• Pawtucket canal with boat tour full of visitors with trolley in the background.

    Lowell

    National Historical Park Massachusetts

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  • Credit Card payments for interpretive fees.

    Beginning September 9, due to the federal government's fiscal year close out, only cash or check payments can be accepted for fees at the Boott Mills, canal boat tours, and for Interagency Passes. Credit cards will be accepted again on October 1, 2014. More »

  • Lowell NHP Superintendents Compendium update.

    The Superintendents Compendium has been updated in regard to the use of unmanned aircraft in national park areas. More »

Mill Power Drives

Next: Power Looms
 
Belt driven power looms

Line shafts provided motive power to the looms Lowell's mills.

National Park Service

Once a wheel or turbine had harnessed the waters power, the mill engineer had to transfer the power throughout the mill to hundreds of machines. British and early American mills ran a vertical shaft off the main drive shaft, then transferred the power by gears to overhead shafts on each floor. Because it was difficult to get precisely machined gears, American mills were rough and noisy and had to be run at slow speeds. A few small mills used belting, but it wasn't until Paul Moody used belting in the Appleton Mills in 1828 that it was seriously considered as an alternative to shafting. Leather belts transferred power directly to the horizontal shafts on each floor. Belts allowed faster speeds and were quieter and less jarring than shafting. Belting was also much lighter, easier to maintain, and more forgiving of imprecise mill construction. By mid-century, belting had become a distinguishing characteristic of American mills.

Source: Lowell National Historical Park Handbook 140

 
Next: Power Looms

Did You Know?

Francis Gate/Guard Locks, Lowell, MA

There are 5.6 miles of canals at Lowell National Historical Park. The canals channeled the Merrimack River's 32 foot drop to Lowell's mills providing power for the mill machinery.