Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living

Under-Gear Wheel Mill #8
by Barry Brown

Photograph of Under-Gear Wheel Mill #8
Photograph of Under-Gear Wheel Mill #8
Photograph from the John Carney Family Collection

The #8 Wheel Mill was one of the last incorporating mills built at the Powder Works. Mills like this one differed in design from the older mills on York Avenue since they were driven by underground machinery rather than by an overhead gear system. The reasons for the change were economy and safety. Underground machinery made operations safer since there was less likelihood of metal particles falling into the powder from above and less equipment was exposed to concussion and fire. This made it cheaper and quicker to repair a mill after an explosion. Nevertheless, it was still a dangerous operation and explosions could happen at any time. On March 13, 1905, the Santa Cruz Surf reported:

Photograph of Under-Gear Wheel Mill #8 Destroyed by an Explosion
Under-Gear Wheel Mill #8 Destroyed by an Explosion
Photograph Courtesy of The Museum of Art & History @
The McPherson Center, Santa Cruz, CA

There was an explosion at the California Powder Works on Sunday morning about 1 o’clock, the report of which awakened a number in this city. The explosion occurred at wheel mill No.8. which on previous occasions has gone up. All the windows in the guncotton mill and windows in the office and other mills were shattered by the concussion. The people in the Superintendent’s house on the hill received quite a shock but the only damage was the moving of some furniture out of place.

Fortunately, no one was killed in the blast and the mill would be put back in operation within the week.

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View similarly tagged articles:

dynamite, powder works, San Lorenzo River


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