Mills in Alto Aragón - aceitero


Banastón is situated next to L'Ainsa on the main road to Campo. It is signposted. First you have the branch to Usana and next comes the road to the Barrio de la Iglesia of Banastón. Drop your vehicle next to the church and walk the GR-path to the East. You'll soon reach the mill.

Pictures: 20.viii.2013, 22.iii.2016

(1) Molino aceitero in the church neighbourhood of Banastón

The mill is an inconspicuous and rather small rec­tangular building along the narrow road between two nuclei of Banastón. The entrance is hidden by a tree and the doors are blocked by debris, but the door wings are ajar and it is possible to sneak in between the gap. There are very few other openings in the walls: two windows, protected by bars, looking to the street and another window opposite the entrance at the back side of the reception space.
About one third of the space inside —which is se­parated from the rest of the interior by a wall (3f)— is reserved for the reception of the olives (2). Low brick walls form two receptacles along the left and right wall looking from the door. I could not discern any (trace of) subdivisions, but separators were proba­bly present because flat stones carrying Roman numerals are cemented at regular intervals on the walls above.

(2) Reception zone for the olives
A switch panel is mounted against the wall at the back (2). It says:

Motores a gasolina y diesel
Elévaciones de agua
Costa, núm. 14Zaragoza

It was probably used to control a hammer mill — at least that is what I think of the heap of rust lying on the floor in the center of the room. Like so many mills this one also must have tried to extend its life by producing animal fodder.

(3) Overview of the situation intra muros

The rest of the available space is organised in order to make the process as fluent as possible in a cramped space (3). Everything needed for the pro­duction is lined up against the back and western wall.
First we have the station where the olives were crushed (3e, 4-6). The roller stone has a diameter of 160 cm; a typical size for mills of some importance (like Buera: Los Corrales, or Arén: Mas de Ribera).

(4) Corner where the olives were crushed — notice the entrance in the back.

The mill is equipped with a hydraulic press. This means that each day easily 2000+ kgs of olives could be pressed. The milling station is therefore driven by pulleys and belts (5, 8) and cog wheels powered by an engine, not by people or a mule.

The funnel (6) through which olives were fed to the system is with its 80 cm almost double the size of most found in smaller mills in the region (e.g. Mipanas, Troncedo).

The whole is still complete and in a rather good condition, but it won't last for very long anymore because with the roof now gone the tolva will soon be rotten away.

The gutter around the zone where the stone rolled widens in a huge receptacle (3d, 4) where the masa accumulated. The paste was then scooped between the capachos, or esteras, which are double layered dishes (7) woven from esparto (the grass Stipa tenacissima) and having a hole in the center.

Layers of olive paste alternating with esteras were then stacked up in a trolley, vagoneta, (4 front). A rod through the center hole served as a spinal column keeping the layers in place and the stack upright. A full load was called a pie, but the number of capa­chos making a pie varied widely — dependent on factors like the type of press or even local custom— but about 3 to 5 dozen is a good guess.

(5) Crushing station with runner stone of 160 cm ∅
(6) Tolva

(7) Capacho; woven mat used to hold the masa
When ready the trolley is pushed into the press. In other mills (e.g. El Grado - Barrio de Cinca) a short railway track makes it easier to move the load around, but here I couldn't find any trace of rails. Maybe there weren't any, because the distance to the press is really only a few steps.

The press (3c, 13) comes from La Maquinista Reusense and it is the typical installation which is also shown in the letterhead of the company (10): a hydraulic press with an oil pump with two cilinders powered by a stationary engine by means of a belt.

At the turn of last century we've found the same brand and type still running in the oil mill in the village center of Alquézar.

(8) Belt wheels with wooden jackets
(9) Pump for the hydraulic press

(10) Letterhead of La Maquinista Reusense (1943)

(11) Tag on the pump
(12) Tag on the hydraulic press

(13) Press with the pump at the back.
(14) Containers for decanting.

The freshly extracted fluid was collected in the containers situated agains the western wall (3g, 14). In many small mills, after a few days the oil fraction would be skimmed off and funneled into bottles or jugs. This was not very precise and there was al­ways the risk that the separation was disturbed.

The configuration at hand forms an improvement of this process.

There are two rows of these pilas. The upper row lined with red tiles inside and white at the outside. The lower row is without. The zone below ground level was called el infierno (the hell). The watery mix of oil and impurities arrived in the upper row and layers would form of about 30% oil on top and the rest at the bottom. Instead of scooping the oil off, the unwanted fractions would be drained from below into the containers of the infierno. It was much more precise and convenient.

(15-16) Motor Vellino Tipo BR
The system was driven by a stationary engine of the Motores Vellino brand (3b, 15).

The brand was very popular and we have seen an engine of the same brand, other type though, at the playground in Palo, not that far away from Banastón.

Motores Vellino was very visible through its advert­isements in magazines and newspapers and its history is connected with the early years of the automobile.

Read more about Vellino.

Laboratorio Vellino
Taller Electro-Mecánico

(17) Año 1937
The walls inside are covered with much hand­writing but the plaster is dingy or fallen down making it all very hard to decipher. We could discern names and sums and at one spot also the year 1937 (17).

The old wiring of the electricity is most interesting (18, 19). The wires are held apart by spacers made of wood.

(18-19) Old wiring kept apart by wooden spacers

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