Thursday, November 6, 2014

Quarry Bank Mill, England--Inside

Having seen the outdoor attractions, we headed into the main building of Quarry Bank Mill to learn the history of thread and fabric making during the Industrial Revolution. The mill was built in 1784 by Samuel Greg, a textile merchant who saw the possibilities of water-powered spinning machines in a factory. Cotton was processed at this mill and we learned quite a bit.

Weighing a cotton bale

The fibers (or fibres as the locals spell them) were twisted into threads to make yarn. One display showed how flexible fibers are much easier to twist together than more solid ones.

Fiber challenge

The mill processed fibers from a wide variety of sources, even raw cotton shipped from the United States!

Fiber producing countries

We saw demonstrations of hand-operated looms.

Weaving demo

The mill includes some hands-on opportunities for the kids which J and L enjoyed.

Mill model with light-up sections telling what went on where

L and the mill puzzle

Just about finished building the mill

Operating a crane

The equipment for turning threads into fabrics and fabrics into patterned fabrics are on display as well.

E pluribus unum, Industrial Revolution-style

Block for putting patterns on cloth

Rollers to put on patterns!

The plant manager's and other offices are left as they were in the 1800s.

A cozy office with a big safe

Taking advantage of natural light for the clerk's desk

Another desk

Some equipment

Prior to the 1800s, dentistry consisted of little more than pulling out teeth that hurt. In the 1800s scientific and technological breakthroughs made dental health care both easier and more sophisticated. By the mid-1800s, the Royal College of Surgeons was certifying professionals in the art of dentistry. The Gregs recognized the importance of providing dental care for workers (a worker with a toothache was a lot less productive) and had dental services available for their employees. Their mill was the main employer for the town so they served just about everyone locally.

Late 1800s dental chair

At the bottom level of the plant is the very impressive plant floor, with dozens of machines powered by water. Most every step of the cloth production process was made easier and quicker.

The plant floor

First sign of a water wheel--the water below

Suspiciously modern-looking equipment

Here we saw displays on how the water was diverted from a local river and the various types of water wheels used to power different mills.

L redirects river water

J works one type of wheel

Undershot, breastshot, and overshot wheels

Quarry Banks' breastshot wheel

Water wheels weren't the only technology in use. Several other items were used at the mill to do the work. By the 1900s, coal was used to power the equipment.

Sample coal engine

One of the tricks with wheel-power is to convert the circular motion into up-and-down motion. An arm on the wheel can be attached to a beam to pull a piston up and down. The only difficulty is that the piston is pulled off its vertical line, resulting in jams. James Watt added some movable joints on the piston side creating a parallelogram that shifted it shape but left the piston in a straight line. Energy could be converted either way--from circular to vertical or from vertical to circular.

Parallel motion machine on right

Another device invented by James Watt is the Governor. One of the problems with a large plant is that various machines are turned on and off at different times, so the amount of power needed fluctuates throughout the day. If the same amount of power was fed into the system when only a few machines were working, power would be wasted and the machines still in use might run at speeds higher than intended.

The Governor has two weighted balls on levers. As the engine runs, the balls spin and fly up and out. If the engine goes faster (i.e., when other machines aren't using its power), the weights go higher. The levers lift a collar that limits the amount of steam in the system, reducing the power created. Waste is eliminated!

The Governor

Governor on a wheel

The mill is a fascinating place to visit for its historical and its scientific information.

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