STEAM POWER at Upper Canada Village

Sam Bellamy's Flour Mill

Sam Bellamy's Flour Mill at Upper Canada Village is a restoration of an 1860's water and steam powered mill.

Content Tools

108 Garfield Aue. Madison, NJ 07940

Chief Engineer J. Alden Place was comfortably seated on a block of fire-wood in the boiler house of restored Sam Bellamy's Flour Mill all the while munching on a piece of pound cake and quaffing quantities of black coffee. I had just been admitted to his sanctum sanctorum by the miller for the area containing the mill's boiler and steam engine is, for their own safety, strictly off limits to the usual tourist. Having evinced an interest in things moved by antique steam power had, however, proven to be the password for gaining admittance. It seems that the original mill was built in 1858 and was powered by a vertical shaft water turbine. There followed, in that part of Upper Canada near Ottawa, a period of logging and agricultural development that affected the area water table to the point where the hydro powered mill was annually without water from July through September.

'Very mysteriously,' intoned Chief Placehe's also fireman, wiper and water tender' at Christmas time there was a fire that gutted the mill.' So, Sam Bellamy set off for Montreal right after the conflagration in search of replacements. It is then that he came home to rebuild his flour milling business with both a water turbine and with a steam engine for the dry months.

It was a water level problem of another sort that created the basis for what is now the living museum known as Upper Canada Village depicting the period between 1784 and 1867. How it all came about can best be told by quoting from the brochure provided to visitors.

'During the 1950's, a deep sea canal, from Montreal to the Great Lakes, and a major hydro electric plant at Cornwall, were constructed. The flooding which resulted from this project inundated eight villages, thousands of acres of farm land and the battlefield of Crysler's Farm, areas first settled by United Empire Loyalists in 1784.'

As a consequence, the Province of Ontario government established the St. Lawrence Parks Commission whose charter was the preservation of this heritage. The Commission has brought together a collection of buildings and objects of cultural importance in a site situated between Highway 2 and the St. Lawrence River for a distance of four miles. There are, in addition to the working farm and allied exhibits on 200 of these acres, memorials and marina and the like in an overall development about forty miles south of Ottawa. Operations began in June, 1961, with expansion and development being continuous today.

'This development,' to quote again, ' is revealed to the visitor in two principal ways by recreating 19th century settings, including furnished houses, churches and work-places, in an appropriate historical landscape and by costumed staff performing daily tasks.'

One of the latest in a series of developments is the addition of the steam and water powered flour mill. This required 3 years of restoration effort at a cost of $1.5 million. The operating flour mill of the period was opened to the public last Victoria Day (May, 1985). Its three stones alternately powered by steam and by water are in active daily use, grinding oats and wheat mostly for animal feed used on the farm and the other demonstrations.

It all began by a reconstruction team that literally moved the old and abandoned mill that had not operated since the roller mills took over from the ancient method of closely matched rotating stones. They loaded the remnants unceremoniously into dump trucks and carted them off to the new site. Unfortunately, the steam plant was not in any condition to be restored and therefore, that part of the operation is period equipment that has been assembled for the purpose.

Let us start with the steam engine. Its manufacturer is long lost in bygone records and there are no nameplates or other identifying marks. Mr. Henry Ford had found it in a brick plant in Illinois in 1928 and had purchased it for his collection, later Greenfield Village. Arrangements were made for its purchase by the Commission and it was installed at its new home.

It is a 11' by 22' machine with an 8' diameter flywheel having a 12' face that alone weighs 2600 pounds. Experts in the field of iron castings tell us that it was cast in one piece in a sand casting operation. The engine, as with most such engines, was originally over-running. The machinery arrangement in the mill, however, necessitated rotating the eccentric 180 degrees to reverse the engine's rotation. One day, Place told me, an elderly gentleman of obvious steam experience stood for the longest time mesmerized by the running engine. Finally, he asked, 'Why is it running under?'

This beautifully restored steam engine came to Upper Canada Village via the Greenfield Village. It was a 1928 Henry Ford purchase. Manufacturer is unknown.

At the moment, the engine is governed at 82 rpm but since this is too fast for the stones it is planned to slow it to 76. This, in itself, is presenting a problem for there is nothing adjustable about the machine including the valve cut-off which is at 60% not much expansion. Pressure at the throttle is usually 100 psi. A few calculations have shown that it is capable of developing 87.5 theoretical indicated horsepower in its cast iron cylinder with its burnished brass head cover.

The power take-off to the mill is by a magnificent, specially built, leather belt running on the fly wheel. It is made up of 12' by 4' segments glued and copper riveted in a two ply lay to form a 68' by 12' by ' double rawhide laced belt.

In the present application, the steam engine is not called on to supply its full horsepower capability. Its companion water turbine is rated at 40 horsepower and is quite adequate. This is perhaps fortuitous since the boiler would be hard pressed to put out enough steam to fully supply the engine.

Here again, necessity was the mother of invention in the construction of the steam supply. A return tubular boiler with a 36' diameter shell, 105' long, and with 56-2' diameter flues was located. The bricks for the setting came from an 1860's house nearby and the boiler front with fire doors and cleanouts is of the 1890's era from an abandoned cheese factory but it rounds out the design beautifully. A few quick calculations will confirm the stated 345 square foot heating surface. Said another way, 34.5 boiler horsepower. There is an engine exhaust feed water heater made locally (6' pipe shell, 1' U-bend tube) giving feed heat at around 180 degrees so at 110 psig operation the boiler is capable of something like 1100 pounds per hour steaming rate at 100% rating. This is a natural draft setting burning wood, so forcing beyond 150% would be difficult. With the 60% cut-off, the engine's water rate is around 23 pounds per horsepower-hour so the boiler can supply some-thing like 47 indicated horsepower which is quite adequate.

The usual method of mill operation is to start the day on water power and during the morning the boiler is lighted off and steam raised to warm the cylinder and get ready for steam operation in the afternoon.

By this time in my visit, the Chief had finished his coffee and the fire was glowing in the setting preparatory to steam powered running. Not wishing to be in the way and having gotten what I hoped would be some good photographs, I took my leave of the boiler house of Sam Bellamy's Flour Mill. Walking back to the parking lot I looked out across the mighty St. Lawrence to New York State on the far shore. It occurred to me that the river is but a small segment in the world's longest unfortified border between two great nations.