Engineers and Mechanics Encyclopedia 1839: Railways: Goldsworthy Gurney
We have now arrived at that period of our narration, (the 14th of May, 1825,) which, according to Dr. Lardner, "is before all others in point of time," when Goldsworthy Gurney made his debut in the field of locomotion; when, by the "original conceptions of his mighty genius" (or the aid of a very large subscribed capital), he commenced building those steam-carriages, which, after several years' labour of numerous clever workmen, were occasionally brought out of the yard of the factory, and bowled a few yards about the beautiful roads in its vicinity (the Regent's park).
Such events, occurring as they did, when there was no war, but few murders, and parliament up," were a positive treasure to the newspaper press: hence the columns of the latter were swelled with absurd and puffing accounts of "Mr. Gurney's celebrated invention," and nearly all the world were taught to believe that the important application of steam to locomotion originated with Mr. Gurney. To show that such notions were ill-founded, we shall place the exact facts, as we have hitherto done, before the reader, who will judge for himself.
The first patent granted to this gentleman was of the before mentioned date, and was entitled "a new invented apparatus for propelling carriages on common roads or railways." The specification, which was enrolled in November following, is thus reported in the London Journal of Arts and Sciences, Vol. XIII.
"The mode of propelling carriages on roads and railways, proposed by the patentee, is by the agency of moving legs, or crutches, striking out under the carriage, the lower ends of which legs are intended to bear against the ground as a resistance, and, being forced backwards by the power of machinery, cause the carriage to more forward its the opposite direction. Similar contrivances to this, have been repeatedly suggested. The patentee, therefore, is to be considered as merely adopting this plan as one that he considers most convenient; and claims as his invention simply the guide rollers attached to the legs, upon which the carriage moves forward.
“The annexed figure represents the side of the carriage running upon ordinary wheels, with the steam-engine by which its propelling legs and other mechanism are to be moved; a-a is the perch or main-beam of the carriage; b the working cylinder of the steam-engine, which in this instance lies nearly horizontal, and is supported in standards upon pivots; c is the piston rod of the engine, with a small guide roller running upon the stationary block d. The piston rod is attached by a joint to the vibrating lever e, from which lever a chain extends over small pullies, let into the block d, and its ends are made fast to the other vibrating lever f; consequently these two levers acquire reciprocating motions from the action of the piston rod.
“At the extremity of the crane's neck g, the two oscillating levers h-h are suspended, and these being respectively attached by connecting rods i-i to the levers c and f, move simultaneously with the last-mentioned levers as the piston of the engine works to and fro. The lower ends of the levers h-h are attached by joints to the horizontal rods k-1, and these rods are connected to the sliding blocks which move the legs or crutches m-n. The horizontal rods k-l, and also the blocks which carry the legs, slide along in rebated grooves, formed in the under side of the perch a, which grooves are represented by dots, and a portion of the side of the perch is removed in the figure, to show one of the blocks o with its rollers within.
“The block o has small vertical wheels, or anti-friction rollers, by which it is enabled to run freely along the rebate or ledge of the groove; it has also small horizontal vertices, to prevent the block irons rubbing against the sides of the groove. In the under side of each of the blocks, a pin p is fixed, which is intended to pass through the top of the legs m or n, and a small helical spring is placed upon the pin, and secured by a screw nut, for the purpose of keeping up the top of the leg against the under side of the perch, but yet affording it some degree of play. By the action of the steam-engine, and the other mechanism connected thereto, the blocks o are made to slide reciprocally to and fro, along the grooves of the perch, in the manner above described; and supposing one of the legs or crutches to be brought into the situation of m, the foot will take hold of the ground, and remain stationary, while the force of the machinery pressing against it, will cause the carriage to slide forward, and the leg m to assume the situation of n; while n will be advanced into the situation of m, and vice versa.
“Thus by the reciprocating movements of the machinery, the carriage will be progressively impelled forward by the crutches or legs. In order to turn the carriage round corners or angles in the road, the axle of the hinder wheels is made to move round horizontally, upon a central pin, by means of a strap or other contrivance applied at q. By this strap and a suitable handle or lever, the conductor guides the course of the carriage in a straight or curved direction. The mechanism by which these blocks and legs are to be moved, may be varied in several ways; for instance, in place of the levers alcove described, endless chains or cords may be employed, passed over pullies, and attached to the blocks instead of the rods k-1. Other parts of the apparatus may likewise be varied in their detail, without affecting the principle."
The patentee sets out the particulars of his invention in the following words:
"I claim the use of a roller or rollers, wheel or wheels, to the upper ends of my said propellers, re-acting against a straight and smooth rail or plane affixed under and being a part of the carriage, such rail or plane being parallel, or nearly so, to the soles or bottoms of the carriage-wheels, whereby the carriage itself is enabled to be rolled over the upper ends of the said propellers, crutches, or feet, by the mechanical power employed."
By this claim the patentee sums up the entire of his invention, and it consists of "a roller" applied to the invention of William Brunton, which had many years before been found to be useless. It is still more remarkable, that even the very "roller" or "rollers" were employed by Brunton in one of the modifications of his machine, as exhibited in Fig. 4 of the specification, and given in Vol. XL. of the Repertory of Arts.
We ought not to omit to state, that Mr. Gurney took out a patent at the same momentous period as the former, for a steam generating apparatus, which is faithfully described and illustrated by figures in the 13th vol. of the London Journal of Arts. It consists of two different modifications; one of them showing a boiler made of tubes bent into the form of the figure 8; and the other exhibits in its cross section a circle surmounted by two crescent-shaped chambers. We shall only notice those points which are claimed by the patentee as peculiar to his invention.
The first is, "the employment of wire-gauze to assist in conducting the heat." This was previously recommended in all the scientific periodicals published about that period; but its obvious inapplicability to high-pressure boilers, caused the practical men of the time to leave it to the philosophical experimenters from whom it originated; and Mr. Gurney soon found himself compelled to get rid of this original part of his invention.
The second point is, "the formation of a boiler of tubes bent in peculiar curves." A reference to the specification will show that the meandering of the patentee's tubes causes them to describe every variety of curve; consequently, whatever bend or twist a boiler-maker may choose to give his tubes, must be an invasion of "Gurney's principle!"
Third, "the forming of partitions between plates, to form distinct chambers." This refers to a miserable, absurd, and useless imitation of James's cylindrical boiler of tubes!
Fourth, "separating the steam from the boiler in a vessel placed contiguous." This boasted improvement of the "separators" consists in placing a steam reservoir in a cold instead of a hot situation! "
Fifth, increasing the intensity of the furnace, and consuming the smoke by means of a blowing apparatus." For the effrontery of this claim it would be difficult to find a parallel.
Sixth, "cleaning the inner surface of the boiler from incrustation by a chemical solvent." What! may none of his Majesty's lieges but Mr. Gurney employ the usual chemical solvents to dissolve a well-known substance, wherever they may have occasion to do so
Experienced men will bear us out in the observation, that such processes as are here reinvented, were long before exploded as worse than useless. On this interesting point we are amusingly informed by Dr. Lardner (Treatise, p. 255), -
"This method was perfectly effectual; and although its practical application was found to be attended with difficulty in the bands of common workmen, Mr. Gurney was persuaded to adhere to it by the late [Dr. Wollaston]], until experience proved the impossibility of getting it effectually performed, under the circumstances in which boilers are commonly used. Mr. Gurney then adopted a method of removing it by mechanical means. Opposite the mouths of the tubes, on the other side of the cylinders, are placed a number of holes, which, when the boiler is in use, are stopped by pieces of metal screwed into them. When the tubes require to be cleaned, these stoppers are removed, and an iron scraper is introduced through the holes into the tubes, which, being passed backwards and forwards, removes the deposit."
This extract proves that Mr. Gurney not only abandoned his "tubes bent into peculiar curves, but likewise the "chemical solvent," which constituted his second and sixth claims.
The seventh claim is for "an apparatus for regularly supplying the boiler with water," which was to be done by the familiar yet exploded mode of working simultaneously by a connecting rod, two cocks situated on the opposite ends of a water reservoir.
Having thus waded through, as quickly as possible, the ‘materia’ as well as the ‘medica’ of this “happy series of inventions,” as they were denominated by a celebrated writer in the Times Newspaper, it is natural to inquire what became of them. Hitherto we have never met with, nor ever heard of, a single contrivance of Mr. Gurney's that was ever brought into permanent use, or had the slightest effect in advancing or improving the art of steam locomotion. It is unquestionable that many steam-carriages were built under his orders; but so have many more been built, before and afterwards, by the expenditure of less money. We have seen what Mr. Gurney has claimed for himself in his specifications; that most of them were of too puerile and absurd a character to deserve even a trial; and that the remainder were notoriously long before his time publicly in use. Surely a man who could descend to such gross quackery would not have omitted to claim something really beneficial in locomotion, had he invented it. The inference is unavoidable, - that Mr. Gurney had no more to do with the invention of steam-carriages, than he had with the building of St. Paul's Cathedral. After the expenditure of many thousands of pounds, he brought out one of his manufacture, towards the close, we believe, of the year 1827. We shall annex a popular description of this carriage, which is extracted from a weekly journal published at that time.
"The carriage is constructed for accommodating six inside and fifteen outside passengers, independently of the guide, who is also the engineer. In front of the coach is a very capacious boot, while behind, that which assumes the appearance of a boot, is the case for the boiler and the furnace, from which no inconvenience is experienced by the outside passenger, although, in cold weather, a certain degree of heat may be obtained, if required.
“The length of the vehicle, from end to end, is 15 feet, and, with the pole and pilot wheels, 20 feet. The diameter of the hind wheels is 5 feet; of the front wheels, 3 feet 9 inches; and of the pilot wheels, 3 feet. There is a treble perch, by which the machinery is supported, and beneath which two propellers, in going up a hill, may be set in motion, somewhat similar to the action of a horse's legs under similar circumstances, which assist in forcing the carriage to the summit.
"In descending a hill, there is a break fixed on the hind wheel, to increase the friction; but, independently of this, the guide has the power of lessening the force of the steam to any extent, by means of the lever at his right hand, which operates upon the throttle valve, and by which he may stop the action of the steam altogether, and effect a counter vacuum in the cylinders. By this means also he regulates the rate of progress on the road.
“There is another lever by which he can stop the vehicle ‘instanter’, and in a moment reverse the motion of the wheels, so as to prevent accident, as is the practice with the paddles of steam-vessels. The duty of the guide, who sits in front, is to keep the vehicle in its proper course, which he does by means of the pilot wheels acting upon the pole.
" The total weight of the carriage and all its apparatus is estimated at one and a half ton, and its wear and tear of the road, as compared with a carriage, drawn by four horses, as one is to six. The engine has a twelve-horse power, but may be increased to sixteen: the actual power in use, except in ascending a bill, is eight horses.
"Fig. 1 gives a side view of the machine; a the guide and engineer to whom the whole management of the machinery and conduct of the carriage is entrusted. Besides this man, a guard will be employed, whose duty it will be to look after the luggage and passengers; b the handle, which guides the pole and pilot wheels; c the pilot wheels; d the pole; e the fore boot, for luggage; f the throttle valve of the main steam pipe, which, by means of the handle, is opened or closed at pleasure, the power of the steam and the progress of the carriage being thereby regulated, from one to ten or twenty miles per hour; g the tank for water, running from end to end, and the full breadth, of the carriage; it will contain sixty gallons of water; h the carriage, painted claret colour, and lined with cloth of the same hue, capable of holding six inside and twelve outside passengers; i the hind boot, containing the boiler and furnace; it is encased with sheet iron, and between the pipes the coke and charcoal are put, the front being closed in the ordinary way (as seen in Fig. 2), with an iron door.
“The pipes extend from the cylindrical reservoir of water at the bottom, to the cylindrical chamber for steam at the top, forming a succession of lines something like a horse-shoe turned edgeways. The steam enters the ‘separators’ through large pipes, and is thence conducted to its proper destination; k-k separators, its which the steam is separated from the water, the water descending and returning to the boiler, while the steam ascends and is forced into the steam pipes of the engine; l the pump by which the water is pumped from the tank, by means of a flexible hose, to the reservoir communicating with the boiler; m the main steam pipe descending from the ‘separators’ and proceeding in a direct line under the body of the coach to the ‘throttle valve’, and thence, under the tank, to the cylinders; n-n flues of the furnace, four in number; o the perches, of which there are three, conjoined, to support the machinery; p-p the cylinders - there is one between each perch; q valve motion, admitting steam alternately to each side of the pistons; r cranks operating on the axle; at the ends of the axle are ratchets which, as the axle turns round, catch projecting pieces of iron on the boxes of the wheels, and give them the rotatory motion - the hind-wheels only are thus operated upon; s propellers, used as the carriage ascends a hill; t the drag, which is applied to increase the friction on the wheel in going down a hill; this is also assisted by diminishing the pressure of the steam, or, if necessary, inverting the motion of the wheels; u the clutch, by which the wheel is sent round; v the safety valve, which regulates the proper pressure of the steam in the pipe; w the orifice for filling the tank; this is done by means of a flexible hose and a funnel, and occupies but a few seconds.
“Fig.. 2 exhibits a back view of the carriage, and the perches that support the machinery, not here introduced; a the furnace door; c gauge cock; d blow cock; e-e steam pipes; f-f flues to furnace; g-g the pipes through which the water is propelled from the separators h-h into the boiler.
A second patent was enrolled by Goldsworthy Gurney, in April 1828, "for improvements in locomotive engines," of which the following is a correct account:-
"The coachman, or conductor, occupies the front seat over the fore boot of the carriage, the lower scat being removed. The four chimneys of the former carriage are substituted for a single one of great width. The water-tank, instead of being above the perch, and extending the whole length of the carriage, is now placed below the perch, and lies between the fore and hind wheels. The propellers are removed entirely. A blowing machine is introduced, for maintaining a sharp draught in the furnace, which is worked by a separate cylinder from those employed in propelling the carriage. A mode of heating the water before it is admitted into the boiler, and an additional force-pump unconnected with the engine, to be worked by hand, to throw in an increased supply of water into the boiler, whenever needed, are also adopted.
“The coach, in its form and accommodation, bears a close resemblance to the stage coaches at present in use. It has a fore and hind boot, on which are seats for the passengers, and a box in front for the coachman, wills room for a passenger beside him. The body of the carriage is supported upon three parallel perches, extending its whole length; the hinder part hangs upon springs, fixed upon the perches, immediately over the axis of the hind wheels, and the fore part is placed upon iron supports on the perches. The carriage runs upon six wheels, a small pair, called the pilot wheels, being placed in front for guiding the vehicle; these are connected to the ordinary fore wheels of the carriage by a small curved perch, which admits the axle of the former being placed oblique to the latter, by turning of a lever, fitted on to the upper extremity of an upright spindle, which is attached to the axletree. The hinder extremity of this small perch is attached to an iron frame supported upon springs, that are fixed on the axletree of the fore wheels; a little before the axletree, a strong pin passes through the small perch and the centre main perch, which serves as a centre of motion to the small perch, so that the pilot-wheels being placed obliquely, the perch turns upon the pin, and the fore wheels of the carriage with it. When not acted upon by the steeling lever, the pilot-wheels are maintained at right angles to the perch by means of springs.
"The blowing machine is placed, as before mentioned, in the fore boot; it consists of a fly of five vanes, that revolve on a vertical spindle, similar to a winnowing machine, but in a reversed position; this apparatus is worked by a small horizontal steam cylinder placed beneath, on the frame of the carriage. The piston rod of this cylinder is connected to a crank on the axis of a fly-wheel, revolving in a horizontal direction above; and to the same crank is attached, by an intermediate rod, the plunger of the force-pump, which injects the water into the boiler. The steam-engine thus drives the blowing machine and the force-pump, the fly-wheel serving to equalise the motions of both. The connexion between the blowing machine and this steam cylinder is thus arranged: on the vertical axis of the fly-wheel are fixed small band-wheels or pulleys, of different diameters, and on the vertical spindle of the blowing machine are fixed other pulleys, which being connected to the former by an endless band, are driven round with them; the varied sizes of the pulleys enabling the engineer to force the air through the machine with any required rapidity. The air enters the blowing machine at the bottom of the circular box, wherein the vanes revolve, and is forced out at the side into a broad flat tube, called the air passage, which leads under the body of the coach into the ash-pit of the furnace.
"This boiler, which is placed in the hind boot, consists of two or three series of pipes of an inch bore, bent into the form of a horse-shoe, and supporting the fire-grate at their upper and lower extremities, with two horizontal tubes of larger dimensions, into which the open ends of the before-mentioned smaller bent tubes enter and are fixed; and the two large horizontal tubes are connected by a series of ten open vertical pip.. The whole of the bent tubes, the lower straight horizontal tube, and the half of the upper one, (which may be termed a steam reservoir,) are kept filled with water. From the top of the steam chamber proceed two curved pipes, which enter two large vertical tubes of strong plate-iron, strengthened by hoops externally; these last are called separators they communicate at their lower ends with the boiler, and at their upper ends by a connecting tube, from which a branch enters the chimney, and passing over the top not down the back of the furnace, is carried through the air passage, along through the fore boot, and back again, as far as the centre of the carriage, where it is connected with two horizontal cylinders, firmly secured between the main perches, and serving to give motion to two cranks on the axis of the hind wheels, by which means the carriage is impelled.
"The steam is worked expansively, being shut off at-half the stroke by means of a slide valve, the rod of which is worked by a cam on the axis of the hind wheels. The slide valves, by which the steam is admitted to the cylinders, are worked by a lever, on the axis of which is fixed an elliptical ring; and to reverse the motion, a line is attached to the rod, and placed within reacts of the coachman; by pulling this line, the pin is brought into the upper notch, and the motion of the carriage thereby reversed.
"Beneath the main perches is placed the tank, for the supply of the boiler; it communicates (by pipes from its lower part) with the force-pump beneath the fore boot, and also with a small forcer placed within reach of the fireman who sits behind the boilers. Immediately above the tank is a flat vessel through which the steam passes from the eduction pipe and thence by another pipe into the chimney.
"The pipe from the force-pump passes through the air-chamber, and forming a coil above the horse-shoe tubes, delivers the water into the upper part of the steam chamber. The supply from the pump may be diminished by partially opening a small cock, which allows a portion of water to return to the tank.
"Any part of the preceding account that may appear abstruse to the reader, will be rendered perfectly clear by an inspection of the vertical section of the machine, represented on the next page together with a reference to the following explanatory letters.
"a-a-a, a series of small tubes, in two or more ranges, forming the boiler, the interior range serving to support the fuel; these tubes are connected with b-b, two larger tubes, the upper one forming a steam chamber; c, one of a range of tubes connecting b-b together; d, one of the two separators, connected with b-b by two curved pipes; e-e-e, steam pipe proceeding from the upper part of the separator, and passing down through the chimney and beneath the body of the carriage into the fore boot, whence it descends to f, the cylinders which propel the carriage by means of cranks g, on the axis of the hind wheels; h, an eccentric, which works the slide valve i by a lever turning on its centre, and to the extremities of which lever an elliptical ring it is attached; l-l a line, fastened at one end to an eccentric rod, and at the other end to a short lever in the fore boot, which may be elevated by means of the lever m; this raising the eccentric rod, causes the pin in its extremity to act upon the upper side of k, and thus reverses the motion of the carriage; n, lever for regulating the throttle-valve o; p, eduction pipe, opening into a flat chamber q in which the steam expands, and thence passes through the waste pipe r-r into the chimney s-s;; t, tank for water; u, force-pump, supplied by the suction-pipe v, and forcing the water through the pipe x-x-x, (which forms a coil above the boilers,) into the tubular boilers a-a-a; y, a stop-cock, by which the supply from the force-pump is regulated, any requisite portion being allowed to return into the tank; z seat for the fireman; 1, a blowing-machine, or frame driven by bands from the axis of the fly-wheel 2, which is worked by a small engine 3, serving also to work the force-pump u; 4-4-4, steam-pipe, supplying the engine 3; 5-5, air-channel, leading from the blower to the furnace; 6, guide-wheels, which may be placed obliquely to the perch 8, by the lever 7; 9, centre of motion on which the perch 8 turns, thus turning the fore-wheels, on the axis of which are springs that support the fore part of the coach; 11, force-pump, to supply the boilers, in case the water is too low to be worked by the fireman."
The multifarious and unnecessary contrivances in this apparatus forcibly reminds as of the man who employed a very common machine in his business, but who (being a "genius") took it into his head to disguise the simplicity of its working parts, by the addition of a great number of wheels and pillions, that he might, through their instrumentality, make a noise in the world.
Although the preceding sectional drawing exhibits a faithful and clear outline of the "miraculous invention," there are of course many subordinate parts which are not introduced, to avoid a confusion of lines in the figure; enough are, however, left to surprise every mechanical reader, that such absurd additions should ever have entitled the author to the adulation of the press, and of some of our best parliamentary orators. It would be a waste of time to do more than just draw the reader's attention to a portion of the "happy series."
First and foremost are the "pilot-wheels," already noticed in a previous page; next, under the fore boot, is exposed to the admiring gaze of the multitude a pretty little steam engine, with all appurtenances thereunto belonging, employed to raise the wind (in both senses of the term) and to cool the steam pipe; which pipe, it will be observed, after proceeding from the separators, makes a flourish over the boiler to get a little warmed, then descends in a graceful curve under the body of the carriage, and through the cold air-trunk, to get a little cooled in its complaisant journey to the coachman's feet: hence it makes a dêtour amongst the fanners, in order that the steam may be sufficiently condensed to run down into the engines, which are placed in the coolest possible situation, except when they happen to be covered with the non-conducting substances of quartz, silex, felspar, and mica, gathered from the road!
It was for such patented contrivances as these, and those before described, that Mr. Gurney, or his friends in parliament, sought to obtain an extension of his patent rights, or a compensation in money for giving the public the entire benefit of his "sublime inventions!" On the latter proposition we have never made a single remark, nor is it our intention to do so; but of the former we cannot resist the expression of our rooted conviction, that an extension of Mr. Gurney's patents is unwished for, even by himself, because there is not a single contrivance of the whole “happy series” which any mechanic would be mad enough to use, or rather try to use, were they freely offered to him.
"In February 1831," observes Mr. Gordon, "Mr. Gurney having completed three steam carriages for Sir Charles Dance, that gentleman commenced running one regularly on the road betwixt Gloucester and Cheltenham, and continued so to do, constantly and successfully, for four months, until he (disgusted with the opposition) withdrew his coaches." These steam carriages were employed as drags, to draw after them the passengers contained in a light carriage of the omnibus kind.
One of these drags has been figured in a litho-graphic plate, by Mr. Gordon, of which the cut is an outline; from this, it appears that the "indispensable " separators, are entirely dismissed. The proportions of this machine give it an elegant and a light appearance. Its weight, however, having been stated to be only two tons, it was brought to the test of a weighbridge at Cheltenham or Gloucester, and found to be three tons. This fact is of little importance, except as it affects calculations founded upon such erroneous data.
The public mind has indeed been so abused by contradictory statements on this, as well as other points respecting these machines, that it is scarcely possible to extract the truth. Before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1831, Mr. Gurney stated that his first carriages weighed four tons each; but this fact did not prevent his "scientific friend," who had "scientifically investigated" it, from stating in the Times newspaper, that "the whole carriage and machinery weigh about 16 cwt., and with the full complement of water and coke from 20 to 22 cwt."
Mr. Gurney further states in his evidence-
"The carriage which ran between Gloucester and Cheltenham weighs (by a letter from a magistrate, produced to the Committee,) nearly three tons; it ought to weigh only 45 cwt.; if it weighs three tons, there is extra weight, of which I know nothing. Those carriages at Gloucester were built principally under the superintendence of another person. I think it is possible to reduce the weight considerably as improvements go on."
We must here make a brief digression, to state that we understand the three carriages were built and painted exactly alike, so that the public should not know how often they were changed; hence, we have recorded in print by our contemporaries, "a tabular view of 315 journeys performed by a steam carriage." The "another person," alluded to by Mr. Gurney, was that very able engineer, Mr. Stone, who was Mr. Gurney's foreman, and superintended all the products of his manufactory.
As respects the matter of the weight, which Mr. Gurney thinks it possible to reduce, we will just place before the reader, the evidence of Mr. William. Crawshay, jun. on this point. In the "Cambrian" newspaper, and dated Cyfaithfa Iron Works, 18th March, 1830, this gentleman says to the editor of the Cambrian:-
"Sir,- As I have reason to expect that a report will be sent to you of the arrival of Mr. Gurney's steam carriage at my father's works at Hirwain, and of the experiments made of its powers on a railroad there, I think it better to inform the public (now so much interested in the subject of steam conveyance) through your medium, of the actual facts that have been witnessed in the experiments made, and under what circumstances."
"Mr. Gurney, at my most earnest request, while I was in London three weeks since, consented to bring one of his steam carriages which had been built and adapted for drawing coaches on turnpike roads, to try her powers on our new railroad on Hirwain Common."
Mr. Crawshay then proceeds to state that "he had considerable difficulty its persuading Mr. Gurney to accede to his wishes," however, the latter gentleman at length consented to gratify the interested public; and the engine was sent from London to Cyfaithfa by horses, and there fitted with cast-iron wheels, and otherwise adapted to the railroad. Thus prepared, "the engine, with water and fuel," Mr. Crawshay says, "weighed thirty cwt.!;" so that if we admit Mr. Gurney's evidence, and Mr. Crawshay's "actual facts" to be both true, we must be prepared also to believe that the substitution of cast-iron wheels for wood, and the addition of' the charges of water and fuel to a carriage previously weighing about 3 tons, must have been the cause of the extraordinary reduction of weight mentioned.
After stating this "actual fact," Mr. Crawshay makes out a statement of the weight attached to the engine being 20 tons. 8 cwt. 2qrs. (the pounds and ounces are omitted.) Having "faithfully detailed" the particulars of this and other experiments of greater magnitude, this eminent iron-master states, that "in all the cases named Mr. Gurney's engine has drawn from 15 to 16.5 times its own weight."
Now, if we could exclude from our minds all idea of the foregoing phenomenon, and were for argument's sake, to suppose that Mr. Gurney's evidence was on this point correct, does not the "actual fact" data become actually fictitious? and hence, are not the deductions actual farces?
Perhaps Dr. Lardner or Mr. Alexander Gordon will help us out of the dilemma in which these accounts have placed us. We are anxious only that the unalloyed truth shall be told. (Note.- Mr. Gurney, upon being asked by the Committee of the House of Commons, "What is the greatest weight in proportion to its own weight, which any carriage draws on a railroad?" replied, "A carriage was originally supposed to draw only three times its own weight upon a railroad; but in some experiments which I made in Wales with Mr. Crawshay, of Cyfaithfa Castle, We found, in an experiment, that a carriage draws thirty times its own weight!:")
The valuable testimony of Mr. Crawshay, just noticed, was so highly prized, that we find another was boastingly published in the following year, from the same gentleman, and addressed to Sir Charles Dance. It is dated, Cyfaithfa Iron Works, 23d February, 1832. We regret that our space will only allow us to give the following brief extract, which, however, relates to the main point:-
"As, however, facts of past performances of any kind are more satisfactory than anticipations of the future, I beg to state to you, that in the past twelve months, between the 1st day of January 1831 and the 1st day of January 1832, the locomotive engine which I bought of Mr. Gurney, weighing only thirty-five hundred-weight, including every thing whatever belonging to it, with water and fuel in a working state, conveyed 42,300 tons of coal, iron-stone, and iron, exclusive of the carriages on which they were drawn, the distance of 2.5 miles upon our rail at Hirwain, in journeys of from 20 to 30 tons, as suited our convenience; during which time the entire consumption of coal was 299 tons, which, at 3s. per ton, amounts to £44-17s.; the usages of the engineer £52, and those of the boy £15-12s. together, exclusive of the trifling repair of the engine, and the oil and other little matters required for its use, £112-9s, or less than one farthing per ton per mile, for the goods conveyed; and I must not omit to observe to that had there been nearly double the work to do on this road, the engine would have done it with little or no increased expense, as she was invariably working idle for the purpose of keeping the boiler full, about one half of her time.”
To readers who do not calculate, this statement appears highly flattering; but a very little investigation will, we think, show it to be the reverse. Let us first look to the horse-power exerted by the engine: if we take the usual estimate of horse-power at 150lb constant force, at 2.5 miles per hour, and estimate the resistance of the Hirwain railway, which is upon a dead level, and has been formed since that of Manchester and Liverpool, at the same resistance as that on the latter, which is 1/240th of the insistent weight, we have 150 x 240 x 8 hours x 310 days = 89,280,000 lbs. divided by 2,240 = 39,857 tons drawn by one horse in the year.
If, however, we take the estimate of a horse's power, made by Mr. Bevan, (whose results are much more entitled to confidence than those of any other experimentalist, on account of the much more extended scale of his experiments,) we shall have 163 lbs. as our datum for a horse's power, (being the mean force exerted by each horse out of 144 at ploughing;) and this increased estimate we find makes the number of tons drawn by one horse's power 43,311 in 310 days of ordinary work. This powerful engine, therefore, did the work of one of Mr. Bevan's horses.
Let us next examine its economy in the consumption of fuel, as compared to other locomotive engines. Mr. Crawshay says that 299 tons of coal were consumed in drawing the 42,300 tons; as to the price of the coals, the wages, and the waste by idle work, the same circumstances attend other engines on other railroads, and can only affect this calculation by unnecessarily mystifying it; we shall, therefore, not notice them. Now 42,300 tons conveyed 2.5 miles, are equal to 105,750 tons conveyed one mile; and from some experiments made on the Manchester and Liverpool railway, it was found that about ten ounces of coal were sufficient to convey one ton one mile.
But after making every allowance for waste, Mr. Wood, in his Treatise on Railroads (see page 405) considers 1 lb. adequate to each ton; consequently, the 105,750 tons conveyed one mile by Mr. Crawshay, ought to have been taken (at 1 lb. per ton) by 47 tons of coal, instead of the 299 tons consumed by Mr. Gurney's engine. Mr. Gurney's improvements in railway locomotion, therefore, consist in rendering the cost of fuel six times greater than it was previous to this notable experiment, which has gone the round of all the journals, and, we believe, hitherto, without comment!
The friends of Sir Charles Dance state, that his carriages were stopped from running between Gloucester and Cheltenham owing to there having been 9 or 10 inches depth of rough stones laid across the road, at the instigation of the horse coach proprietors; and that, although the power of the engines was sufficient for fair average roads, they were "not powerful enough to travel satisfactorily on a road so treated; but Sir Charles Dance had seen sufficient to convince him, that little more power than what he possessed would be sufficient to overcome all the obstacles of common roads; he did not therefore desert the cause, but continued his inquiries and experiments, daily becoming better acquainted with his subject, and yet not so well satisfied with himself, but that he became desirous of consulting practical experience, and this brought him acquainted with Messrs. Maudslay and Field, whose practical skill, aided by Sir Charles Dance's information, enabled them to fit up one of the old carriages in such a manner, as to show results far greater than any thing which had before been accomplished by steam carriages upon common roads."
This alludes to a journey to Brighton, the particulars of which we cannot insert, but they are given by Mr. Gordon ins his Treatise. The connexion between Sir Charles Dance and the engineers just mentioned led to the taking out of a patent in 1833, which we shall notice in its proper place.
Sources of Information
- Engineers and Mechanics Encyclopedia 1839: Railways p468 & p496 & p538