HMRC Thursday: Inside Abercrombie, 1948

Just this afternoon I found these beautiful images of students at work inside the newly completed Abercrombie Lab. There are two, obviously taken in two different rooms:

(Both images can be found at MSS 1459 CM 49 Wood Allen Collection.)

I’ve been trying to figure out their exact locations but I’ve discovered that my near total ignorance of the machines they’re using has made this impossible because I’m not sure what lab they belong in. All I can say is that based on the windows they have to be somewhere on the back side of the building. I know some of you enjoy this sort of thing so here are the plans for the first floor if you’d like to give it a go yourself. Good luck!

And as long as you’re working on this for me any information about the machinery would also be greatly appreciated.

Bonus: If you look closely you can see how the current men’s and women’s bathrooms were carved out of large locker rooms on this floor.

Extra Bonus: There is so much Abercrombie material I may have to do this quarterly.


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9 Responses to HMRC Thursday: Inside Abercrombie, 1948

  1. I can’t comment on the first picture. I have no idea what is being tested and why. In the second picture, they have been testing a wooden beam under point stress inducing bending. The beam has fractured, so it has been tested to failure.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Thanks! Are you a civil engineer?

      • My father was a civil engineer, but I am an architect. I did work in the civil engineering department at Bechtel, however, and served at the Limerick Nuclear Project in Pennsylvania as Lead Civil Field Installation Engineer, supervising a crew of 48 engineers who were supervising the “installation” of the reactor building (including the reactors) and the “generating building” where the steam from the reactors turned the turbines that turned the generators that produced the power.

  2. Philip Walters says:

    The first photo is in the Machines lab, and the equipment is electric motors and the associated controls. This is a venerable topic in electrical engineering known as Rotating Machines

  3. loki_the_bubba says:

    Lead wainscoting on all walls”

    Love that detail

  4. williamwatson says:

    I recall hearing while I was at Rice (BSEE ’83) a story about a student working long before in Abercrombie on a project that probably would have been for the Rotating Machines class. For the project, he needed three phase power, so he grabbed three of the big 00 gauge cables like those visible in the lower left of the first photo. He then took one end of a cable, and plugged it in to Phase A, grabbed a second end, and plugged it in to Phase B. When he went to connect phase C, he had four ends left, grabbed one and… it wasn’t one of the two ends of the last cable, but one of the ends of a cable with an end already plugged it. It made a big spark and popped a breaker. The breaker wasn’t at the jumper panel, nor at the power entry to Abercrombie, nor even at the edge of campus, but instead was at the substation on Blodgett, and knocked the power out for 10% of Houston.

    This story may be completely apocryphal. A right way to plug in the cables would be the two ends of a cable for phase A, then for phase B, then C. Another would be to plug in the load side of the cables first, as there would be no power to short. Plugging in two “hot” phases first, and having to keep the other ends from shorting into each other would just be asking for trouble.

    There is of course a substation on Blodgett Street, just north of US-59, at Garrott Street, just off S. Main. The story COULD have been true…

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