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Vulcan: The First Hundred Years

Although not the "flagship" of the Vulcan line, the "California" series pile hammers are an interesting part of the company's story, both in themselves and how they came about.

Above: James Nelson Warrington (1860-1933) was probably the most accomplished designer of pile driving equipment in the company's history, with the Warrington-Vulcan hammers, California hammers, Vulcan pile extractors, and many other designs and inventions. This photo was taken the year before his death. He was also an associate memer of the American Society of Naval Engineers.

His ill health forced him to leave Chicago and live in Los Angeles, California. It was there in 1911 that he developed the "California G" hammer (U.S. Patenbts 1,019,386 and 1,020,467) It was a major departure from the rest of the Vulcan line in that it was a closed hammer and provided downward assist for the ram. It also used the steam expansively ("compound acting"), something no production Vulcan hammer did before or since (although the single-compound hammer did on an experimental basis.)

The "G" hammer was first produced in 1922 and officially introduced into the product line two years later. A "G" hammer is shown below driving wood sheet piling in northern Indiana.

The "California G" hammer. With its 100 pound ram, it was ideal for smaller jobs. Its relatively low velocity ram focused its intended use on small pile driving. The "plumbing" on the left was for operating the hammer at the hammer itself.

The "G" hammer was discontinued in 1951. Although James Warrington had envisioned a replacement design for the line around 1930, the actual replacement by the DGH-100 hammer did not take place for many years..

As James Warrington had envisioned from the beginning, the California concept was intended to be used on larger hammers. At the right is the "California E" hammer, which was designed to run in leaders. None of the other California hammers matched the popularity of the "G." After World War II, Vulcan attempted to expand the DGH line in similar fashion with the DGH-900, but this attempt was if anything less successful than the "E."


A general arrangement of the California "F" hammer.  The sliding valve can be clearly seen.

After his brother William's death, James assumed "remote control" of the business from California. This situation was repeated in the 1960's when the executive office was relocated to Florida for basically the same reason. This tended to give the employees left behind a great deal of autonomy, which created a contentious situation when the new generation took command (this too repeated itself in the late 1970's.)

James' death ended the Warrington family's second generation's control of the business, which had spanned almost a half century. It then passed to his nephew Chester, although he was busy with other things when this happened. He returned from Washington to Chicago to assume full command in 1940.

Driven Pile Manual Volume 1a
Driven Pile Manual 1b
Driven Pile Manual 2