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The Marvels of Manhole Covers

The Marvels of Manhole Covers  (A Guest Contribution)

Stacked Manhole Covers at Briscover Factory  in Changsha China

Sewer Covers are metal or concrete plates that cover the manholes. These days, they tend to be made from a combination of concrete and cast iron in order for them to be affordable yet sturdy. They are normally circular in shape and are removable by inserting a hook into the holes that are bored into them. These holes are called pick holes. They may also come equipped with a built in hook for ease in lifting off the cover.

Manhole Cover with Pick Holes

Sewer covers are very heavy and conceal the manholes beneath them. The manholes that dot the streets are holes, typically big enough to let men through them to carry out maintenance work in sewers and drains. The sewer covers are placed on top of these holes and prevent people on the street from falling into the manholes. Sometimes, they are locked in place to prevent unauthorized access into the drains.

 Manhole Cover being Lifted with a Triangular Handle

In places where sewer covers are present along race tracks, the sewer covers are welded into place temporarily, since the vacuum created by the speed of the car is large enough to uproot the covers from their place. Sometimes, they are welded to prevent them from being stolen, as was seen in Philadelphia in the late nineties when the prices of scrap metal rose really high.

Sewer covers are not just objects of necessity that serve the purpose of closing the manholes. Many enthusiasts look upon them as work of art, often photographing unique and eclectic designs on the sewer covers.


“KANGQIAO GREAT WALL” Manhole Cover by in China 

This has spawned an unusual activity called “drain spotting” that involves people taking photographs of different sewer covers spotted by them on the street. Some are round, some square, some rectangular while others are elliptical. Some of the sewer cover moulds have designs while others are plain with the Municipal Corporation’s name marked on them. Japan is a country with very artistic sewer covers, complete with flowers, birds or human designs in a variety of colors.

So you see, sewer covers might be something that you would not have even thought about before reading this article, despite having most certainly walked on them. The next time you are out and about, walking in your locality, stop to check the sewer covers and the patterns and lettering on them. You will soon discover that “Manhole Spotting” is a fascinating activity.

“The Marvels of Manhole Covers” was conceived and contributed by % Rock Yuan in China. Editing and publishing were done by The Manhole Artist: Bobbi Mastrangelo also known as “The Grate Lady.”

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4 replies on “The Marvels of Manhole Covers”

Dear Bobbi,
You really did a perfect job
editing and adding photos for
“The Marvels of Manhole Covers.”

I don’t want any changes for it.
I think this article is very good now.

It’s so nice working with you,too.

Best Regards,
Rock Yuan

China Hunan Common Future Arts &
Crafts Corp. Ltd.
Add.: 98 Wu Yi Road,Changsha,China
Tel: +86 731 82299625
Fax:+86 731 82288296

Hallo Bobbi,
As always, you find more interesting facts about manhole covers. You are right in seeing more than objects of necessity in them. They can also depict the history of a town, as I saw this in Germany. Thru your art, I have a totally new outlook. It is always fascinating what you come up with next.
Have a grate summer.
Gratefully yours,

Greetings Bobbi,
It was great to finally see your work and enjoy your creativity. The exhibit at the Mayor’s Gallery at Orlando City Hall showed several of your works beautifully. The works are gritty and so interesting, bringing one of the most commonplace pieces of city life to the fore. Only someone with your creative juices would ever think of man hole covers as an object of information and beauty. Kudos! So happy we went to the exhibit and keep up the good work. Martha

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