Historic Thomas Kay Woolen Mill – Water Power etc.


Mill Race

In the photo on the right, the straight run of the mill race heads past the Machine Shop into the Wheel House, and would plunge twelve feet down to the turbine that powered the mill (the water gate is closed and the turbine no longer operates).  The spillway leads off to the left, passes under the Dye House, and continues on through the grounds, through Willamette University, and finally joins Pringle Creek shortly before it meets the Willamette Slough.

When I took the photo above left, I just happened to catch a male mallard duck flying right for the lens as he came in low to land. He's difficult to spot because he's so far off, but he's just above center at the top of the footbridge railing.

Wheel House

The turbine is contained in a concrete structure between the Picker House and the Scouring Room.  The turbine itself is not visible, but the outside of the concrete box and some of the water can be seen in the Scouring Room.  Above the turbine are the crown gears, which changed the direction of power from the vertical shaft of the turbine to the horizontal main drive shaft.  From there, belts and pulleys distributed power to all the machinery.

Turbine and PGE Exhibit

Another turbine is displayed on the grounds; in particular this is a 1914 Samson Leffel 45, which produced 170 horsepower / 20 kilowatts at this location.  It was enough to run the entire mill until increased production during World War II required additional power.  In a small building next to the Dye House is a PGE exhibit on water power.  Pushing a button on the scale model display will set it running for a minute; this still photo doesn’t do it justice.

Machine Shop

Whenever possible, repairs were made on-site, so one of the outbuildings contained a machine shop and forge.  The push of a button sets the bandsaw, hacksaw, and drill press running for a bit.  They’re really powered by an electric motor, but since the belts and line shaft spin as well, you get a sense of what it was like.

Queue mystery music...

These two photos just show the passage that leads past the crown gears to the Picker House.  This section of the tour feels like something out of a movie or video game.