© Wonders of World Engineering 2014-20   Contents  |  site map  | info@wondersofworldengineering.com

Wonders of World Engineering

Part 5

Part 5 of Wonders of World Engineering was published on Tuesday 30th March 1937, price 7d.

Part 5 includes a central photogravure supplement illustrating the article on The Nile Under Control.

The Cover

The cover shows the Battersea Power Station illuminated at night.

Battersea Power Station

Contents of Part 5

Lapland’s Arctic Railway (Part 2)

The Story of Oil

The Electric Excavator

The Nile Under Control

The Nile Under Control (photogravure supplement)

Sir Henry Bessemer

Battersea Power Station (Part 1)

An Iron Ore Train

“AN IRON ORE TRAIN on the Lulea-Narvik railway. Ore from the prolific fields of Malmberget (the “iron mountain”), Kiirunavaara, Luossavaara and other workings in the Norrbotten district is transported by this railway for shipment either at Narvik, in Norway, or at Lulea, on the Gulf of Bothnia, the northern arm of the Baltic Sea.”

(Page 135)

The Story of Oil

Vast organizations, which make use of all the resources of engineering and science, have been built up to extract oil from the depths of the earth and to convert it for its many uses. This chapter was written by Dr Malcolm Burr. Dr Burr has considerable practical experience of the engineering side of the oilfields. Oil plays, and is going to play, a vital part in modern civilization. The control of the world’s oil supplies may easily change the course of history. Meanwhile the engineer in the oilfields does his work.

(Pages 137-144)

Lapland’s Arctic Railway (Part 2)

The story of the Lapland Iron Ore railway, concluded from part 4.

(Pages 133-136)

This railway is also described in Railway Wonders of the World.

The Electric Excavator

IN the early days of canal and railway engineering, the only implements available were the navvy's spade and barrow, and progress was slow. Later, man was relieved of this uninspiring toil by the invention of steam-operated shovels. Nowadays it is one of the occupations of the engineer to design and manufacture excavators to handle any kind of material. The mechanical excavator digs canals and pipe trenches, tears out clay or gravel, smooths away hills and fills in valleys so as to level roads, or perhaps mines such materials as ironstone. The giant modern excavator shown below is one of a number engaged in mining operations in various parts of Great Britain. A large bucket with a cutting edge is pushed into the bottom of the working face and is then swept upwards, scooping out a load of material on its way. The machine is then swung round on a circle of conical rollers until the bucket is in such a position that, when its hinged bottom is opened, the load can be dumped into wagons for removal. Excavators are made with buckets which hold only ¼ cubic yard. but this one will hold between 9 and 12 cubic yards, equivalent to loads of 12 tons and 15 tons respectively. The bucket can take a cut, be swung round nearly to the opposite point, discharge the load and be returned for the next cut once in every minute, the material being taken some 70 yards away from where it was cut. All that this requires is a man moving a few control levers in a cabin at the front of the machinery house. Electricity does the work through motors, winches, racks and pinions and wire ropes, the current supply coming through a trailing cable from an adjacent source. The machine, though it weighs 593 tons, is moved as a whole by its own power to a fresh position. The boom is 94 feet long and its angle can be varied to suit the work in hand in the same way as the jib of a crane. The dipper stick carrying the bucket is 62 ft 6 in long and is formed partly of steel and partly of a single piece of Columbian pine. It can be pushed forward or drawn back and the bucket movement is adjustable to give any depth of cut up to 55 feet, the maximum dumping height being 68 feet, and the dumping radius up to 103 feet.

This is the second article in the series Modern Engineering Practice.

(Page 145)

The Nile Under Control: Photogravure Supplement

“THE PROBLEM OF A WATER SUPPLY in the Sudan is met in a variety of ways. In addition to building barrages across the Blue Nile near Sennar and across the White Nile at Gebel Aulia, the Anglo-Egyptian Government has sunk numerous wells. The photograph shows a well and a pipe line trench at Khor-ar-Baat, near Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. The two wells which have been sunk have a yield of 3,000,000 gallons above present-day requirements.”

(Page 147)

The Nile Under Control

The flood waters of the River Nile regularly irrigate the parched lands through which the great river flows on its long descent to the Mediterranean. Having built enormous barrages, engineers have now solved the ancient problem of controlling these waters. The Nile has provided us with one of the greatest triumphs of irrigation. To make full use of the annual flooding of the Nile engineers built an elaborate system of dams and barrages, some of them - such as the Aswan Dam - being amongst the most famous engineering feats in the world. These dams and barrages enable the flood water to be stored up and distributed when there is a scarcity of water. In this chapter C. Hamilton Ellis describes the damming of the Nile waters. It is the third article in the series Triumphs of Irrigation.

(Pages 146-155)

Part of the Lock System at Aswan

“PART OF THE LOCK SYSTEM at the Aswan Dam.  Men are working on Gate No. 2 and are preparing to lay the invert in the lock floor. There were four locks, and each was 263 feet long. The lock gates, of the Stoney type, were suspended from rollers by which they could be run into recesses at the sides of the lock.”


(Page 150)

Battersea Power Station (Part 1)

Electric power for the many purposes of a modern city is generated in the enormous power station at Battersea, London. The power station is one of the most advanced of the great generating centres now in the service of the electrical engineer. The great power station at Battersea has become one of the landmarks of London. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Battersea Power Station, whether seen by day - when the tall, severely-designed chimneys dominate the river - or by night when the station is floodlighted, is among the finest of the many fine buildings that have been built on the banks of the Thames in recent years. The interior of the station is no less imposing. The turbine hall is 475 feet long and 80 feet wide. Down its centre are arranged the three giant turbines that spin ceaselessly day and night. This chapter is by David Masters and is concluded in part 6.

(Pages 157-164)

Sir Henry Bessemer

Sir Henry BessemerThe invention of the Bessemer process for converting cast iron into steel had a revolutionizing effect on engineering. A man of imagination and great versatility, Bessemer applied himself successfully to many branches of science and engineering. It must be an unusual distinction for a British engineer to have his name given to several towns in the United States, yet the name of Sir Henry Bessemer is thus perpetuated. Bessemer's father, a Londoner, was taken as a child to Holland. He became a mechanical engineer there, and then migrated to Paris. During the French Revolution he fled to England and settled at Charlton, in Hertfordshire. In this quiet village, on January 19, 1813, Henry Bessemer was born. The boy, his schooldays over, spent most of his time in his father’s type-founding factory, where he picked up a good knowledge of alloys and engineering processes. The business was transferred to London when Henry was seventeen years old, and the youth had a wider field of opportunity. His unbounded energy led him from one invention to another. He experimented with methods of reproducing perishable natural objects in metal and was rebuffed by the British Museum authorities. In bronzing such castings he anticipated the discovery of the art of electro-deposition. While investigating the method of making lead pencils he initiated the modern process of using compressed plumbago powder; and, by casting stamping dies instead of engraving them, he cheapened the process of embossing cardboard and leather. These last investigations had an important national consequence in the year 1833. The Government of that day was losing revenue to the amount of over £100,000 a year from the fraudulent re-use of embossed stamps from old deeds, and it struck Bessemer that such stamps could be easily imitated if his method of die-making became generally known. He manufactured six stamps in this way and took them, with six genuine ones. to the Stamp Office, where he had difficulty in convincing the Controller that he had forged half the specimens. This daring approach provided strong support for his proposal to adopt dated stamps and perforations, and thus to safeguard the Stamp Office against further loss. After he had submitted certain specimen dies, Bessemer's proposals were adopted, a special Act being passed through Parliament for the purpose. For some forty-five years the inventor went unrewarded for this public service, that is, until 1879, when he was knighted by Queen Victoria. Bessemer’s next inventions were a machine for embossing Utrecht velvet, which was most successful, and a typesetting machine with a keyboard resembling that of a pianoforte. This machine, invented in 1838, did not long survive, because of opposition from hand compositors. Bessemer was then struck by the high cost, about £6 a pound, of what is commonly known as "gold paint" in relation to copper alloy, the raw material from which it is made, then costing 11d a pound. He rightly concluded that the method of manufacture must be a slow hand process. The powder was then wholly imported from Germany, from which country no technical information was forthcoming. Having set to work on this problem, Bessemer designed an entirely original set of machines for producing the powder. The several parts were made in different towns and then assembled and set to work in an isolated house near St. Pancras, London. Here, with Bessemer's brothers-in-law as the only operatives, the powder was manufactured in complete secrecy for over twenty years and sold at an enormous profit, though the selling price was considerably reduced. The money gained from this venture enabled Bessemer to make the costly and lengthy experiments which led to the development of the Bessemer converter for transforming cast iron into steel. Up to 1855, when the converter was patented, and for some years afterwards, steel could be produced only in small quantities at a time and at great cost. Nearly everything nowadays made of steel was, before 1855, made of the softer and weaker wrought iron. The whole story of the birth of this great invention is absorbing and, in Bessemer's ultimate triumph over his many opponents, dramatic. Briefly, steel is made in the Bessemer process by first getting rid of the impurities in cast iron, thus obtaining nearly pure iron, and then adding a little carbon and manganese to turn this into steel. The remarkable thing about the process is that no fuel

is required, the combustion of the impurities themselves, in the presence of air blown through the already molten cast iron, supplying sufficient heat to keep the mass fluid. The adoption of the process greatly reduced the price of steel and at the same time enormously extended its

field, as large quantities could be rapidly produced. Cold-shouldered at first by nearly everyone, the Government included, Bessemer was impelled to set up his own steel works in Sheffield, Yorks. These were started in the year 1859, and five years afterwards every steel-producing country was using the process. Modern engineering was then born. Bessemer was concerned with many other inventions as diverse as machinery for crushing sugar cane and for polishing

plate glass, and as modern as the streamlining of trains and the reduction of rolling motion in steamers. By the year 1880 he had 120 patents to his credit. He died at his house on Denmark Hill, London, in his eighty-sixth year, on March 15, 1898.

This is the first article in a series of one-page articles on Modern Engineering Practice.

(Page 156)

At Work on the Second Rebuilding of the Aswan Dam

“AT WORK ON THE SECOND REBUILDING of the Aswan Dam. The original work on the dam lasted from February 1899 to June 1902, when the contractors finished the masonry work, about a year ahead of schedule. On December 10, 1902, the dam was formerly declared complete. The ever-increasing demand for more water in Egypt caused the Irrigation Department to enlarge the dam in 1902-7 and again in 1929-33.”

(Pages 148-149)

Battersea Power Station

“ONE OF LONDON’S NEWEST LANDMARKS is Battersea Power Station, built on the south bank of the River Thames. The chimneys of the power station reach to a height of 337 ft 6 in. The building is a steel structure faced completely with warm buff bricks. It rests on a bed of concrete anchored to the London clay 40 feet below the surface.”

(Page 157)

An iron ore train on the Lulea-Narvik railwayThe Huntington Beach Oilfield, Los AngelesElectric excavator

A Giant Electrical Excavator

Click on the icon to view a British Pathe newsreel clip “A Giant Am I” (1934) of this excavator in action at Corby, Northamptonshire.

The Huntington Beach Oilfield, Los Angeles

“RAILWAY AND ROAD IN AN OILFIELD on the ocean front near Los Angeles. California. There are forty-two wells along the right of way of the Pacific Electric Railway in the Huntington Beach Oilfield. The American oilfields are among the richest in the world and a large proportion of the world's supply comes from California and Texas.”

(Page 144)

A Blazing Gusher of Oil in California

A Blazing Gusher of Oil

“A BLAZING GUSHER OF OIL will cause the loss of thousands of tons of oil. A fire is often started by sparks caused by the action on the steel casing of stones brought up by the gusher. This fire in Los Angeles, California, was started by the neighbouring grass catching alight. Before the blaze was extinguished three crude oil tanks were destroyed. The provision of adequate extinguishers is of vital importance. One of the best methods of putting out a fire in an oilfield is to use a foam containing carbon dioxide, which has the effect of a blanket and starves the flames of oxygen.”

(Page 138)

A well and a pipe line trench at Khor-ar-Baat, near Port SudanPart of the Lock System at AswanBattersea Power StationTaking Coal from the Reserve Store at Battersea Power Station

Taking Coal from the Reserve Store at Battersea Power Station

“A 5-TONS GRAB operated by an electric transporter crane picks up five tons of coal at a time to load on to the conveyor belt which leads  to the bunkers of Battersea Power Station. The coal used is small coal, or slack, specially selected because of its low sulphur content The grab is taking coal from the reserve store of about 70,000 tons. enough to run the station for two months at normal load. Underneath these hills of coal is the intricate system of intakes which supply water from the Thames for the boilers.”


(Page 158)