ASME-Landmark:Barker Turbine/Hacienda Buena Vista


The historic Hacienda Buena Vista coffee plantation, near Ponce, Puerto Rico, is home to the only known example of a Barker turbine, the earliest practical reaction turbine design. Water jetting from nozzles at the ends of the arms cause the arm-and-shaft assembly to rotate. The brass nozzles were adjusted to balance the water flow to each side. It can produce about 6 hp at 22 rpm.

Barker's turbine was invented as a laboratory curiosity at the end of the 17th century. It was later improved upon, leading to the Scotch turbines widely used throughout Europe and America (of which only three are known to exist in America today). The discovery of this pre-Scotch turbine in Ponce led historians on a decade-long search for its origins; finally, historic papers and records from the Vives family solved the mystery. The turbine was built by the historic firm of West Point Foundry, Cold Spring, New York, and was shipped to Buena Vista in December 1853.

The turbine follows improvements made by James Whitelaw in 1841 England and 1843 America, often treated as the first true metal turbine waterwheel. This turbine, then, is considered a "missing link" in the evolution of turbines. Prior to its discovery at Hacienda Vives, no turbines of pre-Scotch type were known to exist.

Owned by the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust, the mill has been documented by the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). See ASME website for more information