07-09-2008, 01:11 PM
Please.please PLEASE don't stop posting! This is wonderful material, especially viewed through the eyes of one so familiar with the landscape.
07-13-2008, 06:15 PM
Fiction and Hard Fact
Many thanks for the kind words of encouragement.
I’ve just been reading ‘Love on the Dole’ by Walter Greenwood, a novel published in 1933, inspired by the author’s early experiences of growing up in Salford. It describes the misery of the place in the hungry thirties, with people trapped in poorly-paid jobs, and so readily put out of work when trade was slack.
One of the characters, Harry, has a part time job before and after school in a pawnbroker’s shop, but on leaving school at 14 he wants to do what he regards as man’s work, and gets taken on as an apprentice at a large engineering works. From the description it’s clear that this is Metropolitan-Vickers in Trafford Park.
Describing the boy’s first venture to the works ‘….proceeding to fall in with a great procession of heavily booted men all wearing overalls and all marching in the same direction….. The air resounded with the ringing rhythmic beat of hobnailed boots.’….
‘…..A double row of six smaller chimneys thrust up their steel muzzles …. Tongues of flame shot up, fiery sprites, kicking their flaming skirts about for a second, then diving again as instantly as they had appeared. An orange glare reflected dully on the wet slates of the foundry roof……
‘Thousands waited at the gates to be admitted when they opened at 06.00. ‘Suddenly, from the side of one of the tall chimneys appeared a plume of steam vapour instantly followed by the deep, loud hoarse note of a siren. The warning signal telling the men that only five minutes separated them from the time to begin work.’
It didn’t take long for Harry to realise that he wasn’t there to be taught, merely to be a cheap machine operator until he came out of his time, after which his services were no longer required.
The author wouldn’t have known that the economic deprivation would end in a few years, with the coming of rearmament, and war.
Makes me appreciate how lucky I am, in contrast to my parents.
Talking of Metropolitan-Vickers and social history, yesterday I came across a secondhand book called ‘Family Engineers’ by Sir Eric Mensforth. Lodged between the pages was a handwritten note from Sir Eric to Prof Harry Armytage, saying that he was sending a copy of the book as a token of appreciation for the benefit he obtained from reading Armytage’s ‘A Social History of Engineering’, and hoping that his own ‘case study’ might be of interest.
Mensforth was an important figure in various engineering companies, including John Brown, shipbuilders. His father was an early recruit to British Westinghouse at Trafford Park, in 1902. He had offers from Mather & Platt and Crossley, but decided to give Westinghouse a try, as they had some urgent and challenging problems to resolve with their big gas engines. Westinghouse’s reputation for hiring and firing is illustrated by this from Mensforth Jr: ’…. he and my mother, with my baby brother, their belongings in a wicker basket secured by a leather strap, stopped to find a lodging in Moss Road. The landlady enquired of mother as to where he was going, and on hearing Westinghouse, said ’Then it is not worth unpacking, they only last half a day there’.
Mensforth Jr says that his father was very cautious about novel design. ’This could have followed from an early accident in 1914, which I believe he witnessed, when an 8 ft diameter cast steel flywheel, made in Germany, burst on test at Westinghouse. Fragments killed one man, injured others, and caused material damage half a mile away. He refused to fly in an aeroplane ’unless he could keep one foot on the ground’.
Reference to the flywheel bursting can also be found in the fascinating online book about the first 50 years of British Westinghouse/Metropolitan-Vickers:-
I may say a bit more about Mensforth Manchester connections in future.
At the moment, I’ve come over gloomy, having reflected on Moss Road, and looked at what’s happened to the area, using the Google Maps satellite photo. I used to get the train to Trafford Park, descend into Moss Road with the throng of workers, and take the short walk into the former Metro’s works (by then AEI), with the pervading smell of corn flake production from the adjacent Kelloggs works. If I had time before clocking on, I’d take a longer walk through the aisles of the various shops, trying to look as though I had business there.
During my training there I spent time in many departments, including various offices. The design offices had files on plant built donkey’s years before, and I recall reading with interest the reports of the site engineers who installed and commissioned equipment. These included the usual problems, delays, etc., but one Russian contract stuck in my mind because there was extensive correspondence about some unusual problems, namely Metropolitan-Vickers staff being arrested and tried following accusations of espionage and sabotage. This was in the 1930s when some British companies only managed to survive the recession thanks to big contracts from Russia. We can have our own views about trading with Stalinist Russia, but as things turned out, their industrial strength certainly proved vital to the Allied cause in WWII.
I thought no more about the Russian contract until a couple of years ago when watching a documentary about Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. One of Fleming’s first jobs as a reporter with Reuter’s news agency was to cover the show trial in 1933 of the six Metropolitan-Vickers engineers. It was a big event at the time, no doubt staged to stifle Western public criticism of the latest outrage or crop failure in the USSR.
07-13-2008, 06:52 PM
I’ll add this to provide a bit of context. I’ve taken the liberty of copying it from the online M-V book, the copy in my book being a bit damaged.
Occupying most of the RH foreground is the main M-V works. The Moss Road (South Gate) entrance is shown by the white road at the RH corner, crossing the Bridgewater Canal at a place called Water’s meeting. At the opposite end of this road was North Gate, the one described in ‘Love on the Dole’.
As the canal curves off the right, it heads in to Manchester, while off to the left it’s going to Barton, Patricroft, Worsley. A junction just off the picture takes it to Broadheath. The building at the centre of the LH page was the Mosley Road works, built in the 1930s for M-V to build AVRO Manchester bombers, and subsequently Lancasters. In my time they made electric motors and gas turbines there. It took me 20 minutes brisk walk from entering the works premises at the South Gate to being able to clock on at the North end of Mosley Rd works! On a topical note, I see the Mosley family name is in the mud again.
Near the top of the photo is the Manchester Ship Canal, with Salford and its docks on the other side.
The embryonic Kelloggs plant is just to the right of the crease at the bottom of the page. Glover’s cable works is barely perceptible on the curving Bridgewater Canal at the top RHS.
Although not clear in this photo, all the M-V buildings are coloured to highlight them. Just to the right of centre, 1/3 of the way down, is the M-V Leonard Road works, which made welding equipment and consumables (set up immediately after the war to make 3 million feet of welding rods per week). This was the original Ford UK works, where Model T Fords were assembled.
Last edited by Asquith; 07-14-2008 at 03:54 AM.
Reason: More trivia added about almost imperceptible features on a photo
07-17-2008, 06:54 PM
South Wales & South Africa, and Royce minus Rolls
When I visited Kidwelly Tinplate Works (museum) recently I spotted a small gathering of Mancunian electric motors. Now I know motors aren’t exactly fascinating to look at, but I haven’t seen any of Henry Royce’s motors before, so I thought I’d plant these photos on the internet. In the first photo, the small one on the left is not from Royce, but from J P Hall of Oldham. I assume that these were crane motors. There was another, by Lancashire Dynamo & Crypto in the party, but that was too young for this forum. The design of the Royce castings does look very neat. It would have been more than the draughtsman’s job was worth to turn out anything that didn’t please the great man’s eye. Imagine his trepidation as the looming shadow of Mr Royce fell across his drawing board.
Also at Kidwelly was a vary small steam engine made by Goodbrand of Manchester:-
It was 'table top' size. No idea what it was used for. It had a proper Pickering-type governor, the smallest I've seen. An unusual feature was the siamesed cylinder drain pipes, which must have been internally separated right up to the valve, otherwise the two sides of the cylinder would communicate when the valve was closed! All I can find out about Goodbrand is that they made textile testing machinery.
And now for something completely irrelevant.
Not far from Kidwelly is Brecon, and I visited the museum of the South Wales Borderers Regiment. Lots of interesting stuff, much memorabilia of the regiment’s engagements in the Zulu wars, including Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, the latter being the basis of the film ‘Zulu’. Reading about the lives of the Victoria Cross winners at Rorke’s Drift, I was touched by the story of Private William Jones, who ended up in Bridge Street Workhouse in Salford, which I believe is the one mentioned in Post #104 (also known as the Manchester Union Workhouse on New Bridge Street). He’d fallen on hard times, and had had to pawn his VC to pay for food for his family.
Before this fate befell him, he spent some time with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show when it toured Britain. By coincidence I came across an item about the show, and specifically about the encampment of 97 native Americans (I hope that is still the acceptable term) by the River Irwell in Salford. There’s a photo of the camp in the link below, which was located where the docks came to built, as seen in the aerial photo above:-
Staying near the workhouse, but getting back on track, and also back to Sir Eric Mensforth’s autobiography: He mentions that he served his apprenticeship at Mather & Platt, initially at Salford Ironworks (mentioned in Post #82 ).He describes the works as being old and with no amenities, and refers to working in the foundry ‘as a mate to a moulder on highly complicated pump casings - he was a really skilled artist and also a musician, so good that he was allowed to leave early to play each night in the Midland Hotel Orchestra’. Subsequently Mensforth transferred to M&P’s Park Works in Newton Heath, which he describes as ‘a revelation. White paint everywhere; broad aisles, individual lockers and two towels a day. …… you had to bring clean overalls every Monday to gain admittance. The directors normally lunched in the main canteen: anyone could be, and was, asked to join them, but paid for their own lunch.
Eric Mensforth was typical of the men who used to run British industry. They’d come up the hard way, learning the job, and learning what makes people tick. Nowadays we seem to be plagued with people who appear without trace, wreck the company, and disappear with a gold-laden wheelbarrow.
Last edited by Asquith; 07-18-2008 at 04:30 AM.
Reason: 'Goodbrand' engine added as an afterthought.
07-26-2008, 12:53 PM
I occasionally return to the original subject of this thread, namely Galloways. William Galloway was a friend of Henry Bessemer, and became involved in the practical development of the Bessemer process. In fact Galloway’s were the first to take out a licence. They also built the equipment for Bessemer’s early experiments in London and for many of the earliest commercial applications. In fact John Galloway stated that the prototype equipment was tested in the works before despatch, thereby claiming that the first Bessemer ingot was cast at Galloway’s works. They made their own converter for experimental use, buying a small piece of land adjacent to Knott Mill works for the purpose. Iconic visions of a great tilting converter in the heart of Manchester would be misplaced, however. The prototype was a small static cylindrical vessel.
In common with the other early licensees, Galloway’s experiments were unsuccessful, the material being unworkable. This was due to a lack of appreciation by Bessemer of the critical importance of the iron’s composition. By chance, his early experiments used phosphorus-free iron. Thanks to Robert Mushet, a solution was found which allowed a wide variety of iron qualities to be used.
Despite the early difficulties, the Galloway brothers went into partnership with Bessemer and two others to establish a plant in Sheffield. Bessemer’s biography describes how the first large ingot was placed on a railway truck as soon as it was cool enough, and despatched from Sheffield to Manchester, closely followed by Bessemer to see it being forged under the steam hammer at Galloway’s.
Apparently Galloways made Bessemer converters for the Pennsylvania Steel Company in the 1860s.
Bessemer autobiography online:-
Bessemer mentions that Galloways supplied the hydraulic equipment for his much-derided and abortive project to develop a ship incorporating a stabilised passenger saloon. Sounds interesting. I must look into it.
Once the Galloway’s site is covered by bland office buildings or apartments, it will be even harder to imagine that it played a role in the development of the modern world. So, if anyone is in Manchester and wants to stand on a patch of land that is at least still in the shape of Knott Mill Ironworks, don’t delay, go there while you still can.
07-26-2008, 04:21 PM
Intrigued by Bessemer’s ship, and keen to learn what the hydraulic gubbins looked like, I set off on a virtual hunt, and came back more or less empty-handed.
In the link below, Fig 85 shows the arrangement of the saloon.
Right, that’s roll dealt with, Sir Henry, but what about pitch and ……
I was hoping to find some sophisticated hydraulic control system, and indeed what could be more sophisticated than a human with a smart suit and gold braid? His job was to watch a spirit level, and move a lever left or right to actuate the hydraulic rams to keep the saloon level.
No details then, but my hopes were raised when I learned that when the saloon was removed from the ship, it was saved, and ended as a luxurious lecture theatre at Swanley Ladies Horticultural College. Let’s have a look, then. Not so fast. The Luftwaffe got there first. Ah, well.
There’s a photo of the ship here:-
And information about the hunt for the saloon here:-
07-29-2008, 05:34 PM
Well, although this thread continues to get plenty of views, there aren’t many responses, so it’s hard to know what to put in to interest people. Does it matter, I ask myself? No, I’ll just continue to post things that appeal to me, stuff that might otherwise be swept into the cracks of obscurity.
What I’ll do next is post some pictures and information about the products of firms that I’ve already mentioned. I’ll limit myself to the Oldham area for this post.
Earlier I mentioned James Spencer of Hollinwood, Oldham, who made machine tools and cranes. I’ve never seen a Spencer machine in the flesh, although I was tempted by an old lathe going cheap on eBay. Peter Selby kindly sent me a photo he’d taken of a Spencer crane as far from its birthplace as was possible before the advent of space flight. It’s a hand operated crane in a pump house in Thames, New Zealand:-
Here’s a Spencer slotting machine made in 1904:-
Also in 1904, James Spencer & Co made some machine tools for a maker of gas (gas) engines in the USA. No photos, but some of the machines were described: Two snout-type boring machines for boring closed-ended engine cylinders; a machine for boring two holes at right angles to each other (presumably for machining the bedplates of horizontal engines from two directions at the same time, perhaps the cylinder facing and the crankshaft location?); a machine for milling gas engine cams up to 14½ inches diameter.
Finally, following my penchant for rock-solid electric motors that probably didn’t rattle and buzz (although they might have smoked):-
I won’t offer this as a quiz.
These are two separate machines that happen to be bolted together for back-to-back testing. They are 45 HP geared motors for driving bending rolls. Note the solenoid brake that clamps onto a V-grooved wheel.
Made by J P Hall of Oldham, also in 1904. One thing that surprised me was the temperature rise on test. 75 degrees above ambient. I don’t know when they started fitting cooling fans to electric motors. 1904 would have been a good year.
07-30-2008, 11:44 AM
I'd say this thread is a huge success
Let's see: 148 posts consuming 8 pages. A five-start rating. Numerous "hits". I'd say these numbers speak for themselves: this thread is a huge success.
07-30-2008, 04:15 PM
My sandblast compressor's bigger than yours
Thanks, John. Unfortunately most of the 148 posts are mine . Not all the viewings are mine, though!
Onward, indeed. Let's leap ahead from 1904 to 1913.
I started another thread showing a large engine cylinder boring machine made by George Richards of Broadheath in 1913:-
Engine cylinder boring machine
I decided to put it in a separate thread so that those who steer clear of this saga might see it. In the thread I went on to describe the layout and contents of the works in 1913. Richards was closely connected with Tilghmans, who made sand blasting equipment, some of it alongside Richards’ machine tool production. Here’s a large steam-driven Tilghman air compressor (clickable thumbnails):-
2500 cu ft/min, 300 rpm. HP and LP air cylinders on top, HP and LP steam cylinders below.
Here’s another Manchester compressor:-
The valve arrangement is a load of balls.
The compressor was made by Isaac Storey. The name was vaguely familiar. A search showed that their work was mainly instruments, gauges, governors, boiler fittings. This site has a picture of one of their engine indicators:-
Their address was the Empress Foundry, Cornbrook, which would put them very close to the original works of L Gardner, makers of engines, coffee roasters, and dentist's chairs, and slightly less close to the exploding chemical factory, mentioned in Post 118.
07-30-2008, 04:38 PM
I have hazy memories of an 1880's advert in the Engineer or Engineering featuring
Tilghman's revolutionary process of sharpening files with a blast of sand and steam. I heard
recently that files are no longer made in England, so those in the back of your bench with
Sheffield, Warrington etc pedigrees are destined to become collectors items !
08-01-2008, 11:59 AM
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Model Engineer did an article on (I think) Blundell Files of Prescot, Lancashire, showing the whole process. Still, if it was 5 years ago, that’s a long time in British manufacturing. If they’ve gone, I suppose it’s the end of an era of hand tool manufacture in that area that dates back to William the Conqueror’s time.
There was a very impressive display of files in Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield. On some files the teeth had been cut such the facets created a picture on the file.
Now, from one demise to another.
In post #81 I mentioned P R Jackson’s works in Salford. I came across a 1904 article showing some of Jackson’s products. The gears are for electric motor-driven rolling mills. The large ones are 13 ft diameter (note the man in the background). They are steel castings, making life very much more difficult for the foundry compared with cast iron. At the same time, Jackson’s had cast a 16 ft diameter steel gear wheel for a dredger.
Making life difficult for the machine shop:-
In post #105 I mentioned the small Princes Bridge Iron Works of John Chadwick, located a stone‘s throw from Jacksons. This is very much a forgotten manufacturer, so I was pleased to come across a photo of another preserved Chadwick engine. This had been bought secondhand by the Isle of Man Railway Company to power their workshops, with steam from a locomotive boiler. It was removed for preservation by a museum, but surprisingly was later returned to its previous bed in the workshop.
By coincidence a Chadwick engine and an Isle of Man Railway locomotive also come close together in the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester, very close to the site of Chadwick’s works. The locomotive was made in nearby Gorton by Beyer-Peacock. It’s a small tank locomotive, nicely sectioned to show the workings. Beyer-Peacock supplied similar locomotives to Australia, Spain, Norway and South America.
08-01-2008, 06:34 PM
I mentioned that P R Jackson made large, heavy duty gears. Large gears were also made at the Trafford Park works of Metropolitan-Vickers, later known as AEI, then English Electric-AEI, then GEC. The largest gears were for ships, and the most sophisticated were for warships. Some warship gearboxes had input shafts coming at them from various steam and gas turbines. When I worked there the high precision gears were machined in a temperature controlled shop, and some of the machines were run overnight to ensure that the temperatures had stabilised. An adjacent shop made lesser gears, down to very small sizes for instruments, etc.
Geared turbines for marine propulsion had been pioneered by C A Parsons at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the first large merchant ship being the Vespasian, fitted with gears and high speed turbines in 1909. Its gears were hobbed on machines made by William Muir of Salford, mentioned in several earlier posts.
A few hundred yards away from Muir’s was a company that made gears and gear hobbing machines. Here’s a heavy-duty gearbox for a rolling mill, made by Henry Wallwork & Co:-
I accept that it’s not a very interesting photo, but I wish I knew more about Messrs Wallwork & Co. They seem to have been quite advanced in the fields of foundry work, gears, and gear cutting machinery, and, like so many others, made sewing machines at one time. The firm was located on Roger Street, Redbank, near the River Irk, just east of Victoria station. Not exactly inspiring surroundings:-
River Irk from Roger Street. Bone works on left, pub on the right. Some pubs have condom machines on the premises. This one has a complete rubber factory.
08-04-2008, 06:24 PM
Having mentioned Muir & Co again, I offer this photo. Not because there’s anything interesting about it, but merely because photographs of surviving Muir lathes seem to be something of a rarity.
It’s at Geevor Tin Mine museum, Cornwall, and I think it came from the nearby Holman Brothers engineering works. Another Manchester product at the same mine was a motor made by Lancashire Dynamo & Crypto Co Ltd of Trafford Park. I do like that name, a combination of the specific and the, hmmm, cryptic. Here’s the distinctive nameplate:-
The company was established as the Lancashire Dynamo and Motor Co in 1899, and while the new Trafford Park works was being built, they had temporary premises in Croft Street, Pendleton, but the offices were a tram ride away in central Manchester, at the Corn Exchange. As a child my Dad used to take me to the Corn Exchange just before Christmas, not because we had any corn to swap, but because he was taking me to the annual model railway exhibition that was held there. A real treat.
I couldn’t find Croft Street, Pendleton on a current map, but older maps reveal that it was in the area known as Hanky Park, scene of Walter Greenwood’s ‘Love on the Dole’, later swept away by Salford council‘s slum clearance activities. The 1916 map shows a cotton mill and small soap works on Croft Street, so presumably this is were LD&M had their temporary works.
The new Trafford Park works was built in 1900, next door but one to where Henry Royce would build his new works, and almost opposite Glover’s cable works, handy if you needed to borrow a cup of varnish or a length of wire or string, or whatever else goes into these electrical machines. Here’s the works in 1963, showing the ample car parking facilities and the convenient rail link:-
Here it is in 1901, viewed from land later to be occupied by Kilvert’s lard works and a power station. Note the Hansom cab outside the offices. Doesn't look very inviting, even on a cold, damp day:-
If anyone wants to see a plan of Lancashire Dynamo’s new works as it was initially laid out at Trafford Park, click on the thumbnail:-
The bays were served by by the arrangement of narrow gauge tracks shown in the plan and by overhead cranes made by local makers Vaughan and Craven Bros. Royce’s crane works didn’t become adjacent until 1902. The large vertical borer seen in the plan was an 18 ft diameter machine made a few hundred yards away by Smith & Coventry. Perhaps surprisingly for an electric motor manufacturer’s new works, many of the machine tools were lineshaft-driven.
Here’s a view of one of the aisles:-
The large lathe on the right seems to have a ‘remote control’ hand wheel for the tailstock.
LD&M supplied something known as the ‘Lancashire’ drive for many large planing machines. This used a regenerative motor-generator system. A feature of the system is that if cutting was intermittent, the speed could be increased for the idle length of the stroke. An application of the drive:-
I started by linking Muir and Lancashire Dynamo by machines seen in Cornwall. I’ll finish by linking them by a photograph of Manchester. The triangular building in the foreground is the former Corn Exchange where Lancashire Dynamo rented an office to start designing their machines. Behind the ugly aluminium building is the black chimney of the former Boddington’s brewery, and beyond that is the brick chimney of Strangeways jail. Just to the left of that is where William Muir had his factory. Various bridges can be seen, the nearest taking the railway over the River Irwell.
08-07-2008, 05:44 PM
In the recent photo of Manchester in the previous post, right in front of the aluminium monstrosity is the Victorian stone-built frontage of Victoria railway station. An interesting feature of the station was this overhead parcels carrier which traversed the various tracks:-
It lasted from the 1880s until the Blitz in 1940 or 1941. It was built by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, who naturally thought the wheels should be connected by coupling rods, as in a locomotive.
A similar principle was also adopted by Henry Royce’s company. This example, made at Royce’s Hulme works, offered a high position for a young employee:-
A beefier version was made in Royce’s Trafford Park works, destined for a Buenos Aires meat-packing plant. It used a rack-and-pinion arrangement, with cast iron racks on the level sections and cast steel on the gradients:-
Going back to the Lancashire Dynamo planing machine drive, I came across these photos showing the consistency achievable when reversing the table, compared with a conventional belt-driven arrangement:-
(The page was curved, not the work piece!)
I came across this 1920 example of a Lancashire Dynamo planer drive, not on a Manchester-built machine, but one made by Noble & Lund of Felling-on-Tyne:-
30 ft stroke, capacity 12 ft wide, 8 ft high.
Feed range: 1/16" to 1¼" per stroke
25 to 80 ft/min cutting speed, 80 to 120 ft/min return speed.
Last edited by Asquith; 08-07-2008 at 06:12 PM.
Reason: A Noble planer added
08-08-2008, 04:00 AM
Asquith, where i worked they replaced a belt driven planer, with all it's belt squeals and wear for a modern, 1950s, Noble and Lund, it fascinated me at the time how quickly it changed direction, and was almost silent in operation, on an aside the belt planer was nearly a permanent job on belt maintenance.
08-08-2008, 09:04 AM
I suppose those electric drives must have been welcomed with open arms in view of the wear and tear that planer belt drives were subjected to. An awful lot of time and energy must have gone into efforts to improve planer drive mechanisms. I think at least one US maker used compressed air to operate the table.
Looking at the strange columns on the Noble & Lund planer reminded me that I’d seen a photo of one before:-
This one is working in Sydney on the Harbour Bridge construction. I assumed that the styling was from the 1930s (reminds me of a streamlined wireless we used to have!), but the 1920 planer pre-dates the streamline era.
My additions to this thread often result from my stumbling across items linking various machines, places and manufacturers. This time it was cranes, leading to boilers, and linking to various earlier posts.
I was thinking about overhead electric cranes, and was aware that one of the early entrants to this field in the Manchester area was Joseph Adamson of Hyde. I’ll return to his cranes at a later date. I came across his obituary in a 1920 engineering magazine. It described him as ‘a man of forceful character, characterised by a bluntness and directness of expression, and with a fund of North Country humour’. He was the nephew of Daniel Adamson, and learned his trade at his uncle’s works (described in the link below):-
Daniel Adamson's new works, 1876
Within a very few years Joseph took responsibility for all the technical and commercial operations of Daniel Adamson’s works. During his tenure, steel plates replaced iron, and drilled holes replaced punched holes in boiler plates. ‘It may be recalled that these changes were largely brought about by a very serious explosion at the [Atlas] works of Sharp, Stewart & Co., Manchester’. This occurred in 1858, and since boiler explosions were rife at that time, it is not immediately obvious why this was regarded as a pivotal event. However, I recalled seeing a contemporary report of the coroner’s inquest, and managed to find it.
I suspect that the significance of this particular incident lay in the fact that it was a new boiler, made by a reputable company, and failed under closely monitored circumstances, so there was nothing to cloud the issue (often failures were ascribed to severe corrosion, bad design or construction, lack of water, scaling, or having safety valves which were inadequate or which had been gagged). In this case it appears that the cause was that one of the wrought iron plates was defective, being weakened at the edge due to ‘burning’ (‘red shortness‘) when being heated for rolling.
I can’t reproduce the account here, but there are a lot of interesting insights into the way things were done in those days. Numerous witnesses were called, including leading local engineers including Messrs Fairbairn, Galloway and Hick. One witness, a labourer, testified seeing that the pressure was normal just before the explosion, and mentioned that he could not read writing, but knew figures.
At the time of the inquest, nine men had died, and the inquest concerned two of them, who had died from their injuries several days after the incident. One was named as Gustav Gohn, of Great Ducie Street, Strangeways. (This is the street immediately to the left of the aluminium building in the last photo in the recent Manchester photo).
The other was John Gajewsky, residing at Osborne Terrace, Cecil Street. He was the resident inspector for the customer, a French company. This was the last of the forty locomotives on order (apparently they were destined for a Russian railway).
One of the partners in the company, Mr John Robinson, gave an account of the circumstances. After the explosion he ordered the engine to be sheeted over and nothing to be disturbed, recognising the need for a forensic investigation, and requested the assistance of some eminent local engineers.
There was no criticism of the design, (the design was French, conforming with French statutory boiler requirements). The specified barrel thickness was 13 mm, described as ‘half-inch full’. The manufacturer’s normal standard was 7/16 inch. It might be thought obvious that thicker was better, but the company had concerns that increased thickness increased the risk of undetected flaws. There was also some discussion about the size of plates. The failed one was ‘full size’, i.e. big enough to roll into a full ring, and the company was not enthusiastic about this arrangement, because it was more expensive and also because larger plates were found to be more likely to be flawed.
Surprisingly, it was not customary to hydraulically test boilers, although two of the boilers in this contract had been so tested to twice working pressure, at the request of the inspector. The normal works test was done in steam with the safety valves blowing hard (taking the pressure to 20 - 25 psi above lifting pressure). Mr Robinson concluded that hydraulic testing at something above working pressure would be advisable in all future locomotive work, subject to consultation with other engineers (presumably not wanting to put his company at a commercial disadvantage).
My aim in adding some recent photographs is to try and make the historical aspect somewhat less abstract. I recognise that these photos may contain nothing of intrinsic interest, and this one is no exception:-
It’s a view along the Rochdale Canal. The bridge in the distance passes under Oxford Road. Sharp, Stewart’s Atlas Works occupied the area on the left of the canal, where the bland modern building and the car park now stand.
08-08-2008, 06:48 PM
Asquith, where i worked in Hyde was next door to Joseph Adamson, for a boiler to leave the factory it had to pass over a single roadway bridge over the railway, Pickfords, or Walter Denton, " traction engines" were the usual carriers, and if they got the loading wrong, the boiler would become jammed on the bridge parapets, they than had to unleash the boiler , jack it up to clear the walls either side, once over, reload the boiler and away it went, this didn't happen in minutes, and if you were going for your lunch, etc, forget it !!
08-09-2008, 12:30 PM
From boilers to cranes
I can’t offer a picture of a traction engine hauling a boiler from Adamson’s, but here’s one with a Galloway’s boiler:-
Back to Joseph Adamson & Co of Hyde, near Manchester. They were boilermakers, but in 1894, when they needed some new overhead cranes, they became crane makers. They first satisfied themselves that electric motors were now sufficiently reliable for crane use, then set to and made the cranes and motors themselves. Then they started selling electric cranes. Here’s one they built for Armstrong, Whitworth’s Openshaw works in 1899, seen with a 50 ton load over the test pit:-
08-09-2008, 12:58 PM
A 135-ton crane at Armstrong-Whitworth’s didn’t have to travel far at all, being made by Vaughan of Openshaw. Here it is in Vaughan’s works:-
….and in A-W’s works:-
Vaughan’s works was only about ¼ mile from Armstrong-Whitworth’s. Or about 5/8 mile, depending which end of the works the crane had to be delivered to! The works’ frontage on Whitworth Street was 0.4 mile long. At some point A-W became Vickers-Armstrong, and they built a steelworks just north of the engineering works. This later became part of the English Steel Corporation. I can find very little about these large plants in Openshaw. What a place Openshaw/Gorton was for engineering! Llooking at the map, if we started at the large Ashbury’s railway carriage and wagon works (they also made cranes later), and headed east by train, we’d pass Vaughan’s crane works on the right, then Crossley’s engine works, then Armstrong-Whitworth, then the large GCR locomotive depot and the loco works on the left, and Beyer-Peacock’s locomotive and machine tool works on the right. Four of these places faced onto Whitworth Street. If you walked along there you would have seen nearly a mile of high, grimy brick walls on one side, and endless blocks of terraced houses on the other side. Very much like this, in fact:-
Perhaps the man in this photo lived in one of those houses in 1905:-
The lathe was built for Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Co., on Tyneside, and would be used to machine turbine rotors for ships like the Mauretania.
Back to Vaughan’s, here’s a smart-looking crane in their works:-
Here’s a more unusual crane on test on the ‘rolling road’ at Vaughan’s in 1925:-
This was made for a railway depot at Kilindini harbour, Uganda. The odd arrangement allowed the crane to pick loads up from a bay adjacent to the one in which the crane lived.
08-09-2008, 05:14 PM
Manchester to Auckland and back, with an Ohio rail link
What did they do before they had electric motors for overhead cranes, I hear you ask. Well, hand or steam power sometimes, but British makers made large numbers of overhead cranes utilising a wall-mounted steam engine to drive either a high speed endless rope or a long lineshaft (usually square, but occasionally with round with a continuous keyway). Various clever arrangements transmitted the power to the crane.
I’ve posted photos (in other threads) of the Craven Brothers rope-driven crane that can be studied in Manchester’s industrial museum, and I’ll come back to that shortly. First I’ll mention this link, which is an interesting account by one of Henry Royce’s early and enduring employees, with a good Lancashire name, George Clegg. Worth reading. In fact, worth printing and reading at leisure. Make sure you do - I might ask questions later…..
In it he mentions that his next door neighbour was a turner at Armstrong-Whitworth’s, working on naval guns. He also throws in snippets like how they used to deliberately overload the grinder at the Royce’s Cooke Street works, which overloaded the whole electrical system and gave them a short break. When he wasn’t working at Royce’s, he was a machinist at Crossley’s, a tester for Willys-Overland-Crossley, and a steam hammer driver at Beyer-Peacock. He also worked for a small crane company with a big name, Higginbottom & Mannock of Crown Ironworks, Gorton. One of his jobs for them was to replace the DC motors on the cranes at British Westinghouse with AC motors this included the 50 ton cranes, which I happen to know were made by Craven Bros. Here’s an interesting photo of one:-
I’d never heard of Higginbottom & Mannock before. It’s not a name that’s easy to forget, or indeed to fit on a small crane.
A search showed that Higginbottom & Mannock supplied a 20 ton overhead crane to the generating station of Auckland Tramways, New Zealand. Auckland is a long way from Gorton, in more ways than one. As I go down these unplanned routes, I keep finding links to take me further, and in this case a link takes me right back to the beginning of this thread: the rails for Auckland Tramways were made by the Lorain Steel Co. And who made the rail rolling mill engines?
While searching for more information on Auckland power plants, I found that a century ago a garbage-burning plant was built in Auckland which used ‘Meldrum Destructors’. These were made in Manchester (in Timperley, near Broadheath in fact). As a young person, I used to pass the works on the train, the mysterious and somehow sinister-sounding name Meldrum Destructors being ‘permanently’ established in the brickwork.
The only other reference I found was, curiously enough, in a site about bicycle derailleur gears. An extract: ‘A later patent, L Higginbottom and T Mannock’s 14,102 of 1886 for a travelling crane transmission, used two drive systems of the type just described, mounted side by side. Each system gave a different drive ratio and had its own drive belt. The two belt forks were operated by a single lever. This lever could therefore simultaneously disengage one drive system and engage the other. Thereby the speed could be changed without either belt having to cope with pulleys of differing diameter.’ Source:-
This leads me back to the Craven rope-driven crane in Manchester industrial museum. The engagement of drive for the three motions was achieved by shifting belts. see the sophisticated controls in the driver’s cage, and the fast and loose pulleys for forward and reverse drive:-