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Wonders of World Engineering

Part 10


Part 10 of Wonders of World Engineering was published on Tuesday 4th May 1937, price 7d.


Part 10 includes a colour plate showing A Streamlined Giant of the Canadian National Railways illustrating the article on Canada’s Streamlined Engines.




The Cover


This week’s cover shows the unique Barton Aqueduct, which carries the Bridgewater Canal across the Manchester Ship Canal on a swing bridge. How this remarkable arrangement works is described in the chapter on the Manchester Ship Canal beginning this week, on page 314.


The Manchester Ship Canal is also described in part 26 of Shipping Wonders of the World.

The unique Barton Aqueduct


Contents of Part 10


Conquest of the Desert (Part 2)

James Nasmyth

Romance of the Safe Deposit

Canada’s Streamlined Engines

A Streamlined Giant (colour plate)

Handling 2,000,000 Tons of Coal

Britain’s Biggest Ship Canal (Part 1)



James Nasmyth


A brilliant and successful engineer, Nasmyth contributed much to the development of engineering practice, and was the inventor of the steam hammer. This appliance revolutionized the methods of forging and made possible the making of forgings of a size previously thought impracticable.


James NasmythTHOSE who believe in the transmission of qualities from parent to child can legitimately quote in support the life of the engineer James Nasmyth. His father, although a fashionable Edinburgh portrait painter, had a considerable amount of mechanical talent, being credited, amongst other things, with the invention of the bow bridge, a type revived in such great modern examples as those at Sydney and Newcastle. Nasmyth's father also made the drawings for the famous pioneer steamboat which, in 1788, was tried out on Dalswinton Loch, Dumfriesshire.


James Nasmyth was born in Edinburgh on August 19, 1808. He records having met such distinguished men as James Watt and Sir Walter Scott. The boy's early education was somewhat piecemeal, but his father taught him drawing and the use of tools. Later, he attended the Edinburgh High School for three years, leaving in 1820 with, he says, "some Latin" only. He forthwith set about repairing his deficiencies in other branches of learning by studying mathematics, mechanics and chemistry, attending classes in these subjects and lectures on them at the University. While at school, however, he had spent most of his spare time in haunting the foundry and workshops of an engineer friend or working in the brass foundry which he had set rip in his own bedroom. At the age of seventeen he made a small steam engine which ground his father's colours. Two years afterwards, because of a model steam carriage he had built, he was commissioned by the Scottish Society of Arts to make a full-size machine. This was a four-wheeled carriage with front steering and carried eight passengers. It was the first steam carriage to travel on Scottish roads, but, although it was successful, the Society seemed to tire of it and finally presented

it to its maker.


About this time Nasmyth determined to attempt to enter the works of Henry

Maudslay, one of the leading engineers of the day. The works were at that time

situated at the Surrey end of Westminster Bridge, London. Armed only with a model engine and some drawings he had made, Nasmyth set out for London in May 1829 in a Leith smack. At first he had no success, as Maudslay, having found pupils so unsatisfactory, was determined to take no more; but the model and drawings proved on examination to be so excellent that Nasmyth was eventually installed as personal assistant, to Maudslay. Nasmyth's wages in this coveted position were at first only ten shillings a week, but on this small sum he contrived to live contentedly. His only holiday was an excursion, in September 1830, to witness the trials of the famous locomotive Rocket at Rainhill, Lancs. He walked back to London, visiting such factories as lay in his way, and managed the three weeks' holiday on £7.


Mr. Maudslay died in 1831 and, though his partner, Mr. Field, retained Nasmyth's services, the young man decided after a time to set up for himself. Having returned to Edinburgh, he

spent the next year or two in doing engineering jobs for sundry clients, and in making machine tools with which to equip his projected works. He had decided upon Manchester as a promising

centre, and in 1834 started his factory there on one floor of an old mill near the centre of the city. His total capital was only £63, and he had but a single assistant. Orders began to come in, and Nasmyth's training in accurate work under Maudslay soon established his reputation. More men were employed and the shop became crowded with work. By 1836 Nasmyth had sufficient money to lease a piece of land at Patricroft, near Manchester. On this site was raised a fine factory, the Bridgewater Foundry, and the firm of Nasmyth and Gaskell started its prosperous career.


One of the firm's early orders was for twenty locomotives for the Great Western Railway. The manufacture of locomotives is still a staple of the modern firm of Nasmyth, Wilson and Co, Ltd.

It was at the Bridgewater Foundry in 1839 that Nasmyth's invented an appliance which revolutionized the method of forging, namely the steam hammer. The occasion of the invention was that a shaft of 30 in diameter was wanted for the projected paddle

steamer Great Britain. The existing tilt hammers, worked by a big cam, were inadequate.

The inventive mind of Nasmyth speedily solved the problem and he sketched in his Scheme Book the hammer virtually as we know it to-day. Then came the news that the ship would

have a screw and that such a big shaft was not necessary. The steam hammer thus remained only a sketch as far as Great Britain was concerned. But in April 1842 Nasmyth was

visiting the famous Schneider works at Le Creusot, France, where to his great surprise he saw his hammer at work. A year or two earlier M. Schneider and his manager had been visiting Patricroft and, having been shown the Scheme Book, had realized the value of

the idea. Nasmyth suggested a few alterations to the hammer and the incident then

ended, but later he obtained an English patent and the steam hammer

was widely adopted. A useful modification was the steam pile-driver. The form of the steam hammer suggested the vertical engine which at one time was to be seen in the majority of steamers. The success of the Bridgewater Foundry was such that it enabled Nasmyth to

retire from business at the age of forty-eight and to devote himself to astronomy. He died on May 7, 1890, aged eighty-two.


This is the fourth article in the series Makers of Engineering History.

(Page 296)


Conquest of the Desert (Part 2)


The story of irrigation in the Sudan by the building of the Sennar Dam across the Blue Nile. This chapter is by Harold Shepstone and is concluded from part 9. It is the fourth article in the series on Triumphs of Irrigation.

(Pages 293-295)


You can read an account of the opening of the dam, in March 1926, here.



In the Running Shed

IN THE RUNNING SHED, an extension of the erecting shop, two of the Canadian National Railways locomotives are approaching completion. On the left-hand engine, already in place, are the air pump, the electric headlight generator and the cast steel bumper or apron taking the place of an ordinary cowcatcher. On the right-hand engine the asbestos lagging and the steel jacket are being applied to the boiler. The CNR inspectors are supervising the work. One of the inspectors is on the ladder, the other is looking into the smokebox.

(Page 303)






A Streamlined Giant


A STREAMLINED GIANT. No. 6401, of the Canadian National Railways, is one of a new class of single-expansion passenger express locomotives which appeared in 1936. The engine has eight coupled wheels and leading and trailing bogies, giving her the 4-8-4 wheel arrangement. The two cylinders have a diameter of 24 in and a stroke of 30in. The driving wheels are of 6 ft 5 in diameter. The diameter of the boiler barrle tapers from 7 ft 2 in to 6 ft 6 in. The working pressure is 275 lb per square inch. Tractive effort at 85 per cent boiler pressure is 52,450 lb. The grate area is 74 square feet; mechanical firing is provided. The tender is carried on twelve wheels: its capacity is 11,700 gallons of water and 20 tons of coal. The total weight of engine and tender, in working order, is 296 tons.

(Facing page 306)



Romance of the Safe Deposit


The design of vaults and strong rooms to withstand earthquakes, fire, explosion, or the scientific methods of burglary has demanded all the skill and ingenuity of the engineer. This chapter describes the evolution and design of the safe deposit. The article is by Harold Shepstone.

(Pages 297-302)


Partington Coaling Basin

PARTINGTON COALING BASIN is the section of the Manchester Ship Canal in which the majority of ships take in coal. The length of the basin is nearly three-quarters of a mile and there are twenty-four miles of railway sidings. Six coal tips are available, operated by hydraulic machinery. Each tip has a capacity of 300 tons of coal an hour.

(Page 314)


Handling 2,000,000 Tons of Coal


Every year some two million tons of coal are discharged from colliers at Beckton Gasworks, London, and 250,000 tons are kept in reserve. The largest plant of its kind in the world handles, grades, crushes and delivers the coal to coke ovens and retorts. The plant deals also with the coke that is formed from the coal. This chapter is by Sidney Howard.

(Pages 308- 313)


This article complements the one on Gas Production which appeared in part 2, whilst you can read about the Beckton Gas Works Railway in Railway Wonders of the World.



Canada’s Streamlined Engines


To meet the constantly increasing demands for higher speeds and heavier trainloads, the Canadian National Railways have recently built five streamlined locomotives of enormous size. No. 6400 of the CNR and others of her class weigh, with tender, in working order, 296 tons each. Written by Cecil J Allen, this chapter describes locomotive No. 6400 and her sisters, which differ widely from other engines on the Canadian National system. This article is the second in the series on the Marvels of Modern Transport.

(Pages 303-307)


Belt Conveyors Carrying Coal at Beckton

AN ELABORATE SYSTEM of belt conveyors carries the coal at the Beckton Gas Works of the Gas Light and Coke Company from the main riverside pier, where it is discharged from colliers to the service bunker. This is a huge reinforced concrete building with a capacity of 6,000 tons. An additional bunker, of 3,000 tons capacity, is capable of being enlarged to 6,000 tons.

(Page 309)


Romance of the Safe Deposit - 2


TWENTY-FOUR ROUND BOLTS, each weighing 100 lb, are incorporated in this circular door of a safe deposit. The door has a diameter of 7 ft 6 in and weighs 25 tons. Of this total, a weight of 21 tons was cast in one piece, the remaining 4 tons being accounted for by the boltwork and time lock fittings. The door is opened by a keyless combination system.


INTERIOR OF THE LONDON SAFE DEPOSIT, in Regent Street, London. All the visible metalwork is of polished stainless steel and more than 50 tons of special steel were used to build this single chamber. The whole room is embedded, walls, floor and roof, in a thick bed of concrete reinforced with steel bars. This room contains more than 1,500 receptacle safes of various sizes and in the background is the door which leads into the strongroom. The door on the right is the main entrance to the vault.

(Page 300)


Britain’s Biggest Ship Canal (Part 1)


By its conversion of a great inland city into a seaport the Manchester Ship Canal is an outstanding example of the influence of the engineer’s work on the lives of others. After innumerable difficulties and destructive floods the canal was opened in 1894.

 This chapter is by David Masters and the article is concluded in part 11.

(Pages 314-320)


There is another article on the Manchester Ship Canal in part 26 of Shipping Wonders of the World, whilst the cover of part 28 shows the SS Diplomat at Eastham on the canal.

The Sennar Dam


The Sennar Dam


THE SENNAR DAM NEARING COMPLETION. The dam has a total length of 9,925 feet, of which 4,600 feet consist of earth embankments with masonry core walls. The maximum height of the dam above the level of the foundations is 130 feet, and the greatest width at the bottom is 90 feet. The dam tapers to a width of 23 feet on the crest. A railway line has been laid along the top. The total weight of the structure is 1,000,000 tons. The flow of the stream is controlled by eighty sluices.


CLOSING THE UPSTREAM SUDD of the deep channel on December 19, 1923. The materials used in building the sudds included 70,000 cubic yards of rock and conglomerate, 5,425,000 sandbags filled with earth, 41,200 cubic yards of granite rubble and 785,400 cubic yards of sand and silt pumped by dredgers.


(Page 294)

A Cast Steel Treasury Door


A Cast Steel Treasury Door


CAST STEEL TREASURY DOOR of the London Safe Deposit. The door and frame are covered with stainless steel, relieved with bronze. The hinge and clenching gear are of polished steel. The door weighs 30 tons and is 33½ in thick; its clear opening measures 7 feet by

3 ft 3 in.


(Page 298)

In the running shed, CNRA streamlined giant of the CNRBelt Conveyors Carrying Coal at BecktonThe Ship-Loading Plant at Beckton


The Ship-Loading Plant at Beckton


SHIP-LOADING PLANT AT BECKTON. From the screening house, where all the coke under 2 in is extracted, coke for export is moved on a belt conveyor. This ends in a movable belt conveyor boom which is seen slung alongside the pier. When in use this boom is hoisted to the level of the main conveyor and the coal slides down into the ship’s hold.


(Page 308)

The Tippler Plant at Beckton



The Tippler Plant at Beckton


THE TIPPLER PLANT at Beckton Gasworks has a capacity of 560 tons an hour. Coke discharged from the retort houses is carried in 10-tons or 20-tons railway wagons. These wagons are grasped by the tippler and turned bodily over as shown in the lower photograph. The coke is weighed and discharged from a hopper on to a rubber belt conveyor which leads to the screening plant.







ROTARY TIPPLER IN ACTION at the Bow Common (London) Gasworks of the Gas Light and Coke Company. The loaded wagon is run on to a platform which extends from the tippler. Rails, platform and wagon are upturned by the tippler and the coal is tipped out.



(Page 312)

Partington Coaling BasinThe Barton Aqueduct


The Barton Aqueduct

BARTON AQUEDUCT carries the Bridgewater Canal across the Manchester Ship Canal. The aqueduct is a unique structure and acts as a swing bridge. Situated nearly 32 miles from Eastham Locks, this structure is 235 feet long, 25 feet wide and 33 feet high. A trough, which contains 6 feet of water, forms a continuous section of the barge canal when the bridge that carries it over the Ship Canal is closed.

Contrast this photo with the colour illustration on the cover of this part.

(Page 320)