Ram Pump

status: ongoing

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A ram pump moves water uphill using only gravitational energy (no gas or electricity). They were popular devices in the US in the mid-1800s; my great-grandfather used one when he was growing up. I learned about them when I was in college and wanted to build a demonstration.

Related info:


I based my design entirely on the Clemson University site, so I relied on them to do all the calculations beforehand. I built my version out of PVC. The only difference is in the swing check valve. When buying parts, I couldn't find a swing check valve, so I bought a spring check valve and took the spring out. Because it was brass, the weight of the valve kept it open in a vertical position so it could basically act just like the swing valve.

Build Log

October 8, 2014

I got the last few pieces from the hardware store, welded and screwed everything together, and have something that looks like the diagram:

As a test, I set the ram up on a hill at my parent's farm. The inlet water was being provided by a garden hose, so the water level and pressure were a little hard to control, but I managed to get it running. It's hard to see in these pictures, but the inlet hose is at the top of the ladder and the outlet hose is way up above in the red circle. Here's a video: Test Run.

After playing with the brass valve and trying to get a rhythm going, I realized that it was too difficult for the water to close the valve (probably because it wasn't an actual swing valve). To solve this, I used a small spring (smaller than the one it came with), which made the distance the valve had to move a little shorter.

October 18, 2014

Westhampton has an annual Fall Festival and this year my grandparents (who were organizing it) asked me to bring the ram pump to show off. I set the pump up with a big tank on the inlet side, rather than a garden hose, which helped demonstrate the fact that the pump runs entirely on gravitational energy. I did notice that, because the setup was different from at the farm, I had to adjust the brass valve to open more easily. I did this by simply taking out the small spring that I had used and letting it operate entirely by gravity.

The ram was a pretty big hit and I think that people who had never heard of such a thing before were pretty impressed.