Can you imagine the sound of the belts slapping? Just think of all the oiling around necessary each day to keep all the shafts and idlers spinning smoothly.
I'm reminded of a comment I saw in "Cathedrals of Steel" a small book about the railroad roundhouses at Galesburg, IL. One 'old timer' noted that the biggest improvement ever made to the roundhouse was the introduction of electric machine tools. Rather than running a big lineshaft system all the time you had considerably less noise by powering individual machines with individual motors that could be switched off when not needed.