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Wilhelm Albert 2.0

                  Ore Mining in The Harz Mountains

                                         by Don Sayenga and Roland Verreet
         As of the summer of 2018, several websites have been posted which are purported
         to be lists of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. So far none of the lists
         has included wire rope, despite the fact this may have been one of the most
         significant innovations of all time. One of the websites quotes a 1913 Scientific
         American study where the commercial success of any innovation was one of the
         key criteria for ranking the importance of the invention. Wilhelm Albert, who
         invented wire rope in 1834, was not aimed toward creation of profit. He was a
         government official trying to solve a very specific problem.

              he Upper Harz mining region, lo-  known as a “Göpel” or horizontal horse-  work by an apparently hopeless situa-
              cated in central Germany midway   whim equipped with hemp ropes. The   tion: increasing shaft depths and the
         Tbetween Frankfurt and Berlin,     hemp used in the ropes didn’t last very   continually rising numbers of failures
         has been a source of metallic ores since   long because all of the shafts were open   of the conveyor/lifting link chains.
         the medieval era or perhaps even earli-  at the top and therefore damp.  The   At  almost  five  times  the  payload,  the
         er. Originally the ore bodies were found   hemp  was  imported. Thus,  his  initial   weight  of  the  chains  was  more  and
         on the surface. The importance of silver   concerns  were  aroused  by  “Den  gros-  more  a  risk,  especially  as  the  shafts
         metal for coinage caused the local                                        reached depths of 400 meters. It
         reigning authorities to establish                                         was even leading to a situation
         and maintain governmental con-                                            where hemp ropes were becoming
         trols over the mines. Wilhelm A.J.                                        a first choice again – even if they
         Albert,  whose  job  title  Ober-Ber-                                     were  much  more  expensive  and
         grath can be translated “superior                                         had to be imported from abroad.”
         mining supervisor” was the person
         in charge during the 1830s. He was                                        IRON CHAINS AND THE HORSE-
         higher in rank than the other su-                                         WHIM REEVING
         pervisors at each of the mines.                                              The horsewhim Albert used for
           Albert’s title apparently was de-                                       experiments had a vertical central
         vised specially for him when he was                                       axle with a large horizontal drum
         placed in total control. The mines                                        mounted on top of it. At ground
         were owned and operated  by the                                           level, the shaft was rotated in ei-
         royal government of the Kingdom                                           ther direction by a harnessed horse
         of Hanover. Previously, a member                                          walking around it. The drum on top
         of the royalty would have been in                                         was reeved with an endless chain.
         charge. The map  of Europe has                                            During  his  first  experiments,  an
         been  redrawn  several  times  since                                      ore bucket connected to the central
         1820, but the Kingdom of Hanover                                          part of the chain was lowered and
         was one of the 39 sovereign states                                        raised in the mineshaft by the rota-
         which  formed the German  con-                                            tion of the axle. When a progressive
         federation in  1815. Hanover  had                                         changeover  to  waterwheel  power
         been allocated to the Royal family                                        began, the basic principle was still
         of Great Britain at the Congress                                          the  same. Horizontal  rotation and
         of Vienna. As a direct result, offi-                                      motion were converted to vertical
         cial  actions  such  as  Albert’s wire   Wilhelm August Julius Albert, (1787-1846)  motion by sheaves mounted over
         rope experiments were  published        the inventor of steel wire rope.  the mineshafts.
         in  both  German  and  English  offi-                                      In 1827, Albert believed at first
         cial technical summaries. In turn, the   sen Kostenaufwand” as he called it. In   he could devise an improved  style of
         English version was transmitted to the   short,  it  was  cost-control  which  first   chain. Because the links of the chains
         USA. These became the three nations   motivated him to begin thinking about   were hammer-forged one at a time, he
         where  most of  the  earliest  wire  rope   finding  a  way  to  replace  those  hemp   designed and tested different shapes
         improvements took place.           horsewhim ropes.                   for the links, various ways to forge and
           Albert’s office was located at Claust-   Before he began contemplating the   connect, and he tried to analyze the na-
         hal-Zellerfeld in the Upper Harz where   subject, he had already spent seven   ture of the wrought-iron which was the
         the vertical shafts for transporting me-  years studying wrought iron  chains.   strongest metal available.
         tallic ore from the underground digging   As described by Jens Weis and Isabel   In the end, everything he tried to
         sites to the surface employed a device   M.L. Ridge: “Albert was driven in his         continued on page 20

         18     Wire Rope News & Sling Technology   June 2018
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