World's Largest Hand-Dug Well


When Greensburg, Kansas, was established in 1884, it needed a good water supply. The Santa Fe railroad proposed building a well to supply water for its steam locomotives and construction of the Big Well began in 1887, becoming a masterpiece of pioneer engineering. In sinking the well, the stone casing (the pipe-like inner wall of the well) was lowered into the ground as keystone support. As the digging continued, the wide shaft was braced with 2-by-12-inch planks that reached from wall to wall in a wagon-wheel type support. The soil was shoveled into half barrels and the barrels hoisted to the surface. The wood braces were later sawed off.

Activity Details

Activity Type:Trips and Destinations
Discipline:Other
Topic(s):Structures
Grade:K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Time:Full day

Fun Fact:The well is 32 feet in diameter and 109 feet deep. It was created using only shovels, picks, half-barrels, pulleys, and rope.
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