Engineering Marvels: Le Musée des Egouts, Paris, France

Social prosperity means man happy, the citizen free, the nation great.
– Les Miserables, Volume IV, Book I, Chapter IV

Since I last posted about the Wieliczka Salt Mines (and yes, I was able to spell it correctly this time without having to look it up!), I’ve had Engineering on the brain.

Europe is a great place for observing (somewhat) ancient engineering projects, because the cities have been in the same place and used the same infrastructure for centuries. For contrast, think of the infrastructure of a newly expanded US city like Phoenix – the rapidity at which thousands of miles of pipelines, pump stations, and electric/telecommunications wiring has been installed is impressive, but there is no proof of longevity of the system.

Consider this:

  • In 1870, Paris had 1.8 Million residents.
  • In 1870, Phoenix had 240 residents. Total.
  • In 2008, Paris (metro) had approx. 10.3 Million residents, doubling in size since the 1920s.
  • In 2010, Phoenix (metro) had 4.1 Million, doubling in size in 20 years.

I don’t know if you know anything about engineering of water and wastewater systems, but that is A LOT of new residents. Phoenix has pretty much been building water and sewer pipelines and treatment plants non-stop for 20 years. Everything is new and modern and computerized.

Photos of Paris Sewer Museum, Paris
This photo of Paris Sewer Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

But Paris is relatively ancient. The metro area was serving more people in 1920 than Phoenix is serving now – and that was before computers and automation and remote monitoring!

As someone who is fascinated by how civilizations supply water to their population, and avoid wallowing in their own filth, I was amazed by the ingenuity of early engineers. They didn’t have calculators to run the numbers, nor computer modeling programs, nor electronic survey equipment.

After looking around the web for miscellaneous engineering marvels, I came across a post about the Paris Sewer Museum over at tripcoop, and read some reviews on TripAdviser. While the author of the post enjoyed the informative tour, his wife skipped it and sat near a fountain on the street above. I think I’ll suggest this museum to my mom, since it is right near the Eiffel Tower. Worse comes to worst and she doesn’t want to join me, I’ll take the tour and meet up with her afterwards.

Some logistics details: It appears the museum is closed on Thursday and Friday, so I’ll need to work that into the itinerary.  The cost of admission is 4,30 euros normally, or 3,50 with a student ID. Not too expensive! (Maybe I can deduct it as a business/continuing education expense? I wish!) They are open from 11am to 5pm during the time we’ll be in town, so depending on whether I feel like I’ve been eating too much, or conversely if I don’t want to spoil my appetite, we can go just before or after lunch!

The Paris sewer even has links to the arts – made famous by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Now I’ll have to go see Les Mis when it is released in theaters on Christmas Day! I’m sure my mom will go with me to a movie musical, even if she skips out on the real thing!

Photos of Paris Sewer Museum, Paris
This photo of Paris Sewer Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

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Categories: Daydreaming, Engineering, Engineering Marvel, Paris, Planning, Technology

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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