Monday, November 30, 2009

Nevada City walking tour: Pelton wheel at George Allan's Foundry

Nevada City in California, located northwest of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is the home town of the Pelton wheel. Walking through the historical quarters of Nevada City, one can find tools and artifacts, including Pelton wheels, from the time of the mining boom displayed at various sites. One such wheel stands in front of the original brick building of Allan's Machine Shop, which was founded in 1856 and was in continuous usage as a foundry for over 110 years. The famous wheels with the double-cupped buckets, designed by Lester A. Pelton of Camptonville and Nevada City, were first manufactured here. A plaque (placed on May 11, 1994) explains:
The Pelton water wheel, first commercially manufactured here at George Allan's Foundry & Machine Works in 1879, was a major advancement in water power utilization and greatly advanced hard-rock mining. Its unique feature was a series of paired buckets, shaped like bowls of spoons and separated by a splitter, that divided the incoming water jets into two parts. By the late 1800s, Pelton wheels were providing energy to operate industrial machinery throughout the world. In 1888, Lester Pelton moved his business to San Francisco, but granted continuing manufacturing rights to Allan's Foundry, where the wheels were manufactured into the early 1900s, when most local mines shifted to electric power.

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