B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill Declared Engineering Landmark

Ames engine

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P. O. Box 303 Old Mystic, Connecticut 06372

At B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill, our ''touch of steam' is not with one of those big traction engines, but with our own stationary 15 HP center crank Ames engine. On October 29, 1994 the American Society of Mechanical Engineers dedicated a bronze plaque, noting that B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill was declared a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

The lack of many traction engines in New England was mostly because there were not many huge tracts of land to till that would require a traction engine. Even the largest farms used mostly draft animals until the advent of the powered tractor. There were many portable engines, but these were used mostly in large remote wood lots where there was no water power. As water power was plentiful in most villages, there were usually two or three water-powered saw mills. Where there was no water power, steam was the thing.

Apple cider dates back to the earliest days of English settlement in the thirteen colonies. Colonists brought seed from England to plant apple trees. Later, seedlings and whole trees were transported to the colonies by wealthier colonists who established large apple orchards. Although apples were a staple in the meager diet of early settlers, the motivation for raising apple trees was equally for the purpose of making cider. Cider was easy to make, stored well, and provided a mildly alcoholic drink for all to enjoy. Until approximately seventy years ago, cider was what is now referred to as 'hard cider.'

While the processing of apple cider has changed over the centuries, B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill continues to produce cider as it was produced over a century ago. From the earliest crude stone crushed apples to the modern automated hydraulic presses, engineers have devised more efficient means to press apples. The screw press in use at the Mill represents the peak of screw press design used before the hydraulic press became prevalent.

Although cider continued to be produced on individual farms for private use, the centrally located mill became more popular. In 1881 Mr. Benjamin F. Clyde, my grandfather, decided to produce and sell cider in Mystic, now referred to as Old Mystic. For the first few years, he pressed his apples at local mills. Eventually, he bought a press and installed it in rented space in the corner of a local saw mill. He received power for his press from the saw mill's line shaft.

In 1896, Mr. Clyde decided to expand his business by purchasing his own mill and press. Later that year, he purchased a No. 2, four screw press from the Boomer and Boschert Press Company of Syracuse, New York. From Boomer and Boschert, he also bought the required accessories: an apple grater, an apple elevator, and a cider pump. As was their practice, Boomer and Boschert also furnished the plans for the building.

 1. Large spur gear on screws.
 2. Right hand thread screw nut
 3. Left hand thread screw nut.
 4. Head socket washer.
 5. Cover for same
 6. Spur pinion sliding on upright.
 7. Yoke.
 8. Split collar on pinion.
 9. Brass washer between split collar and yolk.
10. Large bevel gear.
11. Bearing for same
12. Bevel pinion.
13. Shaft boxes.
14. Cap for same.
15. Large spur driving gear.
16. Pinion to match.
17. Medium spur gear, upper shaft.
18. Pinion to match, lower shaft.
19. Large center spur gear.
20. Long center pinion.
21. Top casting on screws.
22. Lever quadrant.
23. Double lever quadrant.
24. Lower screw washer.
25. Pulley, fast to shaft.
26. Pulley fast to long center pinion.
27. Pulley loose on shaft.
28. Bronze piano concave washer under nut.
29. Fork for shifting lower shaft.30. Yoke box.
31. Screw - right hand thread.
32. Screw - left hand thread.
33. Upper shaft.
34. Lower shaft.
35. Upright end shaft.
36. Rod for shifting lower shaft.
37. Collar on end shafts
37. Finger for shifter
38. Loop for shifter.
39. Bracket for self-shifter
40. Bell crank for self-shifter.
41. Shifter bar bracket.

From his experiences as a teamster, Mr. Clyde decided to use a 10 HP Olney and Warren center crank steam engine and boiler as the power source. Local craftsmen constructed the building, and Boomer and Boschert sent technicians to oversee the machinery installation.

The main elements of the machinery currently operating the mill are an Ames 15 HP steam engine with Gardener governor, manufactured circa 1895 1900, which drives the line shaft at 250 rpm, and a Boomer & Boschert No. 2 cider press. The press, a model which uses all steel construction, was considered the finest screw cider press ever made. In the twentieth century, the hydraulic press came into widespread use. Thus, B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill is representative of the final and finest mills using the mechanical screw press. It has four 2' x 3 threads per inch power screws capable of being driven at three different speeds. The apples, after being crushed, cut, grated or ground into what is known as 'Pomace,' are placed under the press on 4' 10' square racks with 96' square press cloths. Maximum press stroke is 48'. Maximum press capacity is approximately 1,000 bushels per day. or 3,500 gallons.

We have been active in the cider business for 113 years. We are open from the last weekend in September until the day before Thanksgiving; steam is carried around the clock.

The process of making cider is as follows: Apples are placed in the storage structure. From storage, apples are washed and transported up to the second story of the mill building, where they are dropped into the grater. The grater turns apples into pomace, which falls through a telescoping chute to the first layer of the 'cheese' on the press table. A cheese is made using slatted wooden racks, a wooden form, and press cloths. Pomace is placed on top of a press cloth within a form on the rack. When the form is filled, the corners of the press cloth are folded over the pomace, the form is removed, and a new rack is placed on top of the pomace filled cloth to repeat the step. The series of racks and pomace in the press cloths form the cheese.

After the cheese has been prepared, the table is rotated 180 degrees to place the end with the cheese under the press. Each end of the table is capable of carrying a cheese. Thus, while the first cheese is being pressed, another cheese can be laid up. This feature minimizes the down time of the press.

At Clyde's, cider is made at least once a day, but on no particular schedule. On Saturday and Sunday the mill runs about steady all day. We do make on a schedule at one and three o'clock on weekends, but usually we run almost non-stop. The mill is open every day during the season, and all are welcome to come in; if we are making then you are welcome to watch. There is no admission charged.

Remember that we are the last of the real old time cider mills in New England still run by steam. We are a business, not just something we start up a couple of times a year to entertain folks. We have no 'meet the author' days, no flower shows, no art shows, just a real honest-to-goodness old time cider mill.

Editor's Note: Additional information for this article was gathered from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' program for the October 29, 1995 dedication of B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, and is used with ASME permission. Photographs taken by Glenn Melnyk.