Wooden water pipe fragments

Exhibit on display in the Museum of Municipal Engineering in Krakow.

Description written by Małgorzata Dunikowska

Here we see two fragments of early water pipes. The first mentions of a municipal water supply system in Krakow date back to the fourteenth century. The pipes, which appear to be wooden logs, or rather parts of tree trunks, were harvested primarily from conifer trees. The logs were hollowed out in the middle to allow the flow of water, the individual logs were joined by metal sleeves, which acted as “clamps”, forming a water line.

Wooden pipes were waterproofed by immersing them in swamps or lakes. They transported water from Rudawa river to three municipal wells, located in today’s Main Square – one was next to Krzysztofory Palace (approximately where the Historical Museum is today), the second was next to St. Mary’s Church, the third at the end of Grodzka Street.

Water was pumped into the waterworks.  The Cracow waterworks (called “rurmus”) constituted a building in which a system of machines used for sourcing and elevating water was installed. It was located outside the city walls, west of the Sławkowska Gate, close to the present Reformed Franciscans Church.

The water necessary to drive the machines and feed the waterworks was transported from Rudawa by a dammed duct. The machines were manufactured from wood, in particular oak, pine and hornbeam. Movable components were greased with suet or marrow in order to reduce frictional resistance. The water box was sealed with moss and tar and the underside was covered with sand to filter small impurities. Buckets were manufactured from copper, but it is assumed that leather buckets were originally utilized.

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