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Lewis Richards

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Lewis Richards (1829-1898)

son of Thomas Richards

of Dowlais Iron and Steel Works, Dowlais. - Dowlais Iron Co

1898 Obituary [1]

Lewis RICHARDS, one of the sons of Thomas Richards, a tenant farmer in Gelligaer parish, Glamorganshire, was born on 15th October 1829.

After receiving a simple education at a school in the neighbourhood, he was sent for a short time in 1846 to a school in Merthyr Tydfil.

In the autumn of the same year he entered the Dowlais Iron Works, where he first spent two to three years in the foundry, which according to the notions then prevailing was the proper place for commencing the education of an engineer; and he afterwards went into other portions of the engineering department.

After then spending some years at the Ebbw Vale Iron Works, he returned early in 1856 to the Dowlais Works, where he was shortly appointed by Mr. William Menelaus to be assistant to Mr. Samuel Truran, Sen., who was then chief mechanical engineer.

In 1857—S he assisted Mr. Truran in erecting the new large rolling mill, called the Goat mill (Proceedings 1857, pages 113-115 and Plates 121-123). The engines were started and the left-hand mill began rolling before Mr. Truran's death in 1860. Being then appointed to succeed him, he had at once to make a start upon the right-hand mill, which had not yet been touched, and in which he had to carry out Mr. Menelaus' idea of a four-roll mill for enabling the rolling to be done in both directions, that is, forwards through the bottom pair and back through the top pair.

In 1857-8 he also assisted in putting up the blowing machinery and other apparatus for the first trials of the Bessemer process at the Ifor Works, Dowlais, and in rolling into rails at the big mill of the Old Works the ingots received from Mr. Bessemer himself; the rolling had to be done on a Saturday evening after the regular work of the mill had been finished.

In 1865 the Bessemer steel works were laid out at Dowlais, and a clutch-reversing rolling mill was erected in the Goat mill, forming the third set of rolls driven by the same engines.

Mr. Menelaus decided to put up a separate cogging mill driven by reversing engines, for cogging the ingots, on the reversing plan of Mr. John Ramsbottom (Proceedings 1866, page 115, Plates 34-42). With the exception of the modern turn-over gear, most of the appliances at present in use in rolling mills were introduced in the Dowlais mill, including live rollers driven by small independent reversing engines, for handling the blooms in front of the rolls and behind them.

In a second separate cogging mill on Mr. Ramsbottom's reversing plan, which was erected in 1880 and driven by compound engines, he introduced the method of supporting the weight of the top roll by means of vertical hydraulic rams, instead of by the usual levers and counterweights, the communications being always open between the hydraulic cylinders and the accumulator; the roll was moved downwards, as in the first cogging mill, by screws actuated by hydraulic power.

In 1830, when the hydraulic pumping power at the steel works was becoming insufficient for the increasing requirements, it was decided to adopt Mr. Benjamin Walker's plan for economising power by balancing off a large portion of the dead load of the lifting jib in the Bessemer hydraulic ingot-crane; and—instead of having two hydraulic cylinders on opposite sides of a central dry ram, which acted as a guide only, and using one cylinder for lifting and the other for balancing the greater portion of the dead load, as had been done in the cranes previously built on this plan—a central hydraulic cylinder was so arranged that its ram, besides acting as a guide, balanced the desired portion of the dead load, leaving both of the side cylinders available for lifting, either singly or together, whereby the advantage was obtained of a multiple-power crane. A large number of these cranes are now in use at Dowlais and elsewhere (Proceedings 1881, page 633, and Fig. 11, Plate 89).

Subsequently an inverted arrangement was devised and carried out on the same plan for hydraulic ingot-cranes having fixed rains, with cylinders and jib lifting together. During the later years of his service at Dowlais he superintended the designing and erection of some extensive steel-works machinery, which may rank with the foremost in the country.

In March 1890 he was appointed works manager of the West Cumberland Iron and Steel Works, Workington, in succession to Mr. G. J. Snelus; but the collapse of 1890 necessitated the cessation of operations, and he left there in March 1892, terminating then his active connection with the manufacture of iron and steel.

While at Dowlais the mode of straightening rails had engaged his thought, and he proposed to substitute for the intermittent action of the present straightening presses a continuous bending action by means of rolls and disc surfaces, followed by a continuous straightening action effected by the same means.

With a view to diminish the waste of power in reversing rolling-mill engines, owing to their small expansion (Proceedings 1895, page 452), he proposed to employ three high-pressure cylinders acting on three cranks at 120°, instead of the usual two at right angles, so as to allow of an earlier cut-off in each cylinder. In order to counteract the effect of wire-drawing, he devised lately an automatic variable-expansion gear, actuated by the difference in pressure between the boiler steam and the wire-drawn steam in the valve-chest.

Similarly for overcoming the difficulty of the want of starting power in compound engines, he proposed admitting boiler steam to the receiver of the low-pressure cylinder through a valve actuated by the difference between the normal pressure in the receiver and the pressure therein before starting. Cataract in the eyes began to develop itself about 1891, for which he had to undergo operations.

His death took place at his residence, Bedlinog Hall near Treharris, Glamorganshire, on 4th April 1898, in his sixty-ninth year, after a short illness caused by a severe chill, which brought on bronchitis and congestion of the lungs, terminating in failure of the heart.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1884.

1898 Obituary [2]

LEWIS RICHARDS died at his residence, Bedlinog Hall, on April 4, 1898. Born on the 15th October 1829, he entered the Dowlais Ironworks in the autumn of 1846. He was subsequently for some years in the service of the Ebbw Vale Company. Returning to the Dowlais Works in the early part of 1856, he was appointed to the post of assistant-engineer to the late Mr. Samuel Truran, in which capacity he served until the time of Mr. Truran's death, about 1860, when he was made chief engineer of the iron manufacturing department, a post which he held until March 1890, when he left Dowlais, having been appointed works manager at the West Cumberberland Iron and Steel Works, Workington.

In 1858 and 1859 he assisted Mr. Truran in erecting the famous " Goat Mill," which was drawn in the old fashion by a pair of beam-engines, there being a second-motion fly-wheel shaft to multiply the speed. This was, undoubtedly, the most powerful mill of that time, and the engines were started and the mill on the left side commenced to roll before Mr. Truran's death. But the mill on the right side had not been touched. This Mr. Richards had to take in hand, and to carry out an idea of Mr. Menelaus, of a four-roll mill, in which the rolling was to be done in both directions, that is, first through the bottom pair and back through the pair above it. In this mill were rolled some fine sections of H or joist girders, from 18 inches deep downwards. The 12-inch section was rolled in lengths of 50 feet. There was also rolled at this mill an iron flange rail 120 feet long. Sample girders and this rail were sent to the London Exhibition of 1862. These girders were the largest rolled girders in the Exhibition. There were deeper girders exhibited, but they were formed by welding two T sections and a plate strip together. He assisted in getting up the blowing and other apparatus for the first experiments on the Bessemer process at the for works, and at the rolling of the ingots, sent to the Dowlais Company by Sir Henry Bessemer, into rails at the "Big Mill, Old Works." This was done on a Saturday evening after the regular work of the mill had been finished.

In 1865 the Dowlais Bessemer Steel Works was being laid out, and a clutch reversing mill was being erected at the " Great Mill," which would be the third mill to be driven by the same engines. This mill was to run at about 35 revolutions per minute, which was considered suitable for rolling steel at that time. Steam-hammers were also erected, as the railway engineers stipulated hammering the ingots in their specifications, a practice which continued more or less until Mr. Menelaus in 1870 decided to put up a separate cogging-mill with reversing engines for cogging the ingots. In this mill were embodied, with the exception of the turning-over arrangement, all the appliances in use in rolling-mills at the present time. Mr. Menelaus introduced in it the movable grooved top roll moved downwards by racks and pinions actuated by hydraulic pressure and upwards by levers, and counterbalance weights when the pressure was released. With the movable top roll the ingots could be reduced as desired in the same .groove by passing it through so many times, opening and closing the rolls by means of the hydraulic gear and the counterbalances, the common practice, however, being to draw upon the four faces of the ingot in each groove.

In connection with this cogging-mill Mr. Richards suggested the first application of reversing engines for driving live rollers, a system which has since come into use in every country in connection with rolling mills, without which it would be impossible to deal with the work that is being done in them at the present time. The installation in connection with this particular cogging-mill consisted of a group of live rollers with separate reversing engines on each side of the mill rolls, and another separate group to transport the cogged ingot or bloom on to a sliding frame in front of a circular saw, 7 feet in diameter, the frame being moved towards and from the saw by a hydraulic cylinder. By this means the bloom was cut into pieces of the required weights, and another separate group of live rollers transported the pieces to a crane for loading into bogies. This arrangement of the cogging-mill was seen at work by the members of the Iron and Steel Institute when they visited South Wales in. 1870. He suggested many other important mechanical improvements, notably the multiple-power crane still largely used.

He designed and patented an arrangement for balancing off the dead load in hydraulic ingot cranes, having fixed rams with cylinders and jib lifting together. During the later years of his service under the Dowlais Iron Company he superintended the designing and erection of very powerful engines, as well as of some very extensive steel works plant. He soon found out, after being installed as works manager at the West Cumberland Iron and Steel Works in March 1890,that the concern had been re-started after financial difficulties, and the Company having to liquidate, he left its service in March 1892. While at Dowlais he gave much thought to the difficult problem of improving the straightening of rails, his idea being to substitute for the intermittent action of the present straightening process a continuous bending action by means of rolls and disc surfaces, and afterwards a continuous straightening action by the same means. Although his active connection with the manufacture of iron and steel ceased when he left the West Cumberland Iron and Steel Company, he retained his interest in the industry and in engineering generally. The waste of power in the modern reversing-mill engine, owing to the small expansion possible, engaged his attention of late years, and he proposed to lessen this waste by employing three high pressure cylinders instead of two, acting on three cranks set at angles of 120 degrees, and cutting off early in the stroke.

He also took out a patent for an automatic variable expansion gear to prevent the engine-driver from wire-drawing, the gear being set in action by the difference in the pressure of the boiler steam and that of the wire-drawn steam in the valve chest. He also patented an invention for getting over the difficulty of the weakness of compound engines when starting. In this case live steam was to be admitted to the receiver of the low-pressure cylinder, the power actuating the admission valve for such live steam being the difference between the receiver pressure before starting and the normal pressure in the same after starting. The problem of the power expended in rolling rails had an attraction for him, and he considered it a waste of power to roll down very large ingots into rails. He took great pains to have the reciprocating and revolving parts well balanced in his engines, and his engineering work was always very thorough and substantial.

He was an original member of the Iron and Steel Institute, and an occasional contributor to the discussions.

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