Horse power from beginning to end!

A carriage factory produces vehicles designed to be pulled by a horse (or two), and it turns out this factory was driven by horse power, as well. The power-driven machines in this factory were in use almost 70 years before electricity could have been installed, and 50 years before gas engines would have been available. Water power might have been a possibility, but the best location was already taken. So, for Ronald Campbell, it was either horse power or no horse-drawn vehicles.

Horse “mills” were not unknown,1 although few are now remembered in the Maritimes, unlike treadmills and portable capstans which must have been quite common. Windmills and various forms of water-driven mills were also more common but these had to rely – especially before the mid-1800s – upon large, heavy systems of wooden cogs and wheels. Fortunately for the Campbells, in the decades before they set up their horse mill, mechanics had devised systems of leather belts and pulleys fixed on lineshafts to transmit and distribute power.

According to one source: “To transfer power from the waterwheel … the earliest mills used a network of rotating gears and shafting. This method tended to be slow, noisy, and jarring, with frequent breakdowns. In 1828, a master mechanic [in Lowell, Mass.] devised a leather belt and pulley system. A drive pulley…transferred power from a main shaft to smaller line shafts, and then to the machines. The use of belts and pulleys allowed for a smoother and more efficient transfer of power with fewer breakdown periods. Soon, drive pulleys and leather belting became standard in mills throughout the United States.”2

Nothing is left of the original horse mill at the Campbell Carriage Factory, but where it was set up is known, and the belt and pulley system remains in place. Also in place are the two large lathes driven by belts, a belt sander and a grinder set up to sharpen tools. Long gone are a long bench saw for milling timber, a table saw and band saw, as well as a planer of some type. So there were at least 8 different machines requiring power, and there may have been others.

It is not known how many of these machines could be used at the same time, but there is little doubt they would have saved the Campbells and the craftsmen they employed a substantial amount of time and energy otherwise required just to cut down to size and roughly shape the wood on which their trade depended.
1   Major, J. Kenneth. "Water, Wind and Animal Power." An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology.  Ed. Ian McNeil.  New York: Routledge, 1990. 260-269.  Musson, A.E. " Industrial Motive Power in the United Kingdom, 1800-1870."  The Economic History Review. Vol. 29, No. 3 (1976): 415-420.


Paul Bogaard
Adèle Hempel, Michael Doan
19-20th Century
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