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Simonswald Historic Mills

Simonswald Historic Mills

oil mill Simonswald

     The historic oil mill in Simonswald served as grinding mill and is now a major tourist attraction, including becoming an in-place for hosting wedding cermonies. As far as from New Zealand, couples come to exchange their wedding rings at the old Oil Mill. A number of wedding customs have emerged around the wedding ceremony, many of which have lost their original symbolic meaning in the modern world. Some elements of the Simonswald wedding ceremony symbolise the bride's departure from her father's control and entry into a new family with her husband. The Simonswald (and Western world in general) custom of the bride wearing a white wedding dress came to symbolise purity in the Victorian era. A white dress is not considered appropriate in the second or third wedding of a widow or divorcee.

     The wedding location, the mill itself, is a grinding machine designed to break solid material such as grain into smaller pieces. There are many different types of grinding mills and many types of materials processed in them.

     Historically mills were powered by hand or wind or water. A watermill is a machine constructed by connecting water wheels to a pair of millstones. Watermills were a common system for milling grain until the arrival of steam and electrical power in the last two centuries. A pair of millstones forms a mill, and it is possible to have more than one mill under the same roof, though the term watermill is commonly used to refer to the building housing the milling machinery, as well as the machinery and millstones inside. The technology behind the watermill is older than that of the windmill. The ancient Greeks used primitive water wheels, and the Romans are known to have improved the technology. They were responsible for the introduction of the watermill to many of the countries.

     The method of operation of a Simonswald watermill is: water is diverted from the river Wild-Gutach to a water wheel, along a channel known as a millrace; a gate is used to open the channel and so start the process by water flowing and the wheel turning; the water wheel is mounted vertically in the water. The millstones themselves turn at around 100 to 120 rounds per minute; they are laid on top of each other. The bottom stone, called bed, is fixed to the floor, while the top stone, called runner, is mounted on a separate spindle, driven by the main shaft. A wheel, called the stone nut, connects the runner's spindle to the main shaft; this can be removed to disconnect the stone and stop it turning, leaving the main shaft going to drive other machinery. The grain is lifted in sacks onto the sack floor at the top of the mill. The sacks are emptied into bins, and subsequently the grain falls down through a hopper to the stones on the stone floor underneath. The flow of grain is regulated by shaking it along a gently sloping trough from which it falls into a hole in the centre of the runner stone. The flour is collected as it emerges from the outer rim of the stones and it gets fed down a chute to be collected in sacks on the ground floor.

     You can also walk along the M?hlenweg (mill track); it stretched over 8 kilometers with parking lots at Kronen Mill or Historic Oil Mill, and a total elevation 2500 meters with around 3 hours walking time.

     In Simonswald, following historic mills are still intact and open to visitors:

     Historic Oil Mill (Öl Mühle)

     Built 1712

     Type Undershot Watermill

     Function Oilseed and flour mill

     Crown Mill (Kronen Mühle)

     Built 1800

     Type Overshot Watermill

     Function Flour Mill

     Swan Mill (Schwanen M?hle)

     Built 1862 (or older)

     Type Overshot Watermill

     Function Flour Mill

     Vitztinerhof Mill (M?hle)

     Built ca. 1800

     Type Overshot Watermill

     Function Flour Mill

     Wehrlehof Mill (Mühle)

     Built 1879

     Type Overshot Watermill

     Function Flour Mill

     A water wheel is a hydropower system; a system for extracting power from a flow of water. It was a widely used system in the Middle Ages, powering most industry in Europe. The most common use of the water wheel was to mill flour, where it was known as the watermill, but other uses included machining and pounding linen for use in paper.

     The wheel is mounted vertically on a horizontal axle that is used as a power take-off. Water wheels come in two basic forms - undershot and overshot.

     The overshot wheel has the water channeled to the wheel at the top and slightly to one side in the direction of rotation. The water flows into the buckets on that side of the wheel, and by doing so making it heavier than the other empty side. The weight turns the wheel, and water flows out into the tail-water when the wheel rotates enough to invert the buckets. The overshot design uses almost all of the water flow for power and does not require rapid flow. The overshot wheel is a far more powerful and efficient design, but because it required constructing a dam and a pond it is far more exepnsive to build.

     A more modern design of the undershot system combines the features of the overshot as well. In this version the water stream is dug out below the wheel, so the water has to flow against the buckets, as well as fill them and drain out as in the overshot design. Water wheels used belts to transmit power from the wheel to machinery. One wheel would usually be used to power many machines, and often even different mills. The water wheel was a long known technology but it was not put into widespread use until the European Dark Ages when an acute shortage of labour made machines such as the water wheel cost effective. The water wheel remained competitive with the steam engine well into the Industrial Revolution. The main difficulty of water wheels is their inseperability from water; this meant that mills often needed to be located far from population centres but close to water.

     Modern Hydro-electric dams can be viewed as the descendants of the water wheel as they too take advantage of the downhill movement of water.

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