Mills in Altoaragón - aceitero

La Puebla de Castro

La Puebla de Castro is a village about halfway between El Grado and Graus and is probably best reached from the latter. From Graus drive to the South, to Barbastro, on the A-139 (or N-123a). You'll have the lake of Barasona on your left side. After a while turn right where the A-2211, Secastilla and Puebla de Castro are signposted. Then take the first branch (with the purple cultural info) leading into the village if you prefer to walk down to the mill. Wait for the second branch if you rather prefer an attack from below, starting at the swimming pool. The mill is on a corner of the Camino de la Fuente.

Pictures: 11.iv.2017

(1) The oil mill converted to museum site and with the Christmas lights still in place.

The oil mill is called Torno nuevo because it was built to replace an older mill which needed to be modernized. This new mill (1) was in use from the year 1925 to 1950. ()

It is good that the mill is kept as a museum, but the current arrangement and selection of items — were those wooden school benches (3) used in the mill? — clearly gives the impression that this museum site wasn't that important and that it should not cost too much effort. But still: certainly worth a visit.

Although all important equipment is present, I still wonder if the current setup was the original configu­ration. It all looks a bit crowded with very little room to move between workstations. Currently there is also no place to store fresh olives that are waiting for their turn. We are also missing a fire place for making hot water needed in the extraction process. And there is the location of the pumpset that blocks what must have been a passage­way in the past. It is possible that this was the setup back then, but it makes you think: hadn't the work­place been made smaller than before?

(2) Overview of the workplace.
(3) The grinder (torno) with collecting vessel.

The grinder (3 – 5) is the museum's flagship piece. The edge stone is running over a bed com­posed of six ring sectors (5). The stone is mounted on an axle driven by an electromotor at the other side of the room (4, background) via a ribbon and some cogwheels. I couldn't come close enough to make an exact count of the number of cogs on each wheel, but I gave it a try: Giving a ratio of about 1:28 without factoring in the ratio of the ribbon wheels (my guess 1:6). I could not detect a gear box and therefore the only means of changing the speed of the grinder must have been the number of revolutions of the motor.
The feeding system of the grinder is very well preserved. First we have a wooden box shaped like a funnel (3, 5) mount on the same axle as the roller stone. This box, tolva, is equipped with a small door which allows to regulate the outflow of the olives. An iron contraption ensures that the olives remain in the path of the edge stone.

The resulting olive paste was then shovelled in the open channel (5) around the grinding surface and pushed into a collecting vessel (3) by a paddle also moving together with the roller stone.

Similar devi­ces can be seen in i.a. Banastón, Troncedo, or Mipanas.

(4) The drive system of the grinder: electromotor, ribbon, and cogwheels.

(5) Feeding system of the grinder.

The paste was then scooped up and placed between the capachos, or esteras, which are double layered dishes (6) originally woven from esparto (the grass Stipa tenacissima), but later made from synthetic material.

Layers of olive paste alternating with esteras were then stacked up in a trolley, vagoneta (6). A full load was called a pie, but the number of capa¬≠chos 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.

When fully loaded the trolley is pushed into the press. A short railway track — which may even include a turn table (see Angüés, or El Grado ) — makes it easier to move the load around.

Here we find only a short track both before and after the press (6, 9). Both tracks carry a trolley. I am not sure this shows the original layout. The tracks don't come near the grinder and its vessel were the paste is collected; the trolleys therefore aren't helping very much in making the work lighter.

(6) Trolley = vagoneta.

(7) Tag on the press.
The press and its supporting equipment is a typical configuration sold by Gabriel Pujol Parés (or La Maquinista Reusense): a hydraulic press (2) ● a pumpset with two cylinders with automatic valves (8) ● the pressure tubes to connect both (9) ● an electro­motor to power the pump set (2) ● two trolleys with their rails (6, 9) and a turning table (not seen here).

Similar constellations of the same brand can be seen in Banastón, and Alquézar.

(8) Water pump for the hydraulic press.
(9) Regaifa.

The press (2) looks pathetic because she is half taken apart for some reason. The remaining equipment seems to be in good order, though.
The pressure pipe between the pump and the press is worked into the floor (9-2) and this is also the case for a tube (9-1) which carries the fresh olive oil to collecting vessels outside (10, 11).

(10) .
(11) The hole in the corner is the end of the tube indicated in 9-1.

Read more about the history and customs around this mill in the reference below (Spanish)
Other displays of an oil mill are to be seen in i.a.: Palo, Panillo, Graus (mill of Castarlenas), Castillazuelo.

Vicente Burrel Guillén — 2016 — El torno viejo y el torno nuevo: los molinos de aceite o almazaras de La Puebla de Castro — — latest visit 25.vii.2023.

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