This article appeared on page 3 of The China Mail, on 1st August, 1892:



In a Colony like Hongkong, which, for over half a century, has been simply an emporium for collecting a share of the products of the vast empire of China and distributing them to the four quarters of the globe and a distributing centre for the products of the West imported into China, it is pleasant to have to record any addition to the limited number of productive agencies of the place. It is difficult to conceive the possibility of Hongkong becoming a manufacturing centre, applying the words in their strictest sense; but British enterprise has shown what can be done under the most unfavourable conditions in other parts of the world, and it is not outside the bounds of possibility that without any falling off in other directions new outlets may be found for capital and our irrepressible energy. In the present instance, however, it is the Chinese who are leading the way. A few years ago a Chinese syndicate was formed with a view to establish a paper manufactory in our midst. There were some preliminary difficulties, but these have been successfully combated, and the manufactory is now un fait accompli.

For some years there have been paper mills using modern machinery at Shanghai and Canton, and profitting from the experience of these the Directors of the new syndicate, having acquired a suitable site at Aberdeen, communicated with the leading firms at Home for the purpose of obtaining plans of paper mills on European principles with the latest and best appliances for the manufacture of paper. After careful consideration the plans of Messrs Bertrams, Limited, Edinburgh,—although their estimates were not by any means the lowest—were accepted, and as the outcome of this wise action of the Directors, a manufactory has been established larger and better than either of its two rivals in China and equal to many works in England or Scotland. Through the agency of the Messrs Bertrams, Mr David Baillie, who has had over 30 years experience in paper works in Britain, was secured as superintendent, and along with Mr Hay, the engineer of the designers, Mr Baillie arrived in the colony in the middle of June, 1890. Before building operations could be commenced a good deal of levelling had to be done preparing the ground for the buildings. Thirty feet of rock was excavated to a depth of forty feet and a large portion of the foreshore reclaimed, and by this means a total area has been obtained of nearly two acres. This work was begun in June, 1890, and the plant fitted up enabling a start to be made with the actual production of paper on the 14th January, 1892.

The mill is substantially built of brick on a granite foundation, and as it was designed by Messrs Bertram specially for the accommodation of the necessary plant, it is all that could be desired for convenience in working. It is a three-storey building. Two bungalows have been erected for the residence of the European employees, and although it would probably have been better to have these buildings on a higher level they are conveniently situated and arranged for the comfort of the occupants. Besides Mr Baillie, there are three European paper makers; while upwards of 100 Chinese are employed about the mill. For the housing of these Chinese, quarters have also been erected within the compound. To anyone who has never seen the process of manufacturing paper by machinery a visit to the works is full of interest, and fortunate indeed are they who have the company of Mr Baillie as cicerone. Apart altogether from the fact that he has watched the growth of the works from the moment the first stone was laid, his long experience in similar works enable him to explain clearly the whole method by which rags or straw are converted into paper. At the Aberdeen Mills paper is made from both substances—rags and rice straw.

The process of manufacture begins in the upper floor. Here the rags are chopped up and dusted before being precipitated into four boilers, each with a capacity of 35 cwts., where they are boiled with water containing 7 per cent of caustic soda, the heating power being high-pressed steam. The effect of the caustic is to extract the dyes from the rags. From the boilers, which are on the second floor, the rags are conveyed on wheeled bogies to the five washing and bleaching engines, where the cleansing process is completed. Having been rinsed in clean water, 60,000 gallons of which are used to one ton of finished paper, the rags are bleached in a solution of water and chloride of lime, and are chopped finer during their stay in these bleaching engines. They are next drained in brick tanks with perforated bottoms and sides, and upon being brought back to the room they are placed in the beaters where they are chopped into such fine pieces that they assume a pulpy appearance, and one begins to understand how it is possible to produce paper from the  coarsest rags. The process so far occupies about 16 hours.

The straw does not require the same treatment as the rags, and does not take so long to be reduced to pulp. When introducing rice straw, Mr Baillie had some difficulty in getting it cleaned properly, and he found it necessary to draw upon his own invention to overcome this difficulty. Beneath the single boiler used for straw he has fitted up an iron tank with perforated false bottom and sides, and here the straw is washed and drained as it assumes a pulpy consistency. It is afterwards put upon a Pressenet ((spelling?)) machine, where it is cleared of all lumpy particles likely to deteriorate the quality of the paper. When in use this machine is driven by a separate engine of 26-horse power.

Coming from the second to the bottom floor, the visitor is shown on the way two large tanks into which the pulp is run from the beating engines. In these tanks there are two revolving agitators which keep the pulp in constant motion in order to prevent the heavier substance falling to the bottom. From these tanks it is again pumped into a receiving box, and it is from this box that the pulp runs on to the paper-making machine. The outflow is regulated according to the weight of the paper to be made. So thin is the substance as it passes through the sand traps and over the strainers, it is difficult to believe it possible to issue some 150 feet away in a minute or two in the shape of a very fine thin paper. Travelling on a wire gauze that revolves at the rate of 150 feet to the minute the pulp is still further strained—partly by the water dropping through the gauze and partly by the water being extracted by six vacuum pumps. It now reaches the couch rollers and goes through the first and second press rollers on a blanket to the drying cylinders. There are twenty cylinders, each four feet in diameter, filled with steam, and the cylinders are so arranged and protected as to equalise the drying process all over the machine. At the further end of the machine is a set of chilled-metal rollers. It is these rollers which give the finish and smooth surface to the paper, and should the business of the company develop in the way of supplying English firms, intermediate rollers can be utilised to enable the makers to produce the finest qualities of English paper. Indeed the whole of the plant may be turned to the manufacture of the finest paper. The paper as it comes off the machine is rolled into webs, and is finally out into various sizes by a separate machine. There are several guillotines for cutting the paper into smaller sizes as required by customers

The total length of the paper-making machine is 155 feet and the width 7 1/2 feet. The motor power is supplied by an engine of 60-horse power, In addition to several small engines for driving detached portions of machinery, there is a large engine of 300-horse power for the washing and beating engines, and this engine can, when required, go up to 500-horse power. For providing steam for all these engines there are three boilers, each 30 feet by 8 feet, and of 80 lbs. pressure.Where so much water is required it was an essential point for consideration that there should be an ample supply. This is not wanting. Numerous streams on the hillside are collected into a dam capable of storing 44,000,000 gallons. The mill is illuminated by incandescent electric light. As a provision against accident there are two dynamos, each generating 64 volts. With the exception of Sunday the work is in full swing night and day, and from 25 to 30 tons of paper are produced per week. It has to be borne in mind, however, that the machinery is capable of a much larger production, and it is to be hoped the enterprise which has led to the establishment of the mills will be so rewarded as to necessitate full pressure being worked. The cost of the establishment is great, as may he imagined when it is stated that the machinery alone supplied by the Messrs Bertrams cost from £14,000 to £15,000, exclusive of carriage and fitting up. Whatever may be the prospects in the future the Mills have done well as yet; there has been a ready demand for the paper made and a steady output. Within the past few months the works at Shanghai and Canton have been stopped but such a contingency is not feared with regard to the Aberdeen Mills. For the purposes for which it is required the paper made at Aberdeen is highly suitable, and in many ways everything is done to satisfy the requirements of the consumers in the interior of China, where the machine-made paper is preferred to the coarser qualities hitherto made by hand by the natives.

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