Thursday, October 2, 2014

Walters Falls Water-powered Mill - Part 2

Picking up on yesterday's post, once we saw where the water in the flume from the mill pond entered the actual mill, that's when it got interesting for me.

As the miller explained how things worked, I learned a lot both about the power of water, and about how simple the machinery can be.  This picture shows the flume entering the mill, to power the turbine, but about 8 feet back up the pipe is a vertical stand pipe that functions as a pressure relief valve.  If there's any excess water backing up, it rises in that pipe rather than increasing the pressure in the flume; it's fluctuating freely up and down in that pipe all day.  At the end of the day, when the turbine is shut down, the water soars up that pipe, and often sprays out the top.  If it wasn't there, the pipe and turbine would simple explode from the pressure!

Inside I was trying to use natural light as much as possible, but it was just too dark in places.  Never-the-less this blurry picture captures the main gear from the turbine below spinning madly at 730 rpm. This simple gear transfers the water power turning the horizontal wheel to the vertical wheel, which turns all the belts in the mill and does the work.

A flash enabled me to stop the action and show you the teeth on these gears.  Believe it or not, these are all wooden teeth, each made out of hard maple, and fitted separately into the wheels.  Every morning before turning things on the miller greases these gears and tightens each tooth to be sure they're ready for the day's work.

The horizontal axle from the main gear extends some distance into the mill, and turns several wide belts that in turn run other machinery.  Most are out of sight, or behind barriers, but I was able to get a picture of this one.

There weren't many other places in the mill where you could get a picture of operating machinery.  The grain is all enclosed in augers or chutes of course, so you don't actually see it unless you're there when a truck unloads.  But this photo shows a main belt extending all the way from the floor below to the floor above, humming away as it passed through the main floor.

These controls on the bottom of the various chutes through which the milled grain is mixed and bagged are placed strategically around the main floor of the mill.

And here is the final product, bags of grain ready for shipping or pick-up.  I have a lot to learn about getting good indoor pictures like these, but I hope you enjoyed this visit to one of Ontario's last commercial operating water-powered mills.

If you're every passing through Walters Falls, you can get a small taste of this by visiting the store in the mill (where we buy our birdseed).  You have to go through a corner of the main floor of the mill to enter the store.


  1. You've done good work capturing the interior!

  2. Interesting post. It's very igneous that these people figured out how to do this so long ago. There is a grist mill at Kings Landing Historical Village that is similar to this but hasn't been in operation the past 2 years as the dam is in need of major repair.

  3. Great shots. We have no old working mills to my knowledge in this area.

  4. When looking around a similar mill in the UK I was told that the gear-wheels with separate wooden teeth are a safety feature - these teeth would simply break off if anything went wrong thereby preventing damage to the rest of the mill equipment. I tried to steady the camera by leaning against a wooden beam and realised that the whole building was vibrating with the power of the machinery.

  5. You're right, the entire building was vibrating. I asked about it, and the miller said it was safer that way, because the wood is actually flexible compared to something built out of concrete and steel.

  6. It's always fascinating to me to watch these old belt driven machines. Our neighbor had a carpentry business, and his mill shop was all belt driven. I used to go and watch it and try to figure out how everything worked. Nice pix.