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British Industrial History

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Shipton and Simpson

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Shipton and Simpson of Trafford Street, Manchester

See Simpson and Shipton and Shipton and Co

Joseph Simpson and James Alfred Shipton

1851 Short-stroke reciprocating high-pressure engine. Award at the 1851 Great Exhibition. See details at 1851 Great Exhibition: Reports of the Juries: Class V.

1851 Evidently a press release posing as a letter from a disinterested correspondent:
'To the Editor of the Western Flying Post, Sherborne Mercury and Yeovil Times.
Sir,— Among the most novel and attractive engines exhibited the Great Exhibition, is that now working the cotton-spinning machinery of Messrs. Parr, Curtis, and Madeley, Manchester, and also that of Messrs. Mason, & Co., of Blackburn. This engine is of peculiar construction, and promises more advancement in this particular branch of science than has been produced by the improvements of many years past. The chief features of the principle will be easily understood, thus—the main crank of the common steam engine is enveloped suitable casing, and the steam is brought to bear on this crank. This crank, the inventors (Messrs. Simpson & Shipton Manchester,) have substituted for an eccentric, the steam being admitted first at the top and then at the bottom of the case, by means of suitable valves, and thus the crank, or eccentric, is made to revolve, by the action of steam, precisely the same as the action of steam on the common piston, and thereby losing all relationship to the rotary engine, which has hitherto met with signal failure. The present is a step beyond the rotary class, and which all scientific men have hailed with the greatest admiration as an achievement long desired. It is applicable for all purposes to which steam power can be applied, as the different applications set forth in the Great Exhibition amply prove. There is what the inventors call their eight-horse stationary engine, working up to ten horse power; there is their model of a fifty-horse pendulous engine, as applicable to screw propellers, paddlewheels, mill-work, &c, &c; there also a compound model pair of the same applied to the model of a steam-boat, attached direct to the screw, without a single crank, wheel, or other complicated attachment, by which it may seen that the engines are resting on the keel of the vessel, and so low that the lower deck may cover them over, thus keeping entirely below the water line. For rapidity and steadiness of motion, and economy of space and fuel, I should think that nothing could so suitably and simply be adapted for the marine trade, and the same properties must be their greatest recommendation for stationary purposes. The inventors also exhibit a line drawing of the same engine applied to the locomotive, the arrangement of which at once strikes professionals as being admirably adapted to this important department of steam engine power. The plan is proportional to a pair of eighteen-inch common cylinders with twenty-four inch stroke, and the rapidity with which these engines work renders smaller driving wheels more suitable, the consequence of which is the entire machine is brought much nearer to the ground, the movement steadier and safer, and onward motion the locomotive instead of zig-zag, (as the practical world know must be the case with the ordinary engines, from the fact of the pistons pulling at different times and the opposite sides,) would be in this engine a direct onward motion.
Your Obedient servant,

It is difficult to understand the method of operation on the basis of drawings alone, and the supposed advantages of the engine are far from obvious. At least the operating mode has been made clear by an animation created by Bill Todd for the fascinating Douglas Self website. See here. In 1849 Shipton and Simpson's 'improved reciprocating steam engine' was described[2] as having the advantages of 'cheapness of construction, the dispensing with expensive foundations, economy of space, speed of working, with a slow movement of the piston, and a direct driving movement through straight lines.' It is difficult to see how the inventors could claim 'cheapness of construction' is nonsense. Compared with a conventional single cylinder engine, it had twice as many main bearings, four times as many connecting rods, four times as many cranks, and needed more accurate construction and assembly. Despite the obvious drawbacks, James Alfred Shipton continued to develop the principle, patenting a 'pendulous' version in January 1861 [3]

1853. Described in directory as engineers and patentees of the short-stroke reciprocating engine

1853 Reciprocating and Pendulous engines (Patented in 1848 and shown in the 1851 Great Exhibition)

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Sherborne Mercury - Tuesday 29 July 1851
  2. The Practical Mechanic's Journal, Vol 2, pp.134-5, 1849
  3. The Practical Mechanic's Journal, 1 October 1861