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Wonders of World Engineering

Part 9

Part 9 of Wonders of World Engineering was published on Tuesday 27th April 1937, price 7d.

Part 9 includes a photogravure supplement showing the airship Hindenburg. This illustrates the article on Airship Design and Equipment. The airship is also illustrated in colour on the cover (and see below).

The Cover

This week’s cover shows the giant airship Hindenburg (LZ 129), the subject of my chapter, leaving her enormous hangar at the beginning of one of her voyages to America.

The airship Hindenburg (LZ 129) leaving her enormous hangar at the beginning of one of her voyages to America

Contents of Part 9

Across the Andes (Part 2)

John Smeaton

X-Rays in Industry

Airship Design and Equipment

The Hindenburg (photogravure supplement)

From Timber to Newsprint

Conquest of the Desert (Part 1)

On the Chilian Transandine Railway

ELECTRIC TRAIN ON THE CHILIAN TRANSANDINE RAILWAY, near the 42nd kilometre post, 26 miles from the terminus. Argentine and Chile are connected by the Transandine Railway, which rises in the summit tunnel to a height of 10,512 feet above sea level. The Chilean section was electrified in 1927. Power for the line is obtained from the mountain rivers. The gauge of the line is one metre (3 ft 3⅜ in).

(Page 261)

John Smeaton

John SmeatonWell known for his work on the third Eddystone Lighthouse, John Smeaton was engaged at various times on the building of bridges, waterworks, harbours and many other projects. An ardent experimentalist, Smeaton was gifted with unusual aptitude for mechanics

The old saying that poets are born and not made might often be applied to the engineer. John Smeaton, one of the great, pioneer engineers, served no apprenticeship, spending, indeed, some years in his father's calling of attorney. Born in 1724, not far from what was then the inconsiderable town of Leeds, Yorkshire, Smeaton spent his early days in the comfort of a professional man's country house, never so happy as when he was making models that would work, or watching and catechizing any mason or carpenter who was employed near by. Later, at Leeds Grammar School, though an average scholar, he still used every spare moment in making things. The steam engine was, in his school days, a novelty and was chiefly used for pumping water from mines. One such engine being erected for this duty not far from Leeds, Smeaton studied the process to such purpose that, without drawings, books or other assistance, he built a miniature engine and pump. With this, to his parents' chagrin, he completely emptied the family fishpond. In this period also he made a turning lathe and learned how to handle effectively all sorts of tools. Such was the engineer's boyhood. Later sent to London to study law, he wrote home asking to be allowed to follow his own bent. His father wisely consented and Smeaton became what, nowadays, we should call a mechanic. In 1750 he was established as an instrument maker in London. Hard-working student and experimentalist he remained, contributing papers to the Royal Society. In 1759 he received the Society's Gold Medal. In that year, too, was completed a work which decided Smeaton's future as a civil engineer. The dangerous Eddystone reef, off Plymouth, Devon, had been marked, from about 1700, by a wooden lighthouse, fantastic in design and so unstable that three years later it was washed away bodily in a gale. Its successor, also of wood, but of more workmanlike construction, was destroyed by fire in 1755. As the light was essential to navigation the President of the Royal Society, which was then the only organized scientific body, was asked to suggest someone capable of building a new lighthouse. Smeaton was recommended and appointed engineer. He tackled the work with characteristic thoroughness, and carried it through, often at great personal risk. By 1759 a granite lighthouse 95 feet high, with its spreading base virtually growing out of the rock, was sending out its much needed warnings to ships. Each block of stone was cut so that it dovetailed rigidly either into its neighbour or into the rock. There is a tendency in the light of modern knowledge, to belittle some of the achievements of the early engineers, but many of the things they were called upon to do had never been done before and there existed none of the information that is available in such enormous mass to-day. Smeaton's lighthouse was novel in every way and was planned with real science. Its upper part was dismantled about 1877 and rebuilt on Plymouth Hoe, as the sea had undermined the rock under the base. The base still stands. The new lighthouse, completed in 1882, is situated on another part of the Eddystone reef. Smeaton's reputation having been assured by this enterprise, his services thereafter were in continual demand in the building of bridges, waterworks, canals and harbours, the drainage of the fens and many other projects, including much work of the kind now known as mechanical engineering. Here again conditions were unlike those of to-day. There were no mechanical excavators, no portable engines or locomotives and few skilled men. The engineer responsible had to improvise as he went along, using his own experience and common sense. An illustration of this occurs in the building of Ramsgate Harbour, Kent, on which Smeaton is credited with being the first engineer to use the diving bell. This, a wooden case with an open bottom and sufficiently large to hold two men, was lowered into the water, bottom downwards, with the men in it. Air pumped in from a boat floating above the bell kept the water level inside the bell just above its bottom edge, and the men could thus perform their work of building stone piers below the water. Smeaton's life was one of unremitting industry. Conscientious to the last degree, he would undertake nothing without preliminary and careful experiment, and his methods of work set a standard for his own and succeeding generations. Smeaton's great contemporary, James Watt, refers to him as "Father Smeaton," and Robert Stephenson, writing of him nearly seventy years after his death, recommended young engineers to study Smeaton's published papers. Moderate in his ways, unassuming in manner and retaining his North Country directness of speech, Smeaton was respected and welcomed in the learned and cultured circles of his day. He died on October 28, 1792, survived by two daughters, in the house in which he was born, Austhorpe Lodge, near Leeds. He was buried with his forefathers in the little church of Whitkirk, situated close to his birthplace.

This is the third article in the series on Makers of Engineering History.

(Page 266)

Across the Andes (Part 2)

The story of man’s trials and triumphs in his onslaught on the Andes by C Hamilton Ellis. The chapter is concluded from part 8. This is the second article in the series on Railway Engineers at Work.

(Pages 261-265)

Testing a Welded Boiler Drum

TESTING A WELDED BOILER DRUM in an engineering works with X-ray apparatus. The longitudinal seam of the welded drum is being examined under X-rays which will reveal any defect that might pass the most searching and thorough of ordinary tests and inspections. The apparatus shown above is mounted on a truck and can be moved from place to place without any risk of damage.

(Page 267)

Airship Design and Equipment

The German airship Hindenburg has a maximum gas capacity exceeding 7,000,000 cubic feet, nearly twice that of her predecessor, the Graf Zeppelin. The regularity of the Hindenburg's transatlantic crossings makes her an outstanding example of modern engineering practice. Whatever one’s views may be on the lighter-than-air form, there is no doubt that the airship is not only an established means of long-distance transport, but is also a successful example of modern engineering practice. The Hindenburg, by reason of her famous long-distance flights - she travels regularly between Frankfurt in Germany and Lakehurst, near New York, in roughly tow and a half days - is an outstanding example of what can be done in this branch of aeronautics. This chapter gives a comprehensive description of the Hindenburg, and it is accompanied by a superb photogravure section.

In the Editorial for this part, Clarence Winchester wrote, “Of all modern engineering feats the most symbolic of our age is that of airship construction. To reduce tim,e on the transatlantic journey to roughly two and a half days is an almost miraculous achievement. This week’s chapter on the airship LZ 129 is one designed to show how far airship constructors have progressed in this most comfortable form of air travel. I have contributed it myself because I have made a close study of the “lighter-than-air” problem, and, though my personal flying experience has been concerned with heavier-than-air craft, I do not belogn to that school of thought which looks with some disdain at airships. In both methods of flight the function of the engineer is significant enough to warrant our not neglecting either of them.”

The article is by Clarence Winchester and is the first article in the series Marvels of Modern Transport.

(Pages 272-280)

You can read more on types of airship in Wonders of World Aviation.

The Hindenburg

THE FOUR ENGINE CARS of the Hindenburg are suspended from the central section of her hull, as seen in this photograph of the airship leaving her hangar. Each car contains a Daimler-Benz diesel engine of about 900 horse-power. The four-bladed propellers have a diameter of 19 feet and are sheathed with brass on the front edges as a protection against the impact of rain.


(Page 272)

The Machine Drying Section of the Imperial Paper Mills

“THE MACHINE DRYING SECTION of the Imperial Paper Mills, at Gravesend, Kent. In this machine the humid newly-formed paper is passed over rollers which are heated by steam. Paper passes through the machine at the rate of 850 feet a minute and is wound on to rolls 12 feet wide. For each ton of paper made 175.6 tons of water have to be removed.”

(Page 281)

[Note that the Imperial Paper Mills supplied paper to the Amalgamated Press, the publishers of Wonders of World Engineering]

From Timber to Newsprint

 To produce sufficient paper for one edition of a newspaper, nearly a hundred acres of forest must be felled, the timber must be transformed into pulp and the pulp into newsprint or paper by treatment in a number of ingenious machines. This chapter gives some interesting facts about newsprint, or, as it is popularly called, paper. Amazing quantities of it are used. One single edition of one New York Sunday paper - admittedly such editions are larger than those of our own newspapers - alone needs for its production the closely packed trees of nearly one hundred acres of forest. This chapter is by Thomas Walley, and is the first article in the series on The Romance of Industry.

(Pages 281-288)

X-Rays in Industry

Discovered by Professor W. K. Rontgen in 1895, X-rays are now used for a variety of purposes in industry, from revealing otherwise invisible defects in boiler welds to exposing fakes of old masters. Accidents such as boiler explosions can often be avoided by the timely X-ray examination of structures. For many years we have had cause to be grateful to the X-ray apparatus in medicine, bit few people know of the important service it is beginning to render to industry. A boiler drum, made from 1½ in. Steel plate and having welded seams may be finished and external inspection would pass it as perfect - and safe. The inspector, however, may order the boiler to be checked with an X-ray photograph, and this may reveal that the apparently perfect weld, running the full length of the seam, has a number of severe cracks caused by too rapid cooling. Had such a boiler been put into service it would probably have failed - and possibly at a tragic cost of human life. This chapter is contributed by T J Fielding.

(Pages 267-271)

The Hindenburg: Photogravure

Supplement - 2

THE PILOT'S CABIN of the Hindenburg projects beneath the hull of the airship and is 30 feet long, with a maximum width of 8 feet in the centre. The cabin contains the wheelhouse, the map and navigation room, and the direction-finding room.


(Page 276)

The Hindenburg: Photogravure


FIFTEEN MAIN RINGS divide the hull into sixteen compartments which hold the gas-bags. The keel longitudinals run almost the whole length of the ship. The envelope fabric is of lightweight linen and cotton, treated with several coatings of cellon, or ‘dope’.


(Page 275)

Inside the HindenburgThe pilot's cabin of the Hindenburg

Conquest of the Desert (Part 1)

Hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the Sudan have been reclaimed from the desert and irrigated by the building of the Sennar Dam across the Blue Nile. The pictures which illustrate this chapter have been contributed by Mr O L Prowde, MICE. Mr Prowde was the engineer in charge of this vast undertaking, so we may be certain that these are the very best photographs available. The chapter is written by Harold Shepstone and is concluded in part 10. It is the fourth article in the series on Triumphs of Irrigation.

(Pages 289-292)

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

On the Chilian Transandine RailwayTesting a Welded Boiler DrumThe HindenburgThe Lower Part of the Hindenburg’s Hull

The Lower Part of the Hindenburg’s Hull

BRACED AND SUSPENDED from the lower part of the Hindenburg's hull, each engine car contains an electrically-heated oil tank. Fuel is stored in the keel frame. This photograph shows also the airship leaving her enormous hangar.

(Page 274)

The completed airship Hindenburg

The Hindenburg: Photogravure

Supplement - 3

THE COMPLETED AIRSHIP LZ 129, named Hindenburg. Her overall length is 803 feet and her maximum diameter 135 feet. She has a maximum gas capacity of more than 7,000,000 cubic feet of hydrogen Her maximum width is 153 feet.


(Page 277)

In the builder's hangar at Friedrichshafen, on Lake Constance

The Hindenburg: Photogravure

Supplement - 4

IN THE BUILDERS' HANGAR at Friedrichshafen, on Lake Constance (Boden See). The design of the Hindenburg followed that of the Graf Zeppelin, but because of the additional stresses due to her larger size, the Hindenburg's members are of greater depth and thickness.


(Page 278)

The machine drying section of the Imperial Paper Mills, at Gravesend, Kent.Transporting felled trees in Canada

Transporting Felled Trees

TRANSPORTING FELLED TREES in Canada is often done on sleds drawn by crawler tractors. The species of timber mainly used is spruce, which is felled during winter and stacked ready for transport to the mills in the spring. The logs are generally floated down a river to the pulp mills.


(Page 286)

Building the Sennar Dam

Building the Sennar Dam

THE TEMPORARY GANTRY or bridge on the site of the Sennar Dam was built of massive timbers carried on piles. The bases or piers were built of brick and concrete to withstand the weight of trains and travelling cranes. Three sets of rails were laid along the gantry so that locomotives could haul trucks, each loaded with 40 tons of stone, fro the masonry of the dam. The cranes raised the excavated material from the bed of the rive and handled the stones for the building of the dam.

(Page 289)