Barwon Paper Mill


Victoria's third paper mill commenced production in August 1878 at Fyansford, Geelong. This was the Barwon Paper Mill whose promoters included Captain James Volum, Andrew Volum, Silas Harding and William Francis Ducker. Andrew Millar was the engineer who oversaw the construction and equipping of the mill. The seventy-four inch papermaking machine (said to be capable of being increased to eighty-four inches) was made by Messrs. James Bertram and Sons of Edinburgh, Scotland.

On 19 March 1878 the "Geelong Advertiser" reported: "The buildings are constructed of bluestone and brick, and cover several acres of ground. At present the machinery is in process of being put together, and it is difficult, therefore, from mere description only to give an idea of the process by which the rags gathered from back slums and alleys and aggregated here will be converted into that material which at the breakfast table conveys the latest phase of the crisis, the most recent sensation from the seat of war, or a local announcement by Colledge or Pardey of the latest "sky-scraper" in patent pills.

The rag-house, however, is a prententious building, about 90 feet x 30 feet, and of considerable interior height. It is lighted by twenty-two windows, has an asphalte pavement, and is well ventilated. It is here that the pickers-up of unconsidered trifles in the shape of rags will, through their merchant, deposit what they have begged, borrowed, bought, or - well, found! The building will, if necessary, accomodate 100 women, whose business it will be to separate the woollens, cottons, and linens. When they have performed their task, their piles will be taken in trucks by a gangway to an adjoining building called the rag-cutting, willowing, and dusting house - an apartment some 70 feet long by 30 feet wide, lighted by nine windows. Here the raw material is put into a machine called the rag-cutter, bearing some resemblance to a chaff-cutter. The rags are put into a feeding box, and find their way presently to a revolving wheel, which is fitted with knives. This reduces the rags almost, if not quite, to the condition of lint. From this machine they are removed to the willower and duster, which, by means of two large drums, tosses all the dust out of the material, and cleans and separates it from foreign substances. To more effectually do this, however, the material passes thence into a self-acting apparatus, which carries it through into a large wooden house fitted with an enormous drum, within which are the most devilish contrivances that can be imagined for torturing inorganic substances. It is a cylindrical frame-work of iron netting, covered with sharp iron spikes, the latter tearing away at the rag fibre until it is reduced to a proper condition for the melting pot, every particle of dust passing away through the iron netting. An adjoining building of a similarly substantial character is the rag-boiling house. The boiler is not at present in its place, but as it lay in waiting it looked like a huge balloon just inflated. This iron pot will boil two tons of rags at a time, supplying, of course, a proportionate amount of pulp.

Under this building is a store apartment for felt and other materials used in the process of manufacture. From the rag-boiling department we get to the rag-engine house. Here one might imagine he had got into a huge bathroom, where an enterprising proprietor had exercised his ingenuity in devising new methods of bathing made easy. The apartment is 60 feet long by 44 feet wide, and contains four of what are called rag engines. To these baths the material is brought by hurleys. Each bath holds from two to three hundredweight of material, and a constant flood is kept up of clean cold water, which runs off at a certain height into a waste pipe. The motion of the machine and the constant clean water flow reduces the material, after a given time, to a fine white pulp. There are machines and machines here; for example, some are finer than others, and the material is passed from one to the other until it has arrived at the proper consistency to be taken to the machine chests of feeders in the main building. This is a noble apartment, 155 feet long by 35 feet wide, and very lofty. It is where the pulp rag is converted into paper, and the machinery is of the most costly and elaborate description. To follow the description, however, the pulp is stored at one end of this building in what are called chests, whence it is discharged by force-pipes into three huge brass strainers. These strainers are simply large troughs having brass bottoms with slits so fine that the edge of a sharp penknife cannot be inserted in them, yet through them passes away by a certain mechanical motion the water, leaving the pulp to be worked up into paper.

The remainder of the process would require to be witnessed in operation to give an intelligible account of it, and it will yet be two or three months before this will occur. Everything, however, is in readiness to commence when the remaining portion of the machinery is in gear. There are nine enormous drying cylinders, which is a larger number than are usually employed, but the result will be that the paper will be produced in a perfectly smooth state, and without what printers know as "cockling." The smoothing cylinders are of beautifully polished steel, are worked by compound pressure, heated by steam, and weigh 25 cwt. each. A great deal of brass is used in various cylinders which are ordinarily made of mahogany, but the metal has been employed in order to produce finer work, and some of these brass cylinders have cost as much as 150 each. The massive machinery, which rests on a stone foundation, is over 100 feet in length by 90 inches in width, and will produce "news" of proportionate width, and in rolls, if required, one thousand miles long. The whole of this machinery is worked by a Tangey's patent expansion engine of 20 horsepower, the steam from which is utilised in various ways until it passes away as waste water.

The finishing-house is an adjoining building of the same size as the machinery-house just referred to. The machinery here is not yet placed. It is for cutting paper into sizes - such as crowns, demys, and so on - and the appliances for the purpose are of the most perfect character. The water power for the works is derived from the Barwon River by means of a turbine wheel, made by M'Adams, of Belfast, and said to be one of the finest in the world; and the machinery connected with it is of a very massive and elaborate character. The works will probably be in operation within three months, when the Geelong district will be able to boast of possessing by a long way the largest and most complete paper mill in the southern hemisphere".

In 1888 this mill was acquired by the Victorian Paper Manufacturing Co. Ltd. whose shareholders included Henry Thomas Littlewood. In 1895 Brookes and Currie, who had acquired Ramsden's paper Mill in Melbourne, through their agent Robert George McCutcheon, acquired the Barwon Paper Mills. They then joined with James Macdougall of the Broadford Mill to form "The Australian Paper Mills Co. Ltd.", combining the mills at Melbourne, Geelong and Broadford into the one firm.

[Barwon Paper Mill]

Barwon Paper Mill Buildings, 2006


The State Library of Victoria holds a collection of glass lantern slides of photographic views of the Barwon Paper Mill. The photographs were taken by John Henry Harvey (1855-1938) and are available for viewing on their website. The following are links to a number of the pictures:

View of Barwon Paper Mill; Rag Sorting; Chopper and Dusting Machine; The Beaters; Breakers; Rag Boilers; Revolving Boilers; Bleaching Troughs; Engines; Wet End of Paper Machine (1); Wet End of Paper Machine (2); Wet End of Paper Machine (3); Paper Making Machine (1); Paper Making Machine (2); Delivery End of Paper Machine (1); Delivery End of Paper Machine (2); Glazing Callendars; Sheet Paper Cutter; Examining Sheets (1); Examining Sheets (2); Bag Making Machine.


Sources:

Amcor Archives (University of Melbourne Archives, Baillieu Library, Melbourne)

Newspapers:

Victoria"Geelong Advertiser"


© 2005-2007 Alexander Romanov-Hughes


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