Kickapoo Drilling installs loops at the Lincoln Tomb,

We certainly hear a lot about geothermal systems being installed in new construction projects – both commercial/industrial and residential. But geothermal also can prove to be quite appropriate for historical construction as well, as is the case with the Lincoln Tomb in Springfield, Ill. An efficient environmental-control system is important, as it will serve to protect the historic interior and all its furnishings. Another bonus with the new geothermal system is the removal of a rather unattractive air-conditioning unit in an otherwise pristine setting.

Drilling operations for the project were handled by Kickapoo Drilling Co., Downs, Ill. Says Kickapoo president Jim Layten, “We took care of all the outside work for this particular project – the water supplies, the irrigations systems that had to be changed out and the 24 boreholes for the loops.”

Using a 2006 Versa-Drill rig, Layten’s crew drove 5-inch boreholes for the 1-inch loops; the boreholes went down to 220 feet, and had 1.2 grout in them. Asked about the drilling conditions encountered, Layten explains, “It was mostly all shale, with a few streaks of limestone and a few streaks of coal. We didn’t anticipate some of the hard spots, and didn’t have the proper bits on-site at first. After first using drag bits, we got some PDC bits in there, and they went right on through. Overall, it was pretty straight-forward.”

The job site itself, however, did pose a couple unique challenges. One was making sure to keep the site as clean as possible because of its stature as a national historical site – it’s the second-most-visited cemetery in the country. Layten tells of another: “We didn’t think much of it at the time when we were asked to respect the funeral processions and such. We figured, no big deal; we’ll go ahead and just shut down for a brief period of time. We soon found out that there were two and three processions a day coming through, and that became somewhat of an issue for us at the beginning. But the cemetery staff worked with us and got the processions moved to an alternate route, so we didn’t have to shut down all the time.”

And the horizontal drillers – Kickapoo subbed out that part of the operation – had a little difficulty getting into the tomb. “It was built in 1870s, and the drawings weren’t that great,” Layten explains. “There was some trouble getting under and around the footings – there were double-wall footings – so it was a challenge to get into the center of the tomb.”

The job, which took place back in November, was completed in two weeks. “I was reminded that we were drilling there on Election Day for a project honoring our 16th president,” Layten relates.

Kickapoo is on its third generation. Layten recounts: “My father started drilling in 1937. He did have to take a little bit of time off to deal with World War II. When he got back, he went out and bought a cable-tool rig to use. In 1963, we went into a partnership with a guy fairly close to here who had a rotary rig – that’s how we got into the rotary drilling business. In 1967, we bought out the partner, and it’s been us ever since. My son, Mark, and my daughter, Sarah, both work with me now, so I’m starting to look at going fishing more often. My son is doing most of the managing of the drill rigs on the water well side, and I’m kind of expanding into the geothermal side, which is growing rapidly. We started into it in 2002, but didn’t do too much of it until about three years ago. We got into the commercial side, and went after some of these larger jobs. We’re probably not quite 50 percent on the geo side, but it’s growing rapidly.”

The company runs four rigs – two Failing cable-drive rigs that do most of the water well work, and two Versa-Drill rigs that concentrate on geothermal. Kickapoo typically employs 15 people, and besides drilling, also does complete water systems. “We’re trying to get more service crews up and running on our water well side,” says Layten. “The rural water district systems are on their way, but they’re not here yet. What’s happening is the water well industry is getting older and older, and there aren’t many people coming in behind the companies that are going out of business, so our territory is expanding a little bit in that area.”

Layten looked into geotechnical work back in the 1980s, but says, “The equipment we had just didn’t fit. With the geothermal work, most of your equipment does transfer over. You find that you do need a lot more specialized equipment, and there is a bit of a learning curve, but it’s easy enough to make the transition.” Like making the transition from worms and minnows to spinnerbaits and spoons. 

About Lincoln's Tomb

Dedicated in 1874, Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Ill., is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and three of their four sons. Also on the site is the public receiving vault, constructed in 1860, and the scene of funeral services for Abraham Lincoln on May 4, 1865. In 1960, the tomb was designated a National Historic Landmark, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

The 117-foot tomb, designed by sculptor Larkin Mead, is constructed of brick sheathed with Quincy granite. The base is 72-foot square with large semi-circular projections on the north and south sides.

Interior rooms of the tomb are finished in a highly polished marble trimmed with bronze. The south entrance opens into a rotunda, where two corridors lead into the burial chamber. The rotunda and corridors contain reduced-scale reproductions of important Lincoln statues, as well as plaques with excerpts from Lincoln’s Springfield farewell speech, the Gettysburg Address, and his second inaugural address. Lincoln’s remains rest in a concrete vault 10 feet below the marble floor of the burial chamber. A massive granite cenotaph marking the gravesite is flanked by the presidential flag and flags of the states in which the Lincoln family resided. Crypts in the chamber’s south wall hold the remains of Lincoln’s wife and three of their sons.