As soon as you enter the building, you are stunned by the enormous noise that reigns in the entire nave of the palace. There is nothing but spitting steam, shrill whistles, hammer blows, dull crashes of presses and pestles, creaking of saws. And what movement! Wheels of all sizes turn with speed, driving transmission belts, operating pistons, lifting levers, activating machines of all kinds, which grind iron, crush steel and work metals as one kneads the earth. Others dig wood, polish it, carve it; others make paper, which others take to fold it, glue it and make bags out of it. Fabrics are woven, embroidered; and all this methodically, quietly, under the watchful eye of the mechanics, who have given life to these machines, where every movement is combined, every effort regulated, every force used.
We do not pretend to review all the applications of mechanical science; let us go at random, stopping at the most curious things. One of the most interesting spectacles in this respect is the manufacture of paper, which can be seen from its starting point and which can be followed on two machines which are identical in principle, those of the Essonnes paper mill, the Darblay company, and those of Naeyer, a Belgian industrialist. On one side, in a trough, is the wood pulp, which will come out, at the other end of the machine, as paper ready to be printed.
The preparation of the pulp is very important, because the quality and thickness of the paper depend on its density;
On the other hand, each fibre must be well separated. This preparation is carried out mechanically in the trough by means of paddle stirrers that stir the watery pulp. The pulp then flows onto a sort of endless wire cloth table, rolling on a series of cylinders, which keep it on the same plane. At the point of arrival on this table, the dough passes under a brass ruler, which determines its thickness. In order to ensure that this thickness is distributed evenly over the surface of the sieve, the sieve, in addition to its longitudinal movement, is animated by a lateral to-and-fro movement. It is easy to understand that by passing over this sieve, the liquid dough already gets rid of a certain amount of water; but it still contains far too much and does not offer sufficient resistance to be left to its own devices without support. The dough will leave the sieve; still liquid, it passes under a last cylinder and appears on the other side, sufficiently coherent and consistent; in a word, in its first state of sheet.
What happened under that cylinder? This is the ingenious and curious part of these machines, the only mysterious point hidden from the public eye, which can follow all the other self-explanatory phases of the manufacture.
Under the last cylinder in question is a box, open only at the top, with leather-covered edges that rest under the metal screen. The vacuum is created in this box by the action of a powerful hoover; so that the paste arriving above is dried quickly, and lets pass through the sieve the water which it could still contain. It emerges as a fairly strong sheet, although still wet. In order to dry completely, this sheet of dough, so to speak, is drawn into a series of felt-covered cylinders, around which it is successively rolled and pressed. From there, it passes on to the
From there it passes to the dry press, which consists of a series of huge cylinders, heated internally by means of steam. The sheet of pulp has become a sheet of paper and rolls itself onto the reels, after having encountered a small circular knife on its way, which divides it into two parts, lengthwise.
The whole operation was carried out quickly and continues regularly and without interruption; barely 15 metres separate the starting point of the pulp from the point of arrival of the paper.
After having seen successively the manufacture, satinisation, glazing, moirer, embossing and regulation of paper, we immediately see an interesting type of use in the printing machines of Marinoni for the Figaro and the Petit Journal. These machines are rotary, that is to say that the newspaper is composed on a cylinder that rotates continuously and prints the paper that slides against it; admirable machines that not only print, but also count and fold the newspapers.
Le Figaro, which contains two supplements each week, has a double machine to print both issues at once. Once printed, the two sheets are joined together, the supplement is placed in the newspaper and the complete issues, folded in four, are methodically stored in a box. The print run is 20,000 copies per machine per hour. At Le Petit Journal, it is 40,000. The numbers are arranged mechanically in packs of 20, overlapping one another, by means of a small movement of the table on which they are placed. Each set of 100 is announced by a stamp and separated.
Alongside these machines, one can also see the printing and folding of deliveries of popular works, the printing of chromolithographic prints in several colours, etc.
This is an extremely curious corner of the machine gallery, which introduces the public to the rapid and marvellous development of modern printing and explains the speed of printing and the cheapness of the bookshop's publications.
Not far away, since we are in the paper industry, let's take a look at the American Leinbach machine for making bags. The paper in rolls, cut to the necessary width, is taken, folded, glued, dried and gives i5o bags per minute; each pack of 25 is announced by a bell; and this is the bag with a square bottom and folded in such a way that a little jerk, by pressing it, makes it open.
An English machine currently makes 120 sugar bags per minute, of the 1 kilogram model.
There are many woodworking machines, and we must limit ourselves to listing the main ones.
Here is one which is used for slicing and thus avoids the loss caused by sawing, which is of some importance when it is a question of expensive wood; others trace mouldings, plane, or drill holes of all shapes and sizes.
Another is used to make wood wool for packaging. Everyone knows those thin strips which, if you look closely, are cut in a regular way and have exactly the same width along the whole length.
They are removed mechanically from a board by means of small knives that move back and forth. These knives, of the width of the strip of wood to be removed, are arranged in two series of rectangular saw teeth, facing each other, but alternating and not in the same plane; i.e. the plane of the cutting edges on one side slightly protrudes from that of the opposite cutting edges. When the machine is operated in the forward movement, the first knives bite the board, and remove parallel strips leaving equal projections between them; these are removed in the return movement by the second knives. These movements are executed very quickly.
An extremely curious invention is that of the pulverising cyclone: it consists in the application of air movement to the grinding of bodies. Until now, only the primitive means, already employed by the ancients, have been used, consisting of friction between grinding wheels, crushing with cylinders and the use of the pestle; but no one had ever thought of using a force generated by the rapid movement of air.
The machine in question consists essentially of two helical beaters, which generate, by rotating in opposite directions in a spherical chamber, two vortices of extraordinary energy. The materials subjected to their action are carried along, thrown against each other with extreme destructive power, and almost instantaneously broken up into particles which are themselves reduced to a state of greater tenuity, until they become impalpable.
Iron slag, bones, lime, and other materials are pulverised in this way,
cement, gold, silver and copper ores, etc. The materials thus reduced are driven by a fan, whose suction force is regulated at will, into deposit chambers of variable dimensions and arrangements according to the nature of the body to be pulverised. This ingenious device has been operating for several years in America.
There is always a great deal of public interest in what might be called small-scale mechanics, which are used to make small everyday objects.
It is there that one sees the Harlé machine and several others similar, which make about fifteen metres of chains per hour; the brass braiding machine, with which one makes 200 m. per day of these chains.
the brass braiding machine, with which 200 m. a day of those small flexible bracelets sold by the Orientals in the Rue de Rivoli are made. Further on, hairpins, staples, bedding springs and small corkscrews are made from brass wire. One machine makes 380 pins a minute; another sorts them by size and stitches them into rows in sheets of paper. 60 medals are struck and weighed per minute, one per second! Finally, manual work was replaced everywhere by mechanical work, which saved time and effort.
All the tools used to make clothes were highly sophisticated, and the machines were specialised. They tucked, pleated, gathered, hemmed, embroidered, sewed, etc.; 500 boot buttonholes were sewn in an hour on two machines at the same time.
Hydraulic presses are used to turn hats of all kinds in one go, while other machines sew straw hats in a curious way.
Next to the manufacture of headgear, here is the manufacture of shoes. Each operation is done with a particular machine, so that the leather is followed in all its transformations until it reaches the state of boots. To give an idea of the speed with which this is achieved, we can mention the heel turning (milling) machine, with which 120 dozen pairs are obtained in ten hours.
The manufacture of artificial silk can be included in the equipment for the manufacture of fabrics. This is an ingenious device, consisting of small tubes filled with a solution of cellulose in collodion. This liquid has the property, when brought into contact with water, of solidifying
solidify and become spinnable. It is therefore passed through a small quantity of water at the upper end of each tube, from which it emerges as a thin thread, which is then spun in the open air. This very curious product gives a saving of two-thirds on the price of natural silk, but its strength is also two-thirds less.
The equipment for weaving and its various processes occupies an extremely important place. All these machines for shaping, broaching, whipping, embossing, etc., fall into a somewhat special order of mechanics which often escape the ordinary visitor, such as the Hubner combing machine, for example, which separates the short and long fibres of wool and cotton. It is incredible and it is. Electricity is itself used, as in the electric contact wick breaker which, in a weaving machine, stops the mechanism when a thread breaks.
These two machines are part of the beautiful exhibition of the Société Alsacienne, which occupies an area of about 900 m2 and offers a complete range of combing and spinning wool.
One walks, moreover, from surprise to surprise under this admirable nave. A boat arrives at a lock and cannot go any further because of the difference in water levels: the lift, exhibited by the Cockerill company, takes this boat, removes it with the water on which it floats and raises it to the desired level, and this quietly, without spilling water, without fear of falling, without shaking.
A sledge-hammer moves quickly and violently, striking with great blows, and ready to crush the body placed under it; a little pressure on a handle, and
the hammer, still with the same speed, lowers itself just enough to break the shell of a hazelnut, leaving the kernel intact.
Here are the devices of the agricultural and food industries: devices for milling and distilling, for making ice cream, bread and preserved food, right down to the humblest household instruments for cutting vegetables.
The mill of Messrs Rose Brothers is in operation with all its cleaning operations; the wheat is seen entering and the different qualities of flour are seen leaving. You can also see an amusing plate-washing machine (1,200 per hour), which brushes and agitates them in a large circular tank; a pea-shelling machine, into which 7 or 800 kilos of peas in pods are put in one hour, and which you can see shelled and sorted according to size; then, another machine for agglomerating dust and sugar waste, so as to form other pieces.
To complete the visit to the machine palace, all that remains is to cross the nave on the travelling bridges.
They are 18 metres wide, suspended at a height of 7 metres and rest on rails, supported by lattice girders, without which the shafts turn, responsible for giving movement to all the machines by means of transmission belts. Cast-iron columns, spaced at 11.2 metres apart, support the beams, which divide the nave into four lines of 300 metres in length.
These cranes provided the handling service during the construction of the palace, and during the Exhibition they are used to transport visitors from one end of the gallery to the other. Fitted with benches, they can hold about 250 people and are powered by electricity. It is one of the curiosities of the palace to see this enormous mass, driven by an invisible force, being sent to it by the electric machines established on the ground floor. Alongside the machine gallery, on the Avenue de Suffren side and the industrial sections, is the exhibition of railway equipment, which still includes a large annex on the first floor. This exhibition is particularly interesting, given the ever-increasing number of passengers. Here you can see the various means used to ensure the safety of the public and to satisfy their need for comfort on long journeys. For a long time now, people have been complaining, with good reason, about the narrowness of the compartments, and especially about the inconvenience, from various points of view, of being locked up without being able to move around in any way. With regard to the interior layout, notable progress has been made, and several of the models of carriages exhibited should certainly calm the bad mood of disgruntled travellers.
Unfortunately, it is to be feared that these new cars will take some time to replace the old equipment, which the companies will certainly want to wear out. Nevertheless, it is always consoling to think that, in the near future, comfort will no longer be completely excluded from railway compartments.
What are the improvements? First of all, more space; softer and wider seats; corridors established along the cars and even allowing two to two communication as on the Paris-Lyon-Mediterranean line. In some models, the longitudinal track allows a view to the left and right of the train; a central corridor, in the direction of the width, divides the car into two parts and serves two alternating galleries, each of which takes up half the car.
On each side, the carriages are heated by means of stoves and hot water; above the compartments, there is a lantern, fitted with movable glass frames, which increase the light and ensure ventilation. Toilets are installed at the end of the circulation corridors. The bays are equipped with padded shutters which, when raised, double the glass frames and guarantee against the cold. In addition, interior handles allow the doors to be opened and closed without having to lower the windows.
The improvements made to the 1st class carriages were even more numerous for the luxury carriages, sleeping carriages, toilet carriages, etc. The 2nd and 3rd classes are no more neglected, and it is to be hoped that the wooden benches will soon be completely abandoned.
So much for the well-being of the traveller. His safety is assured by the application of electricity to a number of signals, discs, alarm bells, etc., by the various brake systems, of which the most widely used is the Westinghouse brake.
To give an idea of the power of this device, it is sufficient to compare it with the old ones. In the old days, with the hand brake, operated by staff on top of the cars, a train travelling at a speed of 72 kilometres an hour would still travel 723 metres before stopping; with the Westinghouse air brake it travels only 231 metres.
As for the locomotives, a curious series of several types can be seen, but differing only in detail and without major transformations.
© L'Exposition Universelle de 1889 - Brincourt - 1889