Monday, July 20, 2009

From Whence He Came

This site is devoted to the inventive genius of Mr. Charles Havelock Taylor. The information contained in this historic account is taken from engineering journals, family photo albums and the personal memoires of two families.

Born in Chatham New Brunswick January 20, 1859, Charles was the eighth child and first born son of Mary (Palmer) Taylor born 1820, died 1906 and Charles Taylor born 1817, died 19??. (left)

The Taylors were one of the pioneer families from England, who first settled in New York State in 1710. During the American Revolution the family joined many other United Empire Loyalists and moved north to New Brunswick.

His Father, pictured above with wife Mary, was a saw-mill contractor. Charles' stay in the Chatham area was short as when his father completed the building of a mill, the family moved on to the next location. The constant moving affected his schooling although it is known that during his boyhood he attended school in Matapedia, a small logging settlement, which is on the border of New Brunswick and Quebec, and at Kedgwick near by. (photo at right is a family gathering in New Brunswick).

At the age of 12 Charles' family moved to Levis Quebec a sleepy little village overlooking the picturesque "Old" City of Quebec. To attend school he had to cross the river. Winter was the only time when the river could be safely traversed. As a result the school year was short and his formal education terminated at spring break-up. He acheived the level of 6th grade before he was forced to quit for good.

In 1876 his family moved to Montreal. It is here that that he embarked upon a career that would lead to great feats of engineering. His father won a contract to construct a section of the Lachine Canal.

Being a self-educated man and possessing strong analitical skills Charles began his work career with his father. It was not long before Taylor's entrepreneurial skills and ingenuity came to the forefront. He contracted for the task of pumping water out of excavation sites while work on the canal proceeded. Up until this time only steam driven pumps were used for this type of work but for Taylor and his creative mind there had to be a better way. He struck upon the novel idea of siphoning off the water. He offered to do the work for a mere 20 dollars a day, much below cost of the steam pump used at the time. His method was absurdly simple and Charles was able to sit back and reap the benefits of his idea. Twenty dollars a day was a lot of money at a time when the economy of the country had fallen on hard times. He generously used his new found wealth to help his father and the family.

Acknowledgements: Richard Hillary (grandson of CH. Taylor) as well as Roy and Charles (Bud) Taylor (sons of CH Taylor) .

The First Family

In 1880 Charles, while living in Montreal, met and married Helen Maria Pye (born 1866; died 1929). Helen bore Charles (seated) three children Eva born 1883; died 1962 (wearing hat) Arthur Havelock born 1894; died 1964 and Helen born 189?; died 1921.
In 1905 the family took up residence in Haileybury Ontario while Charles built the Air Plant at Ragged Chutes.

Eva married Robert (Bob) Turner Andrea in 191? in Haileybury Ontario. Bob had come to Cobalt in 1909 after completing his post secondary education at the General Electric Technical School in Schenectady NY. He first came as inspector of air meters in the silver mines and later became chief engineer for the Northern Ontario Light and Power Company.

This was at a time when Charles H. Taylor was constructing the Ragged Chutes Air Plant to supply the burgeoning mining industry in Cobalt Ontario.

Eva and Bob moved to Montreal in 1928 when Bob was appointed statistian for the Power Corporation of Canada. Eva was a skilled concert pianist and played at the Cobalt Opera House in the early part of the century.

In 1911 Arthur was sent off to school at Feller Institute in Grande Ligne Quebec where he played hockey (back row, far right). After completing his education Arthur remained in Montreal where he met a young French Protestant girl, Jeanne Piche, whom he married in 1917. Jeanne and Arthur purchased a farm in Three Hills Alberta in 1919 and set out to try their hand at farming. Jeanne bore Arthur a son, Russell, who died within four months of his birth. Then in 1921 Francis Kathleen (my mother) was born. In 1924 Jeanne had another son whom they again named Russell. The boy was born with a birth defect and passed away in 1933.

Arthur and Jeanne were benevolent people and were known to take foster children. One of their children, Herbert Harrison Taylor, came to live with them as a young boy. Once Herbert became of age he was given the opportunity to chose his parents, just as they had chosen him. Herbert opted to be a Taylor and I was priviledged to have an uncle.

Helen, the youngest child of Charles and his first wife remained in Haileybury and in 1916 she married Grahame Hennesy. Helen's health was not good and by 1920 it had become quite serious, she passed away in 1921.
The Second Family

In 1910 while on a trip to England Charles met a young girl by the name of Gertude Mabel Morgan. Smitten by her beauty he brought Gertrude to Canada. First family rumor and inuendo has it that Gertude was brought to Canada as a housekeeper. Like all stories of this kind it is tempered by age and literary license. Neither family knows for sure what the circumstances were.

None the less Gertrude and Charles were married in Buffalo New York in 1911. They came to Toronto Ontario to live and, for the first year, they occupied a suite at the Prince George Hotel. The following year they moved to a house on Wolfrey Avenue.

Gertrude and Charles had 5 children together, Sylvia born 1915, Charles Havelock (Bud) born 19??, Phyllis born 19?? ; died 1941, Roy born 19?? and Ray born 19?? (deceased).

Note: I am awaiting photos and additional information with regard to the second family.

Lifes little ironies:

In the summer of 2001 I was in contact with the Cobalt Ontario Museum discussing a photo album I have depicting the town from 1905 to 1910. Cobalt has been awarded the distinction of being the "Most Historic Town" in Ontario. During the period from 1905 to 1910 Charles H. Taylor designed, engineered and built the Ragged Chutes Air Plant on the Montreal River.

During this conversation I was asked about Charles accompishments after he had left my great grandmother Helen. Jokingly I responded that he would have to contact the other side of the family. Ironically less than 3 weeks later I received a call from the museum and a voice says " I have good news" then he says "well I'm not sure if you will think it is good or bad", "I heard from the second family", "They would love to hear from you". Since that day we have exchanged stories, pictures and the occasional phone call.

At that time I spoke to Terry Mandzy the husband of Joan Taylor the daughter of (Bud) Taylor. We had great plans to get together but as life would have it we have yet to meet. However, my mother Francis Taylor Hawkins was visiting me here in Burlington Ontario and while returning to Quebec we were able to visit with (Bud). Interestingly Bud is nearly the same age as Francis but in the scheme of things Bud is her uncle.

And for the record, I recognized Bud as he stood in the picture window of his home, he is the spitting image of my grandfather Arthur, the first born son of Charles Havelock Taylor and his first wife Helen.
1878 to 1895 The Formative Years

Charles Havelock Taylor was not a man of idle mind nor body, he kept busy with work and with hobbies. His favorite hobby was photography an art that he was to become quite adept at. He carried the heavy bulky apparatus wherever he travelled recording his work, nature and the people he came in contact with. The photos contained in this blog are those taken by Charles between 1895 and the 1920's. This hobby remained a source of pleasure for him throughout his life.His business career during this period of his life reads like a best selling novel.

In the early stages of his career, mining was a prominent part of his life, and became the stepping stone to his success.

In the early 1880's he began a 10 year term as Mining Claim Investigator for his uncle, who owned the Howard Watch Company of New York. This position led to much travel throughout most of North America.At one point he was sent to North Carolina to investigate placer gold mines and was so taken by the heat and humidity that he nearly fainted while walking from the train station to the mine head. One has to realize that at this time in our history men wore shirt and tie, a botany serge suit and vest as well as a hat at all times when at work.

Then in 1891 he was sent to the Cripple Creek gold discovery in Colorado. Some 50,000 people swarmed into the area, near Pike's Peak, in search of fame and fortune. These were the days of opportunity and wealth however there were those who conspired to take advantage of the nieve money hungry newcomers. While investigating these mines, he saw many instances of salting, a practice whereby mine owners spread gold particles around mine shafts. This was done to entice unsuspecting buyers into purchasing an otherwise worthless mine.

During this period in his career he also acted as a consulting geologist for several mining concerns. Charles had an uncanny ability for tracing lost ore veins in mines. At this time he started building an extensive mineral collection and over the years he gathered some remarkable ore samples.

His interest in this field did not wane. Around 1890 he discovered a gold vein in Madoc, Ontario. He built a mine and operated it for several years before selling out. At one point in the 1880's he built and owned Montreal's first steam laundry. Later on he and two business associates built a skate factory. The machines and skates were designed and built by Taylor himself. With this practicle knowledge of mechanics and engineering he some became known as a qualified engineer.

With each adventure Taylor gained greater insite into the mining industry and it is here that his greatest acheivements would eventually be realized.

The 1890 Report of the Royal commission on the Mineral Resources of Ontario,

Page 550 (From INDEX OF WITNESSES which gives pages where witness testimony is found.)


Taylor, Charles, engineer (Bridgewater), Madoc, Oct. 2. ................................ .52, 86, 111, 133

(He is also in effect mentioned on pages 79 & 87)


page 52


Charles Taylor—We get actinolite within a distance of two and a half to four miles from Bridgewater; there is some in the 2nd concession of Hungerford, and Hungerford and there is some on lot 7 in the 2nd concession of Elzevir. I know where there is plenty of it, but the greatest deposits are in those places; it is in pockets in a magnesian rock associated with dolomite. It appears in forms like veins, which run crosswise of the country rock.    We find it at the surface, but have never been successful in following it to any depth; it appears to be in pockets and runs out.


Page 79


ROOFING MATERIALS. [Not C.H. Taylor’s words.]

Fibrous serpentine, called "actinolite," is found near Bridgewater, in the county of Hastings. No member of the Commission visited the places of production, but the process of manufacture at the mill in Bridgewater was witnessed. This consists simply in breaking the rock in a Blake crusher and then grinding the crushed material in Taylor's disintegrator, after which it is bagged and shipped. The rock is similar to what is called fibrous talc in New York state, where it is ground for a like purpose.[disintegrator = pulveriser mentioned on page 86]


Page 86


Charles Taylor—My business is that of engineer. At present I live at Bridge-water, Ontario. For the last twenty-five years I have been interested in mining in Nova Scotia and Ontario. In Nova Scotia I was employed by the London Gold Mining Co. as superintendent of their works, and I erected the first crusher in that part of the country. I came to this part of Ontario about six years ago from Montreal. Directly or indirectly I have been engaged in mining operations for about twenty-five years. I have been working the actinolite mills at Bridgewater. I put up the works there, and I have three patents on the process, one for breaking the stone, one for pulverising, and the other for a composition for roofing. The actinolite occurs diagonally in the vein, at an angle of about 40 degrees. We get it sometimes in veins, sometimes in pockets; some of the pockets are from 10 to 12 feet broad, and where found in pockets it is generally in prisms. It seems to be associated in an upheaval between the dolomite and the gneiss or trap. On the east side is a conglomerate of limestone and quartz pebbles, with a matrix of limestone; next the conglomerate is slate then magnesian rock, and then the gneiss again. There is no trap near the actinolite itself. I have seen actinolite occurrences in other parts of the country, but only on the same range of rocks; I have not seen them in any other range. This is the only place I have seen it in Ontario.  I have seen it in the province of Quebec; but there it does not occur in the same manner, being associated with asbestos. We get different kinds of actinolite; one kind is long, another comes up in prisms from one-half or five-eighths of an inch to six inches long. It is all the same when ground. We have not found any asbestos. I think the present source of supply may become exhausted without regular mining and a great deal of expense.  During the six years I have been in the business we have sent away from our place about $6,000 worth a year. The actinolite is first broken up, then it is pulverised, then it is ground into dust, except that the live fiber is drawn the same as paper pulp; that absorbs the tar and it consolidates. We mix it up with tar the same as mortar, and it can be put on the same as mortar. What we ship from the factory we do not mix with tar; we sell it in a pulverised state. It is put up in bags containing; 100 pounds; one bag contains enough for10 feet square of roofing and the price per bag is75cents. It takes about 30 horse-power to drive the machinery for grinding 25 to 30 tons a day. We use water power altogether.   Our mill runs about six or eight weeks in the year, and we find a market for our product in Canada and the States. We always have orders ahead, and this year we could not fill all the orders because we had not sufficient water. In addition to roofing our product is used for sidewalks and the foundations of houses. It does not crack or shrink, and it is fire proof. The tar will burn a little, but that forms as a crust; it is a non-conductor. At our mills we employ sometimes as many as 16 or 17 teams. Five men are employed in the mill, and at other times the same men work in the mine.    We pay $1.25 a day to men, and $2.50 for teams. The duty entering the States is 10 per cent, because it is not a finished article; that amounts to about $1.50 a ton.    The raw material costs us about $3 a ton.


Page 87


Joseph James—I am in partnership with Mr. Taylor in the actinolite business, which is now in liquidation.   The capital invested is about $17,000 or $18,000. Mr. Taylor's share is about $3,000. The cement we manufacture is made for roofing. It is altogether different from any other kind of cement; it is the only one using actinolite or fiber to make the bond; the others use mica for that purpose. We also grind cement in which mica is used as a further bond, and I think this is an improvement. As the trade get it, it is ground to about 60-mesh; it is mixed with coal tar and pitch, and sometimes asphalt, according to the quality of the roofing desired. It is spread on the roof while hot, the total thickness including the felt on which it is spread being half an inch. This, roofing never gets hard; it remains elastic, and will bend to a limited extent without cracking. Our patent covers the use of actinolite with coal tar or its chemical equivalent. The process of laying it is not a patent, only the materials. The cost is about the same as a good gravel roof, and it is more durable and better in every respect.    The coal tar or pitch is hermetically sealed in the material, and cannot possibly evaporate or dry up. The sun or the frost will not affect it. It is as fireproof as a roof can be; more so than any metal roof. Insurance companies take it as a first class roof. It has another advantage over metal roofs besides being much less expensive; it is not affected by coal gas in cities, as is the case with metal roofs, particularly in foggy weather. The proportion in mixing is 11 gallons of coal tar or its equivalent to 100 pounds of actinolite. It is infusible; it can be softened by heat, but cannot burn. I grind some mica for the Grand Trunk to use as a lubricator. The first cement was made here in June,1883, since that time there has been turned out about 50,000 bags of 100 Ib. each. Last year was our smallest year's business, owing to trouble among ourselves. It is now four years since any endeavor was made to extend the business, but I think it is capable of being extended largely. Our principal markets are Montreal, Chicago and Detroit. I am satisfied with Taylor's pulveriser; l don't know of anything to beat it. I can put through 25 tons a day of ordinary rock, 12 hours work and 2,300 revolutions to the minute. It will grind 20 tons of phosphate in ten hours. Working easily it will do about 11/2 tons of the actinolite an hour. I would recommend it as the best grinder l know. I have seen it grinding bones in the Montreal abattoir. It will do about the same amount of quartz as of phosphate. The vein on lot 7 in the 1st concession of Kaladar is 10 or 12 inches wide on the surface. We have gone down 23 feet, and it is about from 21/2 to 4 feet wide. I think it is a vein there, because I never found it in any place else to that depth. Our material costs us from $1 to $5 a ton.


page 111.


“Charles Taylor.— We are at present taking the gold out of the tailings of the Consolidated mine by amalgamation. Our process is a simple one and is not patented ; it simply consists in using a sodium amalgam. When our mercury flowers we use a copper amalgam. I do not think we get all the gold. In every ton we put through I think we leave $35 or $30; if assayed it will show that. By the first process the company adopted I do not think they got more than $7 or $8 a ton of concentrates, though it assayed from $60 to $70 to the ton. The first process was to pass it through Cornish rolls, then it went through a large screen, then Extracting ore condensed in a large chamber. The average gold in the ore was $15 to the ton, and in the concentrates $80 to $80, but it is seldom that more than one-half the amount of the assay is got. We take about $4.50 a ton out of the tailings; we put through about eight tons a day, and with two men we take out from $100 to $!50 a week. We began working about the latter part of June, but water was scarce; now water is plenty, but the weather is getting too cold. This ore was treated by the chlorination process, but the article treated was not half burned, and all the gold was got out of the small part that was calcined. The dust on the beams of the wall assays $20 to the ton. The oxide of iron, if outside the gold, prevents the mercury from touching it, but by using caustic soda the oxide of iron is cut from the surface. In a building 40 feet square I can do twice as much as they can do with all their works at Deloro, which cover half an acre. My pulveriser can be placed in position with out foundation or anything of that kind. After crushing the ore I would burn it and take out the arsenic, and then it would be in a state to take out the gold by my process. If you were to stamp as fine as my pulveriser does you would not be able to do more than a ton a day, while I can pulverise from 8 to 10 tons a day. This machine occupies but a small space, and I am prepared to enter into a contract to crush from 8 to 12 tons a day, and put it through 60 mesh. These refractory ores; should be calcined in all cases. I have not as yet treated any arsenical ore here that was not treated before, but we treated arsenical ore in Nova Scotia. Except my process, I do not know of any by which it can be successfully treated; no one has treated it with caustic soda but myself. The proportion of caustic soda used is about two pounds to the ton of water. We keep the water up to blood heat and oxidise the mercury with acids; we also use a little muriatic acid and a little sulphur sometimes. The caustic soda will clear grease from the mercury.”


Page 133


Charles Taylor—Sometimes we get very good shows of copper and iron pyrites in the actinolite district. There is a large bed of iron pyrites in Hungerford, south of Copper and the Sheffield station. It is from four to six feet wide, and I think it extends over a large area. A pit has been sunk down 30 or 40 feet, and it can be shovelled out. A gold crusher was built upon it once, but there is only a show of gold.


Page 478 [The Taylor kiln mentioned below likely has nothing to do with C.H. Taylor, but he mentions burning the ore on page 111. That burning likely involved a kiln.]


The Swedish Westman kiln and Dillner kiln divide with the American Taylor kiln the commendations of Mr. Lilienberg, an authority on the subject. The last named is the least expensive kiln, and its capacity for reducing the sulphur in the very sulphurous magnetic ores of New Jersey has been successfully demonstrated. Whether the like result is attainable with less sulphurous ores such as those of eastern Ontario is not to be inferred without trial. The facility with which any ore will part with sulphur depends upon its density, crystalline texture and the mineral character of the pyrites. Summing up the requirements of a roasting kiln, they seem to be as follows: (1) The sulphur shall be reduced by single roasting from 3 to 4 down to 0.10 per cent. (2) Fine ore and lumps have to be roasted together as they come from the mines, without any extra expense for separation. (3) The cost of a kiln roasting 50 tons of ore a day shall not exceed |2,000, which of course ought to stand in some proportion to the price of the ore. (4) The cost of roasting shall not exceed 25 cents a ton. (5) The height shall not be greater than the space below the track in the stock-house, or about 12 feet, in order that elevators may be avoided and hopper cars used for direct unloading."^ Such are the tests to be applied in estimating the qualities of a kiln, in the opinion of Mr. ….


* In the Taylor kiln with its short space above and the long space below the gas inlet* sulphur is generally reduced from 2 to 5 per cent, down to 0.25 per cent., sometimes to 0.10 per cent. The cost of erection is $l,800 to $2,000, or about one-fourth of that of the West man kiln. The height for lifting the ore is about the same.   The consumption of coal, which is an important item where the waste gases from the blast furnace cannot be used, is reported to me so low as l cwt. lump anthracite per ton of ore.—Journal of the Charcoal Iron Workers, vol. ni5p. 264.

f N. Lilienberg, in the Charcoal Iron Workers' Journal, vol. in, pp. 261-263. J Journal of the Charcoal Iron Workers, vol. in., p. 265,



6.5  After Canada Consolidated

The story of Canada Consolidated runs cold after 1883. It is assumed that the corporate entity continued to exist and own the land. From then until 1896, the property was worked intermittently by two operations which exploited the heavy capital investment made by Canada Consolidated.


6.5.1 Charles Taylor

In June 1888 Charles Taylor, a local mining engineer, started extracting gold from the mill tailings. He used a simple amalgamation process and obtained about $4.50 of gold per ton of tailings. Working with two men he extracted about $100.00 to $150.00 per week. Taylor boasted that he used a building 40 feet (12m) square and could process twice as much ore as the original company could do with a mill that covered half an acre. However, he did admit that he was treating arsenical ore that had already been concentrated by the previous company.133


APPENDIX D Maltby and Associates Inc Collections Report
Charles Taylor: In 1888 a Mining Engineer by the name of Charles Taylor was extracting gold from the tailings of the Consolidated Gold Mine. Taylor had been in the mining business for 25 years and worked in Nova Scotia and Ontario. He came to Ontario about 1882 and was living in Bridgewater. He was involved in a number of mining activities.

1895 to 1914 From the Smallest Observation Came a Great Invention

In 1895 while building a dam in Buckingham Quebec Taylor noticed that air bubbles that were trapped in the water as it flowed over the spillway were carried under the ice and formed ice domes. When he broke one of the domes with a pipe he realized that the air was pressurized. Insignificant as this may appear to some, Taylor's mind was quick to grasp the industrial possibilities of this phenomenon. He made a working model of a compressor in a warehouse in Montreal. Glass tubing was integrated int the model so that all could see the operation of the machine and as experiments progressed modifications could be made to enhance efficiency.

Charles courted prominent businessmen from the period and, after a demonstration of the models ability to generate compressed air, he was able to build the first of his Air Plants with monies obtained from the investors and the Taylor Air Compressor Company was started.

The first plant to be built was at Magog Quebec for the Dominion Cottom Mills (later to become dominion Textile). It was a 155 horsepower compressor delivering air at 52 lbs. per sq. inch. It was 60% efficient and was still in operation in 1953. It was not untill the mid 1970's that an engineer from the US advised Dominion Textile to upgrade their weaving equipment rendering the compressor obsolete.

Then in 1898, at Ainsworth B.C., he organized the Kootney Air Supply Company and built a 600 H.P. compressor supplying air at 100 p.s.i. this required the construction of a 1354 foot closed wooden flume to develope enough water pressure. It was intended to supply the Kaslo Mining Co., a new copper mine.

The Great Northern Railroad did not build its promised spur line to the mine and so the compressor closed down. Taylor paid the $60,000 dolar construction costs to the financial backers out of his own pocket. This was a severe setback to his plans.

An order from the Dominion Government for a 45 H.P. compressor for the Peterborough Lift lock on the Severn Trent waterway in 1899 helped the company out.

The Hydraulic Air Compressor - a brief history

The following is an extract from a thesis written by Roy G. Taylor son of Charles H. Taylor and Mabel Morgan. The thesis was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Applied Science.

Dept. of Mechanical Engineering,
University of Toronto,
Oct. 31, 1951

Roy is a member of Charles Taylor's second family. He acquired his Engineering degree and worked in the family business with his father Charles H. Taylor Sr. and his older brother Charles (Bud) H. Taylor until they closed down the business. Roy has since retired but has remained both active and creative.


It may be of interest to the reader to know at least a brief history concerning the developmentof this compressor, therefore at this point I will present a review of the major events that led to its first successful application.

One of the earliest forms of compressed air devices had its origin in the early years of the iron age and was known as the trompe or hydraulic air blast for forges. Its purpose was to supply the Catalan forges with a steady blast of air. The preassure produced in this type of compressor were of a very small magnitude being in the neighborhood of one ounce (1 oz.) to one pound per square inch (1 lb./sq. in.) The best type of construction in trompe mechanism was one wherein the range of the apparatus could be produced by means of a sliding gate. The operation of the apparatus may be explained by referring to figure 1. Water falling into the tube draws air through the small inclined holes, indicated by arrows, and carries this air down into the reservoir where the air separates from the water and escapes to the forge. The outlet column is high enough to balance the pressure maintained in the reservoir.

In the year 1877, Mr. J.P. Frizell carried out tests
of a practical scale on this system utilizing a 5 ft. fall and a 36 ft. shaft at the falls of St. Anthony near St. Paul on the Mississippi River. From his tests he proposed a system known as the Frizell system, see figure 2., for which he secured patents. Later compressors were somewhat similar to this system but the actual design involved was quite different in certain respects.

The next major step was made by Mr. C. H. Taylor in 1896 at Magog, Quebec where he erected the first working hydraulic air plant on a practicle scale. The Taylor plant, although essentially utilizing the method outlined by Frizell, was materially different in detail and proportioning of the various parts of the plant. It may be noted here that Mr. Taylor discovered the principle himself by noting how water flowing down the spillway of a dam carried a certain amount of air with it as it plunged under the surface of the river ice. This air carried downstream by the flowing water, released itselt from the water and formed large pockets of air under the ice. This caused the ice to bulge upwards and when he broke one of the pockets and discovered that air under pressure was trapped here he also discovered this principle that he put to much use. Thus independent and ignorant of any other proposed system, he erected at Magog the first plant for the purpose of supplying air to a cotton mill.

The air supply from this plant was ample for the needs of the mill and its success here led to its further application in the field of mining. The efficiency of the plant at Magog though relatively high was improved on by a better proportioning of the parts and the later plants had efficiencies of 82%, an improvement of 20% over the Magog plant. Three separate patents were obtained by Taylor for his design of the hydraulic air compressor in 1896, 1898 and 1900.

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


1895 to 1914 "continued"

These were the glory years for Charles Taylor not only was he given the honour of building a plant for the great Peterborough Lift Lock but news of his inventive genius had reached Europe.

Charles made many business trips to Europe in the late nineteenth century, and belonged to many of the best social clubs in London and Paris. He saw the Worlds Fair in 1897 at Paris France and was much impressed with the Eiffel Tower and the Hall of Mirrors.

He bought one of Toronto's first cars, a 1911 Ford, at a time when driving was an adventure. A time when gasoline was obtained only in the city center and roads were limited.

In 1901 a Fourth compressor was built in the State of Washington. Then in 1906, a general purpose compressor was constructed in Norwich Connecticut. That same year Taylor was commissioned to build a 550 Horsepower compressor for the Victoria Copper Mine in Rockland Michigan which delivered air at 117 p.s.i. Other plants were built in Tarica, Peru and in Germany.

The largest and most ambitious Air Plant was the Ragged Chutes plant at Cobalt Ontario. Taylor visited Cobalt in 1905 and determined that the conditions and the mining industry were ideally suited to his invention. Work on the plant was completed in 1910.

To finance his company he invited many prominent New York bankers to Cobalt and treated them to a fabulous hunting and fishing expedition that included a huge barbeque of choice moose steaks. Needless to say they were duly impressed with his ability as a host and engineer that he was able to secure their financial backing.

The plant at Ragged Chutes is 5500 H.P. with a 1000 H.P. reserve. A 660 foot weir dam was built across the Montreal River to control the water flow. The air is transported by means of a seamless steel pipe. These specially designed pipes were brought in from Germany. A total of 21 miles of pipe were required for the project.

(More on the Cobalt Plant in the next posting).

1905 - 1910 The building of Ragged Chutes

Ragged Chutes was Charles most ambitious project and his greatest success. The feeder shaft, 351 feet deep and 9 and 1/2 feet in diameter was sunk into the bedrock. The lower 40 feet widens to 11 and 1/2 feet in diameter. At the top of this shaft are twin intake heads each containing 72 intake pipes, 16 inches in diameter.

Water backed up behind the 660 foot wide dam swirls down through these pipes carrying air with it. When the water reaches the bottom of the shaft, it is diverterted into a 1021 foot long horizontal tunnel by a steel sheathed concrete cone.

This tunnel is 20 feet wide and 26 feet high, at the far end a bulge in the ceiling increases the height to 42 feet. The rushing water slows down in this tunnel and the air collects along the roof at approximately 120 p.s.i. A 298 foot tail shaft by 22 feet in diameter returns the water to the surface. Once at the surface it continues down the Montreal River.

The air, under pressure, in the pocket below ground is tapped off by a 24 inch diameter steel pipe and brought to the surface. Here it passes into a valve house and is distributed to the mines of Cobalt.

The air is transported to the mines via a seamless pipe, imported from Germany, specific to this project. There is a total of 21 miles of seamless pipe used for the movement of air to the various mines.

(The photo at the right is of shaft #8 it has a pencil sketch on the back presumably by Charles Taylor that was done on site.)

When more compressed air, than can be used, builds up in the chamber the water level in the tunnel is forced down exposing the end of a 12 inch release pipe. The excess air blows out 10 feet below the surface of the Montreal River resulting in a geyser plume that often reaches 200 feet in the air. It was one of the most impressive site around Cobalt during the hayday of the Air Plant.

To reduce friction and drag in the intake and tail shaft Taylor had to devise a method of drilling in the granite that would ensure a smooth vertical wall. He designed a drilling rig that allowed the men to work from a wooden platform that rotated on a central axis, thus maintaining a constant diameter. Wall fractures in the granite substrate were smoothed with cement to eliminate uneven surfaces.

There were many nay sayers at the time who did not believe Taylors calculations, there were many in the Engineering field that said it could not be done. The general feeling around Cobalt at the time was, "Taylor is crazy, a two bit, so-called engineer, self taught, little better than a mechanic with a bunch of wacky ideas". He was this and more, most visionaries are. The educated and informed doubt the abilities of those without the paper qualification however Taylor not only proved them wrong but his Air Plant was so finely engineered that it operated unabated, but for two maintenance shutdowns, up until fire destroyed it in the 1980's.

( special thanks for the text, in part, to Richard Hillary grandson of CH Taylor).

All That Remains Today

Many Thanks to Jordan Tanner and his friends at Ontario Hydro for these pictures

1905 to 1910 The mines of Cobalt