Neligh mill historical site

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Monday, 8 July 2013

We were not in a big hurry on our trip from Lincoln to what turned out to be Valentine, stopping whenever and wherever we saw something that looked interesting. The mill at Neligh was not open, but we wandered around the grounds and gave ourselves a very worthwhile tour from the outside.

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From the road, it looks like just another elevator, albeit deserted.

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We go around to the side, where the red-brick mill is visible, connected by chutes to the elevator. We also see a now-disused rail siding where, once upon a time, grain could be brought in, and flour and animal feed could be shipped out.

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Continuing on around, we see the river side of the mill.

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An old bridge spans the stream, and a flume diverts upstream water from a dam that no longer exists, through the mill wheel.

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The waterwheel is horizontal, and turns a shaft through a bevel gear to drive a horizontal shaft with a pulley onto which a long belt would once have been fitted. One of the old photos shows all of this, including the belt, in a wooden shed. Makes sense.

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One of the first interesting things is that the teeth on the horizontal gear were wooden. I suppose this would soak up misalignment that would otherwise jam, wear or break iron teeth. But who would have thought!

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Peering down into the well, we see the top of the waterwheel housing.

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The control rods would be for regulating the force of water into the wheel.

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From here, the long belt would have run up the grade to a matching wheel at the mill. We can see the outline of the erstwhile wooden shed in the different colour of the bricks around and below the centre window.

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I cannot see how the existing wheels at the mill could have engaged in this arrangement. The wooden shed must have contained substantial additional mechanism to turn the belt 90 degrees, or possibly just to transfer power from the long  belt to a much shorter belt here at the mill, for example through another bevel gear.

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I’m sorry it wasn’t open, but what we were able to see from the outside made it well worth the half hour we spent there.

20 July: PS

I sent an email asking for comments and corrections to my writeup, especially the dubious deductions about the power drive arrangement. I got the following very kind response from Harv Ofe:

Dave,

Sorry for the delay in answering your email, I’m the only fulltime employee that we have here and I got busy with a couple of projects. Due to budget restrictions, we are closed on Mondays in the summer and open Tuesday thru Sunday.

I have just a few notes about your comments on your blog. The water wheel as you refer to it is a 64” turbine housed in what is called a penstock. The belt from the penstock went through the basement wall where the piece of corrugated steel is, and connected with a pulley inside the basement of the mill. The two pulleys on the outside of the basement were put in after the mill stopped using water power and were powered by motors located just west of the pulleys.

The mill was one of the ten largest flour mills in Nebraska from 1900 to 1920 with a peak production of 98,000 lbs. of flour per day.  It operated as a flour mill until 1959 and ground up livestock feed until 1969. It produced electrical power for the town of Neligh from 1900 to 1925.

Today the mill is the only known 19th century flour mill in Nebraska to still have all of the original equipment still in place.  Hopefully you will be able to stop by some day when we are open and see the inside of the mill. Thanks for sending me your photos of the mill that you took.

Thanks,

Don “Harv” Ofe

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