Despite all of the advantages of electronic books, they cannot replace the magic that paper books hold. Such magic came to me last weekend whilst visiting the cafe at Geevor Mine, Cornwall ( Great Cafe by the way-huge pastys!). There sat on the shelves of the book shop was a copy of The Last Great Cornish Engineer, all shiney and new, my first sighting of it in a book shop..magic. Mind you my attention was soon diverted by the excellent range of books they had lined up beside it- what an excellent book shop, well worth a visit if passing.
And now onto the main subject of this post, the graceful piece of engineering that adorns the books cover.
William West’s Open Lattice Beams
The picture on the book’s cover shows a feature of West’s engineering that became his trademark. It is an Open Lattice work beam, a design of Cornish engine bobs that was not widely adopted. Many engineers considered that the design would be prone to fracture, and therefore the solid design remained the norm.
West’s distinctive engine beams combine solid engineering with an aesthetic grace. Their lace like structure a marked contrast with the solid bulk or a normal Cornish Beam.
The only two non William West Beams I know of have connections with the engineer. The massive Cruquius engine in the Netherlands was influenced by his Austen’s engine. In the USA the large 110 inch ‘President’ engine at Pennsylvania was designed by John West, his nephew. But, If you know of any others please leave a comment.
Photographs exist of the Prince of Wales Mine engine house (in the Tamar Valley) with a open work beam, a second hand engine that came from The Duchy Great Consols at Latchley. This photograph is reproduced in:
Mining in Cornwall Vol 2: The County Explorer (Archive Photographs: Images of England)
A West Lattice work beam, unfortunately devoid of its engine, can be seen in the gardens of the Kew Bridge Steam Museum.