In the 1700s, families chose to settle along the banks of the South Branch of the Raritan River, a place that would become the town of Clinton. The river nourished crops and provided water power, which made the town a center for local industry.
The Mill s water wheel harnesses the power of moving water from the race. At the mouth of the race there are trash racks which stop floating logs and large debris from blocking the flow of the water. Behind the trash racks are gates that allowed the miller to control how much water is in the race. Water flows through the flume and rushes into the water box next to the wheel. A water wheel or turbine is located at the end of the flume.
The movement of the water turns the wheel, which can turn gears and run machinery. The Red Mill s breast wheel is a vertical wheel with buckets mounted around its rim. A breast wheel is struck by the water approximately halfway up its curved side. It rotates by the weight of the water as it spills into the buckets. The water wheel is connected by a horizontal shaft to the inside of the stone wall of the lower level of the mill. It activates a series of interlocking gears, which then turned shafts with attached pulleys and leather belts. This is called the power train, which powered the millstones and assorted machinery throughout the four floors
of the Mill. In 1903, a water turbine was installed in the Mill by the Tomson Brothers. A turbine functions similarly to a water wheel. However, it lies on its side, submerged in the water, instead of standing vertically. The turbine was more efficient in harnessing waterpower than the water wheel.
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- By the middle of the 1800s, old fashioned water wheels began to be replaced by more efficient turbines. These iron water wheels were smaller and lasted longer than the wooden wheels they replaced. Veins on the outer ring guided water into the turbine where it turned a central rotor before escaping downward into the tailrace.
- The rotary motion was transmitted mechanically by shafts and gears from the water wheel into every part of the Mill. The Mill s belts transmitted the power from shafts to screw conveyors and bucket elevators that moved grain from place to place and to machines that turned grain to grist.
- A water wheel captures the power of falling water, resulting in a rotary motion that can be used to power all kinds of machinery. The Mill s water wheel was originally wood. In 1965, the Museum commissioned a metal wheel by the Fitz Water Wheel Company and it was replaced by a new wheel that was designed and built by the Foster Wheeler Corporation in 1994.