The depth to which puddle trenches have been carried, for the purpose of penetrating water-bearing strata, and reaching impenetrable ground, in some cases, has been as much as 160 ft. below the natural surface of the ground, and the expense of timbering, pumping, and excavation in such an instance can be easily imagined. This may be realized by referring to Fig. 4, giving a cross-section of the Yarrow dam, in which the bottom of the trench is there only 85 ft. below the ground surface. In the Dale Dyke dam, Fig. 2, the bottom of the trench was about 50 ft. below the ground surface.
There is one other point which should be mentioned in connection with the form of the base of the puddle trench - that instead of cutting the bottom of the trench at the sides of the valley in steps, it should be merely sloped, so that the puddle, in setting, tends to slide down each inclined plane toward the bottom of valley, thereby becoming further compressed; whereas, should the natural ground be cut in steps, the puddle in setting tends to bulge at the side of each riser, as it may be termed, and so cause fissures. It will be noticed that the slopes of these earthwork dams vary from 7 to 1 to 2 to 1.
The depths to which some puddle trenches are carried has been objected to by some engineers, and among them Sir Robert Rawlinson, as excessive and unnecessary, and, in the opinion of the latter, the same end might be obtained by going down to a depth say of 30 ft. only, and putting in a thick bed of concrete, and also carrying up the concrete at the back of the puddle trench, with a well for collecting water, and a pipe leading the same off through the back of the dam to the down stream side. An arrangement of this kind is shown in the Yarrow dam, Fig. 4.
The thickness of the puddle wall varies considerably in the different examples given in the diagrams before you, a fair average being the Row bank of the Paisley Water Works, Fig. 6; and although in instances of dams made early in the century, such as the Glencorse dam - Fig. 5 - of the Edinburgh Water Works, the puddle was of very considerable thickness, and it would appear rightly so. This practice does not seem to have been followed in many cases, as, for instance, again referring to the Dale Dyke dam, Fig. 2, where the thickness of the top was only 4 ft., with a batter of 1 in 16 downward, giving a thickness of 16 ft. at the base. For a dam 95 ft. in height this is very light, compared with that of the Vehui dam at Bombay, of which the engineer was Mr. Conybeare - Fig. 7 - where the puddle wall is 10 ft. wide at the top, with a batter downward of 1 in 8, the Bann reservoir - Fig. 8 - of Mr. Bateman's design, where the puddle is 8 ft. broad at the top, and other instances. The same dimension was adopted for the puddle wall of the Harelaw reservoir, at Paisley, by Mr. Alexander Leslie, an engineer of considerable experience in dam construction.
There appears to be a question as to what the composition of puddle should be, some advocating a considerable admixture of gravel with clay. There is no doubt that clay intended for puddle should be exposed to the weather for as long previous to use as possible, and subject to the action of the air at any rate, of sunshine if there be any, or of frost. When deposited in the trench, it should be spread in layers of not more than 6 in. in thickness, cut transversely in both directions, thoroughly watered, and worked by stamping.
The position of the puddle wall is, as a rule, in the center of the bank and vertical; but laying a thickness of puddle upon the inner or up stream slope, say 3 ft. thick, protected by a layer of gravel and pitching, has been advocated as preventing any portion of the dam from becoming saturated. There are, however, evident objections to this method, as the puddle being comparatively unprotected would be more liable to damage by vermin, such as water rats, etc.; and in case of the earthwork dam at the back settling, as would certainly be the case, unless its construction extended over a very lengthened period, the puddle would be almost certain to become fissured and leaky; in addition, the comparative amounts of puddle used in this manner, as compared with the vertical wall, would be so much increased. With the puddle wall in the position usually adopted, unequal settlement of the bank on either side is less liable to affect the puddle, being vertical.
It would be interesting to refer to the embankment of the Bann, or Lough Island Reavy reservoir, Fig. 8, designed by Mr. Bateman, now nearly fifty years ago, where a layer of peat was adopted both on the slope, 15 in. thick, and in front or on the up stream side of the puddle wall, 3 ft. thick. The object was, that should the puddle become fissured and leaky, the draught so created would carry with it particles of peat, which would choke up the cracks and so reduce the leakage that the alluvial matter would gradually settle over it and close it up. On the same diagram will be noticed curved lines, which are intended to delineate the way in which the earthwork of the embankment was made up. The layers were 3 ft. in thickness, laid in the curved layers as indicated.
It is a moot question whether, in making an earthwork embankment, dependence, as far as stanchness is concerned, should be placed upon the puddle wall alone or upon the embankments on either side, and especially upon the up-stream side in addition. Supposing the former idea prevails, then it can be of little moment as to how or of what material the bank on either side is made up - whether of earth or stone - placed in thin layers or tipped in banks of 3 ft. or 4 ft. high; but the opinion of the majority of engineers seems to be in favor of making the banks act not merely as buttresses to the puddle wall, and throwing the whole onus, as it may be termed, of stanchness upon that, but also sharing the responsibility and lessening the chances of rupture thereby. But to insure this, the material must be of the very best description for the purpose. Stones, if allowed at all - and in the author's opinion they should not be - should be small, few, and far between. Let those that are sifted out be thrown into the tail of the down stream slope. They will do no harm there, but the layers of earth must not approach 3 ft. in thickness nor 1 ft. - the maximum should be six in., and this applies also to the puddle.