After crossing the three central bays that form the entrance to the Cours-la-Reine, and at the end of which, by climbing a few steps, you reach the Annexe's sideboard, you enter the machinery section, which presents an aspect so different from the one we have visited. On the one hand, the products of the soil, classified systematically, all ready in some way to be worked; here the very instruments of work, all arranged to make the matter undergo the transformations of which it is susceptible, which should increase its value by appropriating it to the thousand needs of man, and favour in the civilised nations the exchanges with the less advanced countries, which supply us with the overflow of their natural productions.
A large number of machines being of considerable dimensions, it was necessary to make different arrangements for the passages in this part of the Exhibition: a large block of 13 metres wide has been reserved in the middle, to accommodate the largest machines; on each side a passage of 3.5 metres satisfies all the needs of active circulation; beyond and against the walls another space of 3.5 metres is reserved for machines at rest on one side, and on the other for carriages and other equipment. If we disregard the transverse passages, which are distributed from distance to distance, we can see that there are only two passages here, giving rise to four facades, offering a total area of only 2400 metres.
A longitudinal shaft is placed on cast iron supports, 8 metres apart, but they only exist for a length of 480 metres, sufficient for the movement to be transmitted to the machines that the exhibitors wished to operate.
Eight boilers, placed in an adjoining building, circulate steam throughout the length of this vast workshop. Their nominal power amounts to not less than 350 horsepower, and to this must be added that of three small boilers used for special machines. The steam engines of the exhibitors, distributed throughout the length of the building, make use of this steam, transmitting to the general shaft the mechanical power they receive, and this, in turn, by means of a numerous succession of pulleys, sets in motion the various operating machines which perform their work before the eyes of the visitor. Here are typographic presses that print reams of paper, there are spinning machines that work cotton, wool, linen and silk; further on there are saws, woodworking tools, machine tools that work on metal; elsewhere there are pumps that raise water and then let it fall in large sheets, or hydraulic engines that are set in motion by the action of falling water; in a word, there are all the operators of the mechanical arts, each working in his own way, sometimes slowly, sometimes with prodigious activity, according to the nature of the object that each of them must satisfy. The movement is everywhere, from the beginning to the end, the belts cross in all directions, the pulleys and flywheels turn ceaselessly, and introduce the astonished visitor to this incessant activity, which reigns in our great industrial centres.
The great competition of 1851 had given the first example of the public operation of machines: but how much more lively and varied is our great gallery of the Annexe! how much more complete it is! While England, almost alone, had given movement to its machines in London, here it is France, Belgium, Prussia, Austria, Great Britain and the United States who wanted to take advantage of the arrangements made, to take their share of the common life.
The engine house itself extends from pillar 73 to pillar 146, and France alone occupies more than half of this length, from number 73 to 114. Belgium comes next with its beautiful Fabry ventilator, its Varoquié apparatus for mines, and other interesting machines; it extends to pillar 116. Austria occupies 5 bays, up to pillar 421; Prussia, Hanover, Saxony, Bavaria, Wurtemberg have 6; here we are at 127; then 15 for England; and finally Canada, the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain which together occupy the last 4.
England and Austria are the only countries that have included their bodywork with the machines.
©Visite à l’Exposition Universelle - 1855