Monday, July 20, 2009

Sketches and links

The following links connect to historical sites, Engineering Societies and blog sites that support the engineering and historical significance of Charles Havelock Taylor's design of the Hydraulic Air Compressor.

Kootenay Plant Sketch:

There appear to be conflicting stories with regard to the Kootenay Air Plant at Ainsworth BC. In the second family account it was said to be rendered inoperable due to the lack of a spur line to the mines and that Taylor had paid back the investors from his own pocket however, I received the following email response from the Kootenay Historical Society;

Dear Mr. Hawkins,
Your message to Nelson was forwarded to us at the Kootenay Lake Archives. However, our internet server is being changed there and so I am replying from my home.
Here is the information that I have found on the Coffee Creek compressor (as we call it) found in "High Grade and Hot Springs - A History of the Ainsworth Camp" by E.L. Affleck 2001.
Page 6: "One of the most interesting early mining plants in the camp was a non-mechanical gravity air compressor, a Taylor air compressor, installed in 1897 on the north canyon wall of Coffee Creek. This device, working on a principle patented by C.H. Taylor of Montreal, compressed air by employing falling water. The plant, using flumed water from Coffee Creek, had a capacity of 5000 cubic feet of free air per minute at 85 pounds per square inch and developed 600 horsepower. The water was dropped vertically down a wood-stave pipe (existing pictures indicate metal pipe, which presumably replaced the initial wood installation) into a vertical shaft about 100 feet deep at the edge of the creek. The air was piped two to three miles to mines as far away as the "United" until about 1910. The "BC Mining Record" of September 1906 carried a detailed description of this plant. One would have anticipated a huge market for this compression device, but it was said that the process leached most of the oxygen out of the air, with the result that the oxygen-starved compressed air piped into underground passages was lethal to workers. This could account for the poor performance of the Taylor Air Compressor in the market." A photograph of the compressor on page 2 is captioned with a statement saying that the compressor collapsed in 1916. See also Page 49.

I hope that this is useful information for you. Sorry not to be able to report that it is still in use or that there are parts of it around.


Elizabeth Scarlett
Volunteer Archivist
Kootenay Lake Archives
Kootenay Lake Historical Society
Box 537
Tel: 250-353-9633
The Archives is open on Monday evenings 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. and Thursday
mornings 9:00 a.m. to Noon except holidays.

Check out our website at

The statements that "the process leached most of the oxygen out of the air" and "oxygen starved air piped into underground passages was lethal to workers" seems rather far fetched.

It is possible that toxic air was picked up through the leaching of gases within the layers of geological strata and was carried by the compressed air however, this in itself is highly unlikely due to the piping system.

The pneumatic tools used in the mining process do not extract air but rather they exhaust air. The term "oxygen starved" infers that the volume of air exhasted from the tools during each working day was greater than the volume of the mining tunnel. This is also highly unlikely.

A more likely scenario would be the cost in replacing the 1354 foot long wooden stave pipe 4 foot 6 inches in diameter, built against the side of the gorge, as well as the 110 foot high wooden tower was considered too great an expense at the time.

At this point in history it is impossible to evaluate the reasons for shutting down the plant however I must point out that this is the only system both prior to and after construction of the Kootney plant that had this problem. Cobalt produced nearly 10 times horsepower and still operated continuously up until the mid 1980's.

Original Sketches of the Victoria Mine Compressor in Copper Country Michigan

Link to the historic site:

A special thank you to the anonymous commenter who sent me this fantastic link


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