STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 01 Mar 2018, 05:18

CHAPTER 3: KELBROOK AND THE PICKLES FAMILY

The next port of call in our search for the history of Henry Brown Sons and Pickles is Kelbrook Main Street where we have to dig into the Pickles family. Kelbrook is a small village about a mile from Earby going towards Colne. The name Pickles comes from Pighkeleys, Pike leys, ‘dweller at the small enclosure’. There are a lot of them! As far as we are concerned at the moment there are three groups in the area, the Pickles of Kelbrook, the Pickles of Barnoldswick who founded the weaving firm of Stephen Pickles and Son of Long Ing and a third group which is all the others we are not sure about. Sorry about that, it’s not good scholarship but we have to know who to discard to get some order into this story!

Our Pickles are the families in Kelbrook who originated in Lothersdale and seem to have migrated over the hill as employment in the mills started to drag labour in from the surrounding districts in the early 19th century. I think I have the ancestry right but as I always remind you, research changes things and I might have to change my mind, however this is the state of play as I write.

We start with George Pickles of 7 Main Street Kelbrook who was a clogger and shoemaker. He must have done fairly well for himself because he was one of the original investors in Sough Bridge Mill when the Kelbrook Mill Company was formed in 1898. He was born in 1828 and according to the 1871 census was in Kelbrook and had a son William who was born in 1857. He seems to have had two more sons, Daniel who returned to Lothersdale and James who became the engineer at Sough Bridge mill just down the road towards Earby. William (1857) had at least two sons, John Albert Pickles, born in Kelbrook in 1885 and Newton who eventually took over the clogger’s shop. John Albert (always known as Johnny) is the one that we have been looking for.

Johnny Pickles was a bright lad who did well at school and when he left at 14 years old in 1899 his father used the family connection to get him a job in the office at Sough Bridge Mill. This was a big mistake because Johnny didn’t like it one bit. As a lad he had spent a lot of time with his Uncle Jim round the engine at Sough and knew exactly what he wanted to do, be an engineer. I get the idea that it wasn’t the engines themselves that fascinated him but the size and complexity of the engineering which produced them. He liked the engines and understood them but his first love was always the skills needed to make them and other artefacts. His father persevered for almost four years trying to get Johnny to settle to a managerial life but he kept running away to his Uncle Daniel’s in Lothersdale. We don’t know what transpired, no doubt there were some stormy scenes and perhaps Daniel interceded for the lad. What is certain is that in 1903 William gave in, at the age of 18 years Johnny got his way and was apprenticed to Henry Brown, machinist and engineer, of Albion Street Earby. Our story is beginning to come together! (Newton Pickles told me that the man who William Pickles went to see at Earby was old William Brown “who started the firm in the first place” and Newton said that this was in 1887 which is two years earlier than the date on the sign at Wellhouse but as we have noted, he was in business before then.)
Johnny did three years apprenticeship at Browns and was then judged fit to be a journeyman. This was quick progress, he must have been an able pupil. The custom was that once an apprentice finished his initial tuition he went on the road to gain more experience at different firms. Johnny knew where the action was in the trade at that time so in 1906 he aimed himself at Lancashire and was immediately set on at Victory ‘V’ in Nelson as a maintenance engineer. They must have wondered what had hit them.

The first job they gave him was to make a guard for the gas engine that drove the machinery to make the famous throat lozenges. Johnny went to the lathe to make some studs and the cutting tools were worn out, he told Newton “They looked like shovels!” He asked the manager if there was a smith handy who could draw the cast steel tools out and re-temper them but the manager told him that they were good enough for the previous engineer so they would have to be good enough for him. Johnny immediately gave his notice and said he’d finish at the end of the day.

While this was going on the gas engine which drove the factory broke down and everything stopped. Johnny went to it and found the trouble, he took the cylinder head off, straightened the valves up and got it running again. That evening the manager from Victory ‘V’ went over to Kelbrook to ask Johnny to re-consider and go back but he refused. The following day he went to Burnley Ironworks to see the manager Mr. Metcalfe and ask him for a job. Mr. Metcalfe asked where he had served his time and when he heard it was Browns at Earby he set Johnny on straight away turning muff couplings for shafting. Before he had been there a week he was about thirty couplings in front of the man who was boring them and so the foreman put him on a brand new 4ft faceplate lathe making the eccentrics for the new engine for Brook Shed in Earby (750hp, installed in 1907). Eventually Johnny turned the governor stand and the connecting rods as well for that engine and always had a soft spot for it.

When he had finished this he was put on the wheelpit turning a new flywheel for an engine at Rawtenstall which had run away and had a smash. He did six weeks on nights at that job, it was a big flywheel. He said it did one revolution every two and a half minutes and they turned the 25 grooves in it with two and a half inch square chilled cast iron tools made from the same metal as the wheel. (A piece of information about a technique I have never found elsewhere and a good example of how vital it is to get close to the source) After that job finished he went back on turning bevel wheels. At this point Johnny looked set for a career at Burnley Ironworks, the best engine makers in the area.

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The young John Albert Pickles in Henry Brown's machine shop in Earby in 1903.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 02 Mar 2018, 05:13

We need to recap on what was happening in Barlick and how this had affected Henry Brown. William Bracewell, son of Christopher Bracewell of Green End, Earby comes to Barlick in 1835 at the age of 23 and sets up at 24 Church Street putting yarn out to local weavers. By 1885 when he dies he has built Butts and Wellhouse Mills, formed the railway company, built up his engineering works in Burnley, bought coal mines at Ingleton, owns the Corn mill and is building a gas works for the town. He also owned land and farms and Ouzledale Mill and even had the biggest retail milk delivery business in the town. The Craven Bank takes over when he dies and in 1887 there is a sale of most of his assets, the bank fails to sell Butts and Wellhouse Mills. A report at the time said that grass was growing on the streets. Barlick is thrown into decline by the closure of the main employer in the town and in order to get economic activity going again local capital owners get together to found two shed companies to supply capacity for weaving on the Room and Power system. These are the Long Ing Shed Company in 1888 and the Calf Hall Shed Company in 1889. They build Long Ing and Calf Hall Sheds respectively. The Calf Hall Company buys Wellhouse mill in 1890 from the Craven Bank for £8,000 and included in the acquisition is Bracewell’s old maintenance shop. Bracewell’s chief engineer Peter Bilborough leaves the trade and goes into business as a coal merchant in the station yard supplying domestic and mill coal. A man called Sutcliffe takes over the Wellhouse machine shop.

The Room and Power system was a brilliant innovation which had started in the Bradley area (later to become the town of Nelson) as soon as the Bubble Act of 1720 was repealed in 1825 and it became possible to operate public joint stock companies again. The principle was that the capital holders built and maintained a steam-driven weaving shed charging tenants so much a loom or taping machine as rent. This lowered the capital threshold for new entrants to the trade, relieved them of any responsibility for running the mill and allowed them to specialise on what they knew best, weaving cloth. It was very successful.

In 1900, Henry Brown at Earby was tipped off by his uncle, John Duxbury of Crook Carr, who was a shareholder in the Calf Hall Shed Company that Sutcliffe had given notice to vacate the machine shop. Henry Brown takes it over at £25 per annum and starts an engineering service whilst keeping the Earby shop in Albion Street going. He goes into partnership in June 1912 as an iron founder with a man called Henry Watts who is running Ouzledale Mill near Forty Steps on Longfield Lane as ‘The Dale Ironworks’ with another partner called Hargreaves, renting it from the Calf Hall Company who acquired it with Butts Mill in June 1903. (I think that Watts took over the foundry in 1911 when a previous tenant called William Hey vacated it after a short tenancy. Richard Jones took the foundry in November 1905 on a six monthly lease. There is a note in the company minute books dated 6th March 1907 reporting that Mr Jones had asked the directors to lend him money to buy a gas engine because the water wheel was only giving enough power for a ‘7 or 8 cwt, blow’. The company advanced the money at 6% interest but only on condition that he took a five year lease and paid the money back within that time. Jones gives notice to quit the foundry on December 31st 1908. In February 1910 the foundry was let to William Henry Hey of Vivary Bridge Colne on a monthly tenancy at £18 per annum but he was there less than a year.) Henry Brown’s trade expands as new mills are built and he needs a foreman. One night in 1908, young Willy Brown, Henry’s son, went to Kelbrook and asked Johnny to go on to Barlick to be foreman for them. He was 23 years old and though he perhaps didn’t realise it at the time, he’d come home. His two years working at Burnley Ironworks had given him a chance to widen his knowledge and the connection with the management there was to be invaluable in future years.

We’re beginning to get somewhere now. The connections have been made and when Johnny moved up to Barlick to be foreman for Henry Brown and Sons at Wellhouse shop his opportunity had arrived to really show what he could do.

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Ouzledale Foundry before 1937.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 03 Mar 2018, 05:00

CHAPTER 4. HENRY BROWN AND SONS IN BARLICK

Its 1900 and we’re in Barlick. Henry Brown and Sons have taken over the old machine shop at Wellhouse Mill and kept the Earby shop on as well. Barlick was booming, the quarries on Tubber Hill were cutting stone as fast as they could to supply the demands of mill and house building. There were so many houses built in Barlick at this time that apart from the odd infill no more new houses were needed until after WW2. Existing mills were being extended and new ones built, the streets were being torn up to lay utility pipes, the town was a hive of activity. Henry Brown’s business grew in this hothouse of economic activity and this was why in 1908 he needed a good foreman and set Johnny Pickles on. Browns have the advantage that they are well connected to the biggest operators of mills in the town, the Calf Hall Shed Company who run Calf Hall Shed, Wellhouse (Bought July 1890), Butts (Bought June 10th 1903) and in 1905 acquired Viaduct Shed at Colne. Remember the family connection with the Duxbury family. Young Harold Duxbury, son of William Duxbury of Briggs and Duxbury the local builders was to eventually have the biggest building firm in the town and be the managing director of the Calf Hall company. This connection alone was sufficient to guarantee enough work to keep Henry Brown and Sons going.

There was another connection that went back to the early days in Earby. There was a firm of accountants in Burnley on Grimshaw Street called Proctor and Proctor. George Proctor the principal had for many years acted not only as accountant for many mill companies but also as company secretary. This applied particularly to the room and power companies who found it convenient to employ his firm to take responsibility for the administrative side of the business. George had an associate, Edward Woods, who was a qualified engineer and acted as consultant to the same firms. Teddy Woods as he was known was very well-respected and made it his business to know where the best talent was so that he could recommend them when maintenance or repair jobs needed to be done. Teddy knew William Brown in the early days in Earby and used Henry Brown and Sons whenever there was a task that was within their capabilities. He knew Johnny and very soon realised that his talents and over the ensuing years they became good friends and business associates. This connection was crucial later on, we shall meet Teddy frequently.

Until Johnny joined Browns they had never tried to break into the heavy engineering side of the trade. They were happy doing small general engineering jobs and would give as much attention to mending a domestic wringing machine as they would to a larger job. One of their biggest earners was repairing loom parts. When heavy engine repairs were needed the mill owners got the manufacturers in. This was anathema to Johnny who had worked in the heavy end at Burnley Ironworks, he had bigger ideas but had to get established first. Henry Brown was about to be converted. We should also mention the Long Ing Shed Company (1888). Browns didn’t get any work there until much later because one of the main investors in the shed was William Rushton from Colne who was an engineer and millwright and regarded Long Ing as his fiefdom. Slaters at Clough Mill almost certainly used Henry Brown for small jobs but there is no direct evidence for this.

Johnny had met a young woman in Earby, she was called Sarah Elizabeth Kirby. Born in Carleton in 1885 she had moved to Earby to find work and lived near Green End. On St Valentine’s day in 1913 she married John Albert and for a while they lived at her parents. In the same year Johnny bought a new house, 35 Federation Street in Barlick and they moved in there just before the Great War started. Sarah carried on working in the mill weaving at Windle’s at Wellhouse until on the 10th of March 1916 she bore a son William Newton Pickles and stopped weaving, she never went back to the mill. Remember this lad, he is our informant and later becomes the main man.
Just before the Great War there was a lot of sub-contracting work to be had from the outside firms who were installing engines and lineshafting in the new mills. Henry Brown and Sons built up a connection making the lighter shafting for preparation and taping rooms. This gave Johnny an idea and he sat down at night at home and designed a small steam engine, the ‘donkey engine’ which was used to power the tapes when the main engine was stopped. He made the patterns for the castings and persuaded Henry Brown to start building them. They made 48 engines over the next 15 years. Johnny was an engine builder at last!

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An advertisement for Henry Brown's new line, donkey engines for tape rooms.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 04 Mar 2018, 04:33

We know from the Calf Hall Shed minute books that Brown and Watt were still in partnership at Ouzledale trading as the Dale Ironworks Company in June 1916. Henry Watts either died or retired shortly afterwards and Browns took over the foundry. Harold Duxbury told me that it was then that Henry Brown brought in James Cecil Ashby (Died 1983), a young ironfounder who had been working in Leeds, and set him on as foreman at Ouzledale foundry. This foundry did all the castings for Browns including the donkey engines which were fairly big lumps. If you look carefully at the road down to Ouzledale you can still find pieces of slag, the waste from the cupola furnace, which was used for maintaining the road. This foundry was to be the start of another manufacturing dynasty in Barlick. The Ashby family prospered and eventually built Ouzledale foundry at Long Ing which became famous as the makers of the Firemaster domestic grate and in 2009 are still in business.

Shortly after the end of the Great War Ouzledale foundry couldn’t cope with the amount of work that Browns were doing. They were getting a lot of castings made by other foundries and Henry Brown and Johnny decided that there was scope for expansion, trade was booming so they decided to build a new foundry which Johnny would design. The site chosen was Havre Park next to Wellhouse Mill, you can still see the original brick building today, it’s the middle section of what is now Gissing and Lonsdale’s. (The Calf Hall Shed Company minute books record that on the 4th of February 1920 the board resolved to sell the plot of land abutting onto the dams at Wellhouse Mill and Valley Road to William Brown of Wellhouse works. The price was £1,396-19-6. The sale was finally completed on September the 30th 1920.) There is a problem with the land at Havre Park, it’s all soft silt and very bad bearing ground. Newton told me that Johnny bought hundreds of tons of old wrought iron loom cranks and used them to consolidate the foundations. Newton said that his mother took him down there one night to see the first pour of metal at the foundry, it was 1922 and he was six years old. (There is a different version of this first pour at Havre Park Foundry. Butts engine broke down on the 1st of August 1923 when Charlie Watson the new engineer got water in the LP cylinder and split the piston. The two ton casting for the new piston was poured twice, the first pour failed when the mould exploded because of damp sand but the second attempt at 2am was successful, this was what Newton’s mother took him down to see. The fire brigade was called out because someone saw the glow in the sky and thought it was a fire. Henry Brown and Sons machined the piston and the turner was Dennis Pickles.)

By 1922 when the foundry was built Henry Brown and Sons had replaced most of the old Bracewell machinery in Wellhouse with larger and more modern machine tools. They were still renting the premises from the Calf Hall Shed Company but when Johnny designed the Havre Park foundry his intention was to move the machine shop from Wellhouse down to the new premises. This would make them more efficient, save the rent paid on Wellhouse and Ouzledale and give them independence from the Calf Hall Company. He was supported in this ambition by the fact that a lot of their work came in through Teddy Wood who had connections with almost every mill in the area including Calf Hall. He was an engineering enthusiast and had become a great friend of Johnny and if there was a problem at one of the firms he acted for which was within Brown’s capabilities he simply instructed Henry Brown and Sons to fix it. Browns had their own work as well and so with the opening of Havre Park and a full order book everything in the garden seemed rosy and Johnny pressed for the removal of Wellhouse on to the new site.
Under Johnny as foreman, Henry Brown and Sons were doing bigger jobs and had the machinery to cope with them. A typical example of Johnny’s enterprise came during WW1 when Browns got an enquiry from Yates and Thom at Blackburn who wanted some large gun bases turning for the war effort. They were full up with work and needed a sub-contractor. Browns hadn’t a lathe big enough to do the job and there wasn’t one available to buy because of war restrictions but Johnny said this was no problem, they could make one. He sat down in the kitchen at home and designed the lathe. The patterns were made at Wellhouse shop and the castings at Ouzledale and Stanley Fisher (Walt Fisher’s father and eventually the last engineer at Moss Shed in Barlick) and Johnny built the lathe in Wellhouse works. It was a big useful machine, a ‘break lathe’, it had a 48 inch face plate, could take 36 inches over the saddle and was eighteen feet between centres. The bed of the lathe was a casting sunk into the floor of the shop. I have seen Newton working on this lathe truing the driving wheels from a Stanier ‘Black Five’ locomotive and these were six feet diameter. You needed big tools for these repairs and this lathe was working right up to the firm finishing in 1981.

Image

The break lathe in the laundry with a big awkward workpiece in it in later years.

The management at Henry Brown’s weren’t too keen on coming out of Wellhouse. Their thinking was that if they vacated the premises there was a possibility of someone else stepping in, renting the space and stealing their work off them. Truth to tell, this was no problem, their best insurance was their reputation which was based on a skilled workforce with a good track record and their connections with the Calf Hall Company and Teddy Woods but the Browns didn’t see it this way. Because they kept Wellhouse shop going Havre Park was under-used and this put their overheads up. Worst of all, the cotton trade began to falter after July 1920 when the post war re-stocking boom finished. This was the start of the terminal decline in the textile industry but even so, the mills were still running and needed maintenance and repair work to keep going. Henry must have been a pessimist and as it turned out, a bad businessman, he started to falter.

In October 1929 the unthinkable happened. The Calf Hall Shed directors were informed on the 16th that Henry Brown and Sons were filing for bankruptcy. They saved the Earby workshop and carried on there but their days as Barnoldswick engineers were over. When the dust settled Mr R S Windle, the Receiver, paid out 19/6 in the pound, an indication that there was actually no need to finish as they were almost solvent and could have worked their way through the difficulty. Newton said that the problem was that the building society who had financed the building of the foundry forced the matter by foreclosing on Browns. I would give a lot of money to be able to have been a fly on the wall while all this was happening. I have an idea that if Johnny had any say in the matter the liquidation would never have happened but we have to ask ourselves whether he was even consulted. I think it may have been seen as a family matter and Johnny was given a fait accompli. Whatever, he was about to demonstrate his character and how well thought of he was in the town.

Johnny got busy and what happened is a good indication of his standing as an engineer and his confidence in his own abilities. The day after the closure was announced Johnny went down to Kelbrook and borrowed £500 off an aunt. He and Stanley Fisher went to Keighley and bought a 12 feet bed, 10 inch screw-cutting centre lathe and got permission from the Calf Hall Shed Company to set it up in the Moorhouse’s old warehouse at Wellhouse Mill. They brought a six inch treadle lathe out of Johnny’s workshop at Federation Street, Fred Windle at the Vicarage Road garage lent him a gas engine and welding set, Watson, another garage proprietor lent him a pillar drill and Fred Holt who was the blacksmith at the end of Wellhouse Road lent him a portable forge. Johnny started paying Stanley Fisher immediately and a week later re-engaged Dennis Pickles (no relation) and Leonard Parkinson. The same week, Crampton Hoyle at the Corn mill gave them their first job, re-cogging the bevel wheel at the bottom of the vertical shaft in the Corn Mill. They were back in business!

Image

The new foundry at Havre Park in 1922.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 05 Mar 2018, 05:06

There was another significant development that week, Johnny told his son Newton it was time he started work and set him on doing odd jobs, he was almost 14 years old. In November the Receiver had arranged the sale of the machinery at Wellhouse shop. Teddy Wood came down to Federation Street and had a word with Johnny, he told him that apart from the Calf Hall Company, he couldn’t let the resource that had been Henry Brown and Sons go out of business. He told Johnny to go down to the shop and mark up all the machines he needed and the Calf Hall Company would buy them. Johnny grabbed a piece of chalk and with Newton in tow went up to Brown’s old shop, they put a cross on every machine they wanted and on the 20th of November the Calf Hall Shed Company bought the contents of the Wellhouse Machine shop off the Receiver, R S Windle, for £425. Johnny took the shop at the same rent as Browns, £25 a year.

That same week they moved into Wellhouse and started trading officially as J A Pickles and Son, Engineers and Millwrights, Wellhouse Machine works. Another chapter was about to be written. But they were short of a foundry.
CHAPTER 5: J A PICKLES AND SON

Less than a month after Henry Brown and Sons collapsed, the Calf Hall Shed Company had got a competent engineering firm working out of Wellhouse shop again, J A Pickles and Son. They had a consummate craftsman in charge, Johnny Pickles and he had three good men, Stanley Fisher, Dennis Pickles, Leonard Parkinson and an apprentice, William Newton Pickles. Helping the firm to get set up wasn’t charity, it was self interest, it was an asset to the shed company. Newton told me that when Edward Wood went to see Johnny he said “Now then Johnny, we can’t do with you out of business and all these mills stopped.” When Teddy said this he was acting for the Calf Hall Company. This applied even more so to Proctor and Proctor’s interests because they were managing other shed companies as well. Both he and the company were aware that one piece of the jigsaw was missing, they hadn’t got an ironfounder in the town, an essential element in maintenance engineering. However, the Calf Hall Company owned a foundry, the one that had originally been run by Henry Brown and they knew where there was a competent founder who had been made redundant when Havre Park closed.

James Cecil Ashby had come into Barlick sometime just after the Great War when Watts dropped out of the Dale Ironworks leaving Henry Brown as tenant. It looks as though he had been encouraged to come to Barlick by Henry because he gave him the job of foreman at Dale Ironworks at Ouzledale on Longfield Lane. Harold Duxbury told me that James Cecil worked there and lived in the cottage at Ouzledale. What we know for certain is that there is written evidence that James Ashby was in business at Ouzledale in 1932 as a tenant of the Calf Hall Company and trading as Ouzledale Foundry. Anecdotal evidence and Harold Duxbury says that he re-opened Ouzledale as a foundry immediately after the closure of Havre Park where he was also foreman. I once asked Harold why there was no mention in the Calf Hall Company half yearly accounts or the minutes of the Board of Directors about this tenancy and Harold just laid his finger along the side of his nose and smiled. Harold used to do this to me when I asked him a question he didn’t want to answer or, being a wily old bird, when he didn’t know the answer but wanted me to think that he did. However, there is one concrete piece of evidence, in the half year Profit and Loss account for the Calf Hall Company for the six months ending 30th June 1929 there is an item for Ouzledale Income of £2-11-3. For a while there is almost no income but in June 1931 Ouzledale brings in £48-2-2, a full income from the foundry.

I had a conversation with Brian Ashby in November 2003 and he told me that the name of the melter/furnace man at Havre Park who went up to Ouzledale with James Cecil Ashby when Brown’s closed was Clifford Turner. He thinks Clifford’s father was a schoolteacher in Earby and he was one of the men who lent James Cecil money to start up at Ouzledale. Clifford was furnace man for many years at Long Ing foundry after Ouzledale moved down there but never progressed any further. He always walked to work from his home on Stoneybank at Earby over the fields. His father’s loan was paid back. Another loan at the same time came from Tom Riley's father who Walt Fisher thinks was a chemist in the market under the Majestic and lived up Park Avenue. This loan was left in as a shareholding and one of the conditions of the loan was that John Cecil made Tom an apprentice. Tom Riley stayed with the firm until he retired and became manager and a director. Brian Ashby took over from him in 1960 when he came out of his college course at Wolverhampton.

I asked Walt Fisher about the foundry in 2003 and he said that in 1931 Johnny had a man called Moses Pilkington working for him who repaired loom parts. Walt said that one of his first jobs when he started was to push the barrow for Moses when they went up to Ouzledale to collect loom parts that had been cast there by James Cecil. Walt said that there was a gantry running the whole length of the ground floor which was the moulding shop, the pattern shop was upstairs and the cupola furnace outside in the same place as on the old photograph of the foundry. Cecil and George Ashby were running it and they had a furnace man called Clifford, Walt couldn’t remember the surname but this must have been Clifford Turner. History is tricky stuff and it’s nice when two separate accounts back each other up.

There are times when documentary evidence fails and the historian has to join the dots up, this is one of them. I think that what happened was that Edward Wood consulted with Johnny Pickles about the lack of a foundry and took his advice. James Cecil was a newcomer to the district and hadn’t an extended family to fall back on for a loan like Johnny and so I think that Edward Wood approached James Cecil and arranged for him to re-open the foundry on an unofficial basis rent free and this was the basis that gave people confidence to lend him the start-up money. Remember that Calf Hall was a public company and strictly speaking they had to maximise gain for the shareholders. There is no doubt in my mind that Teddy Wood got a wonderful deal for the shareholders and the town because whatever went on between him and James Cecil Ashby resulted in the birth of another major employer in Barlick, Ouzledale Foundry.

I can’t resist comparing the events of that hectic fortnight at the end of 1929 and the results that came from it with what would happen in similar circumstances nowadays. I don’t think our modern entrepreneurs would be able to move as quickly or be as sure-footed. The key factor was that the men involved were practical operators, they understood the industry and the men and had the confidence and freedom to trust their judgement and act. It was a very short chain of command, a couple of conversations, a knock on a door at night and the job was sorted. You have to admire their style, no wonder they were successful in business.

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An old pic of a corner of the Wellhouse shop in 1922.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 06 Mar 2018, 05:19

There’s one more piece of evidence that backs up the assumption that James Cecil went straight into Ouzledale. Newton said that shortly after they got back into Wellhouse Anthony Carr the owner of Crow Nest Mill in Barlick came into the shop and gave Johnny an order for 2000 pairs of ten inch loom pulleys. The More Looms System was coming in and one essential element in making it work was to slow the looms down. The easiest way to do this was to put larger driving pulleys on them. This was a big order and came at exactly the right time. Johnny made some wooden patterns and took them up to Ouzledale for James Cecil to cast four sets of aluminium patterns, on a big production run these were more durable than wooden ones. Once made, two sets of patterns were sent to King’s foundry at Skipton and two sets left at Ouzledale. Both foundries started to make castings and Newton said they were getting 90 pairs a day in the shop at Wellhouse. Johnny had made the patterns so that they were easy to mount on a fixture on the faceplate of the lathe once they were bored. Turning rough castings straight from the foundry is hard on cutting tools which have to deal with hard metal and embedded sand. Johnny had been reading his engineering journals and knew about some new German cutting tools called ‘Wimet’ which were tipped with Tungsten Carbide, apart from diamond this was the hardest substance known to man. He sent off for four Wimet tools and they started making pulleys. Newton was 14 years old and he said he turned pulleys until he dropped so the date was 1930. Some days they worked from half past seven in the morning until half past nine at night. The Wimet tools only needed sharpening once a fortnight. They got another order from Blackburn for 1000 pulleys and in the end made over 13,000. Newton said that Johnny had £1,000 in the bank at the end of that job, serious money in 1930.

So our two young firms, J A Pickles and Son and the original Ouzledale Foundry, are in work and making money. What a recovery, in twelve months they have both gone from being wage earners to independent employers by grasping an opportunity and having ability, good friends and the support of Teddy Woods. It says a lot about the advantages of operating in a small town with a close-knit fraternity of men dedicated to the industry. They knew good prospects when they saw them and acted, they were to prove to be good decisions.
CHAPTER 6: JOHNNY PICKLES

I think it’s time we had a closer look at Johnny Pickles, we know he was a good engineer but what sort of a man was he?

I think we get our first clue to his character when he rebelled against being put in the office at Sough Mill and ran away to his Uncle Daniel in Lothersdale. We can be fairly certain that he had a mind of his own, he knew what he wanted to do and kept up the pressure until William, his dad, gave in. I think this says something about William as well, he recognised what he was up against and in the end stopped trying to get young Johnny to see it his way. William Pickles would know both old William Brown and his son Henry, Newton once told me that apart from spending time with his Uncle Jim around the engine at Sough Bridge Johnny was also a regular visitor to Brown’s workshop in Earby. The bottom line is that we have a born engineer here and his family were flexible enough to accept it.

Some time ago I was having a day out with Terry Gissing of Gissing and Lonsdale who absorbed Henry Brown Sons and Pickles when they finished at Wellhouse Mill in 1981, we were going to look at a job and were sat in a traffic jam on the Manchester Ring Road. As I looked through the window I voiced a thought, “Look at all these people sat in cars they haven’t paid for, going to jobs they don’t like which the world would never miss if they vanished tomorrow. I’ll bet they haven’t a workshop in the back yard!” Now what had brought this about was a conversation Terry and I had been having about job satisfaction, I had commented on Johnny Pickles and the fact that engineering was not only his career, it was his hobby as well.

When Sarah and Johnny moved into 35 Federation Street it wasn’t long before he built a large wooden shed with plenty of windows across the back street from the house and installed his own workshop. Remember that when Havre Park closed Johnny brought a six inch treadle lathe up from Federation Street. For years, Johnny’s routine was to go to work, come home at lunch time, have his dinner and then go in his workshop for half an hour before going back to the shop. When he came home at night he had his tea, went in the workshop until about half past eight, had a wash, went down to the Syke for a pint and then back home. I have no evidence as to what Sarah thought about this, I suppose she was used to it, his job was his hobby.

Johnny wasn’t one of these men who regarded housework as a ‘Mary Ann’ job. If Sarah needed any help Johnny gave it to her. Newton told me his dad was good about the house and encouraged him to help as well. There’s no doubt that he was a fairly tolerant father, Newton couldn’t ever remember having a worse punishment than a good telling off. Once, while he was alone in the house Newton found an air rifle in the cupboard. Of course he started laiking (playing) about with it and ended up taking pot shots at a brass tea caddy and putting a dent in it. He did the sensible thing, He put the caddy back on the mantelpiece, turned the dent to the mirror and hoped for the best. When Johnny came in he noticed the tea caddy had moved, took it down and found the dent so Newton had to own up. He was expecting dire repercussions but his dad said “Look here” and showed Newton another small dent in the caddy, “I did that just the same way when I was a lad, I think we’d better get that gun out of the house.” That was it, no drama and Newton never forgot it. Johnny encouraged Newton to go to the machine shop at Wellhouse and as long as he didn’t interfere with anything let him watch while he worked at home in his shed. Newton once told me that when they did the first pour at the Havre Park foundry his mother took him down to watch the excitement.

Johnny was one of the best miniature engineers this country has ever seen. Notice I don’t say models, the things that Johnny made were examples of engineering but on a small scale. He made clocks, microscopes, locomotives, boilers, model engines and even lathes. He exhibited regularly at the Model Engineer’s exhibitions and the Worshipful Company of Turners in London. I once asked Newton why Johnny never got a Gold Medal and he told me that it was the custom not to give gold to professional engineers as they were held to have an unfair advantage. I shall have a lot to say about some of these examples of his work later on but I have a story for you…
Between 1957 and 1967 Johnny built a magnificent one twelfth scale cross compound steam engine. It wasn’t a replica of any particular engine but an amalgam of features from different engines which he admired. Incidentally, he told Newton at the time that if he ever decided to make a similar engine he should use a larger scale because at one twelfth when you got down to making the small parts of such things as the valve gear it became watch making. He said that if he had been starting again he’d have made it bigger. Note that this was a small steam engine and not a model. Once finished, complex miniature machines like this are a pain in the bum because they have to be kept clean and protected from corrosion.

I’ve just realised that in order to tell you this story in a way that will make sense I have to take a couple of paces back and explain something else. Tricky stuff this history… Like many engineers, myself included, Johnny was a big fan of the Model Engineer’ a magazine devoted to all aspects of miniature engineering. The ME ran annual exhibitions and you will find that later I make frequent references to Johnny winning prizes in these competitive events. The ME devoted a three page article to the work of Johnny Pickles on 3rd November 1967 and gave a full description of the engine and Edgar Westbury described it as “His best…. And deserves to rank with the most notable stationary engine models in the world.” There was another notable maker of models like this called Amos Barber and he had models on loan to the Cartwright Museum in Bradford and Johnny offered his engine on loan to them as well. I think from there it went to Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley and when this changed role later on the model finished up in the Moorside Industrial Museum in Bradford where I saw it once when I visited the museum.

Many years later, I think it was in the 1990s, I got a call from the museum asking me whether I would go over and look at the engine as they had a small problem. When I asked what the problem was they said that it was seized up and wouldn’t turn. I asked them if they had been running it on compressed air and they were a bit evasive. I told them that I thought they had and had forgotten that this deposits condensed water in the interior of the engine and this had rusted the bores. I wouldn’t have anything to do with it because it was a disaster. I told Newton about the conversation and he said I had done right and that he wouldn’t have anything to do with it either. He said that if his dad knew he’d be rolling over in his grave. Johnny died on the 9th of September 1969 aged 84 years. The moral of the story is never trust the experts who have read all the books but never got their hands dirty. Anyone who had run an engine would have been aware of the danger and avoided it.

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Johnny in later years in the shed at Federation Street working with his 1927 copy of the Birch lathe.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 07 Mar 2018, 04:30

In 1934 he exhibited a tower clock movement which was awarded a Silver Medal at the Model Engineers Exhibition. Notice that he had made this during the early 1930s when pressure at J A Pickles was at it’s height. St Joseph’s Catholic Church had opened in 1929, Johnny offered them the clock and they accepted. Johnny wasn’t at all religious, he just wanted his clocks to be used. During the installation in 1935 Dennis Pickles and I think Leonard Parkinson were boring a hole through the wall at St Joseph’s for the spindle which drove the hands and it was hard work. Dennis turned to his mate and said “Bloody Hell, this is a hard stone!” A voice came from behind them, “Less bloody swearing! Don’t you know where you are?” They turned round and there was Johnny stood in the chancel, bowler hat on the back of his head and a fag in his mouth!

One more story about Johnny that says volumes about how he worked and what his relationship was with his men. One day during WW2 as Newton was going home for his dinner Johnny collared him as he went out of the door. “Call in at so and so’s on your way home. Tell him I want him back on his lathe after dinner!” Newton did as he was told and after dinner this old chap turned up in a clean pair of overalls with a Gladstone bag containing his measuring tackle. It turned out he had been retired for nearly ten years and had never been near the shop. One message from Johnny and he was back making swarf. The magic thing to me is that in all my delving into Johnny and his story I have never got a whiff of any criticism from anyone. Believe me, this is rare! I don’t think I would pass that test.

CHAPTER 7: NEWTON’S EARLY DAYS

I dare say I could be accused of bending people’s ear from time to time about the fact that the reason we don’t have lads coming on wanting to be engineers nowadays is because we don’t let them play out in interesting places like loco sheds, foundries and workshops. At the age of ten my dad was letting me read his engineering magazines and was taking me every Saturday morning to the works where he was the manager. I was always given something to do, drilling holes, polishing chromed parts or watching the furnaces being charged, I was soaking it all in. One of my earliest memories is my mother stopping my pram in Princess Street, the main shopping street in Stockport, so that I could look down the short slope into the casting floor of Hollindrake’s Foundry and see the fireworks as they poured molten iron into the moulds. Can you imagine an iron foundry in the middle of a modern shopping centre? It was a different world, industry was open to view for all, is it any wonder we grew up fascinated by big lumps of iron?
Twenty years earlier Newton had been doing exactly the same thing. The engineer at Wellhouse Mill was Billy Watson, a very able man who came to Barlick from Rochdale in his twenties. Newton mated on with him and every morning would go and help Billy in the boiler and engine house. Very often he started the engine after breakfast and this sometimes made him late for school but Newton had his priorities right, the engine came first! Billy taught him to indicate engines and if he was going to do a bit of valve setting at night he’d have Newton with him. Newton always said that it wasn’t his dad who taught him his engine skills, it was Billy Watson and his own reading and observation.

By early 1930 he was 14, working full-time at Wellhouse in the machine shop and going out with the men on weekend jobs. Dennis Pickles and Leonard Parkinson took him with them and taught him all they knew. They installed shafting and bevel gears, did repairs and Newton saw every kind of millwrighting job at first hand. As time went on other young men came to work at J A Pickles, Walt Fisher, Stanley Fisher’s son, Bob and Jimmy Fort, they all grew up together at Wellhouse shop and learned their trade, they were going to be together until the firm closed down in 1981. I once asked Newton why he never bothered with anything electrical, he said there was no need to, Walt Fisher left them all behind in the sparks department and so they left all that work to him. Walt was Newton’s partner when they closed the shop down.

In the early 1930s J A Pickles and Son had every mill in Barlick under their wing except for Long Ing where Rushworth’s from Colne were still the king pins. Outside Barlick they had all the mills from Earby to Foulridge and occasionally further afield. On top of this there was specialist machining work that they took on for other engineers. Johnny soon started Newton up doing outside jobs on his own. He was only 14 when his dad sent him to do a job for Arthur Dobson the engineer at Anthony Carr’s Crow Nest Shed. Newton said his dad told him in later years that he’d had a word with Arthur about sending him but at the time Newton knew nothing about this. Arthur was noted for his ability to swear and young Newton was more than a little worried. When he got there he found that the job was to put a couple of big washers under the economiser damper because it was rubbing on the brick floor of the flue. Arthur lent Newton one of his lads and with big does and little does they levered the damper up, did some measuring and Newton went back to the shop to make the washers. Newton said they were anything but round but they put them in and cured the job. When he landed home at night he was as black as the fire back but Johnny calmed his mother down, “He’s been on an outside job!” Other jobs followed, he was sent on his bike to Sough to fit a half inch pipe at Berry’s sawmill, he repaired a wringing machine for a woman down Rainhall. One day he went to a bloke who made torpedoes (pasties) down at Syke called Nat and repaired the firebars under his oven. Small jobs, but good experience and he remembered them all.

Transport was sometimes a problem. Johnny sent Jim Fort and Newton to County Brook one day in the winter of 1930 to fit a new bronze bearing in the water wheel. It had all been measured up and made and just needed taking up, dropping in the pedestal and the jacks letting off to drop the wheel onto it. There were men there to help them as well. Newton asked how they were going to get there and Johnny said they had to catch the bus! Now this bearing weighed about 100Kg (200lbs) so these two lads set off with it on a bogie, manhandled it on to the bus and then dragged it down through the fields from the top road to County Brook in a foot of snow. I think it was Johnny’s idea of initiative training. We’ll get round to the details of these jobs later, don’t worry!

There was a significant event late on in 1930. Johnny collared Newton in the middle of the afternoon and said “Clough’s stopped, come with me.” They went to Clough mill and sure enough, the engine wouldn’t run. Leonard Parkinson and Dennis Pickles were there and every time they opened the steam valve it did half a turn and then bounced back. They had taken the lids off and checked the valves but it had beaten them. They were all stood there scratching their heads and a little voice piped up from the back, “It never will run will it!” Newton had spotted that they had set the left hand eccentric 90 degrees forward when it should have been back. Not surprisingly Dennis Pickles blew his top at Newton but Leonard quietened him down and asked Newton what he meant. Newton showed him and Leonard said “The lad might be right.” Johnny told them to alter it as they couldn’t make it any worse. So Leonard and Newton slacked the eccentric off, barred the engine round and nipped it up 180 degrees back from where it had been. Newton told me that he was sure he was right because there was a mark on the shaft where the eccentric key had been fitted originally. Johnny told George Hoggarth the engineer to try it. George opened the steam valve and off it went, “Ticky Tock” as Newton put it. Johnny rammed his bowler hat down on his head and said, “That’s it, that’s me finished wi’ engines. If you want me from now on you’ll have to send for me!” That was how Newton’s engine fitting career started, he was 14 years old. He told me that in the early days he had to get used to standing up for himself because not surprisingly some of the old engineers didn’t take kindly to being told what was needed to cure their problems by a lad. He said that they soon got to trust him. Just think about it, would we give a young lad that sort of responsibility today?

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Newton's favourite engine, the Burnley Ironworks cross compound at Clough. This was where Johnny retired from steam engine trouble-shooting!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 08 Mar 2018, 05:10

In 1930 Henry Brown’s son, William, the man who had come for Johnny to be foreman in 1923, reappeared at Wellhouse. The firm was still called J A Pickles and Son but ‘Our Mr Willy’ as Newton called him was in the office. I can’t say anything definite about his position in the firm but Newton gave me the impression that he might have put some money in, later research tends to discount this but that’s only an opinion, neither Newton or I ever knew for certain. Harry Brown came into the firm as well on the shop floor, I don’t know his age but Newton once mentioned that he had served in the Great War. I’m certain that Willy was in the office in 1935 because Newton told me about the day he got on to his father about his wage. He was 19 years old and was still on the same wage he started on when he was 14, 12/6 a week. (62p.) He gave this to his mother every week and she gave him 2/- (10p) to pay for his cinema and Woodbines. Johnny told him he’d better go into the office and see Mr Willy because he looked after the wages. When Newton went in, cap in hand, Willy expressed great surprise that his wage hadn’t been raised and immediately put him up to £3 a week, only 2/6 under the full rate and him only 19 years old. This was wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, Newton put his cap back on and his mother put his spending money up to 3/- a week!

Round about this time Harry Brown and Newton were sent up to Sagar’s Salterforth quarry to commission a new National suction gas plant for the 30hp gas engine that ran the quarry. (Every now and again I get a whiff of a bit of edge in the relationship with the Brown family and this was one such occasion.) Harry, being older, was obviously the gaffer on the job and Newton was there to help him. After struggling all day Saturday they still hadn’t got the plant to make gas, the engine wouldn’t start. On the Sunday, Harry brought his father up to look at it but with no better luck. In the end Newton lost his rag with them and pointed out that they were making gas alright, the place stunk of it, the problem was it wasn’t getting to the engine. He was told to mind his own business so he left them with the gas producer and starting at the engine he checked every joint. Sure enough, he found a joint packing in the gas line that had no hole through the centre. He popped his centre punch through it, bolted the flange up and the next time they tried it, away it went. Newton said he wasn’t right popular when he told them what he had done.

Newton and Harry were sent on another job to Sagars Quarry. The crane at Tubber Hill Quarry was short of power so they went up, stripped all the valve motion and pistons out of it and brought them down to the shop. Newton made new pins for the links, new piston rods and generally refurbished the two sides of the engine. Harry, who Newton said was a good fitter, put it all back together as Newton made it. Newton said it was a Glasgow built crane and had Stephenson’s link motion for reversing, the valve setting was a bit complicated. When Newton had made the last parts he took them up to the quarry and when he saw how Harry had set the valves he told him it wouldn’t run. Harry was older than Newton and had been in the army in WW1 and was doubtless a bit put out by this little lad telling him he was wrong so they finished building it up Harry’s way. They had no permission to light the fire or raise steam and try it out so they went home.

Come Monday morning Newton landed into work and his father jumped down his throat straight away. “Get yourself up to the bloody quarry, yon crane won’t work!!” Newton said of course it won’t, Harry had set the valves wrong, he didn’t understand it. Anyway, Newton had to go up and face old Mr Sagar, get the lids off and re-set all the valves. Two hours later it was running like a sewing machine but Newton said he never forgot the fact that it was him that got blamed, years after he realised it was because Johnny was bringing him on to understand the responsibilities of being a gaffer but at the time he didn’t understand that. Harry and Newton were good mates otherwise. Newton said he was a marvellous fitter, he made himself a motor bike, all he bought was a Clynes engine, the rest he made himself. Newton said they were working at Dotcliffe Mill one Saturday moving pulleys on the shafting for respacing for the More Looms System. This wasn’t an easy job at Dotcliffe because the shafting wasn’t turned, it was forge finish. This meant that all the drums had to be carefully measured before they were staked on. Half way through the afternoon Harry said he was fed up, let’s go off on the bike. Before Newton knew it they were in Leyburn. Harry had a big motor bike coat on but Newton only had his jacket, he said they landed back at ten o’clock at night and he was freezing.

I have a story for you about Johnny and measurements. Johnny had been brought up with steel rules and callipers. His favourite measuring device if he needed it was the Vernier calliper. Many of his younger employees had been taught to use micrometers and the story is that one day Johnny was walking round the shop and noted that one of his young turners was using a micrometer. “Is that one of them new-fangled micrometers lad?” The lad said “Yes Mr Pickles, but don’t worry, I’m only roughing out, I’ll use callipers for the finishing cuts.” Honour was satisfied on both sides, Johnny knew fine what a micrometer was but was making a point and the lad knew it. Funnily enough, in my own experience, one of the most demanding measuring jobs you can have is fitting a chuck back. I have never got one dead accurate using a micrometer but the ones I have fitted using callipers have been spot on. Perhaps Johnny had a point.

Meanwhile, up at Ouzledale, James Cecil Ashby was quietly consolidating his position as the town’s ironfounder. Strictly speaking he isn’t part of the Brown and Pickles story but was associated with them right through the inter-war years. In the 1932 flood the foundry was badly damaged by water and lightning and F Blezard repaired the damage at a cost of £185. The rent that year was £32. In 1936 James asked the Calf Hall Company to build an extension at the foundry and this was when the red brick building in the yard was erected. Fred Blezard got the job again, £264-16-3. It’s interesting to note that Briggs and Duxbury’s quote of £270 was beaten, quite impressive when you realise that the Duxbury family were heavily involved in the Calf Hall Company, no evidence of favouritism there but confirmation that the ethos in which business was conducted in Barlick was sound.

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Ouzledale Foundry in 1979 lying derelict. Hard to imagine what a busy place it was in the early days.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by chinatyke » 09 Mar 2018, 04:54

If you get time and a suitable point, can you tell us something about pattern making and casting? I don't know anything about it. You keep referring to things like 'Johnny made a new lathe' including the huge one, which seems to me to be an Herculean task yet these things were done in almost primitive conditions. Thanks.

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 09 Mar 2018, 05:42

Certainly China.... It is an enormous subject and I will be brief and describe what happened in Barlick.
In the earliest days of metal working Bronze Age man found out that the easiest way of making a metal object was to pour molten metal into a mould that approximated the shape of what was needed and abrade the resulting casting to the finished article, say a sword. Abrasion was the only way they could subsequently alter the shape.
For thousands of years this was the case until the concept of machining and the tools to accomplish it were gradually evolved, starting with the adaptation of the ancient wood-turning lathe to machining metal and proceeding through to modern CNC computer controlled 'machine centres' which perform miracles.
During the periods I cover if you wanted an intricate metal part it made sense to make a wooden pattern of the shape you wanted and cast it in iron. That way you cut down on the amount of machining that had to be done to achieve the object as metal removal was the most expensive and difficult part.
What evolved, once a reliable source of iron for casting had been developed was the trade of the pattern-maker and the iron founder.

Image

Johnny with his pattern maker in the Wellhouse shop in 1924.

Here, Johnny Pickles and his pattern maker are discussing the pattern for something Johnny wanted to make. It is a complicated job. Allowance has to be made for the shrinkage of the metal as it cools to solid, allowance had also to be made for the natural distortion of the part as it cooled, for instance a curved part would cool to a smaller radius than the pattern. The speed at which the molten metal cooled affected its hardness and also the distribution of stresses in the finished casting caused by differential cooling rates in the mould due to the thickness of the casting at any one point, if not addressed this could result in cooling cracks in the finished casting as the stresses tore it apart rendering it useless. Then there were the minor considerations of making the pattern from stable wood, ensuring that it had enough taper or 'draw' to allow it to be drawn out of the moulding sand leaving a clean impression. All corners had to have curved fillets in them to give strength and avoid the propagation of cracks. Most important was to produce a casting that could be machined! It had to be the right material in a configuration where the machinist could actually get at the surface to be finished.
The above is the minimum, there was much more skill in the job and a good pattern maker was essential. What Johnny and his man are doing is ensuring that by combining their knowledge they can effect a pattern which is going to produce a perfect casting for machining. Once the pattern was made it went to the foundry where a completely different set of skills had to be brought into play. I'll go into that tomorrow....
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by chinatyke » 09 Mar 2018, 07:28

Stanley wrote:
09 Mar 2018, 05:42
ensuring that it had enough taper or 'draw' to allow it to be drawn out of the moulding sand leaving a clean impression.
Thanks. You've just explained why cast machine bases usually (always?) have that taper that I noticed but never gave it a second thought! :good:

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 09 Mar 2018, 08:12

Good, more tomorrow..... I'm too thronged today to do more.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 10 Mar 2018, 07:02

They always have a taper China, essential to parting the pattern from the sand. For that reason patterns always had a smooth finish and were painted in the standard colours of red lead cart paint for the casting surfaces and black for the built in core prints where a void is to be cast. One more thing about patterns, if you look above when Johnny had thousands of loom driving wheels were being cast, the wooden pattern was cast in another metal and they were used for the actual patterns. Recognise that this complicated the allowances made for shrinkage because you had two episodes. I have patterns for small brass castings that are made in cast iron and highly finished.
Once the patterns were made they were passed to the foundry where a totally different set of skills came into play. There are many ways of casting but we'll concentrate on the most common method in earlier days, green sand moulds in casting boxes.
The first skill the ironfounder had to have was selecting the right grade and quality of iron to use. In the earliest days all iron was charcoal smelted and the quality depended on the quality of the ore that it was smelted from. founders making artefacts that were intricate castings or had to be machined accurately later for things like steam engine cylinders knew their ores and the 'pig iron' they bought from the smelters was good quality. Later, as scrap became available a proportion of that was used as well but as this was, at first, good cast iron, this wasn't a big problem. Later when different grades of scrap were being used, sometimes exclusively with no pig, more care had to be taken in selection and additions made to the melt to adjust things like Carbon, sulphur and phosphorous content because these all affected castability and eventual machineability.
The 'green sand' was a specific grade of sand with some additives and at the right moisture content. The moulding box had a layer of sand rammed into it, then the pattern was laid on this surface and surrounded with more well rammed sand. Then the pattern was withdrawn leaving a void for the metal. Most patterns were split and a mirror image had to be made in an opposing box. 'Gates', which were the ways in for the molten metal had to be cut and smoothed and holes pierced in the sand to allow gases to get away from the casting. Once all these were done the moulds were coated with perhaps graphite powder and then the two halves were put together and wedged to make them secure.

Image

The pour into the mould. If there was too much moisture in the sand this was where you found out, the mould exploded! Very often heavy weights are put on top of the sand to counteract any tendency for gas to distort the mould. Recognise that this is for a small part.

Image

This casting for the low pressure cylinder on the Plumb Street mill engine is a different kettle of fish. over six tons of metal and it all had to be melted and poured in one pour.

Once the metal had 'frozen' in the mould the ironfounder had to strip it out, clean the sand off it and 'fettle' any rough edges before the casting could go for machining. We'll look at that tomorrow.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by chinatyke » 10 Mar 2018, 11:41

Good stuff, thanks. Can I mention 2 other terms I've heard? Investment casting and lost-wax casting, might even refer to the same process for all I know. I've an idea that one uses a resin not wax.

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 10 Mar 2018, 15:03

Good. I'm glad.
I mentioned above that there were other methods of producing the mould into which the molten metal is poured. Investment and lost wax casting are essentially the same processes. The salient features of the process is that the pattern is made from a material that will exit the finished mould under high temperature leaving a cavity the shape of the finished article. There can be many different versions of the same process using different materials to affect the surface finish and accuracy of the finished article.
The basic process is that instead of a wooden pattern and sand for a CI casting, a very accurate permanent mould is made that can be used many times to produce a replica of the part to be cast in wax. These wax patterns can be very complicated and avoid the need for draw on the pattern. The pattern is suspended in a moulding receptacle and the medium for the mould is poured in in liquid form. The first one used was a plaster of Paris slurry ground very fine. This pattern contained the gates, sprues and ventilation holes also made in wax so that when the material of the mould had set solid it could be heated and the wax would run out, often being re-used. The result was a mould ready to be poured. The molten metal is poured in and when it has frozen the mould can be broken revealing the finished part. The casting is then finished as normal but is far more accurate.
Normally lost wax was used only for small parts and in common alloys such as non ferrous or precious metals. It was used first by jewellers, later by sculptors for producing bronzes in larger sizes and today, using advanced methods and materials is used for very intractable metals such as stainless steels, titanium and such. These can need zero treatment on finishing and have a very high surface finish.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by chinatyke » 10 Mar 2018, 16:09

That explains a lot, thanks once again. I came across the process being used to produce turbine blades and we were interested in recycling the waste wax. Unfortunately the "wax" turned out to be a resin which wasn't of any value to us.

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 11 Mar 2018, 04:00

Again, good. Too early at the moment to start serious writing, I'll come back to you later China.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 11 Mar 2018, 14:51

We've seen how B&P addressed the need for the castings needed to make replacement parts for old and unique machines. Now we need to look at what the next stage was. You've already seen the low pressure Cylinder for Plumb Street, here's another example, a large air pump for a steam engine in about 1925.

Image

One thing worth noting before we start making muck. Look behind the boring mill and you'll see a steam engine. Normally the machinery in the Wellhouse Shop was driven off power coming in via the shafting from the mill but in cases where long heavy cuts had to be made without interruption, an independent power source was needed. One cut on the bore of the Plumb Street cylinder could take as long as 12 hours and once started it had to be continuous, often all night. In later years they had an oil engine to drive the shop and later a large electric motor.
We'll assume they have done their measuring and marking and got the casting set up in the mill. Some cylinder castings had to be made with a blind end and the first operation was to part the dummy end off from the inside before attacking the bore proper. The wastrel could weigh as much as a couple of tons.
A casting straight from the foundry is possibly the worst thing possible to cut as the surface is rough and embedded in it are chilled spots and foundry sand. Remember that they were using Mushet steel cutters, the earliest form of tool steel, luxuries like carbide tools hadn't been invented. Recognise that the tool tended to wear as it was working. The only way you could give the tool a chance of surviving a long cut with acceptable wear was to make sure that the first cut was deep enough to get below the crust into good metal, this could be as much as an inch with very slow feed. This is why these cuts took so long. The cut was dry, no lubrication as this wasn't necessary in cast iron and would only have made an abrasive slurry which would blunt the toll quicker. They were so expert with these big bores that very often the first cut was sufficient. The accepted practice was to use multiple cutters but Newton favoured a single cutter, he reckoned it gave a more concentric and parallel cut.
Once the main bore was done the casting could be repositioned and the foot on the base planed to give the right centre height. The reference for this was the original bore and from then on the foot so everything was in correct relationship. All the valves had to be bored and the exterior faces machined level where necessary. The casting was left untouched where cutting wasn't essential, they weren't trying to make it pretty!
I think that's about as far as we need to go. There were of course many more subsidiary operations like drilling and tapping for fixing studs and accessories like mounting valve motions, these were all addressed in the proper order. The result was the replacement part they needed for the repair and when fitted it functioned exactly like the original and in some cases better because B&P's standards were so high.
The point is that they had all the resources in Barlick they needed for the biggest repairs. The only exception was that in the case of the largest castings they had to go outside the town as the available cupola furnaces here weren't big enough to produce a melt large enough to achieve a very large cylinder or other part in one pour.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 13 Mar 2018, 04:52

CHAPTER 8: THE BIRTH OF HENRY BROWN SONS AND PICKLES

We’ll start with a report from the Craven Herald dated the 3rd of October 1930. Peter Heaton (65) the engineer at Moss Shed since it opened in 1903 retired. His successor was Stanley Fisher who left J A Pickles and Son and was engineer at Moss until it closed in 1958. His son Walter had been born in 1917 and started at Pickles’ early in 1931 at 14 years old and was there until the closure in 1981 when he was a co-director with Newton. Johnny had lost one good man but gained another.
Those of you who have good memories will remember that from 1903 to 1906 John Pickles was an apprentice at the Earby works of Henry Brown and Sons. By the late 1930s Johnny’s firm was well established and very busy. They were maintaining most of the mills in the area and doing many jobs further afield. Despite all the pressure on him, Johnny was active in his workshop at home during the lunch hour and in the evenings and was turning out some wonderful examples of precision engineering. In 1937 he completed another tower clock for the Riley Street Methodist Chapel in Earby but this one was rather special. When the chapel closed and was bought by George Preston in July 1960 the clock moved back to Barlick and for twenty years told the time to anybody passing the Wellhouse Machine works. When the firm finished at Wellhouse in 1981 and was taken over by Gissing and Lonsdale’s the clock was moved to their office on Wellhouse Road and can be seen in the foyer to this day.
The interesting thing to me is that there is an inscription on the modern clock which reads: ‘IN MEMORIAM. LAUS DEO. To Henry Brown of this parish, master mechanic, 1848-1903 and Elizabeth his wife, 1847-1924. This clock was installed by their family. Made by his apprentice John Pickles and given to his memory in appreciation of a good master and an able craftsman.’ Call me an old softy but I think the fact that Johnny made the clock and put that inscription on it says a lot about him. He was reared in an age when any outward show of emotion was frowned on, you kept yourself private. During his working life Johnny had to deal with hard and able men and had to conform to the rules of the game, stand your corner and never show weakness but I think he let his guard down a bit with this clock.

I have a story about this… In the 1980s I had a little job over at Rochdale getting the Ellenroad engine back into steam and after we had been running for a while we had a visit from a man called Oliver Pearcey from English Heritage. Oliver was a good man for me and an enthusiast for anything driven by steam. I had promised him he could have a day with us running the engine and you have never seen a happier man in your life than Oliver when he started the engine. He was beside himself and stood there saying “Wonderful!” over and over again until I stopped him and chided him for showing enthusiasm. I told him that if he was going to join the club he’d have to learn the Northern trait of understatement, the most he was allowed to say was “That’s all reight.” Give him his due, he understood what I was telling him. I have this theory that up here in the North we have seen such hard times and disappointments that we have learned that it’s a good thing to curb our enthusiasm no matter how good something looks because it may not last.
Though I never met Johnny, I have heard so much about him that I can identify this trait in him. Think back to that day in Clough Mill engine house when the 14 year old Newton cured the engine and Johnny walked out. Can we doubt that he was actually as pleased as punch and very proud of his lad? Of course, he would never admit to it. I have another instance of this. By chance I came across a lady a few years ago, Edith Elliott, who had read some of the articles I had written about Johnny and she stopped me in the street. She told me that when she was a lass she used to go and sit in Johnny’s workshop behind the house in Federation Street and watch him working on his current project. Johnny showed her how to use a lathe and the upshot was that she finished up with her own shed in the garden complete with a Myford lathe and was a wood-turning enthusiast for years until she developed a lung complaint which was exacerbated by wood dust and had to give up. She described Johnny as being very kind and thoughtful. Only a small thing but a good indicator of the character of the man.

At the time when the clock was installed at Riley Street chapel in Earby Johnny was in negotiation with the County Brook Mill and in 1938 started on his biggest job to date, the millwrighting of the new extension for the Mitchell family. It’s clear that at this time Johnny was aware that some re-adjustments had to be made in the structure of his company, the rewards were high but so were the risks. He had seen his old master’s firm pay the price in 1929 when Henry Brown and Sons felt they were forced to liquidate. The fact that he made the clock in memory of Henry Brown in the same year he was negotiating the County Brook contract indicates that he had not forgotten how he started in business on his own account and was aware of how much he owed to the Brown family. Bearing this in mind might help us to understand what happened next.

Apart from new plant and machinery added by J A Pickles and Son at their own expense, the Wellhouse Machine Shop was still being rented off the Calf Hall Shed Company on the same terms that it had been taken over on in October 1929. In July 1938 the Calf Hall directors received a request from Johnny to buy the plant, machinery and stock that he had taken over when he moved in to the shop. The Calf Hall Company had paid the receiver £425 for Henry Brown’s machinery and they agreed to sell it to J A Pickles and Son for £450 and stock at valuation. Newton told me that the total was £940 and that included everything in the buildings. This sale was finalised on the 18th August 1938. At the same time Johnny floated a new company, Henry Brown Sons and Pickles Limited. I have no evidence as to who the partners were in this re-organised firm but have no reason to believe there was any new investment. All I know for certain is that when they finished in 1981 Newton Pickles and Walt Fisher were co-directors. Whatever the case, Johnny had made sure that the name of Henry Brown was commemorated in the name of the new firm and I believe this was as much to do with sentiment as business considerations.

We haven’t reached the end of Johnny’s involvement in clocks. He was active in the horological world before the Great War and Newton has told me that he had an active correspondence with amateur clock-makers all over the country. He advised them on machining problems and anything concerned with gearing. The house and workshop at Federation Street was visited many times by people from as far away as London, many of them coming to collect particularly tricky components that Johnny had machined for them. Newton told me that he always did these jobs free simply because he enjoyed the challenge. One frequent job was making the volute barrel for a fusee drive train. This is a way of altering the gearing between the driving spring of the clock and the movement by transmitting the force from the spring via a chain which runs in a groove cut on a cone shape so that as the force of the spring weakens the gearing is altered so as to give a uniform driving force to the movement as the spring loses power. In order to do this the barrel has to be turned as a volute curve (a cone with a curved side) and then the groove has to be cut like a very coarse screw thread following the curve. This is not an easy job and many amateurs were stumped when they hit this problem. Johnny got so many requests for help with this that he made a special attachment for a Drummond round bed lathe which simplified a very complicated job and Newton said he made dozens of them for people who were naturally very grateful. Like ornamental turning, amateur clock-making attracts some very wealthy people and Johnny made some very influential friends.
I’ve made the mistake of mentioning ornamental turning. If you want to learn more about this esoteric art there are two books you must seek out. Tom Walshaw (He wrote in the ME under the name ‘Tubal Cain’) published Ornamental Turning which is a good introduction but the classic source is John Jacob Holzapffel’s Volume 5 of his massive work on ‘Turning and Mechanical Manipulation on the Lathe’; ‘The Principles and Practice of Ornamental or Complex Turning’ There is a health warning with this recommendation, OT as the aficionados call it is incredibly complicated and highly addictive. Think three-dimensional chess, let’s put it this way, you can put something round in the lathe and turn it flat!

Johnny, not surprisingly, had a lifetime fascination with OT. I don’t want to start a full description of his involvement here, there will be a chapter on this later but I want to flag up his dedication to the skill as part of our description of the man and how he approached problems. Remember that Johnny’s interest in horology? By the early 1920s he began to feel the need for a specialised lathe to cut the teeth of his clock gearing. He knew what he wanted, a firm called Birch in Manchester made a very well-designed ornamental turning lathe which incorporated a sophisticated dividing gear which is essential for equally spacing any number of teeth round the periphery of a gear. There was a problem, he couldn’t afford to buy one so in 1925 he started to build his own copy of a small Birch lathe and finished it in 1927. It is a beautiful machine, wonderfully made to a very high standard and speaks volumes about his skill and craftsmanship. He cut many gears on this lathe but by 1952 he was heavily into making turret clocks and the 1927 lathe wasn’t big enough so he made another, larger and more complex ornamental turning lathe. This too is a master work. The thing that fascinates me about Johnny’s brush with ornamental turning is that even though he made two lathes with all the complicated attachments that make OT possible he only made two items both of which were fiendishly complicated to turn and needed just about every technique. Once he had completed these to his satisfaction he never did any more. I’m certain that the challenge to him was mastering the building of the machines and accessories needed to reach his target, once he’d achieved this he moved on. That’s all I want to say at the moment, we’ll come to the lathes later on. In case you are wondering why I know so much about these two machines… I have both of them in my care and have completely refurbished them.

I think that’s quite enough hero-worship for the time being! I freely admit that this is what it is. I have so much admiration for Johnny’s skills and the work he did. I have a story for you… One day, he was in his shed finishing off the crankshaft for a small two cylinder marine engine. A mate of his was watching him work and after a while pointed out to Johnny that he appeared to have made a mistake, both crank journals were on the same centre when they should have been ninety degrees apart. Johnny smiled at him, said nothing but reached for his blowlamp. He warmed the middle of the shaft up to bright red, put a spanner on one of the cranks and pulled it round a quarter of a turn twisting the shaft in the centre. He waited until the metal had cooled, re-started the lathe and turned the middle journal to the correct diameter. “There you are” he said, “Will that do? It isn’t driving 300 looms you know!” Complete mastery of the job and typical of the man. Any turner reading this will see straight away that he knew exactly what he was doing, he realised that the standards he would apply to a full sized engine didn’t apply here. His way saved time and effort and the shaft was perfectly adequate for the task. Let’s get on with the story, his work speaks for itself.

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Johnny in the shed at Federation Street with Dyak Queen, a loco he built and frequently ran on club tracks at weekend.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 14 Mar 2018, 05:16

CHAPTER 9. THE WAR YEARS. 1939-1945

The stresses of the inter-war depression had been bad enough but 1939 brought further troubles, in September 1939 war was declared with Germany. This had an immediate effect on Henry Brown Sons and Pickles because many mills closed down or were requisitioned for war production and normal maintenance, even of the engines that were still running, stopped. Wellhouse works went over almost entirely to war production. The cessation of normal work and the shortage of materials and machinery could have proved a disaster for some small engineering firms but Johnny was more than equal to the task of surviving the upheaval. Henry Brown Sons and Pickles took on every job that was offered. They cast and bored high precision buffer recuperating systems for 5.5 inch anti-aircraft guns, machined turret rings for Churchill tanks on the big break lathe that Johnny had made during the Great War, bored very large castings for water works pumps and in short, by being versatile, well-equipped and quick to react had plenty of work.
Johnny went one further, just as in the Great War there was a shortage of capacity for making artillery shells. A shell making lathe is a specialised machine which is much more complicated than a plain lathe. Johnny designed such lathes and they made them at Wellhouse. I don’t know how many they made in the end but we have pictures of several large machines, a notable achievement for a relatively small engineering shop. I have a picture of a fitting shop at Burnley Ironworks during the Great War and the floor is covered with shell lathes in various stages of production. I wonder whether it was there that Johnny first learned about them? He would be aware of what they were doing even though by then he was foreman at Barlick. The Wellhouse shop had never been busier and the machines ran virtually day and night. There was no question of the key men being called up for war service, they were far too valuable where they were and so the work force was preserved almost intact.

This continuous working led to an interesting problem. In the early days the Wellhouse shop was powered by shafting from the steam engine. There was a gas engine to power the shafting when the main engine was stopped but eventually this was replaced by a large electric motor made by Horace Green at Cononley. The steam engine at the mill was stopped for the duration and this motor was working non-stop. As more load was put on the motor it started to run hot and Johnny got Horace Green to come down and give an opinion on it. Horace looked at the motor under full load and said that it was all right, the time to send for him was when the paint on it started blistering! The motor survived and justified Johnny’s life-long reliance of the quality of Horace Green’s electric motors. He later bought two to power his OT lathes. Many years later a farmer friend of mine was having a new milking system installed and the contractor told him that the old-fashioned motor which drove the vacuum pump should be replaced as it was worn out. I told David not to listen to him, it was a Horace Green motor and they never wore out. That was 30 years ago and it is still doing its job.

When the war finished in 1945 there was plenty of work, not only catching up on essential maintenance on engines which had been neglected during the hostilities but getting the engine at Wellhouse running again after it had stood idle for six years. The mill had been used as a bonded warehouse for tobacco by the Navy during the war years and it fell to Newton to re-start it. He said that it was an interesting experience and the worst thing about it was the smell from the air pumps as they unloaded six years worth of stagnant water and urine, the workers had been using them for purposes they were never intended for. Strangely enough, Newton repeated this experience forty years later with me when I started Ellenroad engine after a ten year shut down. Nobody had been using the air pumps as a urinal but the smell was still terrible.

Nobody knew it at the time but the circumstance that produced some of the biggest and most interesting jobs couldn’t have been foreseen. During the boom years many mills installed extra looms and loaded their engines far beyond what they were designed for. When Calf Hall hit this problem all they did was install a new boiler and raise the steam pressure, some mill-owners fitted new cylinders as well as raising pressures. At the time this seemed like an economical way of solving the problem but over the years the extra load took its toll and stress cracks started deep in the forgings of the engines and grew slowly. After WW2 when ‘Britain’s Bread hung by Lancashire’s thread.’ the engines were once more overloaded and for some of them this was the last straw, the 1950s saw some big repair jobs as engine components reached their limit. We will look at some of these jobs later.

Image

Johnny and Jim Fort with a lathe for making 6" shells, one of many made at Wellhouse.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 15 Mar 2018, 05:22

CHAPTER 10: THE END OF AN ERA.

Johnny Pickles never really retired he just quietly withdrew from the business and left it to Newton and Walt Fisher who were perfectly capable of carrying on without him. He had trained them well. Johnny did his engineering in the shed at Federation Street, kept an eye on the shop and on the 9th of September 1969 he died aged 84 years. The inscription that Newton had cut on his gravestone in Kelbrook church yard sums the man up, ‘John Albert Pickles, engineer and master craftsman.’

Henry Brown Sons and Pickles carried on and was still a successful business but the glory days of the steam mills were over. One by one the mills closed and engines were scrapped. Newton once said to me “I was mother and father to that engine at Victoria Mill”, and he really meant it. He ran it on the housewife’s shift the last time it drove the mill. Walt Fisher said “When they did away with steam engines they did away with a lot of hard work.” He was right too! In the later years Newton was much in demand running engines while the regular engineer was off sick or had finished because they were weaving out. In the old days you could often find a retired engine tenter who could help you out of a tight corner but as they died off there was only Newton left.

Mind you, the firm never actually got to the point where they hadn’t a single engine left. Up to 1978 they had Bancroft, Queen Street, Wiseman Street at Burnley and Washpit Mill over at Holmfirth. Then there was the heritage market, Newton bored cylinders on locos at the Keighley and Worth Valley line and the Haverthwaite Railway in the Lake District. He refurbished the engine at Stott Park Bobbin Mill and put it back in steam. They dismantled the Finsley View engine in Burnley and were going to re-erect it in the Science Museum at South Kensington until Newton found out it wasn’t going to run in steam. He said he didn’t want anything to do with clockwork engines and Riley’s from Heywood got the job of re-erecting it.

Funnily enough, years later the Science Museum did put the Finsley View engine in steam in the Science Museum. I had been asked to go down and look at the installation when Riley’s had finished the job and had warned the museum in writing that they had their condensing arrangements wrong. This wasn’t Riley’s fault, they had to follow the instructions given to them by the organisation who controlled all work in government buildings. Sure enough when they ran it the air pump casing cracked and I was asked to go down again. I said I’d only come if Newton came with me and we weren’t part of a committee of engineers arguing what to do. They agreed and we had a glorious day out playing hell with the museum management about the mistakes they had made. They took our advice and got a new pump fabricated and asked if we wanted to be invited for the grand opening where it was to be steamed for Prince William. We both refused because we didn’t like the set-up. I have a story about this…

I was sat at home minding my own business when I got a phone call from a senior man in the Science Museum who knew me well. He said they had a problem and as I have never been one for missing an opportunity to wind up the experts in the south before he could tell me what it was I said yes, I’d heard all about it, the air pump had failed on the Siberia engine. We always called it the Siberia instead of it’s Sunday name because that was what the weavers at Harle Syke called the mill on account of the weaving shed being so cold. He was knocked sideways because he couldn’t understand how I could know. I didn’t tell him until years later. What had happened was that I was in the process of taking advice from people I respected about the best way to set up the Ellenroad Trust which was to run the engine house at Newhey. I had gone down to Styal to see David Sekers who had a lot of experience in this field, he had set up Gladstone Museum in Longton and Quarry Bank Mill at Styal. David was kind enough to take me to the pub for lunch and in the course of our conversation he told me about a curious happening at the Science Museum the day before.

It happened when he and another eminent person in museum management were having a conversation with Neill Cossons the director of the Science Museum. In the middle of the conversation a minion slipped into the room and whispered a message to the director and he excused himself for ten minutes while he dealt with the matter. David and his companion didn’t know what was happening but they thought they had caught the words water and East Hall. They were bemused and thought it curious that Mr Cossons was micro-managing his operation to the point where he was concerned about what sounded like mopping the floor in the museum. I didn’t say anything to David, I simply agreed with him but I have a crap detector at the back of my head and it started whining. I was sure I knew exactly what had happened so when I got the call the following day I was several paces in front of the game. Isn’t it marvellous how bad news spreads. One last thing I remember about this trip. Newton and I decided it was a day out and I just happened to have half a bottle of whisky in my coat pocket. There was a young lady sat at the same table as us and she was evidently intrigued by these two funny blokes who were obviously having a great time with their bacon butties and tea laced with whisky. We got talking and I think she was a student. One thing is certain, she enjoyed our company and I think we might have given her some advice about how to get the maximum enjoyment out of life. I wonder if she remembers us?

On the way down to the museum on the train Newton told me a story about Johnny and the clock he made for Holy Trinity church in Barlick when it was built in 1960. The clock is his own design but has the same double three-legged gravity escapement as the turret clock at the Houses of Parliament. This mechanism was invented by E B Denison (later Lord Grimthorpe) in 1854 when he was given the task of drawing up a specification for the new clock and found that no clockmaker could guarantee an accuracy of within one minute a week. Eventually Dent’s built the Parliamentary clock to Denison’s design and it was very successful so Johnny followed in his footsteps.
He decided that the clock for Holy Trinity should have a maintaining gear to keep the clock running accurately while the weights were being wound up. The only example he knew was in the Science Museum in South Kensington so one Friday night he told Newton to fill the works van with petrol as they were going to London the following day. Newton drove his father down to London and they parked outside the museum in Exhibition Road. Try doing that today! Johnny said “Wait here, I’ll only be ten minutes”. He went into the museum, took the particulars of the item he was interested in and on climbing back into the van said to Newton, “Right, let’s get going. If we look sharp we can get to Bury Market before they close and get some black puddings for tea!” Happy days!

It’s quite instructive to recognise exactly what was happening here. Johnny knew that there was no point wasting time re-inventing the wheel. He was always ready to go and look at someone else’s work and learn from it. Horace Thornton from Earby (another informant in the LTP) told me an interesting story about Johnny visiting Carleton Church to look at a very old turret clock there. Horace was the verger at the time and he said that when Johnny saw the clock he said that the story that it was made by a farmer could be true as it was a very simple and unusual design. He noticed that there was a free-wheel on the governor mechanism and said that he had never seen this mechanism used on a clock so old and it must be one of the first uses in clock-making. I wonder if anyone else ever noticed this innovation and its significance.

When Newton took Johnny to the Science Museum his dad was using the collections in exactly the way that they were intended to be used when the museum was established using part of the profits from the Great Exhibition of 1851. The exhibits were to be a three dimensional resource for reference by anyone who wanted information about a particular mechanism or technique. I wonder whether this is firmly rooted in the present management or have they decided that such old technology is no longer important? Armed with his newly acquired knowledge, Johnny went back to Barlick and built the clock which is still in place to this day. Under John Pickles’ direction, Henry Brown Sons and Pickles did some wonderful engineering jobs but it seems fitting that the longest lived examples of Johnny’s craftsmanship are his turret clocks. It’s significant I think that they were made in his spare time because he loved his work and was an enthusiast. I don’t suppose many people have workshops at the bottom of their gardens today. We might have lost something along the way.

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Johnny in his workshop at Federation Street with the clock he made for the new Holy Trinity church
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 16 Mar 2018, 05:03

During 1978 I was asked to advise English Heritage and Quarry Bank at Styal on the removal of a large water wheel from Glass Houses near Pately Bridge. I have no inflated ideas about my importance to them as an expert, I think my sole function was to be someone prepared to write a report recommending the removal so that if there was any criticism I could be the fall guy. I recommended Brown and Pickles for the job and they got it. Newton told me later that this was the job that persuaded them it was time to retire gracefully because when they hit trouble dismantling the old wheel they were refused any extra payments and lost money on the job. This wasn’t a financial disaster but it knocked the heart out of Walt and Newton. I always felt bad about having landed them with that one.
On the 10th of May 1981 Newton and Walt Fisher sold out to Gissing and Lonsdale who have kept the name of the firm alive. The Riley Street clock was flitted across the road to Gissing and Lonsdale’s offices on Wellhouse road and was fitted with two extra dials. Up to 1988 it was wound manually but on April 4th 1988 it was converted to electric winding. N&R Demolition from Portsmouth Mill at Todmorden moved in and demolished the Wellhouse Machine Shop. It was very sad to see the old buildings come down, so much wonderful work had been done in that old building. I stood with Newton and Olive watching the machines working and remembering tales that Newton had told me about milling gears for his dad when he was fourteen years old with snow blowing under the shop door and collecting round his feet. Him and Jim Fort having competitions to see whose swarf would go furthest down the yard without breaking. The lads waiting until the engine had been running for a while before going out to the tippler toilets in the yard in winter because the exhaust from the engine drains warmed them up. All the skill and memories accumulated over the years blown away by progress. Inevitable I suppose but sad.
As I have said, I never met Johnny Pickles, I was too busy driving all over the world and parts of Gateshead in the ten years from 1959 to 1969 when it could have happened. I first met Newton when I took over Bancroft engine in 1972 and he taught me all I know about engines and turning. I visited him the day he died to wish him and Beryl a happy new year. I’ve always said that there are two sorts of men in this world, the ones who know but won’t help you and the ones that know and will share their knowledge with you. Newton spent hours in the engine house and workshop with me answering questions and showing me what to do. That sort of skill can’t be found in books because nobody ever wrote it down. That’s one of the reasons why I’m enjoying writing this so much, it lets me share some of Newton with you. Walt Fisher is still alive and well and is 91, whenever I have a query about the old days I just pick the phone up and get the answer off him, long may it continue. Henry Brown Sons and Pickles were an integral part of the history of the steam driven textile industry in the district. The echoes of those early starts in the trade are still with us, Ouzledale Foundry was a large part of the story I have told and they are still a thriving business in the town so we still have a direct link back to 1890 when Henry Watts was making castings on Longfield Lane for Henry Brown. That pleases me.

Here’s the obituary I wrote for the Barnoldswick and Earby Times when Newton died.

NEWTON PICKLES. ENGINEER AND MASTER CRAFTSMAN. BORN 10TH OF MARCH 1916, DIED 1ST OF JANUARY 2001.

Tuesday, 02 January 2001

Yesterday was a quiet day, everyone in Barlick seemed to be recovering from the New Year celebrations. I decided it would be a good day to call in on my old mate Newton and his wife Beryl to wish them a happy New year. I had a cup of tea with them, a good crack with Newton and he pulled my leg because he’d read my last piece about him and me testing the Bancroft engine one Christmas Eve long ago and he reminded me of something I’d forgotten to put in to the article. If you remember, Newton and I were sat in the darkened engine house listening to the engine running like a rice pudding and drinking whisky.

Young John, Newton’s grandson was with us and after a while he got a bit fidgety and said “When are you going to stop this engine?” I said “If it’s getting on your nerves, you stop the bloody thing, you know how!” Me and Newt had a good laugh and John went to stop the engine but he was too short to reach the stop valve and we had to break off from the serious matter of our Christmas drink while we found a buffet for John to stand on. He did it and the engine stopped.

This was typical Newton, he had a memory like a sharp knife and once you triggered him off, he would recount an incident as though it happened yesterday. Even better, as far as a historian is concerned, he would tell you the same story twenty years later in exactly the same detail, he was totally reliable as a witness.

When he’d finished saucing me, we had a good laugh and as I went out he gave me a big hug, unusual behaviour for him. They were getting ready for going out to have a meal and that was the last I saw of him. Beryl rang me this morning to say he had died during the night. I’ve only just remembered that hug, very strange but welcome.

The first thing I want to say about Newton is that knowing how I feel I can make a guess as to how his immediate family are feeling today. There is such a big hole in so many people’s lives this morning and it can’t be filled. Time will heal I know, but nothing anyone can say can make it better. The only thing I have to offer is that the better the person, the bigger the loss, it’s almost as though it is part of the price we have to pay for having someone like Newton in our lives. He was like a father to me and I shall miss him so much.

I’d like to tell you something of the Newton I knew and how he affected my life. In 1973 when I took over Bancroft engine I knew I was in for a steep learning curve but comforted myself with the knowledge that it would all be written down somewhere and all I had to do was get the books and read them. I was in for a shock! I soon found out that there was nothing practical written down, plenty about the theory, written by blokes who had never run an engine in their lives but nothing about what you actually did to run an engine.

This was where I had a stroke of luck, I heard about this firm in the town, Henry Brown Sons and Pickles and when I rang them a funny bloke came on the line and when he heard my problem said he’d come up to see me. Now, there are two sorts of people in this world, the ones who reckon they know but won’t tell you and the ones who really do know and will tell you all. Luckily for me, Newton was the latter. I told him my problem and he took me under his wing. From then on it was plain sailing, when I came up against a problem I rang Newt, he came up, sorted me out and pointed out what I ought to be looking into next. I think the proudest day of my life was when he came into the engine house one day, stood there listening to Mary Jane and James for a second or two and then turned round to me, “It’s running better than it ever has since it were put in. Tha wants to be careful, tha’ll mek an engineer yet!”

When Bancroft reached the end of its days Newton was with me in the engine house on the Wednesday afternoon of the week when we anticipated stopping on the Friday. We were making plans for what we would do to the engine to make sure it would be in good condition if anyone wanted to start it up again. We’d had a lot of visitors that week, the word had got round that Bancroft was stopping and people naturally wanted to see it running one last time. Professor Owen Ashmore from Manchester was there and he said he’d just watch the engine stop at dinnertime, he wanted a picture of me doing it. I told him that if I was right, when we stopped at dinnertime it would never run again because the weavers had been paid and I doubted whether they’d come back. That being the case, I wasn’t going to stop it, Newton could do it. I remember Newton protesting but I told him that the job was his. It was the last Barlick engine and he’d looked after all of them, he could kill the last one. He did, and I have a picture of him doing it. It seemed fitting that he should preside over the end of steam in Barlick. We cheated of course, we banked the boiler and the following day Newton and I ran the engine one last time while we flooded it with oil and I stopped it after that.

In 1987 Newton was in a poor way. He had nursed his second wife Olive through cancer and was very low. I went to a foundry I knew and got some castings made for a couple of steam engines. I took one set round to him at Vicarage road and told him I wanted him to make me into a turner. He had to make an engine out of the castings and I’d do the other set. Six months later he had an engine, I had made mine and had it passed by Pickles and shortly afterwards he met Beryl and started another very happy period of his life.

So there you are, that’s my version of Newton Pickles, a funny old bugger but the best teacher and friend a bloke could have. I owe everything I know about engines and machining to him and will never forget his generosity and support when I needed it most. There’s lots more to tell about him but I shall be telling the stories for many years yet. My thoughts go out to Beryl and the family, I have lost a friend, their loss is greater than mine. One last word, you may have wondered about the title of this piece. “Engineer and master craftsman” is what Newton had carved on his father’s gravestone in Kelbrook Churchyard. I reckon he deserves the same epitaph.

*********************************************

If you’ve stayed the course you now know the bare bones of the history of Henry Brown Sons and Pickles. I think you may have also realised that I have a bad case of hero worship, nowt wrong with that! We still need our heroes. What I want to do now is put some flesh on the bones, I want to look at some of the jobs that they did. I don’t know about you, but I think this tells us more than the bare facts. Let’s go and get our hands dirty and find out what they did for a living.

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Demolition at Wellhouse in 1981.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 17 Mar 2018, 04:37

CHAPTER 11: ENGINEERING MATTERS

Engineering did matter in the glory days of Barlick as an archetypal northern mill town. There were fourteen large mill engines in Barlick and Salterforth alone and Brown and Pickles was only one of the firms that served the industry. They were called in to solve every sort of problem from boiler and engine repairs to the heating and transmission systems. In order to be successful a firm needed to be able to tackle any job and in many cases they acted as the consulting engineers as well. If a problem arose either Johnny or Newton was summoned to the board room and decisions were taken very quickly based on their recommendations. We’ll have a look at some of these jobs and how they were done, this will fill in the bare bones of our history of the firm. You may not have a particular interest in mechanical matters but I promise you that if you stay the course you’ll find much to interest you. If, like me, you love the engineering side you are in for a treat, this was engineering in its purest form.

Let’s put a marker down before we start. Modern engineers are usually cast in a different mould than Johnny, Newton and their men. Broad-based engineering apprenticeships are thin on the ground these days, some firms, like Rolls Royce still believe in them but on the whole engineers are all to often made in universities using lots of theory and very little practical experience. Because of constraints on time only modern methods and materials are taught. This can mean that the post of chief engineer in a large firm can often be filled by a bright young lad with three or four years theoretical training but very little else. They haven’t grown up in the job. I have two stories for you which illustrate this…

Some years ago I worked for a friend of mine called John Ingoe who runs a firm in Rochdale called Rochdale Electric Welding. Founded by his father Matthew Ingoe, they are boiler repairers and can tackle the heaviest repairs including riveted vessels. There are very few firms left like this now. One Friday John came to me and asked me to go up to Lancaster to expand some tubes which were leaking in a boiler at a large factory. I should explain that these were modern tubed boilers which differ from Lancashire boilers in that instead of having two large furnace tubes to convey the hot flue gases from the furnace through the water space they have a multitude of smaller tubes which are sealed in the tube plate at each end of the water space by being expanded tightly into the hole. I threw the hand expanding gear into the van and went on my merry way not knowing what time I would get home to Barlick that night.

When I got to the factory I found a sorry state of affairs. The firm had five large economic boilers and the insurance surveyor had condemned all five of them. What this means is that he had inspected the boilers as part of the necessary process of assuring himself that they were a good insurance risk and had decided that they were defective and had to be repaired before his company would insure them, in effect he shut the factory down. The basic problem was that the old works engineer had retired and being a modern firm they had interviewed candidates for the job and picked the brightest young graduate they could find. It had been impressed on him that in these hard times plant economy was one of his major goals. The young lad looked at the operation of the boilers and decided that since they were fully automatic there wasn’t much point having dedicated staff looking after them so he made it a function of the maintenance department and saved two wages. The problem was that the boilers were the least of the maintenance men’s problems and they were neglected. In particular, the management of boiler water quality, essential for tubed boilers, deteriorated and the level of contamination in the water rose. This led to increased formation of scale in the water space and eventually this got into the joints where the fire tubes passed through the tube plates causing them to leak. This leakage on all five boilers and the terrible water analysis was what had caused the insurance surveyor to condemn the boilers. He threw the firm a lifeline because he knew that he was stopping production, he told the management that if they could reduce the leakage on the least affected boiler he would allow it to be run whilst the others were being rectified.

My job was clear, I had to expand the leaking tubes in the boiler and make them pressure tight. The boiler front was opened up ready for me so I grabbed a chair to stand on and started on the affected tubes. As soon as I did the first tube I heard a crackling noise as I wound the mandrel of the expander in to roll and stretch the metal of the tube end so it was tight in the tube plate. This noise was the sound of scale being compressed between the tube and the plate and it meant that I was on a hiding to nothing. I knew that there would be a further problem, the pressure I was putting on the tubes would disturb the tube plate and loosen the surrounding tubes, it was going to be a long haul.

So there you have Stanley in a deserted boiler house working hard on the tubes. I heard footsteps and a nicely dressed young man came towards me. I suppose I expected a word of encouragement or even thanks for turning out late on a Friday and driving fifty miles to help him but no such luck. His first words were a tirade of criticism because I was working in an unsafe manner, I hadn’t got a hard hat on and standing on a chair to reach the tubes was unacceptable practice, elfin safety was more important to him than getting the boiler on line.

I think I may have overstepped the mark. I pointed out to him that my head was in no danger and that if he was so concerned about my safety why hadn’t he arranged a better platform for me. I also mentioned that if he had taken better care of his boiler water quality we would all be at home having our tea. He was a bit taken aback with this and lost interest in my hat and the chair, to tell the truth I think he was feeling a bit insecure, as well he should, a chief engineer with all five boilers condemned isn’t in a very strong position. He asked me what I meant and I realised he knew nothing about the importance of boiler water quality in a tubed boiler. I gave him a crash course on the subject and made him listen to the crackling noise as I expanded the tube end. I told him that the only permanent cure was a complete retube and some serious attention to regular water quality checks on his boilers. I also pointed out that he would be lucky if I got the tubes tight because the problem spread as I worked on them and his best course was to ring John at home and initiate the retubing of the boilers immediately.

By eight o’clock that evening I had his tubes tight enough to satisfy the surveyor and set off home. I told John the story the following morning and it didn’t surprise him, he had been expecting trouble. He knew the size of the tubes required and ordered a set for one boiler straight away on his own account even though he had received no order from the firm. It was over a week before the firm got back to John and sanctioned the repairs. During that time they had no doubt had a committee meeting or three and probably looked for cheaper quotations. Eventually REW retubed all the boilers and they were in business again. The point of the story is that if the old engineer had been there the problem wouldn’t have arisen and the retubing would have been done as a normal maintenance job, one boiler at a time with no downtime for the works. The difference was that he had practical experience and knew what he was doing, the young lad only had his books and had evidently missed the chapter on boiler water quality. John told me later that a conservative estimate was that every day the factory was stopped cost the firm over £10,000.

One more example of a slightly different circumstance which Newton related to me. There is a big lime-burning quarry near Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales and they had a bit of a problem. One of the large rollers in the stone-crusher was coming loose on its shaft. Give them their due, they had realised it was happening before it damaged either the roller or the shaft and all the shaft needed was re-keying tightly into the bore of the roller. They went out to get estimates for the repair and the way the firms approached the job was to quote for stripping the machine down, removing the roller and the shaft to their works and cutting a new keyway so they could fit new keys. This was a big job and involved serious weights and crane hire so the prices reflected this. The man in charge of the works was telling his woes to a friend who suggested he ring up this little engineering shop in Barlick. Newton was summoned, looked at the job and quoted for it. The management couldn’t believe the price he gave them because it was a tenth of what they had got from their usual people. The reason was that Newton’s approach to the job didn’t involve stripping the machine down, he was going to do it the same way they had done it hundreds of times before, mark the new keyway on the shaft in situ and cut it out by hand using a hacksaw for the initial side cuts and then chopping out the meat with chisels and a hand hammer, finishing off with the file. They did just that, fitted new keys and the stone-crusher was back on line within two days and everyone was satisfied. The point here is that the unsuccessful firms had either forgotten or lost the necessary skills for cutting the new keyway by hand. Once again the reservoir of experience had come to the rescue. How many times do similar circumstances arise and what is the eventual cost?
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 18 Mar 2018, 03:44

End of lecture on the value of experience. Let’s get down to cases. My first story goes back a long way to 1906 when Johnny was nearing the end of his apprenticeship to Henry Brown and Sons in Albion Street at Earby. Browns weren’t into the heaviest repairs but were quite capable of doing many of the routine jobs that crop up round big mill engines and gearing. They were often called to the big Yates beam engine at Victoria Mill and some jobs were a regular occurrence. We’d better give these jobs titles or we’ll get lost, let’s do it mill by mill because this was the way Newton and I attacked them when I was doing the interviews with him for the LTP and we shall be relying heavily on his accounts, straight from the horse’s mouth!

One final research tip for you if what we are looking at interests you. Good research is often down to good collaboration. Remember what I said about the man and the Lake District water mills? For many years my friend Geoff Shackleton and I have been swapping information and research. Geoff published a master work in 2006, ‘The Textile Mills of Pendle and their steam engines’ and it is a mine of information on the subjects we will be addressing from here on. It is well worth a place on your bookshelf, I forecast that it will never be surpassed. Go out and invest money!

CHAPTER 12: VICTORIA MILL, EARBY.

For much of the 19th century the standard configuration for the steam engine was a rocking beam mounted on top of a solid entablature and pivoted in the middle which received power at one end by being pushed and pulled by the double-acting steam cylinder below and delivered the energy to the flywheel and gearing from the other end via a connecting rod and crank. Exactly like a see-saw in a children’s playground. If you think about it, the point of greatest stress on the beam was in the centre where a large gudgeon pin or pivot through the centre of the beam was mounted on two trunnion bearings firmly attached to the entablature by heavy bolts. In common with most such engines at the time the beams on Victoria engine (it was a double beam, two engines mounted side by side) were made of cast iron. Cast iron is splendid stuff in compression but doesn’t resist bending very well because of the crystalline structure of the metal. In order to make sure the beams could stand the strain they were massively built and strengthened with additional metal at the points of greatest stress like the hole where the gudgeon pin was keyed into the centre of the beam and the ends which took the strain of the piston and connecting rods.

Let’s have a look at the history of the engine because we’ll recognise a circumstance that becomes more and more common as the engines aged. Can you remember me saying that one of the main causes of large repair jobs after WW2 was over-loaded components developing fatigue cracks due to the engines being upgraded and taking more stress? This job I am going to describe in 1906 is an early example of this fault. I don’t know what the original Yates double beam engine in 1856 was designed to deliver but my guess is about 500hp. Sometime around 1872/74 it had a new flywheel shaft. In 1883 more power was needed and William ‘Billycock’ Bracewell’s Burnley engineering firm was called in to convert the engine to compound expansion, a process known as ‘McNaughting’ after William McNaught of Glasgow who patented the technique in 1845 (Patent number 11,001. If you need to know more about McNaughting an engine seek out ‘The Power of Steam’ by Richard L Hills, CUP 1989. pp.157-161. Beware of the common misapprehension that the technique was invented by John McNaught of Rochdale. This is a confusion caused by the fact that John McNaught used William McNaught’s principles to modify many old beam engines) This modification involved fitting extra cylinders to drive the beam. This increased the power of the engine but also the strain on the beams. In 1898/99 the engine was totally rebuilt with new cylinders, new boilers working at higher pressure and a new flywheel and gearing, in this form it was delivering up to 1,400hp, almost three times the original power but still using the original beams. Let’s go to 1906, perched on top of the entablature is Henry Brown, one of his fitters and his apprentice of three years Johnny Pickles, they are doing a regular job, tightening up the gudgeon pin in the centre of the beam. I think we’ll let Newton tell the story in his own words… Bear in mind that the beam had done fifty years of work and almost twenty five years carrying more than double the load it was designed for.

“In me father’s day they (Henry Brown and Sons) used to go to it regular. One of the beam trunnions was always loose, always wanting new keys in. Me father were only a lad. (He was 21) Him and Mr Brown and an old fitter, I forget his name now, th’old fitter, they used to go to it regular at Sundays and put new keys in this beam trunnion. Those keys ‘ud be two inches wide and sixteen inches long, they’d two apiece in. I can just picture me father now, as cheeky as a brush, and he told me “I was fed up of working on them keys at Sunday!” So one Sunday afternoon, as they were driving these keys in he says, I’m holding t’drift on the key and the fitter’s driving it home and I says to old Mr Brown, What do we keep putting keys in this beam for? Well, says Mr Brown, you know very well why we keep putting ‘em in. He were a bit of a religious chap, he didn’t like working at Sunday. Because they’re always coming loose! So me father says, Well, they always will come loose Mr Brown. He said why’s that John? Father says, it’s cracked isn’t it, through the boss, it has been for this last two years, when you drive these keys in if you look at that crack, it opens out.

The beam was cracked, right through the centre of the boss. That beam, it’d be what, 18 inches through t’boss and t’gudgeons ‘ud be about 9 or 10 inches in diameter in t’middle. Well he says, they all had a fit and fell down staggering, he said they nearly passed out when they saw that crack. So along came Saxons then, (Well known engine makers from Openshaw in Manchester) the mill were stopped for many a week. They took the old cast iron beams out and replaced ‘em with steel ‘uns and they weighed seventeen ton apiece did them beams. (Two steel plates to each beam, two and half inches thick and four feet six inches deep at the centre) You can picture a whale floating in the sea, when that engine were running it just looked like one. They’d taper down to about eighteen inches at each end and they’d be thirty five or six feet long, as long as a Lancashire boiler. There were a chap killed putting ‘em in, they’d have nothing then only old wood jibs and telegraph poles to get ‘em in. This man decided to lean over as they were taking it through the window and it squashed him. It were his own fault, he should never have been in the way, it squashed him against the wall. Anyhow, they got these beams in and got it running again and then a few years after that it came loose on its beds and Burnley Ironworks were called in and they stopped it for a month and lifted the engine up. (1922) They had it suspended in mid air on packings and girders and what have you, blocks and chains. Me father said he’d never seen as many blocks and chains in his life. They took all the old stones away which had gone rotten with oil, put cast iron box beds under it about ten foot down and fastened it all down again and that made it into a decent engine. Oh and Saxons replaced the gearing, it hadn’t a jack wheel on the side of the flywheel, the gearing was on the top of the wheel (on the rim). All machine cut gears and two new pinions. (Another version of the engine’s history says that it was Burnley Ironworks that did this job in 1922. Take your pick!) So that made it run beautiful, apart from being out of step!” (By this Newton means that the engine was ‘quartered’. The cranks were set ninety degrees apart on the shaft so that it got a power impulse four times per revolution. This made the turning motion on the shaft more even and gave better weaving in the shed. Textile machinery likes a smooth well-regulated drive.)

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A similar size bean being transported around 1900 in Cornwall. This gives some idea of the scale of the job at Earby and no modern lifting equipment.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 19 Mar 2018, 04:14

I asked Newton where the pinions were mounted. “One in front and one behind. You can picture the flywheel running on two rollers like, one in front and one behind, they were practically underneath it. Each at a third of the circumference, one at the back and one at the front. After all that were done it worked on through the slump, it were never stopped. Then of course it came my time. I didn’t go down to that engine, very little like. We had an old fitter called Gladney Brown who worked for us a bit, he had a shop in Earby in them days and just occasionally me father ‘ud send me down to get him for help on different jobs. Little bits of damper jobs and such things as that. Then one weekend, I’d be nearly out of me time, it ‘ud be just afore the war. I’d just got home at Saturday dinnertime, I’d been working somewhere, and there were this knock on the door. It were our Mr Brown and it were very unusual for him to be coming across looking for me. (Newton would be 21 or 22) He says Newton, will you go down to Earby Mill, you know them spur wheels down in’t floor, there’s one of ‘em come off its keys. He were allus down at Earby, he lived in that little shop (The old Henry Brown shop in Albion Street) He says, they’ve just had me over has the engineer and one of them’s off t’keys practically. I said OK I’ll go down to it.

I picked me mate up, which is still me mate today, that’s Bob Fort and off we went down after dinner at Saturday. Th’old engineer there were Bill Lancaster (senior). We just took a hand hammer and some files and a chisel in an old bag over your shoulder and we went up into the engine house and as soon as he saw us he looked at me and Bob and he said “What the bloody hell have they sent me, two bits of kids to do a job like this!” Oh I says to Bob, that’s a good do for us, if we aren’t wanted let’s get off home. He he he! We were off down the steps but he were out after us, he says “Come here! Come here, I didn’t mean it like that”. So he took us down to these wheels, they were big wheels, they were six feet in diameter and drove a thousand looms each did them wheels, down in the bottom shed. They were steel and he says it’s one of them. I just took one look at it and looked at the keys and I said who’s been laiking (playing) with that? Oh well, he said, we keep having to tighten it, Gladney. Gladney Brown used to be our fitter at the shop. He says he’s always had to be in here knocking ‘em in but he’s off poorly and he hasn’t been in like and it’s one or two of ‘em loose. There were four keys in and I said aye, it looks so and all, been tapping ‘em in eh? What’s he been using, a rubber hammer! Cause I hadn’t a lot of love for that feller anyway. Anyway, we set to.

We came back to the shop and got some staking wedges and I says to Bob I don’t think it’s moved so far. What we’ll do for a start, they were all marked were these keys, we’ll put this wheel into gear properly and tap all these keys in up to the mark. You know we were down in the muck and the grease and oil. We got the pedestal cap off so’s we could get to the heads of the keys. It were a big shaft, about six or seven inch were that second motion shaft. So we tapped all these keys back, they’d a barring engine and we barred the engine round and we tapped ‘em all back to the proper mark where they’d been originally fit. Then we popped staking wedges in (In between the permanent keys to maintain the position of the pinion in relation to the flywheel) and knocked the top un out, first one we came to. We gets this key out and you’ve never seen anything like it in your life, it were all chewed away, it were like an old horseshoe! So Bob looked at me and I looked at him, well he says we might as well settle down eh! I says aye, we might as well settle down to this. So we knocked them all out and came back to Barlick and we’d no blacksmith about he’d gone home. So Bob says we can make these keys us selves, we can make these out of some three be one steel bar. So we got cracking and we’d two good hammers you know, we’d a compressed air hammer and all, and I thought we might as well do a bit of blacksmithing. So we made one (forged it under the hammer to an approximate taper) and didn’t do so bad at all and Bob was planing it up so I said I might as well make another forging. Bob came down into the shop off the shaper and he said I’ve machined one like, we’ll leave that one now. We went down to Earby and it weren’t so bad so we fit that one. I think at Saturday night about eleven o’clock we’d two fitted so we left it. On Sunday morning we went down again and by Sunday tea time we’d got t’other two in and we were ready for tightening the wheel so we did it. We were at that age when we could tighten ‘em and it rung like a bell. It were a steel gear, by the time we’d finished it rung like a bell when we were knocking them keys in. Lancaster kept saying, “You’re going to break sommat, you’re going to break sommat!” (He was frightened of them cracking the pinion, he must have thought it was cast iron) And do you know, when we came out of that engine house on Sunday night or early Monday morning, I just forget which it might have been about three o’clock on Monday morning, that chap ‘ud have given us the mill!

I were mother and father to that engine after that right up to it last breath. I even ran it on’t last night out anyway (Newton used to run the engine on the moonlight shift for Johnsons.) All through that career I rebored th’high pressure cylinder, I didn’t bore th’intermediate one because I didn’t think it needed it but I put a new piston rod in it. I put two new beam trunnions in it, new piston rod and trunnions. A new high pressure cross head and radius rods. I bored both low pressure cylinders and it took forty eight hours to go once through one of them low pressures running day and night, I bored both low pressures and I put two new piston rods in them with new pistons and new Ramsbottom rings. I did away with Buckley rings on all the cylinders and put Ramsbottom’s in. It allus had a trick that engine, when you watched it running, it were all out of line were t’low pressure piston rods. You can picture them coming out of the cylinder seven foot each stroke, first at one side o’t stuffing box and then at t’other. Well, when I put new beam trunnions in I said I’m going to alter this.

I’ll never forget it, I took the radius rods off what keeps it central and me father came down and went up the wall when he saw me with ‘em off. He says “Tha shouldn’t have taken them off Newton, tha’ll never get set up, it’s a reight geometrical problem is setting them up”. I said geometrical problem be damned, piston rod only wants to go out and come to t’top in’t same shop it comes out at t’ruddy bottom! It only means moving the pedestals. He says “Oh go on then, have it thee own road”. So anyhow, wi’ big shifts and little uns and keep barring it round and measuring it we shifted it all and by gum it did it! It were in the same position when it got to’t top as it were when it come to the bottom. They’d never seen owt like it because, you can picture a beam engine running Stanley, it goes up and t’piston rod goes whooop, like that but it doesn’t just do that, that way when you’re stood behind it, if you stand in front of it looking parallel to it it also does it that way if them radius rods aren’t right, like a ruddy bow and arrow running. (Newton is describing the parallel motion devised by James Watt to convert the arc described by the end of the beam into true linear motion by means of a parallel linkage anchored to a fixed point separate from the beam by radius rods. Years later in 1990 when I rebuilt the Whitelees beam engine at Ellenroad I had the same problem and had to find a way of solving it as I had to set new radius rod anchors. Like Newton, I ditched the geometry and did it by common sense fitting practice. I set the beam and the parallel linkage dead level and anchored the radius rods at that. Then I barred the engine round and made minor adjustments until I was satisfied I had it as near as I could get it. Any discrepancy there is after you’ve adjusted them this way is down to the original fitters making the radius rods the wrong length. It always seems to me that they made them too short and introduced a slight variation in the linear movement. I didn’t get it perfect, I was pressed for time, but the engine has run for ten years now with no problems.) They take some setting up does a beam engine. Anyhow I cured all that. Later on in its life I did th’high pressure rods as well.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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