Steam boiler

This mobile steam boiler, 8-10 feet long, was found underground in Enterprise where a sewer line was being worked on.

ENTERPRISE — A rare 1923 Coca-Cola bottle.

All sorts of iron and metal debris.

And a complete mobile steam boiler, 8 to 10 feet long.

These were among the things found in a sinkhole behind what is now the Land Pride building in what was apparently an old trash pit, said Paul Froelich, Enterprise superintendent.

Larry Dodson said he was digging up a collapsed sewer line early Tuesday when some “dirt fell away and the chimney popped out.” Then came the wheels. When he pulled the machine out of the hole, the front axle fell off, he said, but the steam boiler seems to be complete, under a lot of mud and rust. It was sitting upright on its wheels.

It appears to be an old-time steam-powered generator that was pulled behind a tractor.

The yoke to connect it to the tractor is there, too, Froelich said.

“It was in our way to fix a collapsed sewer line,” he said.

The boiler was buried 6 to 7 feet deep, Dodson said, maybe 3 to 4 feet from the line and on top of it.

That land used to be the site of the J.B. Ehrsam machine shop where steam engines and mill machinery were manufactured. It looks like the area might have been a low spot, like a valley, Froelich said, and was filled in with debris.

The sewer line collapsed, causing the sinkhole, Froelich said, probably because of the more than 4 inches of rain the town received Thursday and Friday. That was in addition to the excessive rain and flooding in the area this spring.

On top of that, Froelich said, a semitrailer drove over a concrete pad, further destabilizing the soil.

They’ll know more about the steam boiler once they can get it cleaned up, he said, but repairing the sewer line has priority right now.

The sewer line is buried “dangerously deep,” he said, and they are working carefully to keep the hole from collapsing on the workers.

Dodson said he thought what happens to the boiler will be up to the city of Enterprise, since he was working for the city and it is the city’s sewer line.

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