Civil Engineering and You

This series of articles explores the connection between you as a young practitioner and your civil engineering profession. The inspiring and thought-provoking series is written by Ranjit Sahai, PE, F.ASCE, a principal at RAM Corporation, a consulting engineering firm specializing in traffic engineering design, stormwater facility inspections, and information technology projects. He is a member of the NCS Transportation Committee leadership team and a past president (2013-14) of the National Capital Section of ASCE. To contact him, navigate to THIS page and click Contact Form to send an email.

The novel, Calumet "K" by Samuel Merwin and Henry Webster, was published in 1901. An abridged edition of the novel, by Ranjit Sahai, PE, was published in the newsletter of the National Capital Section of ASCE (May 2020, and Oct 2020 to June 2021 issues). The eight episodes of the abridged novel have been compiled into a single PDF available at this link.

Setting the Stage

Calumet “K” inspires me to leap over seemingly unsurmountable hurdles. The novel was published in 1901. It is the story of Charlie Bannon, a construction manager, who knows what it takes to get things done in time and proceeds to do so against all odds—be it a lack of transportation, corruption, insubordination, or other unforeseen events. Charlie is the epitome of an efficacious, thinking, problem solving mind—a portrayal so rare in modern fiction.

The project

Calumet “K” is a grain elevator that must be built by the midnight of December 31, if the grain trading company that commissioned it is to avoid ruin. (The color illustration of the grain elevator above was cropped from an image on the cover of the novel republished in the 1960s.)

The location

Calumet is a small town in the southern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Ledyard, Michigan, a town North-East of Calumet and a major material supplier for the project, is a day ride away by railroad.

Historical backdrop

US Steel became the first billion-dollar corporation in 1901. Railroads are the dominant mode of surface transportation. Concrete reinforced with twisted steel reinforcing bars is gaining traction for the construction of major structures such as skyscrapers and bridges. US stock market crashes for the first time in 1901.

What’s to come

Starting with the October 2020 issue of the ASCE-NCS newsletter, the Calumet "K" Abridged Edition article series provides a front row seat, spanning several issues, to the story of the construction of Calumet “K,” and Charlie’s indomitable spirit.

About the author of the abridged edition

Ranjit, a Past President (2013–14) of ASCE-NCS, is a principal and founder of RAM Corporation, a firm serving State DOTs with a focus on traffic engineering design, stormwater facility inspections, and IT solutions for engineering workflows.