Drainspotting: The Hobby of Loving Manhole Covers

Manholes covers serve a basic purpose: preventing people from falling into underground utility pipes. They may also prevent people, animals, and trash from getting into those pipes. While manhole covers are generally pretty plain with a circular shape and unimaginative design, there are some covers around the world that are more exciting.

Ancient History

The first manhole covers, or sewer grates, were made by the ancient Romans. Back in the 1st century AD, the covers were made of stone or more specifically from lime sandstone. Today the covers may be made from cast iron, concrete, a combination of both, glass-reinforced plastic, or other composites. They are generally designed to be inexpensive, heavy, and durable. Many are designed to provide the right amount of manhole ventilation. The weight is important to keep the covers positioned correctly when exposed to a lot of traffic and to make them hard to remove by unauthorized people.

Manhole Covers

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Modern Stories

Although most manhole cover designs are pretty straightforward, there are some that are more interesting to see. In Berlin, some manhole covers serve as an unofficial description of the most popular tourist sites. Covers in Osaka, Japan have intricate designs with different colors of paint. Throughout the United States, it is possible to find manhole covers with designs that reflect on the character or history of the local community.

A New Hobby

Spotting and appreciating unique covers has become something of a hobby for enthusiasts around the world, providing another compelling reason for the covers to be very heavy. There are several books and articles available about the hobby of “drainspotting” for those who are new to the idea and would like to learn more.

The next time you’re walking down the street and happen to notice a unique design or message on a manhole cover, you may want to take a picture of it. Photographic evidence of interesting manhole covers is much easier to take with you than the heavy object itself. You may just find that this is a hobby you can enjoy wherever your free time takes you.

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