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.

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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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