STEAM POWER at Upper Canada Village

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Sam Bellamy's Flour Mill at Upper Canada Village is a restoration of an 1860's water and steam powered mill.
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The miller, Roland Tetrault, attends the stones grinding oats for animal feed at the flour mill in Upper Canada Village.
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The boiler and power plant of the Sam Bellamy Flour Mill at Upper Canada Village.

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.

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