Water provides the energy needed to drive the machinery at Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, but without waterwheels to capture that energy, well, all that energy would be lost. To keep things running, the park site currently is building five waterwheels by hand. What's missing, though, are some good trees. Large white oak trees, specifically, that can be fashioned into shafts for the waterwheels.
"We're eager (borderline desperate...) to find five large white oak trees," says Jonathan Parker, the site's chief of interpretation, education, and partnerships. "These trees will serve as new hubs/shafts for five of our working waterwheels in the park. The waterwheels are fundamental elements to the interpretation and enjoyment of the park, hence their necessity and the urgency of this search."
While the historic site, located in Saugus, Massachusetts, is not ready to accept the trees, it is trying to locate them in advance. The hunt has been ongoing for 10 months. While the Park Service has been working with an experienced timber company to locate suitable trees, so far none have been found. The existing waterwheels are the most popular visitor demonstrations in the park, but are rapidly aging and require replacement - some are already inoperable.
The trees -- which must be at least 34 inches in diameter and at least 28 feet long -- are the center shaft for the waterwheels. Once suitable trees are located, each will be cut, debarked, and turned on a large lathe to become shafts for an individual waterwheel. The park staff is building waterwheels of various sizes and each wheel needs a shaft that is custom-fit to the individual wheel.
If you have some trees that might be suitable, and you're willing to donate them, please email or call Chief of Maintenance Tim Thornhill at (978) 740-1671.
If you can't help with the tree search, you should put Saugus Iron Works on your to-do list for touring the National Park Service. The physical site itself dates to the 1600s, when an iron works was established on the banks of the Saugus River and launched the future of an iron and steel industry in the New World. Today you can "explore the place where European iron makers brought their special skills to a young Massachusetts colony. This nine-acre National Park includes working waterwheels, hot forges, mills, an historic 17th century home and a lush river basin."