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The central power source could be a water wheel, turbine, windmill, animal power or a steam engine.Power was distributed from the shaft to the machinery by a system of belts, pulleys and gears known as millwork. The fixed pulley on the upper shaft is driven at constant speed by a belt from the power source.A typical line shaft would be suspended from the ceiling of one area and would run the length of that area.One pulley on the shaft would receive the power from a parent line shaft elsewhere in the building.Pulleys solidly attached ("fast") to the shaft could be combined with adjacent pulleys that turned freely ("loose") on the shaft (idlers).In this configuration the belt could be maneuvered onto the idler to stop power transmission or onto the solid pulley to convey the power.
Usually at the last belt feeding power to a machine, a pair of stepped pulleys could be used to give a variety of speed settings for the machine.
The use of flat belts was already common in the US but rare in Britain until this time.
The advantages included less noise and less wasted energy in the friction losses inherent in the previously common drive shafts and their associated gearing.
Flat belts on flat pulleys or drums were the most common method during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The belts were generally tanned leather or cotton duck impregnated with rubber.
A line shaft is a power driven rotating shaft for power transmission that was used extensively from the Industrial Revolution until the early 20th century.