Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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J. Ruthven

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of Edinburgh

Probably John Ruthven, rather than James Ruthven.

1830 Patents on navigating vessels and propelling carriages.

1831 Making printing machines and steam engines. Had installed a machine 'for plaining metal surfaces'.[1]

1838 Rotary Steam Engine - It is probably in the recollection of our readers that some six or eight months since we gave a short account of a rotary steam engine of novel construction, made by Mr. [John] Ruthven, of Edinhurgh ; and a correspondent of ours, who has lately seen the engine at work, has favoured us with the following description of it; which, from the great simplicity of its parts, he is of opinion that a mechanic of ordinary skill may readiiy construct one, without the aid of either model or drawing. "When I called upon Mr. Ruthven,” says our correspondent, I found him on the first floor of his shop amongst his workmen, he is rather low in stature, and apparently upwards of sixty years of age, his hair, which was originally black, now intermixed with a considerable portion of grey. On my making known to him the object of my visit, he, with much affability, conducted me to the room below, where the engine was at work. The boiler is of the ordinary high pressure shape, about ten feet in length, by three feet in diameter, and on examining the safety valve I found the steam at about twenty pounds to a square inch. The steam is conveyed from the boiler by a metal pipe two inches in diameter, and is made to communicate with the hollow end axle, placed in a horizontal position by means of stuffing box in the usual manner. This axle is made from a solid bar of round iron about two inches in diameter, and a yard in length, and has a three quarters inch hole drilled down the middle for about half its length ; the bottom this hole is made to communicate with two hollow arms placed on the opposite sides of the axle; the arms are two feet and half long each, and made feather edged, that they may meet with less resistance from the air when in motion. Within half an inch of the ends of the arms, and on their back edges, is drilled a hole one twentieth of an inch diameter, through which the steam escapes. This is all that is essentially necessary to the working of the engine, and the reader will at once perceive that the principle action in this engine is neither more or less than what is described in most of our books on practical mechanics under the head ‘Barker’s Mill'. For convenience Mr. Ruthven has placed slide valve between the boiler and the axle, which he moves by a thumb screw to regulate the quantity of steam, or stop the engine at pleasure. He has also enclosed the two arms in a case made of sheet iron, so that, to appearance, the engine looks only like a large thin grindstone hanging at rest on its axle. There is not the least steam to be seen, for when it has passed the engine it is carried away from the iron case by a pipe into the chimney, nor did I hear the least noise.” Having described the engine, our correspondent proceeds to state the quantity of work he saw it perform : "On the solid end of the axle,” says he, “is placed a drum 4 1/2 inches diameter, over which works a strap 10 inches broad, which gives motion to the work required. When I saw it, it was driving large and small grindstone, but no work was done upon them while I stopped. A circular saw was at work, about 14 inches in diameter, a planing machine was also at work upon a piece of iron, the cutter about three-eighths an inch broad, and a two feet stroke ; on the first floor were iron tumbling shafts running along each side of the room, to which could be attached by means of straps any work required. There were three turning lathes and a drilling apparatus at work when was there. I observed to Mr. Ruthven that I thought all the work his engine was then doing, would be readily done by a common engine of five horse power, to which seemed to give assent : but in order to shew something of the power of his engine, he took me into a side shop where there was a tilt hammer, apparently about 1 cwt. This he threw into and out of gear several times, and I could not see that it made the slightest impression on the motion the engine. I have seen it stated that this engine makes 3,000 revolutions in a minute, but this must have been when no work was upon it. I had not any accurate means of ascertaining its velocity, but am satisfied it was not making more than 1,000 revolutions per minute when I saw it.” [2]

1849 John Ruthven patented a hydraulic propulsion system for ships

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Scotsman, 8 October 1831
  2. Derbyshire Courier - Saturday 25 August 1838