Back in the 19th century, the need to clean sewer systems led to many trial and errors but ultimately led to methods that worked.
Some of the early sewer cleaning methods included “pills”, a bucket on wheels, or disks. The “pills” consisted of round wooden balls pushed down the system. Larger sewage systems were cleaned by a bucket on wheels or a disk being pulled through the pipe.
However when a sewer was completely clogged, a “sewer rod” would be pushed into the system. Pipe or wood extensions would be added to the front of the rod. Depending on what needed to be removed, different tools would be attached to the front end. There were different rods to remove roots, create an opening in the blockage, remove debris, scrape out grit, etc.
The Turbine sewer cleaner manufacturers claimed it was able to clean any type of stoppage no matter how difficult. The turbine cleaner was made of what they called runners and cutters. These were adjusted to fit the sewer. A hose was also attached to the machine and it would deliver water to the cutters which revolved at about the rate of an electric fan. The cutters would then cut the weeds, roots and any other growths.
To give you some perspective on sewer cleaning in the 19th century, 319 feet of a 12 inch sewer with 4 men and 16 hours of work would be equivalent to $16.
Below are some of the rod accessories that were also used to clean out sewer systems.
D- 20: Root spade was a strong tool made with a sharpened edge for cutting through the stoppages.
D-21: Root claw was a handy three pronged claw which was a necessary part of any other set of sewer rod tools.
D-22: Hinged Sand Hoe was closed when pushed into the sewer system ad opened when pulled out.
D-23: The pointed leader rod was a necessary tool for punching holes through bad stoppages for a quick release.
D-24: The root screw was used to remove a variety of larger stoppages.
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