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The distance depended on the weight of the shaft and the number of pulleys.The shafts had to be kept aligned or the stress would overheat the bearings and could break the shaft.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.Belts were often twisted 180 degrees per leg and reversed on the receiving pulley to cause the second shaft to rotate in the opposite direction.Pulleys were constructed of wood, iron, steel or a combination thereof.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.Varying sizes of pulleys were used in conjunction to change the speed of rotation.For example a 40" pulley at 100 rpm would turn a 20" pulley at 200 rpm.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.

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