On the morning of the auction of the famous Phoenix Roller Mill in Grahamstown, when it became clear that Sandstone Heritage Trust was the successful bidder of all the internal equipment, we were given a box of slides pertaining to the Mill, when it was still in operation. 

The slides came from the deceased estate of somebody who had operated the large Crossley Producer Gas engine. He had sadly passed away just weeks before the auction, at which it had been hoped he could have shown potential buyers how the machinery worked, up to the time it stopped, 23 years ago. 

Sandstone Heritage Trust has had the slides copied into digital format, and they are reproduced here. There were no captions, those below are my comments.


Does anybody know the name of this person?  Flour covers the pulley, even right up in the roof!


A study in still life!


A period picture of the outside of Phoenix Roller Mills. The Peugeot 404 and the Ford F250 (?) date the picture to the 1970’s perhaps.


The webs of the Crossley’s crankshaft glisten between the curved spokes of the flywheel.



 A view of the Crossley Gas engine from the cylinder head end.


Part of a shaker, still in use at the time of closure.


A view up into the roof with the upper line-shafting and one belt which runs in a protective guard.


Corbett Grinding Mill in the corner. Not connected, and exactly as it is today.


Detail from the Corbett Mill.


This is a view of the Producer Gas plant. The burner where the highly dangerous mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide is produced by passing air over a bed of burning anthracite is at the back. The ‘scrubber’ or filter unit is closer to the camera. This removes unwanted by-products, such as bitumenous tar and ash, before the gas is introduced into the engine. The flywheel of the Crossley engine is just visible in the foreground with its gear teeth for ‘barring’ the engine into the starting piosition.


A view of some of the elevators, there are at least ten of them and they don’t all appear on the General Arrangement drawing! Somehow we must identify, mark and extract these elevators, making sure the correct chutes are attached to them during reassembly, leading to the correct machine!


Bags of grain waiting to be processed. It is easy to see where the Afrikaans name ‘streepsak’ came from, the woven-in stripe, which identified the owner according to width and colour.



Note! Before the days of metres!


A view of the screens on the upper storey. There are four in a row and two more mounted above and across these four.


One of the four Roller Mills


One of the E R & F Turner Roller Mills. We have made contact with the firm, now called Christy Turner, and have had encouraging comments from the Managing Director.


Another view up at the top line shafting. All these belts must be marked according to their position, and whether they are crossed or straight!


The firm S. Howes of Silver Creek, New York still exists and we are making contact with them.


Another Roller Mill.


A view of the Crossley engine from the platform for adding anthracite to the gas-producer. The late operator is at the controls.


Here he is again, from the same vantage point.


Tool panel for the engine.


This is a closer view of the gas producer unit. The rope for hoisting the bags of anthracite can be seen, and the funnel att he top where the anthracite was thrown in. Behind is an electrically driven blower.


An old-fashioned drill press, still there at the auction!


In this picture, three of the screens can be seen on the upper floor, and the two transverse screens above them. These chutes will all have to be meticulously marked before dismantling!


This is a view of the lower line shafting, under the row of roller Mills. 

Andy Selfe

28th June 2010