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Note: This is a sub-section of 1880 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Visits to Works (Excursions) in the Barrow-in-Furness area
On the afternoon of Tuesday, 3rd August, the Members were entertained at luncheon in the Market Hall by the Mayor, Edward Wadham, Esq. After luncheon an excursion was made by special steamer from the Buccleuch Dock to the Ramsden Dock, described in Mr. Stileman's paper (ante, p. 324).
The Members inspected not only the docks themselves, but also the grain warehouses and elevators, and the sheds and other arrangements for receiving, slaughtering, and storing cattle and pigs imported from America. The appliances included a refrigerating machine for the dead meat stores, in which the cold is obtained by the expansion of compressed air.
From thence the Members walked to the Barrow Shipbuilding Works, where an opportunity was afforded of seeing the steamship City of Rome in course of construction, as described by Mr. James Humphrys in his paper (ante, p. 336). A portion of the engine bed- plate for this vessel, weighing 34 tons, was successfully cast during the visit; the pouring being done from 4 ladles, and lasting only 1.5 minute. The other vessels under construction at the time of the visit wore five gun-boats for the Admiralty, each of 460 tons, with engines of 360 H.P.; the Furnessia of 5,500 tons, with 4,000 H.P. engines, length 445 ft., beam 441 ft., building for the Anchor Lino; the yacht Aries of 300 tons, for Sir James Ramsdon; two sister ships for the Sociat6 C416114rale do Transports Maritimes de Marseille, of 3,800 tons and 2,500 TIP.; a 4,000-ton ship, specially constructed for carrying live cattle; two ships of 1,500 tons for the St. Andrews Steamship Co.; one of 2,000 tons for Messrs. Lampert and Holt; and two steel vessels of 4,100 tons and 4000 H.P. for the Peninsular and Oriental Co.
A new arrangement of Tweddell's hydraulic riveter was seen in operation on the frames of some of these vessels, and another on the keel of the Furnessia, setting up rivets of 1 3/16in. diameter and 8in. length. Appliances for the electric light were in course of erection, to assist the carrying on of the work during the night, which was rendered necessary by the great amount of orders in hand, focusing an aggregate of nearly 40,000 tons.
The works themselves, which are among the most extensive in the world, are shown in plan on Plate 34. They are divided by the Island Road into the engineering department and the shipyard. On the north side of the former is a building containing the coppersmiths' shop, the engineers' smithy, and the brass foundry: the latter containing, besides seven ordinary pot furnaces, a large reverberatory furnace for brass castings of the heaviest class. On the south side of the engineering works are two large buildings, one containing the iron foundry and boiler shop, and the other the fitting and the erecting shop respectively. In the boiler shop the boilers for the Furnessia and for the City of Rome were seen; the shells and tube-plates had been drilled by a multiple drilling machine designed by Mr. James Humphrys, and capable of putting in eight holes at once. The engine shop is 450 ft. by 150 ft., and contains a large number of heavy tools, especially a double-standard slotting machine, driven with a belt velocity of 1900 ft. per minute.
The shops in the shipyard are arranged in a hollow square, adjoining the Island Road. On the east side are the offices and smaller shops; on the north the frame-building shed, smiths' shop, &C.; on the south the joiners' shop, saw mill, boat-building shop, cabinet shop, &c.; and on the west the machine shed, containing punching and shearing machines, &e. Immediately beyond this lie the slips, consisting of a covered slip for yachts, and twelve other slips, of which the largest are capable of taking vessels up to 1,000 ft. in length.
From the shipyard the Members were conveyed by special train to Lakeside (Windermere) on an evening excursion, in the course of which they were entertained at dinner by the Barrow Shipbuilding Company, the Barrow Flax and Jute Company, Mr. S. J. Claye, Mr. W. Gradwell, and Messrs. Westray Copeland & Co.
On Wednesday afternoon, 4th August, the Members first proceeded to inspect the goods locomotive built by Mr. Webb, and fitted with Mr. Joy's valve gear (see ante, p. 432).
They then walked to the Barrow Flax and Jute Works, where the various processes described in Mr. Fleming's paper (ante, p. 380) were exhibited and explained. In the preparing room on the ground floor, into which the softened stricks of jute are. conveyed from the "batching" room adjoining, there is one row of breaker cards, then a row of finisher cards, a row of first drawing frames, a row of second drawing frames, two rows of roving frames, and two rows of spinning frames. All these machines are usually in motion, and the material leaving each row of machines passes on at once to the next row. The bobbins of spun yarn are then conveyed into another room, where the beams are prepared for the looms; and thence the beams are transferred to the weaving room, where upwards of 400 looms of various sizes are at work, for the production of sacking, bagging, tarpauling, hessians, striped bedding, jacquard window-curtains, table-cloths, counterpanes, &n.
The looms are employed on different qualities of jute, from the fine material made from line yarns for "Kalameit" to the roughest nail-bag sacking; and from tapestries and cloths of attractive designs and colours to common plain bedding material. The shafting is all underground, no that all belting from the roof is obviated, and at the same time the main bearings are less exposed to choking with the dense fluff, which settles so thickly that the whole of the machines have to be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day's work. After having been inspected, the cloth passes through the calendering and finishing processes, which are performed by special machinery. The cloth is then wound up through slits in the ceiling into the storey above, where it is lapped by machinery in readiness for packing, and where also the sacking is cut into proper lengths and then sewn by machines working with three different kinds of stitch. Small wagons on rails convey the bundles of cloth into another room, where goods for shipment are pressed by hydraulic presses into bales of great solidity, which are covered with jute-cloth and hooped with steel bands. In the same room several printing machines are employed in printing names on the finished sacks. The average output of the works is 140 tons per week; and 1700 hands are employed in the factory, in addition to fully 300 occupied at home in sack-sewing.
From thence the Members proceeded to the Barrow Haematite Iron and Steel Works. These are shown in plan on Plate 34. It will be seen that the Iron Works on the west and the Steel Works on the east are separated by a wide tract of land, occupied by sidings &c., and by a group of Coppee coke ovens. The Iron Works consist mainly of a row of twelve blast-furnaces, all of about the same dimensions, 62 ft. with boshes from 18 to 21.5 ft. diam. One furnace has three Whitwell stoves, 50 ft. high and 18 ft. diam.; two others have Cowper stoves of the old type; the rest have the ordinary cast-iron pipe stoves. The Cowper stoves are about to have the more recent improvements added, which will double their power and enable them to blow four furnaces. The pig beds are all on the east side of the furnaces, and face toward the sidings above mentioned. On the west side are the hot-blast stoves, twenty blowing engines with their boilers, and also workshops, locomotive shed, &c. The ore-mixing sheds lie to the east, beyond the sidings adjoining the pig beds, and from these the furnaces are served by inclined hoists, working wrought-iron carriages so built as to have their upper platforms horizontal. Each hoist is worked by a pair of winding engines, the winding drums being driven by friction gear, and fitted with steam brakes which bear into the grooves of the drums. The charge per ton of iron made is about 35 cwt. of ore, 10 cwt, of limestone, and 21 cwt. of coke. About one-third of the make is used for steel making; and this is all carried to the converter in the molten state, and used direct. For this purpose the metal is run down the pig bed in an ordinary sand channel, and falls into a large ladle mounted on a wagon, which is brought into position in a sunken siding immediately under the boundary wall of the pig-bed. Each ladle holds about 8 tons of metal. When full, the iron is stopped off, the surface is covered with coal dust, and the ladle is conveyed over about 1 mile of railway to the converter, without suffering any serious loss of heat.
The Steel Works consist of three large parallel sheds, having converters &c. at the northern end, and the rolling mills and finishing machinery at the southern end. There were seven converters at work, producing altogether from 2,500 to 3,000 tons per week, the production per converter being much greater than formerly. A 6-ton Siemens furnace is also at work, and two 10-ton furnaces are in course of construction. Raised sidings have been made at each end of the Bessemer department for the entrance of the wagons containing the molten metal, which is thence discharged direct into the mouth of the converters. Immediately to the south of the converters are the steam hammers with their furnaces; and beyond these are two togging mills, one with 30-in. and one with 36-in. rolls, driven by a pair of beam engines, and fitted with reversing gear. These mills deal with ingots up to 35 cwt. each, and have dispensed with several hammers formerly in use. South of these are two three-high rail mills with 26-in. rolls, a Galloway tyre mill, and a 26-in. two-high reversing rail mill. This mill is driven by a pair of horizontal engines, with Corliss valves worked by eccentrics; and the reversal of the motion is effected by shifting the eccentrics on the shaft. At the extreme end of the sheds are the rail saws, and the rail-straightening, punching, and drilling machines. To the south of the sheds is a range of seventy-two gas producers, supplying gas to the reheating furnaces, which are all on the Siemens regenerative system. To the east are the blast engines for the Bessemer plant, with range of boilers; and beyond these, adjoining the Walney Road, are the offices, workshops, and laboratories, the latter containing a testing machine of 100 tons maximum pull.
In addition to the inspection of the works, the Members witnessed the casting of steel ingots under steam pressure, on the plan described by Mr. Davis (ante, p. 396). On this occasion the top was keyed on to the ingot mould, and the steam pressure applied, in less than 30 seconds after the pouring was finished. They also witnessed the proof of a small boiler of mild steel, which Mr. J. T. Smith had kindly had prepared some time before at the President's request, in order to show the effect of excessive pressure, applied to tough ductile steel, in making the rivet-holes draw and the seams leak, without producing any ripping, cracking, or bursting effect. The boiler, shown in Figs. 20 and 21, Plate 56, was made of 0.25in. steel plates, with dished or concave ends, the diameter being 48 in., diameter of rivets 0.5in., and the pitch (double-riveted) being 1.875in. on one longitudinal joint, and 2in. on the other. At 360 lbs. per sq. in. the leakage in the 1.875in. joint became so great as to overpower the pump. It transpired that the boiler had been similarly tested on the previous day, when a pressure of 420 lbs. was attained, and the leakage then overpowered the pump.
In the evening the Annual Summer Dinner of the Institution was held in the Market Hall, the President in the chair, and was largely attended by both Members and guests.
On Thursday afternoon, 5th August, three alternative Excursions were made to visit some of the iron mines and blast furnaces in the district. These excursions were in special trains, provided free by the kindness of the Furness Railway Company.
Excursion No. 1 proceeded by special train to the Blast Furnaces of the North Lonsdale Iron and Steel Company, near Ulverston, where they were entertained at luncheon by the Company, represented by Mr. Wadham, Mr. Aymer Ainslie, and Mr. E. G. Tosh, directors. The plant consists of four furnaces, height 75 ft., diam. at bushes 23 ft., diam. at hearth 8 ft. The blast is supplied by three pairs of vertical direct-acting blowing engines, 32 in. steam cylinders, 66 in. blowing cylinders, fitted with expansion gear and injection condensers. There are eight pipe-stoves to each furnace, fired by the waste gases, and giving a total heating surface of 9600 sq. ft. There are two lifts, each consisting of a brickwork tower, divided into three compartments. One of these serves as a staircase, and the other two contain cages, which are lifted and lowered alternately by double-cylinder winding engines at the top. The boilers, seventeen in number, are also fed by the waste gases, which are mixed with air and ignited in a combustion chamber placed in front of each boiler. They then pass through the boiler flue, which is single, crossed by ten Galloway tubes, return underneath the boiler, and then pass downwards into the smoke flue. The gantry has ten spans, and is laid at the top to a gradient of 1 in 144, sloping from one end where the wagons are raised by a direct-acting steam lift, diam. of cylinder 38 in., diam. of piston-rod 5 in., to the other end where they are lowered by a direct-acting hydraulic drop on the cataract principle. The production is about 550 tons per furnace per week, the ore being red hematite with some admixture, and the fuel being coke with a small quantity of Welsh anthracite.
From the Blast Furnaces the party returned to Lindal station, and thence visited the Lindal Moor Iron Mines, under the guidance of Mr. Ray, manager to Messrs. Harrison, Ainslie, & Co. These mines have been worked for many generations, and their present produce is at the rate of 250,000 tons of ore per annum.
Excursion No. 2 proceeded first to the Mines at Park and Roanhead, the former belonging to the Barrow Haematite Steel Company, and the latter to Messrs. Kennedy Brothers. At Roanhead they were entertained at luncheon, by kind invitation of Mr. Myles Kennedy. Some Members descended the "Plunger" pit, while others inspected a safety apparatus for cages, in which the breaking of the rope released india-rubber tension springs, and thereby forced eccentric toothed sectors against the vertical guides, the cam action of these sectors increasing the grip. Kennedy and Eastwood's improved rock drill was also seen, boring 1.25in. holes in mountain limestone at about 5in. per minute. The air cylinder, 12in. diam., admits the air through holes pierced round the middle of its length, so that the compression takes place during the latter half of the stroke only; admission valves &c. are thus done away with. At the "Wilfred" pit was seen a winding engine with brake sheave on the drum shaft, and brake blocks applied direct by a short single-acting steam cylinder.
From Roanhead the party walked to the new sinking of the Sandscale Mining Company. Owing to the great amount of water found in the sand, the Gill system of sinking was about to be adopted; but as the apparatus had not arrived, the company were using one of Mather and Platt's shell pumps, which is worked as follows. A rope from a steam winch passes down the shaft, and is attached to the piston-rod of an iron cylinder about 10 ft. long by 2 ft. discs., with a sharp bottom edge. The piston has an India-rubber valve opening upwards; and sand is gradually forced through this valve into the space above the piston by alternately dropping the cylinder to the bottom and lifting it again. When the cylinder has thus been filled, the sand is emptied into a reservoir in the bottom of the shaft, from which it is raised by a second rope; only a portion of the bottom being acted upon at one time by the dropping cylinder.
In the Gill system of sinking, a vertical steam cylinder is fixed at the top of the shaft, having a hollow piston-rod passing through both cylinder-ends. Through this rod a rope passes, and is clamped to it when required. The rope is led down the shaft, and attached at the bottom to the pump-rod of a bucket pump, fixed on the top of a wrought-iron vertical receiver. This receiver has a removable bottom, to which is fixed an inlet pipe, which passes up through the bottom and reaches to within 6 in. of the top. The rope is first slacked out enough to let the pump bucket fall to the bottom of the pump barrel: it is then clamped to the piston-rod of the steam cylinder, and steam is admitted to raise the piston. This in rising draws up the rope and pump bucket, and thus sucks the sand up through the inlet pipe, a certain amount falling over the top of the inlet pipe into the interior of the receiver. The same happens at each stroke of the steam cylinder, until the receiver is full. The rope is then undamped, the receiver is drawn up to the top of the shaft, emptied by removing the bottom, and lowered again; and the process then begins afresh.
From Sandscale the party walked to the Blast Furnaces at Askam. Here there are four furnaces, each capable of snaking 500 to 550 tons per week. The gantry lift is of the direct-acting steam type, but the furnaces are served by inclined lifts, similar to those at the Barrow Steel Works. The blast is produced by six vertical blowing engines, four of them having the crank-shaft at the floor level, the steam cylinder above, and the blowing cylinder above this again, with the slide-bars and cross-head between the two. One of the engines has a piston-rod 15 in. diam., giving a diminished pistols area in the downward stroke, to counterbalance the descending weights. The engines are compounded together in threes, the central engine being fitted with condenser and air-pump, and receiving the exhaust steam from both the other engines.
Excursion No. 3 was to the Millom Blast Furnaces and Hodbarrow Mines, situated in Cumberland to the north of the Duddon estuary (see Plate 46). The party proceeded by special train to Millom, where they were entertained at luncheon by the Cumberland Iron Mining and Smelting Company, represented by the managing director, Mr. Thomas Massicks, and the Hodbarrow Mining Company, represented by the manager, Mr. Cedric Vaughan. They then inspected the Millom Blast Furnaces, which were started about fifteen years ago, but have recently been entirely rebuilt, with all the most modern improvements. They are 70 ft. high, 21 ft. diam. at boshes, and produce each about 500 tons per week. There are five blowing engines, three being of the inverted direct-acting class, and two being beam engines, with the piston-rod attached between the connecting-rod end of the beams and the centre, so that the piston-stroke is 9 ft., while the crank-stroke is 11 ft. The blowing cylinders are at the other end of the beam, and are 100 in. diam. The condensing water is supplied by one of Hathorn Davey & Co.'s compound direct-acting pumping engines. The works are remarkable for the extensive and complete system of Whitwell stoves, the capacity of which was being further increased at the time of the visit; and for their extensive depot accommodation for the storage of iron ore, coke &c. The railway wagons travel from the branch connection with the Furness Railway by gravitation to a vertical hoist, by which they are lifted 35 ft. high to the top of the depot. The railway at the top of the depot has a slight inclination downwards, which admits of the wagons being placed without power wherever they are required to be discharged; and when empty they run down a long incline joining the Furness Railway. Over 7,000 tons per week of raw material are thus discharged, so that this self-acting arrangement has considerable importance. The company are extensive mine-owners in both the Cumberland and the Furness haematite districts.
Thence the party were taken by an engine to the Hodbarrow Mines, which are among the richest and most extensive in the haematite district. They first saw a great circular hollow, about 500 ft. diam. by 60 ft. deep, marking where the surface had sunk down over a worked-out basin of ore. There are several such basins in this mine, the largest of which is still unworked. At the "Arnold" pit a new direct-acting pumping engine was exhibited, 70 in. cylinder, 9 ft. stroke. A new sinking was also seen in progress, carried on under water by Mather and Platt's process, a diver being employed to remove boulders occurring in the clay, which were obstructing the descent of the cylinders.
The parties from all three excursions were united at Foxfield Junction, and taken by special train to Coniston, where they dined together in the grounds of the Waterhead Hotel. An excursion was afterwards made on the lake in the steam gondola, a small steamer which has worked on the lake for 21 years, and still retains her original boiler, of the semi-portable type, with crucible steel fire-box.
On Friday an Excursion was made to Windermere, by the kind invitation of the Barrow Hematite Steel Company. The Members were conveyed by special train to Lakeside, where they embarked on the steamer Swan, and traversed the whole length of the lake to Ambleside. After a short stay there the steamer returned to Bowness, where the party were hospitably entertained at luncheon by the Company, Mr. Schneider occupying the chair. On this occasion he gave some interesting particulars as to the rise of the Furness iron industry, for which see ante, p. 377. After luncheon the party were again conveyed to the head of the lake, and thence returned to Lakeside, whence a special train brought them to Barrow.