The Waterwheels of the two mills on the Moulin XII estate are "Sagebien" waterwheels, from the name of the engineer who invented them.

Alphonse Eléonor Sagebien was born near Amiens in 1807. He enrolled at the prestigious École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures at an early age, and graduated in 1833, when he was 26.
He devoted himself to metallurgy up until 1848: he was responsible for the discovery of the mineral deposits mined at the end of the 19th century in the region of Pas-de-Calais. He then turned his hand to hydraulics and became fascinated by the building and perfecting of waterwheels.

He invented a remarkable waterwheel: "the Sagebien wheel", considerably more powerful than the waterwheels in use at the time, in particular for those with low waterheads. He never left Amiens, and worked on the mills, hydraulic plants and paper mills around there. For ten years, from 1878 to 1888, he was a member of the municipal council of Amiens. He died there in 1892.
Alphonse Sagebien created what he called "roues-vannes" which relied more on the weight of the water than on the speed of the flow. They were perfectly adapted to low heads but required faster flow rates. These machines also allowed the water to enter at different heights depending on the level of the water. The Sagebien wheel was a huge success, and there are still many of examples of them in different sizes in use in France, but always in relatively large installations. Some are impressive, like the one at Moulin St Denis (opposite) which measures 8 metres in diameter, weighs more than 15 tonnes and supplies more than 30 kW of power (40 horsepower).
But the prize goes to the Sagebien wheel at the Trilbardou Moulin-pompe in Seine-et-Marne. This pumping station draws water from the river Marne to supply the Ourcq canal (this was envisaged under Colbert, commenced under Napoleon I) which takes 400,000 cubic metres of water a day to Paris. Built in 1869, the installation comprises a Sagebien wheel 11 metres in diameter and 6 metres wide. It weighs 83 tonnes and requires a flow rate of 9 cubic metres per second for a water head of 1.30 m. With a theoretical maximum power output of 150 horsepower, it is capable of developing power in the order of 125 horsepower.
The Trilbardou moulin-pompe is one of the rare examples of an industrial installation, almost 150 years old and still working perfectly, thanks to the inventive genius of Alphonse Éléonor Sagebien.

The "Sagebien" wheel at the Moulin de Bécheret
The Sagebien wheal is a breastshot wheel with flat paddles; the crown is very wide and forms very deep "buckets" that narrow towards the back (figure 1 below). The buckets are not closed laterally; it is the chamber walls on each side of the wheel that hold the water: there is play of 3 to 8 millimetres between the buckets and the chamber walls. The water enters through a sloping gate almost at a tangent to the waterwheel at entry point. It opens as if falls so that the water runs out as slowly as possible. The blades consist of planks that press on angle irons called "coyaux". The "coyaux" are joined by flat or profiled iron hoops that constitute the crown, mounted on a system of "U"-shaped arms that assemble on the fixing collar.

There are very few of these wheels still in service today and the Moulin XII estate is proud to have two of them, fully restored by the owners, Mr and Mrs Parisot, and which are in perfect working order.

Sagebien wheels require a complex, powerful transmission system due to their slow rotation speed.

Opposite are the gears of the Sagebien waterwheel at the Moulin de Bécheret which converted the rotation speed from 5 to 750 rpm to run a generator.





Fig. 1 - The shape of the Sagebien wheel is shown in the drawing in figure 1: the diameter is seven to eight times the height of the waterhead, or 6 to 12 m; the height of the blades should be sufficient to prevent water from penetrating the middle of the wheel, or i+h/2, where i is the depth of the water upstream and h the height of the waterhead. Having drawn the circle of the centre wheel o, trace, to the immersion point a a line ax at an angle of at least 30° to the horizontal; from the centre o, trace a circle at a tangent to ax and the line at a tangent to this circle from immersion point b, should be at an angle of around 45 degrees to the horizon; the wheel is all the more efficient the closer the blades receiving the water from upstream are to the vertical, which increases the diameter of the wheel to increase its efficiency.


Fig. 2 - If the flow of the watercourse is approximately constant, the water is allowed to flow into the whole depth of the inlet channel; otherwise, a circular lock is added. The wheel is contained in a cylindrical masonry spillway and is enclosed between two walls to prevent water from escaping along the sides.
The distance from one paddle to another,  on the circumference (blade step) should be between 30 and 40 cm, usually 40 cm.

The two waterwheels at Moulin XII have been fully renovated according to the original drawings and techniques. The Moulin St Denis wheel was in the worst state of disrepair and had not turned since the end of World War II. All the old wood had to be removed and the wheel was refitted with more than 10 tonnes of live oak heartwood. Many parts of the mechanical systems had been vandalised over the years, when the mill had been open to the elements, and they had to be manufactured according to the original plans and techniques. Sluice gate racks, adjustment pins, bronze bearings, beams, etc. Everything was remade.

There was old wood remaining on the top 1/3 of the wheel that had to be removed

The lower part of the wheel had no wood remaining, and all the bolts had to be sheared

The external bearing was severely damaged

the renewed structure

the sluice gate racks working again

the mechanical parts remade

the "Sagebien" wheel at the Moulin St Denis back in service after more than 50 years of neglect


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Sogea Construction

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