STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 06 Oct 2018, 03:38

Bodge! They were engineers stockists mainly but also other mill requisites. It was a lady who ran it and she was brilliant, called round every fortnight, had a pot of tea with me in the engine house and took the order, everything delivered the next day. Talk about JIT!
Oil was delivered into the warehouse in 40 gallon steel barrels and we could roll them from there into the engine house. I had the gantry crane parked at that end of the house and that was about all we used it for, lifting the drums onto the heavy wooden stillage that stood inside the door. I had treacle valves on all of them, you never see them today.....
The old-fashioned cylinder oil that was in use in the 1920s when the engine was installed was like very thick treacle and had to be warmed before you could easily pour it into the lubricators. There was a nicely shaped oval oil kettle sunk into a custom made recess in the insulation on the top of the high pressure cylinder.

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If you look carefully you can see the upper half of it just in front of the steam pipe. The large stainless steel jug behind the pipe holds the reserve supply which was also kept warm. The Walker's cylinder oil was nothing like treacle but it paid to keep it warm, it went in through the built in sieve on the HP lubricator much easier.
The bearing oil was a straight 40SAE mineral oil and there was a top-up jug next to every lubricator on the engine that had a reservoir. Even though I was aware of the fact, we always used excess oil in the bearings on the grounds it was better to be safe than sorry. Some engineers went far further and literally flooded the bearings! very noticeable when volunteers are running them..... My motto was little and often. In fact I took the four lubricators off the head of the bell crank that drove the air pump and just gave the pins a shot of cylinder oil on starting, that was all they needed, they weren't rotating just reciprocating a few degrees. They used to throw oil all over the place!

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Look, no lubricators! It never came to any harm......
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 07 Oct 2018, 04:57

One thing that was always commented on was the fact that the engine was clean and shiny. There was a certain amount of personal pride associated with this but mainly it was because you soon got into the habit of wiping everything down with a lump of oily waste cotton as you walked round on your ten minute interval inspections of oil flows and general running. 'Cleaning' is actually the best way of inspecting a machine. Loose parts, bad adjustments and possible sources of trouble can be recognised and nipped in the bud.
Occasionally I deep cleaned one part. A good example of this was the oil gutters round the main bearings on the flywheel and second motion pulley that were served by the automatic aquarium lubricators which ensured constant flood lubrication conditions. I think it might have been the first time anyone had done it since 1920! The gutters were half full of very fine silt which was the dust out of the air which had contaminated the oil. By the way I changed the oil in the aquariums about every two years.
The carpets on the floor were not there for comfort, they gave a sure footing when you were leaning into the moving engine and also tended to trap and collect dust which could be swept or vacuumed up. For the same reason, during the summer shut down for a fortnight I used to sheet the engine up with fents to keep dust off.

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The engine sheeted up in 1976. This was particularly useful if a bird got into the engine house and started fluttering about in the trusses of the roof.

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It all looks lovely from below with the painted trusses and varnished ceiling boards but it was all covered with dust and if a bird started fluttering about up there it was like a snow storm. The answer unfortunately was a very powerful air rifle.... This only happened twice but believe me, just one sparrow up there could create an awful lot of work and if it was a pigeon, as on the second occasion, it was a minor disaster! Grit falling into the slides of the crossheads and tail rods was not good!
The other bugbear you had to watch out for was visitors putting their hands on the highly polished guard rails. They invariably left a rust patch from the sweat on their hands and the standard greeting to every visitor was a welcome and the warning not to touch anything! This was for safety as well of course. The engineers developed good hands for bright metal, first they were always slightly oily and second, some people, and I am one of them, have dry hands that don't cause rust on bright metal even when perfectly clean. How are yours?
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 08 Oct 2018, 03:41

Rust wasn't always an enemy, in some cases it could be your friend. I was always interested by corrosion, particularly of ferrous metals. Most people think that it is caused by simple oxidisation but this isn't correct, many things can cause it and most of the esoteric ones have the formation of an electrolytic cell at their root. All sorts of things can cause these, fretting under pressure, vibration and even variations in density or pressure.
Fretting corrosion was particularly useful. It happens when two metal surfaces are in close contact under pressure and are moving very slightly in relation to each other. This happens even if they are totally immersed in oil. It's very commonly found in loose keys or stakes holding something in close relationship to a bore or aperture. The reason why it is useful is that if it happens in the presence of oil it gives advanced warning that something is loose before it gets to the stage where it is dangerous. The joint between the two starts leaking bright red oil and oxide and was always referred to as 'bleeding'. If you saw it you knew immediately that there was play in the joint and action was needed.
Vibration could cause corrosion as well. At one time Brook Motors advised storing spare electric motors with the rotors vertical if they were in an environment where there was a chance of vibration. If they were too big for this to be done the shaft should be turned frequently. What happened, particularly in motors with ball or roller bearings, was that the vibration induced point loads on one spot and if left in that position for long enough, a corrosion cell could develop.
The most common place I found where the cause was a boundary layer between two liquids of unequal density was in metal filters designed to separate water from fuel in an engine. If the water wasn't drained corrosion cells developed at the boundary and were just like holes drilled into the metal by a fine drill.
The form of corrosion that most surprised me was the erosion you get in the casing of a centrifugal pump rotating at high speed. It happens regardless of what you are pumping but most commonly if it is water. The mechanism is that as the rotor runs it develops cavitation because the fluid can't flow fast enough to keep up with the impeller. This is a big problem with ship's propellers and causes erosion of the tips and edges of the blades over time. If you listen to a centrifugal pump shifting water you'll hear a cracking sound as it rotates. This is cavitation and just as the name suggests it creates cavities in the flow of liquid which contain an almost perfect vacuum. As the cavity collapses in the flow that's what creates the sound you hear, the crackle. As the cavity collapses temperatures of up to 10,000F can be momentarily created and it is this differential that generates a tiny electrical potential. This causes a slight erosion over time of the pump casing. This is why such casings are made of an adequate thickness of cast iron, the erosion can't be stopped and the thicker the case the longer it will serve its purpose.
If you think all this is a bit complicated you're right and believe me if you dig further into it it gets even more so but I think we have reached the limits of what I learned...
This all has a bearing on lubrication. Many people just oil a bearing without giving a thought to what they are doing.....
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 09 Oct 2018, 04:22

There is no more mundane operation when you are running an engine than going round with the oilcan and putting a drop of oil in each joint in the various linkages. It's a favourite occupation of volunteers on heritage attractions but do they ever think about what they are actually doing? I suspect not, it's simply a case of oil makes the surfaces slippy and they don't seize up. Apart from the fact that too much oil is used, there is a lot more to it than that.
What is actually happening is that you are introducing a film of fluid, it this case mineral or animal oil, which separates the two surfaces in the joint and stops them attacking each other causing wear by friction and in extreme cases, galling which is where a rag of metal is raised and physically scores the mating surface. In some cases like a Lignum Vitae stern tube bearing on a vessel or in a water turbine, the water is the lubricant. In others, air can be used to give the protection.
In a low speed rotating joint that is not under pressure or a reciprocating joint a very thin film suffices. This is called 'boundary lubrication' and is totally effective.
In cases like a large bronze bearing supporting the weight of the flywheel a different approach is used. Instead of a thin film, the aim is to introduce a more than adequate flow of oil which, if the bearing and its housing are properly designed, ensures that a 'wedge' of oil builds up at the point of pressure and this ensures complete separation of the surfaces. Such bearings are served by a recirculating system, usually with a pump but in smaller bearings by a sump with a loose ring on the shaft carrying oil up onto the top of the shaft. These 'ring oilers' are very efficient so long as the supply in the sump is maintained.
Bearings don't have to be bronze, a steel shaft running in a cast iron bearing can be very efficient and durable. The propeller or turbine shaft running in Lignum Vitae with water as a lubricant is very good as well.
Bronze bearing technology used in modern machines can sometimes be suspect. One cause of this is employing boundary lubrication on high speed bearings that are too hard. The old designers would use bronze with a high lead content, the lead is a lubricant in itself if the boundary breaks down but the use of lead is a no-no these days. My son in law Harry was killed by this when the fuel pump drive in one engine failed because a replacement bearing of low lead content alloy had been used as a repair. In that case the lubricant was very tenuous, it was the fuel itself.
So, the next time you oil a joint, give a bit of thought to what you are actually doing. There's more to it than meets the eye!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 10 Oct 2018, 03:26

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Here's the last maintenance job I did on the Bancroft engine. This was the day after the closure. I ran the engine for the last time while John and I flooded it with cylinder oil. Then we stopped and Newton supervised us while we covered everything with oil and put ant-freeze in the pumps. We weren't expecting the engine to have any fate but scrapping at that point but as it happened local agitation saved it and Newton was there when they first turned it over about two years later. He said the rods came out of the bores as good as the day we stopped it so we must have done a good job.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 11 Oct 2018, 03:31

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The last job of all in early 1979 was to shut the valves on both the mains water supply and the large main that fed the sprinkler systems. Here are the Yorkshire Water Board men doing it in January 1979. One interesting thing I discovered was that all the mains water services in the mill were connected to the sprinkler main and not metered! God knows how long that had been the case.

I'm running out of steam, ask some questions if you want more!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Bodger » 11 Oct 2018, 08:05

An interesting 50 mins of steam history. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOGYZC-IJPQ

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 13 Oct 2018, 03:59

No questions? In that case I shall tell you the story of the bobbin mills.
When Bancroft closed I had made my plans and qualified for a place at Lancaster University to read history but as we closed in December I had missed the deadline for 1978 entry. I needed a job for nine months....
I was in close contact with the Department of the Environment at that time because they were helping to finance the transcription of the Lancashire Textile Project tapes. The Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Peter White, had a pet project which was water powered bobbin mills in the Lake District and he had access to funding to pursue this. He knew I was a good snapper and researcher and so he set me on as a temporary researcher until I went to Lancaster. My job was to go round the Record Offices in Cumbria, at Kendal, Carlisle and Preston, identify where the mills were and go and snap them so the DOE had a record.
That's how I found myself one morning heading out of Barlick in a car with my camera kit and notebooks to start digging and recording. The wage wasn't great but I had good expenses, I was a very happy bunny, a complete change!
I'll tell you the story, who knows you might find it interesting.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 14 Oct 2018, 05:40

I already knew quite a bit about water power of course from my interest in the textile industry. I also knew that there were specialised bobbin mills serving the industry but there my knowledge ended. We need a back story!
The explosion of growth in the textile industries in Lancashire in the 18th century led to an enormous demand for wooden bobbins of various shapes and sizes the hold yarn packages. At first the nascent demand was filled by either bobbin mills in the mills themselves or local specialists like the water-powered Bobbin Mill at Booth Bridge at Thornton in Craven. Running wood turning lathes was the ideal task for water power as it was essentially a rotative motion. Wooden water wheels, shafting and pulleys were common and the lathes themselves were initially made of wood with smith-made metal parts. Carpentry and smithing were always locally available.
The demand soon exceeded the capacity of local mills to supply it. The main bottleneck was the availability of raw material wood.
Anyone who knows the Lake District knows that with its high rainfall and hilly land it is ideal for water power and growing trees. Today that is one of its main charms. It comes as a surprise to many to learn that in the 18th century the whole of Cumbria was heavily industrialised. The availability of wood and local ore and limestone resources also encouraged iron-making and I had to take note of the water-powered iron industry as well.
Once these demands had been recognised local entrepreneurs recognised the possibility of profit and piled in investing in forests, water power sites and other resources. As they placed more demands on the woods they developed the perfect management system for extracting the greatest amount of usable wood per acre. They introduced 'coppicing' which is where you cut a mature tree back to a stump or 'stool' and let it grow shoots that develop into long thin small trees. Because the wood had been cleared, the ground got more light and this stimulated ground growth and that in turn stimulates fertility in the soil and encourages faster growth of the shoots from the stools. These developed into long straight poles ideal as raw material for bobbins or fuel for furnaces and if cut about every fifteen years were just right. Given a big enough wood, cutting could be continuous as a rotation and give a constant supply. Coppicing was developed into a fine art and never let the industry down as long as it lasted.
These bobbin mills were my primary target and my brief was to do the research, Identify where the mills were and go to the site and photograph what remained of the industry. I had nine months to do it!

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The former bobbin mill at Booth bridge in 1979.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 15 Oct 2018, 04:07

The first part of the job was to go to the Public Record offices that covered the Lake District at Preston, Carlisle and Kendal where I scanned all the First Edition OS 6" maps covering the area. Luckily water power sites are marked, usually with the use they were put to. I just used a ruler and a note book and noted all the sites, cross referencing them with the modern OS maps so I could give each a map reference. To cut a long story short it was boring but rewarding, I ended up with lists of hundreds of sites, I was surprised by how common they were. At one point after doing Preston and Carlisle I rang Peter White at the DOE and asked him how many sites he was expecting. He asked how many I had and I forget the number but it was hundreds. I think that surprised him as well because he told me to stop but I told him I couldn't because I still had Kendal to search! I went there and found another bunch.
A funny thing happened while I was working away at Kendal, I became aware that someone was looming over me and when I looked up it was a forbidding looking man who asked me what I was doing so I told him. He was evidently annoyed and it turned out that he was the 'recognised expert' on water power in the Lake District and had written the 'definitive book', he actually warned me off and told me to stop! I didn't argue with him but fobbed him off. I hadn't expected opposition! When I told Peter he said he knew that man and that unfortunately a lot of his work was cursory and flawed, I was to carry on!
It was obvious I couldn't visit and photograph all the sites, there simply wasn't enough time or funding so I divided them up into districts and allocated an amount of time to each and did as many as I could. All this took time but eventually I got to the day when I could take one of my files and the cameras and actually get out on to the ground. This was a different kettle of fish all together and was pure delight!

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I wasn't sure if I would find any evidence on the sites so I was setting off into the blue. One of the first I went to was Gilpin Mill in the Southern Lakes and this is one small example of what I found, the mill had just been abandoned and all left to fall into ruin. Even the small tools were there if you looked hard enough, it was a time capsule. I was surprised and delighted because everything was still there including the water courses. Not all the sites were as rewarding as this one but it was clear that it was going to be interesting!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 17 Oct 2018, 04:15

(Sorry but for some reason I missed yesterday!)
I soon got into the swing of the job and set off each day into the Lake District with a list of targets. It was a fascinating job and I discovered some long forgotten corners and learned a lot.
Many of the sites had been completely converted for other uses, ranging from hotels and blocks of apartments to private houses. I went to one house and knocked on the door and when the owners found out what I was doing they got very excited and invited me in to see some of the 'features' that had been left in by architects. They still had most of the line shafting in place! Then they took me into the cellar and blow me, they still had a water turbine! They were fascinated and I got some good pics. (I should say that I was doing B&W record shots and also colour slides because the eventual plan was for Peter to do a big lecture. More of that later!)

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An even bigger surprise was the fact that many water power installations, particularly on estates where they used the power for electricity generation and saw mills, the installations were still in place but often unused, especially the sawmills. The reason for this was that government legislation had changed and the owners were heavily charged for simply borrowing the water and returning it, completely clean, to the water source. This was such a stupid tax that many owners were convinced that eventually the charge would be lifted and as it turned out, eventually they were proved right and many small sites went to work again.
Another revelation was the variety of trades that used the water power, Iron furnaces, paper works, mills for grinding logwood to make natural dyes and one tannery. There was one quarry which had only recently stopped their turbine and replaced it with a large diesel engine.

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They still had their turbine on site, disused.

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This interested me because I had a use for it! Again, more about that later.......
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 18 Oct 2018, 04:13

I was learning fast! Apart from the sheer number of water power sites and the variety of industry they served there were other consequences as well. Have a look at THIS website. As waterwheels gave way to more efficient turbines they were very rapidly taken up by the industry and Kendal became one of the foremost destinations if you wanted a turbine and many of the Lake District mills installed them. I found some really impressive set-ups and marvelled at the amount of free energy available and stymied by stupid legislation. I hope this has changed now.
There was also a firm called Fells at Troutbeck Bridge who largely functioned on electricity generate by their own turbine powered generation.

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The water source and large turbine hall at Fell's at Troutbeck Bridge. They made world famous woodworking machinery and a rump of the firm still exists in Windermere. They started by making machinery for the bobbin mills.
All this is about what existed in the late 19th and early twentieth century. The casual observer would never guess that industry on this scale existed in what is now a famous National Park and recreation area. The question is what happened?
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 20 Oct 2018, 05:58

Sorry about yesterday, I had other fish to fry.....
Like many industries in the 19th century, the Lakeland Bobbin turning industry relied heavily on child labour. When regulation arrived especially in the early 20th century it hit the industry hard as they were working on very small margins and there was heavy competition. This was bad enough but two other circumstances came into play. As textile machinery improved and worked at higher speeds it became necessary to have much more accurate bobbins made of better materials. Remember that the raw material was almost unseasoned local coppice wood and these bobbins tended to be unstable, they could alter shape as they dried out during use.
At the same time there was another big change. Transatlantic trade to South America was increasing and was mainly export of manufactured goods. There was a shortage of return loads and in order to make the unladen vessels stable enough to face the Atlantic weather they needed ballast. Very often this was rocks and many harbours had banks where ballast was unloaded. However, it was soon realised that very good hardwood timber, particularly mahogany, was plentiful and cheap. There was a market here for good timber and increasing quantities were imported. One of the first local effects in the North of England was the expansion of the firm of Gillows at Lancaster who became famous for very good mahogany furniture. It was soon realised that the other hardwoods, though slightly inferior for furniture were ideal raw material for higher quality bobbins. The way to avoid the heavy transport costs and difficulties of getting this timber to the myriad of small mills in the Lake District was to make the bobbins close to the port of entry and gradually the old country mills closed down as the industry switched to the new mills near the ports. Most these were simply abandoned in the early years of the century and the historic bobbin industry on the Lake District died.
Some good water sites converted to other uses such as paper making, stone cutting and iron industries. At least one, at Stott Park, was big enough and had enough connections to stay in the trade. I was of course chasing the abandoned mills but I soon found out that Peter White had a grand plan, to take over Stott Park near Newby Bridge at the southern end of Lake Windemere, refurbish it and preserve it as a visitor attraction demonstrating the old industry. I soon found that part of my job was to be involved in that.

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Stott Park mill as a visitor attraction.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 21 Oct 2018, 04:13

Stott park had started with a waterwheel for power, gone onto a water turbine and in the latter days had a boiler burning wood waste and powering a steam engine. The waterwheel was long gone but the turbine was still there, sadly neglected and seized up.

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The heavy cast iron pipe that conveyed water under high pressure to the turbine from a reservoir on the hill behind the mill. If you remember, when I was looking at the Coniston quarry I found a good turbine that we could have had just for the cost of transport. It had been running right up to the installation of the diesel engine and so would have been easy to recondition. I suggested it to Peter White but for some reason they never took advantage of it. Instead I think they spent much more on refurbishing the old one as it was 'authentic'.

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This was the original Cornish boiler. The 'experts' took one look at it and decided it was hopelessly beyond repair but I persuaded them that they could be wrong. It was a wrought iron boiler which resists corrosion far better than mild steel. I think they took note and eventually put it back in service.

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Then there was the engine, dreadfully neglected and seized up because of rust in the bore due to water leaking into it over the years. However, in this case they certainly listened to me. I recommended Brown and Pickles and took Newton to look at it. They dismantled it, bored out the old piston and rod and completely refurbished it with a stainless steel piston rod and all new bearings. It was like a new engine when they had finished. They also but some simple lubricators on it, something it never had originally! When it was re-installed it was tested using a hired instantaneous steam boiler which Newton hated. He said it was the first time in his life he had ever seen red steam! (Corrosion in the boiler tubes) However it was a runner, everyone was pleased and I have an idea that led them to working on the boiler. I think it is serviceable today but I don't know how often they run it.

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This was the mill in 1980 when it was completely protected and under refurbishment. I haven't been back but I hear they made an excellent job of the building and the interior.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 22 Oct 2018, 03:59

I told a lie! Newton and Olive and me and the family went back to have a look and they had done a good job. It was knee deep in shavings and working.

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They even kept the old redundant wooden lathe beds. Notice that there were plenty of windows, artificial light was very expensive and of course, being candles and oil lamps was dangerous.
I mentioned earlier that the end event of this whole exercise was a lecture Peter White was to give in London at the Society of Antiquaries in Central London.

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Possibly the most prestigious venue we could have had. It was a revelation for a country lad like me, we were in the heart of the establishment. I was there to manage the slides of course as a menial!
It was a success and much back slapping all round. The thing I remember most clearly was the fact that the late John Robinson, my mate at the Science Museum, was there and at one point a member of the staff of the institution approached him with great reverence and addressed him as Lieutenant Commander Robinson! I knew he was in the wavy navy (RNVR. Gentlemen pretending to be sailors....) but didn't know his rank.
That ended my stint as a DOE researcher and I went on to Lancaster and the future. John stayed at the SM, Peter eventually finished up as a head honcho at the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage but not before he had got me in on another water mill. I think I'd better tell you about that!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 23 Oct 2018, 03:35

The world of steam engines and water sites is quite a small coterie. Because of my association with English Heritage and the Science Museum, though I never put myself about, I became recognised as a source because of my work with them.At that time in the 1980s Industrial Archaeology was becoming recognised as a key component of our history and industrial sites which had been neglected and decaying for years were suddenly in vogue. Stott Park was a good example and one of the first.
At Styal, near Wilmslow in Cheshire, a man called David Sekers had taken over the rescue of Quarry Bank Mill, he had recently had a triumph rescuing Gladstone Pottery in the Potteries and making it into a very successful visitor attraction. He was a scion of the Sekers family in Cumbria, ever heard of Seker's Silks? ( Have a look at THIS Wikipedia entry and note the connections....) If asked about his antecedents he always described himself as a 'failed textile salesman'. He was the smoothest operator I have ever seen, watching him cast the spell of his charm over an important man's secretary was an education!
Quarry Bank was in it's time one of the most important water powered textile factories in England. Look at THIS potted history of the firm. It was a prime example of a 'country mill' and was water-powered by the River Bollin. As it grew it needed more power and eventually had one of the largest water wheels in Britain with a water resource to match. The wheel had suffered an accident in the early 20th century and was replaced by a large turbine and later augmented by a steam engine. (More of that later.....) David soon realised that he had to pick a date in the development of the mill and base his refurbishment on that so he decided on the mid-nineteenth century and that meant he needed a replacement water wheel as big as the Hewes wheel that had been lost....
This started an interesting chain of events....

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David Sekers in 1986. I liked David, got on well with him and learned a lot.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 24 Oct 2018, 04:05

David found a large suspension wheel that was an almost perfect match for the missing Quarry Bank Wheel at Glass Houses Mill near Pately Bridge in Yorkshire.
Before I go any further I had better explain what a 'suspension' wheel is. The first water wheels were a very simple construction, a shaft running in bearings with massive wooden spokes supporting a shroud round the periphery fitted with paddles or wooden buckets to hold the water and give the impetus to the wheel when it was either immersed in the flow or when water was allowed to pour on it making it unbalanced and applying the torque or turning force.

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This one at Helmshore is a good late example of the old rigid method of construction. As time went on and wheels got bigger iron was used more and more to give strength. It was found that the most efficient way the introduce the water to the wheel was to make it large enough so that the water entered the wheel at what is called the 'High Breast' position, that is at about ten-o'clock. The other design point was that you had to make sure that in normal water flow conditions the bottom of the wheel was clear of the water in the tail race, as the waste water flowed away back to the source. If the wheel dipped into the tail water the wheel was said to be 'wallowing' and this cut down severely on its efficiency.
As more power became necessary and bigger water resources were harnessed the wheels grew in size and it soon became obvious that the limits of the traditional wheel had been reached. A direct comparison is the development of the spoked wheel for cycles to replace the original heavy wooden wheels. Very thin spokes carried the weight of the structure in suspension instead of compression, hence the name 'suspension wheel'.

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Some of these modern water wheels could be very large indeed. This is the Burden wheel at Troy in the US (LINK) which was reputed to be the most powerful ever built and at 60ft diameter one of the largest, exceeded only by the Laxey Wheel on the Isle of Man. It was conceived and installed by a Scotsman!

You can see that the spokes are relatively thin and support the weight in tension. Note also that the power (approximately 500hp in this case) is taken off at the periphery by a gear ring on the shroud. In the old wheels it was taken off the shaft usually as the rigid construction could handle the torque on the structure. The thin spokes of the suspension wheel weren't rigid enough to cope with this strain.
The wheel that David had found was about 25ft in diameter and the same across the face. He had sounded out the owners of the mill at Pately Bridge and found they were willing to sell it. All he had to do was finance the deal and get it moved and re-erected. This is where, as far as I was concerned, the story really starts!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 25 Oct 2018, 04:09

See THIS Wikepedia article on Glasshouses Mill. It was a perfect example of a water-powered stone built country mill and had at one time or other had the full progression of prime movers from water wheel to turbine and then a steam engine when the railway made coal available in Nidderdale. It was so good that at one time David Sekers told me that his ideal heritage venue would be Glasshouses or Quarry Bank but in the middle of Manchester!

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David Sekers, Fred Madders and Peter White at Glasshouses. May/June 1979. I was with them and we were discussing the ethics of taking the wheel out and using it at Styal. I suspected that they needed me to have a fall guy if there were any protests but that could be paranoia! Fred was the engineer at Styal who rebuilt the wheel.

I became a regular visitor at the mill and did a full inspection and assessment of the power arrangements at the mill with a photographic survey.

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This was the big suspension water wheel.

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Looking down the turbine pit at Glasshouses Mill. The large turbine is at the bottom at river level. This is the drive from the upright shaft.

The first thing I noted was that there was evidence of trouble over the years with the staking of the spoke housings on the shaft at both ends, there were numerous repairs, many of them frankly a botch. Like Quarry Bank, the shaft had eventually failed by breaking at the thinnest part next to one of the spoke housings. I also noted that though there were two gear rings on the peripheral shrouds, only one had ever been used to take the drive. I started to form a hypothesis that despite the fact that CI shaft breakages are often attributed to frost weakening the already brittle metal, there was a good chance that torsion in the wheel and shaft due to drive being only taken off one side was a major factor. I raised this matter but I don't think I was taken too seriously. If I had, it would have complicated the shafting arrangements and made them more expensive. I suspect this was why the circumstance arose in the first place, a corner had been cut and if I was right this ensured the eventual failure of the shaft. It surprised me because in all other respects no money had been spared to make the mill as good as possible. The arrangements for routing the shafting to the various parts of the mill was complicated, very well engineered and well maintained.
The water source was the full flow of the River Nidd, very similar to Quarry Bank which had the Bollin. I don't think they ever had problems with water shortage, indeed, what anecdotal evidence I found was that a bigger problem was too much water causing wallowing of the wheel. Another very impressive arrangement was the way the water flow to the wheel was regulated.

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Here is the mechanism at the supply side of the wheel. The geared quadrants controlled blinds made of Buffalo hide and their position was regulated by a large governor.

So we had a wheel and all it's accessories, now there was the small matter of moving it from Nidderdale to the valley of the Bollin in Cheshire!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 26 Oct 2018, 04:16

I knew that Brown and Pickles were quiet and suggested that they be asked to tender. The job was right up their street and they accepted, put in a bid and started the job.
Lots of options were discussed including taking the roof off the wheelhouse and doing some big lifts but in the end it was decided that the best way was to dismantle into the component parts and take the whole structure out piecemeal. All this would have to be done anyway at Quarry bank to refurbish it and get it into the wheelhouse there as access was restricted. The ventilated buckets were completely rotten and would have to be renewed so that was the first job stripping them off.

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Getting the buckets off. The separating brackets were all saved and kept. The backing skin was scrapped also to get back to the foundation structure of the wheel.

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Everything was rusted fast and resisted separation. This pic of the end of the shaft when it was eventually removed shows the break which finally stopped the wheel. The Styal wheel had failed in the same place from contemporary accounts. Note the overall bad condition, the forged ring used to strengthen the CI spoke housing hub and the remnant of one spoke left in the housing. This gives a clue to what was a major problem. The wrought iron spokes were made with a wedge shaped base drawn into the matching CI sockets by a wedge, a very secure method and over the years of constant immersion in water corrosion had welded the spokes fast in the sockets. Hydraulic jacks had to be used to draw them out like teeth and in some cases the spokes failed, they wouldn't stand the pull. No amount of heating did any good and so some of the spokes had to be s=imply cut off and attempts to remove them abandoned. As it turned out later as well as a new shaft, new spoke housings had to be cast. (Just imagine the complexity of that operation! I suspect it would have to be done by a variant of the lost wax process but that wasn't our concern at this point.)

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This picture illustrates the spoke housing better. This was in situ at Pately Bridge and was at the broken end of the shaft. You can clearly see the complexity of the casting, the 'folding wedge' arrangement to tighten the spokes in the housing, the second forged ring strengthening the hub and the evidence of desperate attempts to stabilise the stakes holding the hub on the shaft that had been resorted to over the years. The other hub was almost as bad.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 27 Oct 2018, 04:01

The general condition of the buckets and shroud sheet behind them betrayed the fact that they were in bad condition even before the shaft broke. All those rust holes hadn't appeared after it stopped and stood idle. The journals were badly roped as well, there had been instances of hot bearings caused by lack of lubrication. All told it looked as though the wheel had been neglected, probably because at that time they had the new turbine running and may have had decreased production so the power demand was lower and the wheel not crucial to survival.
I mentioned earlier that there was a large governor on the water regulating mechanism which was intended to vary the flow onto the wheel and therefore it's speed. This arrangement was fine in principle but very inefficient in practice as it could not keep the speed constant enough to ensure uniform speed on the shafting, the reaction time was very poor due to the weight of the blinds. Uniform speed is very important for any type of textile machinery and this fault was common to all water wheels.
I also mentioned earlier that Glasshouses had a steam engine in later years. This gave a useful increase on the overall power available but the main benefit was that the governor on the engine reacted far more quickly and if the allocation of power was adjusted so that the wheel produced slightly less power than was needed and the engine was used to top up the effect was that the governor on the steam engine acted as governor for the whole shafting train and gave a very valuable steadiness to the drive. This applied to the turbine also.
I don't know the date of installation of the engine and have no evidence that this was how it was used but given the fact that this system became common in the industry with almost all water wheels I think we can assume that was what happened here.
Time went on, I wasn't there much after the job started, I was busy elsewhere but what I picked up from Newton was that towards the end of the job they were fed up with it. I got the impression that there wasn't enough leeway in the contract to allow for the cost of all the extra work caused by the problems they hit. Newton said later that it wasn't a job where they made a profit and I felt rather guilty but it wasn't my responsibility and now it's water under the bridge.

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I hadn't much to go on with the engine. This was all the evidence there was, the marks of the flywheel housing and beds on the wall and a few traces of foundation bolts in the floor. From the absence of any undercroft I deduce it was most likely a surface condenser on the tail rod and probably about 200hp from the size of the house. Possibly a small tandem.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 28 Oct 2018, 04:40

Once down at Quarry Bank at Styal Fred Madders and his men started on the major task of rebuilding the wheel and all it's accessories in the original wheelpit under the mill.

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This was what they had to start with. The head race culvert from the dam is behind the back wall and you can see the shaft of the old wheel has been left in to provide a base for the new floor that had to be built. There are two turbines, the large one in the centre and a smaller (but still significant) Pelton type high speed wheel on the right. This was a big job, everything you can see had to be taken out and the culvert de-watered and opened up to install the water regulating gear. Access was restricted and getting the parts of the wheel into the pit was a big job in itself.

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This is the interior of the head race culvert.

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The broken shaft with its spoke housings was not going to be re-used and so it was set up in the car park above the mill as an exhibit. Eventually a new shaft and spoke housings had to be cast using high quality spheroidal graphite cast iron but that was a long way in the future.
Part of the installation which isn't visible is the tail race from the wheel pit back to the river. This is a far more serious construction than you might think, it isn't just a matter of dumping the tail water back in the river outside the mill!
If you remember, I mentioned that a bad fault with a water wheel was 'wallowing' in the tail water if river levels at the outfall were high. In other words, the outfall to the river has to be at a lower level than the bottom of the wheel and free-running. When this larger wheel was installed at the mill the excavations to accommodate it, which was governed by the height of the head race at the entry to the wheel, had to be deep enough to take the wheel and the tail race. This took the level below the level of the river outside and so a tunnel had to be driven from the wheel chamber downstream along the side of the river until it reached a point where the natural fall of the Bollin had got the river to a level low enough to accept the tail water without backing up into the tunnel. I think that at Quarry Bank this was over a quarter of a mile. Over the years the tunnel had been neglected and before anything else could be done both the constructional integrity and freedom from silting up had to be proved. This of course involved going into the tunnel and inspecting it before cleaning it out. I'll leave you to imagine what a task that was! Putting a wheel this size into the mill was never going to be easy and the experience with re-installing the wheel illustrates the amount of work and investment that had to go into it when it was first installed.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 29 Oct 2018, 06:25

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As well as the tail race, the head race had to be attended to. This conveyed water from the large dam above the stone weir in the valley bottom. This is the by-wash on the race, in effect a safety valve that came into operation if there was flood water, it allowed the excess in the race to dump back into the bed of the Bollin beyond. Over the years it had been neglected and had to be cleaned out and refurbished. This applied to the valley behind the weir. Over the years it had silted up and even grown small trees and enough clearing had to be done to give enough water to run the wheel for demonstration purposes, the original extent was largely left as it was.
This illustrates one of the problems associated with water resources on rivers running through alluvial soil. They deposit far more silt behind the weir than a beck running down a rocky bed off a hill. These can be effectively silt-free. Silting had always been a problem at Quarry Banks and when Dr Mary Rose did her research on Quarry Bank she clearly demonstrated that far from being free power, which is what many assume about water mills, significant amounts of money had to be constantly injected to keep the water resource viable. This was another significant expense in the installation of the wheel.
Once these had been dealt with Fred Madders and his team had to set about actually building the wheel. This was a considerable task!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 29 Oct 2018, 06:27

Public service announcement! I am going into hospital for an operation tomorrow and so I will be AWOL for a day or two. Talk amongst yourselves!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 30 Oct 2018, 04:45

An interesting point arises here, If you totally refurbish something that has been dreadfully neglected over the years to the stage where many parts are corroded, damaged or worn to the point where they have to be replaced how authentic is the end result? Academics in the field of 'preservation' have spent a lot of time and money debating this. I don't intend to join in!
The object of the exercise was to install a working water wheel at Quarry Bank as near as possible replicating the original that had been destroyed and lost. By getting the contemporary wheel from Glasshouses Quarry Bank had got the best blueprint possible to show exactly how the original had been built. The result was an accurate working replica which was the aim in the first place so job done! Many small parts of the original wheel survived the process as did the whole of the regulating shutters at the entry of the water.
So, what had to be renewed.... The shaft, the spoke housings and hubs, the whole of the backing sheet and buckets,one of the shroud gear rings and some spokes. The sheet metal backing plate and the ventilated buckets were made out of a modern ferrous sheet which was highly resistant to corrosion, the spokes were relatively simple. The really difficult part was the rest which are all cast iron.
In the mid to late 19th century casting large iron parts was common, the technology was well understood and the skill of the pattern-makers and ironfounders was at its peak. Miracles could be accomplished as a matter of routine. It's different today, modern manufacturing and machining methods mean that there are easier alternatives. The bottom line was that the ironfounders had to re-invent the skills necessary to make these large and complicated parts. They succeeded even if there were some slight glitches along the way. In fact they improved on the original by the use of modern metallurgy in that they formulated a better grade of iron for the job. This was expensive work but in the end all the necessary parts were made, delivered to Styal and Fred and his gang had all they needed to start.
I wasn't a witness to the work but I have had enough experience to have a good idea of what it would be like. As with the castings, the techniques of building a large suspension water wheel had to be re-learned and I have no doubt there would have been some interesting moments. However, eventually the wheel was installed, coupled up to the shafting system and was driving textile machinery again, albeit on a much smaller scale. I have seen it running and it's impressive, runs very quietly and is a success. I still have reservations about only driving off one side but that isn't my problem!

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The wheel as refurbished and installed at Quarry Bank. As you can see, it's in much better health now and is a magnificent asset to the mill.
There was to be another story...... I'll tell you that later.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Travis » 31 Oct 2018, 12:39

With Stanley's absence today I would like to announce that I took delivery earlier of a Mamod steam engine. It's for my Grandson the next time he visits in an attempt to draw him away from the iPad, we'll see.

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