptied into city waste with each stroke.

I had correspondence w/a builder from England and asked what the effect was and whether or not it was noisy.   He related a very smooth and quiet operation.   This piston engine was still going strong about 10 years ago.

Somewhere in the past I read where in a certain section of NYC a person could not take a bath on Sunday mornings.   All the organs were playing and the pressure dropped.   That is a "hoot" to hear.   Anyway, there are several of these engines available to us and one of these days we will have one restored by Ross Valve on Oakwood Ave and install it in the shop to power a 'Vocalion' we have in the studio.

I hope this clarifies your thoughts about the wooden barrell under the choir stairs at St. Joseph's in Troy, NY.

I inquired if their organ had been 'water powered' at one time.

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Last modified by Carl Zimmerman:  2-Feb-2014
Last modified by Joe Connors:  11/20/12