At Work, Five Miles a Day, On a Scooter, In a Pipe?

If you asked most Americans what “traveling the hard way” was, what sort of answers would you get? Biking? Walking? Swimming? At NSHS, we have discovered another method of “traveling the hard way:” in a 48-inch pipe on a small four-wheeled scooter.

Recently, while searching for a particular obituary, NSHS historian Matt Piersol happened upon a title that was just too interesting to pass up; “From Lincoln to Ashland is Five-Mile-A-Day Task.” A photo of a man crouching in a large pipe accompanied the article, also drawing Piersol’s attention. The article was from the Lincoln Daily Star, December 17, 1954. It revealed that the man was Elmer Cole, a field inspector for the Lincoln engineering department. He was inspecting a 48-inch diameter water pipe that was being constructed between Ashland and Lincoln. Cole had to scrutinize every joint along the entire line to ensure there were no leaking points. With a joint every ten feet, Cole had to inspect more than 10,000 joints on his journey to Ashland.

Fortunately, Cole did not have to make this trip all at once. Every five miles in the unfinished pipe there was an opening where Cole was able to climb out. His goal was to inspect five miles of the 20-25 mile pipeline each day. In order to spare him the difficulty of crawling, he used a small scooter, similar to what mechanics use for sliding under cars. It would seem that field inspector is not a job for claustrophobics.

Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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