Paper machine drives and paper machine basement

 The No. 1 and 2  paper machines at Ocean Falls were driven by steam engines, a highly unique type of drive considering that the paper machines were installed in 1916 and 1917. Again, a leftover technology from the 1800 century when the steam engine was king. Going by memory, the steam engines were Corlitz, two cylinder, compound engines. In the middle of the two cylinders, there was a huge flywheel which would drive a much smaller pulley mounted on a line shaft. The steam engines were installed in the machine room basement. These pulley drives were unique because they were rope drives. I believe the rope was a 1 1/2" diameter manila rope. The rope must have been close to half a mile long. It was very entertaining when the mill had to replace a worn-out rope. The operation would take care of nearly half of all the millwrights in the mill. The rope was so long, that the rope spool would be located in the far end of the machine room basement. The millwrights would stand in a long line throughout the basement and slowly feed the rope onto the flywheel. 


I could never have visualized that I one day would have to produce steam engine diagrams. This task was carried-out by an instrument which would plot the steam pressure in the cylinders related to piston travel. Such steam diagrams will indicate the efficiency of the steam engine and they had to be done on a regular basis. This was the only way the performance of the engines could be properly assessed. To calculate the efficiency it was necessary to  measure the area of the enclosed curve produced by this instrument. For this we used a planimeter, another instrument now belonging in museums.

The line shaft driven by the small pulley ran the full length of the machine room basement. The paper machine consisting of a wet end, presses, dryers and calenders was driven by this line shaft. Conically shaped smooth pulleys were driving flat belts which would run to the upstairs machine room  operating floor. The belts would drive shorter shafts also equipped with cone pulleys. A gear box coupled to the upstairs drive shafts would provide the final speed required of the paper machine sections. Moving the flat belt on the cone pulleys would vary the speed of each individual machine section. 

Talking about the paper machine basement brings up another memory. As mentioned earlier, it was often very difficult to start up the paper machines and everybody were worried about paper breaks in the dryer section. A break in the dryer sections would mean that a lot of paper had to hauled out by hand, very time consuming business. At the end of the paper machines there was a special final paper finishing roll stack called a calender stack. It would not take much to get a break at the calender stack. These stacks were quite temperamental. In order not to have to shut down the machine, there were large openings in the floor where the paper from the dryer section could be dropped down to the basement. Sometimes there were real problems getting the sheet through the calender stack. The last thing the paper makers wanted was to shut down the whole machine. So they kept trying and trying. The paper makers often ended up with nearly half the paper machine room basement full of nice, dry newsprint. When you walked in the basement you could not even look through the basement since the paper nearly went to the ceiling. There was a lot of equipment such as pumps running inside the big mountain of paper. I often feared that we would get a basement fire but I can not recall the mill having  a basement fire of any significance. The rejected paper would, by the way, be re pulped in pulp beaters and recycled to the machine.