Miracles of Building Will Be Accomplished at the War's Demand
First Car of Material for Powder Plant Construction Shipped to Crawford Today by Contractor's Agent
Product Necessary This Year
Advance Guard of 25 or 30 Carpenters Will Be at Work Tomorrow, and Army of Workmen to Follow.
(Special Letter to the Mail.)
January 3, 1918
Washington, Jan. 2. - For sheer size the latest undertaking of the United States government near Charleston will rank high among all the factory plants of the world. Especially is this true when it is considered that the government plant will be devoted to a single industry - that of producing smokeless powder and other war explosives.
No official notice of the Charleston project has been given out by the war department or other branches of the government concerned. Yet the main facts are known. The contract with the Thompson-Starrett company provides for completion of the whole group of explosive factories in nine months.
The ordnance bureau of the war department expects that the new factories at Crawford, as the site of the industry will probably be known, will be turning out not less than half a million pounds of smokeless powder a day before the end of the present year.
Speed is the necessity of the war situation; and all red-tape has been cut, and unlimited funds provided, to the end that the Charleston plant may contribute to the exigencies of the war at the earliest possible moment.
Materials for the construction work will be commandeered by the government if necessity should arise; and the government, it can be positively asserted, will be conscripted for the work, as soldiers are conscripted for the fighting line, if it should be necessary to do so.
The contractor who will build the Charleston plant is the same as the one who put up the cantonment buildings at Camp Union, Long Island, in miracle time. The Charleston project, however, is twice as large a task of construction.
Exactly what the nature of the arrangement between the government and the DuPont company is can not be learned officially; but it is understood that the Charleston plant will provide a permanent industry. It may not, however, be run on quite as large a scale after the war; or it may be devoted in part to other objects in which the war and navy departments are interested.
A group of factory buildings approximately three miles long and one mile wide will be built by the United States government on the site of the old Crawford farm and adjoining acreage, twelve miles west of Charleston.
Figures Stagger Belief
The other statistics of this project, which have been obtained by The Mail from authoritative sources, contain figures so large as almost to stagger belief. They are briefly given in what follows:
The actual construction of factory buildings is not expected to begin until about three months from this time. That length of time will be required for the construction of ordinary shelter for construction workmen, of whom it is planned to employ (as soon as shelter can be provided) not less than thirty thousand.
Record in Construction
No such task of quick construction was ever undertaken anywhere by any government, or private interest, according to the best information. Although three months of tremendous, feverish work will be required to erect the barracks for workmen, it is planned to complete the whole group of huge factory buildings six months later. Of course, it remains to be seen whether this plan can be realized; but the Thompson-Starrett company has given its word to the government to perform the task in the shortest possible length of time. This company built the hundreds of buildings at Camp Upton in a space of time which caused amazement among all construction experts.
The site of the new factories - or rather the town in connection with the factories, will probably be known as Crawford. It was the Crawford farm which was first chosen as part of the site.
At Work By Thanksgiving.
The government hopes by next Thanksgiving that the factories will not only be completed but that they will be turning out a capacity quantity of smokeless powder.
Other facts and figures convey an impression of this project's extent. Not only is it expected that 30,000 men will be employed in the construction, but the total cost of the project is expected to be not less than thirty millions of dollars and possibly as much as forty millions.
125,000 Cars of Material.
In putting up the building, laying roads, and otherwise preparing the place for the installation of machinery, the contractors expect to use about 125,000 freight cars of materials. The K. & M. railroad will be taxed to its utmost to handle the traffic.
Already an engine and three cars have been placed at the disposal of the contractor's advance guard who have arrived in Charleston and made a bare beginning of the project. For the shelter of the first three hundred workmen an old barn has been rented near the site. As soon as the first of the great dormitory buildings can be erected, more workmen will come on. It is impossible, of course, to bring on the whole force until shelter can be provided for them.
The town of Crawford will occupy the north side of the railroad, and the factories with their own railroad tracks, will be situated between the K. & M. main line and the Kanawha river.
Payroll of $75,000 a Day.
As soon as the whole construction force is at work the total payroll will reach upward of $75,000 per day, or about $2,250,000 per month.
Mess halls where 15,000 men can be fed at one time will be built. The commissary department is under the charge of the government and not of the building contractor.
It is declared on the best authority that the contractor will buy all the supplies needed for this vast project in the city of Charleston; so far as the needed materials be supplied here. This includes provisions and food supplies, as well as a great variety of construction materials.
There is no doubt that, if Charleston rises to the situation, the volume of local trade will be doubled or trebled within the next few months.
With the first car load of material on the site of the big government plant at Crawford today, orders were given at noon by A. G. Moulton, general superintendent of construction, for the Thompson- Starrett Co., to have twenty-five or thirty carpenters on the ground to begin work tomorrow morning.
These carpenters, it is understood, will begin the work of constructing barracks for the housing of workmen and the building of tool houses and such office room as the constructing company will need on the site of the plant.
Local Carpenters Employed.
A number of applications were received for positions from local carpenters this morning and others have begun to arrive from the small towns in this section of the state. By Monday, it is said, a large force of men will be at work and all activities looking toward the general construction work will begin to take definite form.
Another manifestation of the beginning of the erection of the huge explosive plant was the action of the Kanawha & Michigan railroad, which this morning began laying spur tracks from its line to the site of the new industry.
As soon as the buildings for taking care of the workmen have been erected work will start on the construction of large buildings in which the machinery to be used in the powder factory will be assembled and made ready for placement as the different units of the plant are built.
Barracks Are First.
The barracks and other buildings making up the industrial village will be erected on the south end of the 1,500 acre tract, the barracks to be much on the order of the army cantonment buildings. Steam or natural gas may be used to heat the buildings, it was said, this matter not having been definitely settled.
The intense interest that was awakened in the new proposition as announced Monday afternoon by The Mail has had no chance to lag for a moment since that time. Hardly had the knowledge that the plant was a government proposition pure and simple became a certainty in the minds of the people of the city until the officials, engineers and superintendents of the company holding the contract began arriving in the city and no time was lost by them in getting immediately to work.
Military and Wartime