BRIDGES OF VILPPULANKOSKI
During the Famine of 1866–1868, a number of roads were built in Finland as emergency public works. The building of the Ruovesi–Vilppula road began in 1863. The Vilppula–Juupajoki–Orivesi road was completed in 1868. In summer 1876, a wooden bridge was constructed in Vilppulankoski and it remained in use until the turn of the 20th century. The old wooden bridge was a popular meeting place for young people in the village. A new stone bridge was built in its place in 1901.
The bridge was constructed under K.G. Reipas, a famous stone builder of the time. The transport and delivery of stones required special equipment, including hoists and chains, a piling crane and an iron winch. The railway bridge was also reinforced in 1910–1911, as engines had grown heavier and railway traffic more frequent on the Tampere–Vaasa line by the turn of the 20th century.
With the building of the groundwood mill in Vilppula, bridges to serve industrial transport needs were also built across the rapids. Groundwood were transported on rails across the rapids and similarly the rolls of ground pulp would be transported back onto the northern shore, from where they continued their journey along the narrow gauge railway line to the Vilppula railway station and onwards to the paper mill in Mänttä. There were separate tracks next to the road bridge for these manually pushed pulp carriages.
VILPPULANKOSKI GROUNDWOOD MILL
A total of 12 new groundwood mills were launched throughout Finland between 1865 and 1875 on the shores of suitable rapids. At first, aspen was used, but soon the peeled spruce bolts replaced it as the raw material. Groundwood mills had high fire risk and many of them burnt down during their first few decades.
From the 1880s onwards, groundwood mills were usually built of brick and acquired the appearance of a proper industrial building.
The groundwood mill in Mänttä had started operations in 1869, but the ground pulp it produced was not able to meet the demands of the paper mill completed in the 1880s on its own. Factory owner G.A. Serlachius built the second groundwood mill by Vilppulankoski in 1882. Soon after, in 1888, the building was destroyed in a fire but was immediately rebuilt.
The Vilppula groundwood mill was a simple, red-ochre log building resembling a traditional grain mill. The machinery was situated in a two-storey building so that the process could unfold from top to bottom, making use of gravity. On the bottom level of the building were the turbines, which mechanically, by way of cogwheels, shafts and belts powered the machines. In addition, a 75 horse-power vertical-shaft Jonval turbine was directed, coupled with the grinders. A third, smaller turbine powered the ancillary machines and dynamo lights.
The 60 cm peeled spruce logs were pressed with water against the circulating grinding stone. The liquid pulp was led from the grinders along wooden flumes through a number of sieves to the collector, where it formed sheets around metal rollers. The sheets were folded like fabric into rolls and placed on the pushcart, in which they were taken across the rapids and from there on along the narrow gauge tracks towards the Mänttä paper mill.
The factory employed between 10 and 20 workers. The longest-serving director was Adolf Leander, who had previously served as a foreman at the Mänttä paper mill. The factory operated in three shifts – four on each shift. Adolf Leander lived in the office building and the director’s residence on the western side of the mill. Right next to the mill, between the tracks and the road, was the residential building for factory workers, with six dwellings, each comprising one room and a kitchen. Some of the workers lives in their small cottages on the eastern side of the tracks in Savonlinnanmäki.
After 63 years of service, the Vilppula groundwood mill was closed on 10 June 1945. The building was demolished and its machinery was scrapped. The memorial for Vilppula groundwood mill, made from two grinder stones and a turbine runner was erected in 1990s on the initiative of Kaarina Pollari, a noted local history activist.
In 1918, Finland experienced a brutal civil war, which lasted for four months and resulted in the loss of nearly 40,000 lives. For seven weeks from the first days of the war, Vilppula was the centre of events. The northern side of Vilppulankoski was held by the White Guard and the southern side by the Red Guard. The Finnish Civil War ended on 16 May 1918 with the victory of the White army and the defeat of the Reds. The White Guards were led by the Finnish Senate and the Red Guards by the Finnish People's Delegation that opposed the Senate.
In the course of January and February 1918, Vilppulankoski became part of the frontline between Red Finland and White Finland. Vilppula was occupied on 1 February 1918 by Ostrobothnian White Guard troops. The Reds, supported by Russian troops, attempted to proceed along the railway line to assist Russian garrisons in Ostrobothnia. Later, the main objective of the Reds was to take over the strategically important Haapamäki railway station.
White Guard troops had settled in Vilppula, as the rapids were deemed to offer an advantageous defence position. The rapids did not freeze in the winter, and with only three crossings – the road bridge, the railway bridge and a turnbridge near the church – effectively stopped the enemy.
To add further obstacles for crossing the rapids, the Whites opened the Mäntänkoski dam, which caused ice to break all the way up to Kirkkosalmi.
The focus of the White Guard defence was on the railway line, which the enemy attempted to use to advance. In early February, the White Guard set up two machine guns on the northern side of the railway bridge, protected by bales of pulp from the Mänttä mill. During the first offensives on 2, 4 and 7 February 2018, the White Guard defended themselves from these positions behind the rapids, primarily with machine guns and artillery. The Reds never advanced to the rapids. After mid-February, the focus of the offensive on the Vilppula front moved on to Ruovesi and the White Guard moved its front line two hundred meters south of Vilppulankoski.
The last event of the Civil War to take place in the environs of Vilppulankoski was the attempted offensive by the Reds on 13 March 1918. Four days later, the White Guard began its own offensive in Vilppula as part of the operation to take over Tampere. After this, the frontline was moved away from Vilppula.