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Windmills - Expo Paris 1867

Windmills at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

There is everything at the Champ de Mars, even landscapes that nature has not exactly taken care of, where you can see water cascading through rocks topped by ruined towers, and where windmills turn their changing wings.

Wind is a motor that costs nothing, and is taken from the atmosphere like electricity. There is only this difference between these two natural agents, that one is docile, though unequal; while the other, though inexhaustible and constant, resists the domination of man. To store electricity as a motive force, it is necessary to spend more than it yields. The day when science will have found the way to tame this rebellious agent, steam, so costly and threatened with exhaustion, will be replaced as a motor, as it is already by compressed air in the piercing of the Alps.

The wind, as I have said, is a more docile agent. The principle which turns the wheel of a windmill is the same as that which directs a sail on the sea. The science of currents is found on the land and on the water; it must be sought in the air by mechanical aviation.

It is to this double conquest of atmospheric currents and electricity that science is now applied.

A windmill! Do not imagine these round towers perched on the heights and moving their great arms on the horizon, which the Knight of La Mancha took for giant swords. Windmills are hardly ever used today for grinding grain, for which they cannot compete with the economic power of hydraulic motors. But by changing their use, they have become all the more useful. Today, they have no other function than to raise water. They are responsible for cleaning up the submerged coastline of Holland. Along the Dutch dykes, there is an endless line of wheeled turrets, built of iron, low enough and strong enough to resist the strongest winds. They are responsible for the sanitation and fertility of almost the entire Dutch coastline.

In some parts of France, mainly in the Nivernais region, windmills are used to irrigate meadows, and their good results have made them multiply everywhere.

But it is above all in parks and gardens that their use is spreading and that their usefulness becomes apparent. They are placed at the edge of wells; and at the slightest call of the wind, and without the gardener's interference, the water rises in the watering basins.

The two windmills on display in the Champ de Mars are a fairly accurate representation of the picturesque effect that can be achieved in parks with such constructions.

The most apparent is also the most elegant. The device is also more complicated, more finished: it is a real clockwork. The motor is double. The two wheels of which it is composed are fitted with small wings or propeller sections. A double rudder forces the machine to always come to leeward. The movement is transmitted by means of bevel gears. A hinged bucket chain is used to raise the water sucked in by the device. The buckets, which are small, receive their movement from two drums, one at the top, the other at the bottom of the turret, and are wound onto these drums. The water thus raised is poured into an upper tank from which, by means of tubes and pipes, it is distributed at will and according to need.

The useful effect is of the force of a horsepower. This system, because of its very complications, lends itself to decorative motifs. Its price, moreover, 25000 francs, if I am not mistaken, makes it applicable only as an object of pleasure.

The other mill, more modest, achieves the same useful effects with fewer complications and above all less expense, which is essential for industrial popularisation. Its simplicity attracts attention: one grasps the mechanism at a glance. It can be oriented and adjusted by itself, according to the wind.

The first model of this machine was in operation on the Champs-Elysées in 1860, during the Universal Agricultural Competition, between the Palais de l'Industrie and the Seine.

Since then, 150 mills have been installed on this model in France and Europe, as well as in Africa and even in America, where they operate with remarkable success.

The great advantage of this system, I repeat, is its low cost.

The establishment of the whole mechanism does not exceed 600 francs.

The main part of the mechanism is an ordinary suction pump, as in all windmills. The end of the rod, which is a real connecting rod, is mobile around its axis of rotation, independently of the back and forth movement of the apparatus which carries the wings. This device can therefore turn according to the wind and always obey its direction. Each of the six wings of which the device is composed is equipped with an automatic steel sheet, a real spring which measures its action against the force of the wind. The canvas tilts like a sail, according to the intensity of the wind, so as to turn in the same plane of its direction, during the great hurricanes, which makes it almost impossible to damage the apparatus.

As for maintenance, it is almost non-existent: it is sufficient to grease the mechanism from time to time. In the countryside, and for agricultural use, it is sufficient to set up the engine on four posts, or inclined posts connected at the top by a platform. In parks and gardens, where more luxury is required, it is sufficient to partition the space between the four posts; and thus one has a kiosk or arbour, whose balcony is formed by the platform.

With 600 francs of expenditure as with 25,000 francs, the output of a windmill is the same; with an average wind, the force is about one horsepower. The output per hour varies from 10 to 20 cubic metres up to a height of 6 metres; - from 3 to 10 cubic metres, from 6 to 25 metres in height. At a height of 60 metres, 600 litres of water are obtained per hour.

As I have already said, windmills are not docile engines like steam engines: they do not obey the will of man, but the whim of the currents. But if industry, which needs constant and fixed-time forces, cannot accommodate the service of windmills, it is certain that agriculture can derive great advantages from these capricious but economical engines for the sanitation of submerged lands, as in Holland, for the irrigation of dry lands, as in the Nivernais, and above all for the supply of water to houses, farms, courtyards and gardens.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée