Category Archives: William West

Sump Shaft Winding Engine House at South Caradon Mine

The South Caradon post series continue with the second of the engine houses at Sump shaft.

A horizontal whim engine house

Sump shaft winding engine house lies up-slope of Sump Shaft, and in addition to winding at Sump shaft this engine provided power by flat-rods to Pearce’s shaft higher up the hill.

A 22 inch horizontal engine was housed in this building (some sources state a 16/30″). The was engine designed by William West, and was probably installed in 1844 (ref CAU) .
Horizontal engines did not require a substantial bob wall and the structure was therefore lighter than a traditional Cornish Engine house.

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The engine house in the 1880s

SumpWindCloseOld

The picture clearly shows that the  sump shaft winding engine  house was not a traditional Cornish beam engine structure. The boiler house is sited on this side, and its lean to roof can be seen, the loadings and flywheel are on the opposite hidden face.The headgear of Pearce’s shaft lies to the left of the view and the chimney on the right was believed to have served a steam capstan.

This house now has two partial walls and a partial height chimney still standing. On the left side are the loadings for the winding drum and flat rods crank. On the opposite wall low walls mark the position of a long narrow boiler house with the chimney on its uphill side. The boiler house may have been extended to the south to accommodate a second boiler.

The engine house in 2012

These pictures were taken soon after the Caradon Hill Project had stabilised the structure.

SumpWindingEngineHouse

This view looks up slope towards Pearce’s Shaft. The ruined western and northern walls are closest to the camera, with the best preserved southern wall to the right of the view.

SumpWindingFromEast

Looking from the north-east corner, the whim cage loadings are on the right.

SumpWindingInside

The inside of the winding house, looking up the alignment of flat-rods

SumpWindingLoading

Looking down the loadings towards Sump Shaft and its pumping engine house. The tips in the background are those of West Caradon Mine.

Flat rods, Flatrods, Flat-rods
Horizontal wood or iron rods used for communicating power from one part of a mine to another.  Flat-rods were often used to transfer power from an engine, or waterwheel to a remote shaft. The rods ran on rollers, or pivoted arms.


Books about William West

South Caradon’s Engineer

Cover of the Last Great Cornish Engineer Book cover of the Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham

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South Caradon Sump Shaft Pumping Engine House

Now this series of posts on South Caradon Mine starts to dive down into the detail, to look at the individual structures on this amazing piece of Cornish Industrial Heritage.

The first Cornish Engine house of many

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South Caradon’s Sump Shaft engine house has great historic importance, for it was here that the South Caradon mine installed its first steam engine, and it was here that the first engine house was built of what would become a major copper mining district of Caradon.

This was also the engine house that started the famous engineer William West’s long standing association with the mine’s steam engines. He would go on to install many engines on the site, and become the dominant engineer of the the district.

The engine

This building housed the first engine to be installed at the mine. It was built in 1837, and

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Sump Shaft Pumping Engine in 2010

different sources place its size at 30″, 35″ or 45″ cylinder diameter. Prior to its construction the pump was powered by flat-rods driven by a water wheel located downslope from the shaft.

As the workings expanded underground, and the original engine could not keep up with the water,  a larger 50″ engine was installed (possibly in the late 1840’s),  and this engine was still in place when the mine was finally closed.

Sump Shaft engine house in images

The engine house just before closure

South Caradon Sump Shaft pumping engine house in the 1880s.

This picture is an Enlargement of the 18th Century Picture from the
Neil Parkhouse Collection. The complete picture is contained in my reprint of Webb and Geach’s book. The shaft lies on the right of the picture with the headgear standing above it.

The Engine house in 2010

These images are resurrected from my original South Caradon website. They are images of the engine house before the Caradon Hill Project’s preservation work,

Sump Shaft pump engine house bob walltaken at a time when the house was in its gradual decay towards becoming a pile of rubble.

The Bob Wall

This view looks across the blocked shaft towards the ivy clad bob wall.

Bob Wall -The bob wall supported the bob or beam of the engine, and therefore was the strongest wall of an engine house.  It would be between four and seven feet thick, and often constructed of dressed granite. In a pumping engine the bob wall was adjacent to the shaft.

 

Sump Shaft engine house plug doorway

The view from the inside looking towards the shaft

The dressed granite arch is that of the Plug doorway. This doorway was at the driver’s floor level and gave him a view of the condenser and pitwork.

The inside of the engine house is in poor condition, and little can be seen of the internal layout.

A view of the boiler house

Sump Shaft boiler house

The layout of the boiler house is clear in this view with the seats of the three Cornish boilers discernible, and the flue openings visible at the far end of the house. Only a stump remains of the stack.

Boiler houses were generally of a far lighter construction than the engine houses they served. Remains are therefore less visible, and often non-existent.

The engine House in 2012

Sump Shaft Pumping engine house bob wall

Between the this images and the previous ones a major change had occurred at Sump shaft. The buildings had been cleaned, restored and stabalised. The decay has been paused, natures reclamation has been halted and the remains have been preserved for future generations to explore.

This is another view of the bob wall. The ivy has gone and the stonework re-pointed.

Sump Shaft Pumping Engine House site

The layout of the Pumping engine house is captured in this view.  From left to right the remains are: Shaft-Engine house-Boiler house.

Sump Shaft Pump Engine house site

The Engine House in 2015

Sump shaft engine houses in the snow

Snow came to South East Cornwall in 2015, bringing with it crystal clear light that brought the buildings into sharp contrast.  This view was caught over those rare crisp cold days, and it shows well the extent of the engine house remains. Only two walls now stand; the bob wall to the left, and the partial remains of the wing wall to the right.

Wing Walls-The side walls of an engine house.
Wing walls were about 2’6″ to 3’6″ thick. Being the weakest walls these were often the first parts of the building to collapse.


wpid-wp-1438632680446.pngWebb and Geach

The History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District

This paperback contains the Victorian Photograph mentioned in this post.

If you are visiting the area then pop into the excellent bookshop in Liskeard for a copy.

Click here to learn more about the book>

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South Caradon Mine- A timeline

The recovery of the ‘Views of South Caradon’ continues with the history theme. In this post I will rescue the timeline from its geocities vault, and along the way add some cross referenced dates from other time lines on this blog. Should be interesting to see how the histories interwine. The photographs on this post come from a series I took in 2015 on a rare occasion when the South Caradon site was covered in snow and bathed in bright sunshine.

1833 to 1890

View across the Seaton Valley across Sump's shaft

Six decades of industrial industry

The mine started in the Seaton Valley but its production moved eastwards in the later part of the history. The richest part of the mine lay in these easterly lodes.

Early working

1662

First record of mineral workings in the area at the Gonamena open works.

Early 19th century

 

A promise of wealth

Experience in the west of the Cornwall suggested that copper deposits probably existed under Caradon Hill. Large deposits of fine gozzen near the surface suggested that workable mineral lodes would exist deeper down. These gozzans may have been worked for tin. Attempts at finding copper had been made by small groups of miners driving adits into the hillside, but with no success prior to the South Caradon find.

Missed chances

On each lease transfer the opportunity of huge wealth was missed by the leaseholder, at one point the sett sold for less than a guinea.


1801
William West was born at Dolcoath

1817 to 1819 William West works at Dolcoath fitting shop

Ennor’s Trial

A miner called Ennor working for a group of Plymouth and Devonport adventurers dug an adit in from the Seaton Valley. This was probably at the location of what became main lode adit.

Some indications of minerals may have been found, but the trial was abandoned on advice of experts. The lease then changes hands several times, often for very small amounts.

The startLooking towards Holman;s and Rule's shafts in the snow

1831 West was Engaged by  J. T. Austin at Fowey Consols

1833

The miner James Clymo and members of the Kittow family started looking for Copper in the area. An adit running eastwards from the Seaton Valley was the starting point of their enterprise.

1834 Austen’s Engine is started

1834-1835

Despite shortage or resources the miners continue to persevere in extending the adit, following promising signs of mineralization deeper into the hill.

1835 Trial of Austen’s engine

1836

The adventurers perseverance and determination is rewarded when the main ore body is discovered, but no investors in London could be found to finance the venture. The original miners therefore financed the mine themselves.

1836 -1838 Cornwall Great United Mining Association worked the mines that would become Phoenix United.

1837

Sump shaft engine houses in the snowFirst returns are made for the mine after just over £327 had been paid out. 130 tons of ore (of 10% metal) is produced. Ref: Shambrock (Allan gives this production as starting in 1838)

The first engine was installed at sump shaft by William West.
Within a few years South Caradon became one of the biggest copper mines in the world.

 

William West started working for South Caradon mine


The story goes…

+That James Clymo offered the shares to a mine adventurer on the coach back from London. The adventurer refused the shares at £5 each. A few months later the shares fetched £2000 each!

Another story is of two maidens who sold some rough land to a lawyer and immediately learnt about the discovery of copper beneath its surface. By the following day they had repurchased the land claiming that they where sentimentally attached to it.
The lawyer heard about the copper the following morning…..just that bit too late
1837 West became the Fowey Consols sole engineer


The Victorian period starts

1839 West patented the double-beat self acting valve

The rise

1840’s

The mines in West Cornwall suffered a decline but South Caradon’s success sparked a mining boom around Caradon Hill. The mine was producing nearly 4,000 tons of ore a year.

1842 Wheal Phoenix was formed

1848 St. Blazey foundry is established by West

1850’s

1850 William West commenced his association with Phoenix United Mine

What is in a name?

The success of the mine sparked a rush of mines being named with the magic word The wast tios of West Caradon Mine in the snow“Caradon” in their title, in the hope of attracting investors. A practice that became far too common after 1850, and earned the term “market mining”. None of these mines ever came near of matching the success of South Caradon.

  • Caradon Consols
  • Caradon Vale
  • East Caradon
  • Caradon Copper
  • Great Caradon
  • New West Caradon
  • Glasgow Caradon Consols
  • New South Caradon
  • The Caradon Mine
  • West Caradon Mine
  • Wheal Caradon Mine

Tredhenam  house is built

1852 West installed his first Man engine at Fowey Consols

The Fall

1863 Brenton Symons publishes his map of the Caradon mining District and Webb and Geach produce their book.

Mid-1860’s

The price of copper drops, despite large amounts of ore being produced profits start to fall.
Nearly 6,000 tons of ore a year was being produced by South Caradon.
The mine became the biggest copper producer in Cornwall. But profits still fell.

1864 The Liskeard and District is Bank formed

 1867 Fowey Consols failed

1868 West obtains majority shares in Phoenix United

1879 William West Dies

1880

Work Stopped at the mine

1883

A limited company was formed to raise more capital, and attempts are made to keep the mine more profitable by extending the eastern part of the workings.

The Death

1885

Work Ceases, despite having copper reserves the mine was too expensive to run with the low price of copper. A picture of the mine prior to closure

1889

Attempts made to re-work the mine, but with no success.
The venture planned to run East Caradon, Glasgow Caradon and South Caradon as one mine.

1890

Final closure.
The site becomes mine history.

View across South Caradon Mine to the borth west

 

The end of an Industry

When the South Caradon Mine pumps stopped the water rose to flood the workings of adjacent mines forcing them to close. Even Railways suffered. 1885 saw the Liskeard and Caradon Railway going into receivership. A railway whose existence was dependent on the wealth produced by the South Caradon Mine.

Other Time lines on  this blog


BookshopLiskeard

A Great Book Shop

To find books about the history of the Caradon Hill area pop in to the excellent book shop at Liskeard. They keep some well stocked shelves on Cornish local history, including my two paperbacks on William West– The Last Great Cornish Engineer, and the Liskeard Mining District .

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Dame Schools- William West and Charles Dickens

Before this blog moves on to the next industrial heritage theme there will be brief excursion into Victorian literature 

Great Expectations and Mr. Wopsle’s Great Aunt

I have just finished my first reading of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’; a novel that is often considered to be the best of the Victorian writer’s work. It is the tragic character of Miss Havisham that many remember best from the book, but for me is is unnamed character hidden away in chapter 7 that grabbed my attention.

William West’s success as an engineer was founded on a sparse, almost non-existent childhood education. His only eduction was for a brief period at  ‘Dame school’ ; a period shortened by an incident involving gin, a drunk school mistress and a fire place. His  school mistress he called ‘Old Betty Hip’, and  he is reported to have said that:

” she thought much more of sending him to the drams of gin in which she delighted than of imparting the small amount of knowledge she possessed” Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham

Charles Dickens in Great Expectations also describes a ‘Dame school’. His descriptionDSC00398 describes so much about these Victorian institutions in very few words.

“Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt kept an evening school in the village; that is to say, she was a ridiculous old woman of limited means and unlimited infirmity, who used to go to sleep from six to seven every evening, in the society of youth who paid two pence per week each, for the improving opportunity of seeing her do it”  Charles Dickens Great Expectations.

Such a brilliant sentence, and one must use in my future talks.

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The President Steam Engine- an index of posts so far

screenshot_2017-06-13-12-11-12_kindlephoto-18516640.jpgA Cornish Engine in the USA

“The only two non-William West lattice beams I know of is the Harleem Meer Engines in the Netherlands and the President Engine in the USA. The former was influenced by his Austen’s engine, and the latter designed by his nephew, John West”  From a talk given to the Friends of Luxuylan  Valley

This was my sole knowledge of the President Engine before I started this short series of posts; some throw away lines that I soon discovered greatly undersold this very important piece of Industrial heritage.  Before this blog moves on to new topics, I will gather together the posts in an index. 


The President Engine

The President Engine was claimed to be the largest stationary engine in the world, and is

President2017

The engine house in 2017

the it is the only remaining Cornish Engine house still standing in the USA. It was built by John West from Cornwall, forming an important example of how the Cornish engine concept being developed to meet the needs of North American mining industry.

This is an engine that deserves more recognition; a site that forms not only an important part of the USA’s industrial heritage, but also that of Cornwall’s rich engineering history.

The President Engine posts

Related Posts

External links

 

PresidentPostcardDuring the writing of these posts I discovered that there was a large amount of activity underway in the USA to preserve the President Engine house. I will update this blog with progress of that work, and hopefully will sometime in the future have the pleasure of hosting a post starting with the title “Reasons to visit the President engine house”. Meanwhile, if any readers know of websites or publications relating to the engine please drop me a message and I will gladly pass on the information here.

And finally, many thanks to  Mark Connar for providing much of the information within these recent posts. Good luck over there across the pond in preserving this wonderful piece of mining heritage.


 

To learn more about John West’s famous Uncle

Here are two publications on William West of Tredenham, the last Great Cornish Engineer; one a paperback, one a Kindle publication.

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Reasons to preserve the President Steam Engine

I started these posts to discover more about the links between this engine house in Allentown USA and William West. In the process of exploring this distant influence of the last great engineer I learnt that this was no ordinary steam engine, this was a very significant piece of 19th Century engineering that deserves more recognition and preservation.

Why should the President Engine be preserved?

On one basic fact the President Engine in Pennsylvania cries out to be preserved-  it is the only example of a Cornish Engine house still standing in the Americas outside of Mexico. As shown in my last post, Cornwall is rich in engine house remains but in the USA there stands just this one, hidden away from public view.

Mark Connar gives five reasons to preserve the engine house, five reasons that justify keeping this structure for future generations.  I have dipped in to his paper and pulled out these extracts to summarise those reasons.

Reason 1 -It is a National Landmark of Mining History

“The Friedensville pumping engine house held the largest Cornish derivative single-cylinder beam pump ever built for use in a mining application and its’ engine house is the only known existing and extant example of such a structure in the Americas (apart from a few examples in Mexico near El Real and Pachuca).There is a partially

DSCF2369

The Virgin Gorda Engine housed

restored, but fragmented, engine house example in Nova Scotia and one very ruined Cornish engine house structure on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.”

“As we consider the evolution of technology, the Friedensville engine house is an archaic form compared to how the Cornish pumping engine was being adapted in North America and, therefore, represents a unique fulcrum point in the technological acculturation of this equipment in the Americas. In the California gold fields, Cornish engineers passed the baton to American designers who adapted this critical equipment to the North American environment.”

“Given the unique architectural character and its interconnected relationship to the pump design, it is the writer’s opinion that the Friedensville engine house structure is worthy of nomination by the US Department of Interior for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a mining property of significance in America’s development. ”

“The Friedensville engine house is a pure example of a Cornish engine house whose use as such is well documented. In this respect it is unique in the United States. Architecturally, the Friedensville engine house could be transposed on to the Devon or Cornwall landscape and fit perfectly into this renowned UNESCO World Heritage location that includes approximately 200 preserved engine houses that form an iconic part of the cultural heritage.”

Reason 2- It is a historical landmark of mechanical engineering

“The President was not first the Cornish Pump located at the Ueberroth Mine in Friedensville. Prior to the construction of the President, Lehigh Zinc’s engineer, John West from Cornwall, designed and installed a pumping engine that was capable of pumping 5700 gallons of water per minute from a depth of 132 feet. He also brought to the Ueberroth Mine a pumping engine he built before 1853 that some consider the first engine built on Cornish principles in America (this Pump most likely came from the Perkiomen copper mines). Some early mining equipment originated from Cornwall, but clearly John West’s work at Perkiomen and Ueberroth collectively are among the earliest representations of American design and manufacture of Cornish Pumps.”

“The President pump was clearly the largest steam driven stationary single-cylinder pumping engine ever used in any application in the Western Hemisphere and the largest Cornish derivative beam pump ever used in a mining application on a global basis.”

“The President pump was not simply a very large “throw back” to the past. In screenshot_2017-06-13-12-07-40_kindlephoto-18444209.jpgaddition to incorporating a latticework beam design, which is attributed to the West family, the President included an innovative float device that “automatically” adjusted the speed of the engine based on the water level at the bottom of the mine.”

“It has been  argued that without the Cornish Pump, the development of the deep, hard-rock gold mines in California would have been delayed for nearly half a century (until the introduction of electric motor-driven pumps).”
“Given the importance of the Friedensville site in the development of the steam engine technology and the fact that it once was home for the largest stationary single-cylinder pumping engine in the Western Hemisphere and largest Cornish derivative single-cylinder beam pumping engine in the world in a mining application, the pumping engine site deserves consideration as a Mechanical Engineering Heritage Site as part of the American Association of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Landmarks program. Also, as noted above, its design was not a technological “dead end”, but rather an important linchpin in the adoption of this technology in the United States. Further, as discussed above, the physical remains of the engine house are more than just stonewalls; as a “house-built” engine much can be learned of the engine’s design, layout and operation from the engine house, even though the engine itself is long gone. The Landmarks program has recognized about 250 landmarks since its inception in 1971.  Such designation would foster the preservation of the physical remains, encourage engineers to become aware of their technological heritage and further inform the public of the heritage site’s contribution.”

Reason 3-It is a heritage site of importance to Cornish American Studies

“While Friedensville was largely a village peopled by those of German descent, the Cornish presence would have been in much  evidence during the zinc mine’s operations. Technicians, engineers and  some of the skilled labor force were Cornishmen.”

“The Cornish are understandably  proud of their contribution to the mining industryDSCN0137 and related technologies, not only as practiced in Great Britain, but also globally given the significant export and migration history emanating from this  small county. The President pump and its engine house are known to The Trevithick Society thanks to the efforts of Professor Nance. The  writer believes that other organizations dedicated to Cornish studies and the history of Cornish contributions to mining and steam  technology would likewise find the site to be of great interest.”.

Reason 4-It is a heritage site of regional importance

“The Ueberroth Zinc Mine Historic District has suffered a large  number of losses in recent years. The extension of Interstate 78  through Saucon Valley, the routing of

PresidentMap

Ueberroth mine map from
Kent Littlefield’s 2014 presentation

Saucon Valley Parkway and the  development of the Stabler Land properties has all served to comprise  this historic area. Among the structures, which have been lost, include  the Correll miner cottages (between Oakhurst Drive and Route 78), the  Methodist Church (on Old Bethlehem Pike) and the secondary  structures around the President pumping engine house. The Mine  Master’s House (1868) on Friedensville Road will soon be lost to the  wreaker’s ball to make room for office suites. With this last loss, the  only significant above ground, visible remnant of 19th century mining  activity will be the water filled quarry pits and the Cornish engine house  that contained the President pump.”

Reason 5- It is in a location of scenic Beauty

“With clearance,  preservation, historic interpretation and development, it is very

president2016lake

The engine house in 2017 Mark Connar

easy to picture the location as being a highly scenic and valued destination. It  would attract historically minded tourists as well as the general public who would find the view “romantic”. The ruined pumping engine house,  even after preservation, overlooking a lake with beautifully colored water, would attract photography buffs and possibly even filmmakers. The location would be perfect for wedding photos and other special occasions. With the medieval character of the pumping house in the  background, the site would be hard to duplicate in the region.”

I will keep this blog updated with news of progress towards preservation of the engine house. Meanwhile Mark’s first reason for preservation has offered me a great excuse to take a quick detour to explore my photograph’s for images of the Virgin Gorda engine house, the topic for my next post.


wpid-image.jpgTo learn more about John West’s Cornish Uncle, visit on this blog’s William West Page.

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The only Cornish Engine House in the USA

PresidentPostcardThe President Engine House

This series of posts on the President Steam engine in Philadelphia has led me far further then I expected. It started off with a desire to expand my knowledge of  an engine with William West links; to gain some knowledge that I could use in future talks about the Last Great Engineer.  And now I find myself writing about probably one of the most significant Industrial Heritage sites in the USA.   In this post I bridge the gap between the past and now with a description of the engine house, the structure that links today’s modern landscape with its history.

The remains of the  President’s engine house stands in Allentown Philadelphia, a very long way from where I write this blog in Cornwall. Therefore I will  use the words and images from Mark Connar’s excellent paper on the Ueberroth Zinc Mine to describe the structure.

The Engine House described

“The square shaped pumping engine house is built of Potsdam Sandstone and is three stories high with the first floor at the elevation of the air pumps and condenser, the second floor near the top of the cylinder, and the third at the level of

President2017

The engine house in 2017

the beams. Overall the structure is 40 feet high. The north wall (called the “bob” wall in Cornish pump house design parlance), which supported the beams, is 9 feet thick with slots for the two flywheels, the south wall contains the cylinder opening, above which is the steam inlet and recesses for the two spring beams. This wall is also 9 feet thick and the other two walls (east and west) are 4.5 feet thick. Two square stacks that served the engine’s 16 boilers occupy the rear corners (face Old Bethlehem Pike). The boilers were housed in an adjoining building. The house plan is dominated by a central masonry platform, to which the engine was anchored, with large pits on either side for the flywheels and cranks.”

President2017_2An indication of the sturdiness of this structure is that it sits on a rock formation 114 feet below ground surface and the foundation for the engine is thirty-two feet below the rock face. Another Cornishman named Simeon Noell was charged with the responsibility to oversee the engine house erection that commenced in 1868. Overall, the structure is very typical of engine houses that populate the Cornish and West Devon landscape in the United Kingdom.

The basic structural design is highly functional and little changed from the enginePresidentWingwall houses first built in the early decades of the 18th century. The President was a “house-built” engine in that the engine house was an integral part of the engine, supporting it rather than simply providing weather protection for equipment and staff. The foundation is sturdy; it had to be capable of withstanding the stresses the engine could produce. The “bob-wall” carried the main weight and thrust of the engine. The interior layout of the pumping engine house was a basic Cornish pattern. The first floor, or bottom chamber, was known as the “driving floor” because it accommodated the throttle and other controls. Here the engineers had access to the lower portion of the key equipment. The second floor or middle chamber allowed access to the cylinder head and upper valve chest. The third floor was called the “bobloft” was this level allowed access to the beam for servicing and also held tackling gear used to lift heavy parts of the pump when repairs were necessary.”

The Engine house today

“The current condition of the engine house is derelict. It is enclosed by a security President2017Bobfence and is overgrown with vegetation. The brick chimney stacks are no longer standing (I have observed this structure for over 50 years and do not recall ever seeing the brick stacks, however, they are visible in photographs from the 1930s and early 1940s). The structure is best viewed in the fall and winter when less obscured by vegetation. The pumping house is the only visible remains when viewed from outside the gated area, however, a report by Professor Miller of Lehigh University prepared in 1923 indicated that an office structure was also remaining on the site.” Mark Connar

This now seems to be an appropriate place to take a quick detour from the President Engine, and look at some Cornish engine houses over here in Cornwall for a comparison. So its time to start digging into some of the hidden depths of my laptop filing system and see what suitable images I have hidden away.  So if you are reading this blog from across the pond please keep following, as I hope some of the photos may hint at the potential of this amazing building hidden away in Philadelphia. 


51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_ The engine house featuring on the cover of the Kindle Edition of William West of Tredenham is that of the famous Austen’s Engine at Fowey Consols, in mid-Cornwall. This 80″ engine was fitted with a lattice beam similar to the one used by the President,

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 The President Steam Engine described

 A Cornish engine in the USA

Now this series of posts on John West’s massive steam engine arrives at the point where it digs into the technical details. I have extracted various facts from the Damian Nance’s article, sifted, sorted and summarised to give a summary of the engine.

What was the President Engine?

The President was a rotative double acting engine with a 110″ cylinder, a 10 foot stroke screenshot_2017-06-13-12-07-40_kindlephoto-18444209.jpgand weight of 675 tons Although described as a Cornish engine, but had many features not common to pumping engines in Cornwall, i.e. it was rotative had flywheels, and was  double acting.

The engine was named after president Ulysses S. Grant, who had been invited to its dedication but  then failed to arrive.

Who built the engine?

The Cornish Engineer John West built the engine (the nephew  of William West, the Last Great Cornish Engineer), and its components were built by various companies in Eastern USA. Merrick and sons built the engine at their Southwark factory Philadelphia, but  much of the casting was  done at Lazell Perkins and co Bridgewater Massachusetts. The Pumps, boilers and  mountings were produced by  LP  Morris and co, Philadelphia.

Click here for information on Merrick and sons on the Philadelphia encyclopedia>

What did the engine do?

The engine was built to pump large quantities of water from a relatively shallow  mine shaft. Accounts of the engine differ in the number of pumps installed. Some state two pair, some three. Each pair of pumps consisted of a  lifting pump at the bottom of the shaft, and a 30″ plunger pump part way up. The lifting pumps were only  at a depth of 127 feet, very shallow compared to the Cornish mines of the time which were down to thousands of feet deep. The engine pumped at  15000 gallons per minute at 12 strokes per minute, and discharged into an adit and into a tank for use as boiler and condenser feed-water.

 

How was the steam provided?

screenshot_2017-06-13-12-11-46_kindlephoto-18656545.jpg

The three roofs of the boiler house.

An engine of this size demanded large quantities of steam, and so it had an impressive array of boilers. The President was served  by 16 boilers in a boiler house to the rear of the engine house, each boiler was 50 feet long with a 36 inch diameter.

The engine was designed to run at 60 psi at which pressure it produced 3000  horsepower, although in use it was normally run at a lower pressure.

What was the key features of the President Engine?

Apart from its sheer size the President had several interesting features that set it apart from the standard arrangement of a pumping engine back in Cornwall. These differences arose from the shallow depth of the mine. Engines running expensively on the Cornish cycle are more effective if they have a load of the heavy pump rods in the shaft. To replace this John West designed the engine with large 92 ton flywheels of over 30 foot diameter. For smoother operation of the flywheel West made the engine double acting (powered on both up and down strokes).

Note: The weight and diameter of the flywheel has been shown differently on some engine descriptions.  These figures have been confirmed as the most likely to be correct by Mark Connar, who I thank for the additional information.

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Although he installed Cornish style steam valves, the operating method was unusual. Valve operation was through cams fitted on the flywheel shaft, three cams for three different values of cut-off. The  throttle valve was fitted with an automatic control using a block of wood in the sump of the shaft connected by wire to the valve. An ingenious arrangement that allowed more steam to enter the engine as the water level rose.

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The lattice beams

These are the features that attracted me to the engine. Although Open-work beams are graceful and light, they did not become widely adopted. Their main user was John West’s Uncle, William West of Tredenham. All of his most important engines used this design, and it is no doubt the family influence that resulted in their distinctive form being adopted for the President.

Reference

Damian Nance, The International Steam Engine Society Bulletin volume 34 no 4

 


wpid-westcover.jpg The story of William West is told in the Trevthick Society papaerback ‘The Last Great Cornish Engineer‘.

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John West- A Cornish Engineer in the USA

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An Obituary of John West (Jnr)

The connection between the great Cornish Beam engines in Cornwall and the greatest of the Cornish engines in the USA is a family one.  It is a link that will be explored in this post through a transcript kindly provided by Mark Connar.

John and William West

John G. West was one of the many Cornish miners and engineers who emigrated to the USA. An emigration that included not only the men and their families, but also the skills, knowledge and systems developed in the centuries of hard rock mining in their home country.

John West was the son of another well respected engineer, who was also  called John. His father’s brother was the famous engineer, William West of Tredenham, the ‘Last Great Cornish Engineer’. William became famous for building the most efficient Cornish Engine ever built, and John G. West was famous for building the largest Cornish Engine in the USA.

This engine is the subject of this series of posts; it is normally refereed to as the ‘President’ but interestingly in newspaper extract below it is called the ‘General Grant’.


From Reading Times (Reading. Pa), Wednesday, May 10, 1893

Death of John G. West

Sketch of the Well-Known Mechanical Engineer and Inventor – Other Deaths
John Gartrell West, mechanical engineer, passed to his rest Tuesday forenoon. He was born in the village of Crowan, in the Parish of Crowan, Cornwall, England, on the 28th day of May 1822, thus making his length of life 70 years, 11 months and 14 days. He came to the United States forty-four years ago and for a time was engineer on one of the Ohio River steamboats. Afterwards, through his intimate knowledge of the construction, and erection of the Cornish pumping engine, he was engaged to erect one purchased in England for the Perkiomen Cooper Ore Company, at Shannonville, Montgomery county. When his contract expired with the aboveJohnWestOBT named company, he entered into partnership with the Messrs. Richard Corson and Samuel Thomas, the firm name being that of Thomas, Corson & West, mechanical engineers of the Norris Works, Norristown, Pa.
He designed and superintended the construction of the pumping engine for the Lehigh Zinc Company, of Bethlehem, Pa, known as the General Grant engine, which is the largest stationary engine ever made in the United States, before or since. This is a high-pressure condensing engine; the diameter of the cylinder is 110 1/4 inches, length of stroke 10 feet and weight of the engine is 1096 tons. Mr. West was engineer and superintendent of the Providence R.I. water works for a year and a half.
He was afterwards engaged in the construction and erection of pumping and mining engines for the Yellow Jacket and other gold mines in Virginia City, Nevada and elsewhere. He came to Reading in January 1878, as the superintendent and manger of the Scott foundry, which position he held until about three years ago, since which time he was employed in the capacity of mechanical engineer of the Reading Iron Company.
 
He was the son of John G. West, also a famous mechanical engineer. He was married fifty years ago to Miss Jane Henwood, who survives, but has been an invalid for years. Deceased was in good health up to two weeks ago, when he was prostated with an abscess which developed into blood poisoning, causing great agony and unconsciousness for several days. Mr. West was a man of sterling integrity, unusual amount of caution, and absolutely honest, scorning deceit and littleness wherever found. He was a member of Christ Cathedral, a prominent mason, and leaves the follow – children and sisters: Mrs. Sophia Von Hummell, of Indianapolis, Ind.; Barnet H. West, late manager of the Reading Iron Works, but now with the Messrs. Cramp Ship Building Company; Mrs. Henrietta Stephens, of this city; Miss Viola West, also of this city; Wye H. West, with the Phoenix Iron Company, Phoenixville. The sisters are: Mrs. Dr. Rowana, of Philadelphia; Mrs. Lovinia Dalty, of Philadelphia; Mrs. Bethia Chant, of Ridley Park and Mrs. Frances G. Jones, of this city, wife of G.W. Jones, superintendent of the McIlvain & Sons’ rolling mills. Transcript by Mark Connar

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The President Steam Engine- Key dates

A Cornish Engine in the USA

These dates have been derived from a quick dip into Damian Nance’s article on the engine, and correspondence from Mark Connar; I dived in, grabbed a few dates and sorted them out into an order. Then to add some context I have added a few dates from the life of William West, John West’s famous uncle.

Events leading up to the engine’s creation

PresidentBW

1801 William West is born at Dolcoath

1835 Austen Engine’s Trial

1838 East London Waterworks engine started

1845 A rich zinc ore deposit in the dolomite limestone of Saucon Valley was discovered

1853 A  predecessor company to the Lehigh Zinc Company was formed to extract and smelt this primary material.

1854 Ueberotth mine was opencast operation

1860 Lehigh Zinc Company formed

1866 John West erected a 32″ double acting engine

1868  the Company’s engineer, John West from Cornwall as commissioned to design an engine capable of pumping 12,000 gallons/minute from a depth of 300 feet.

By 1869 three different engines were being used to clear the mines of water

The Engine’s operating years

1872 The President  was erected

1874 the engine’s crank broke and it took a number of days for it to be repaired and there was concern that the mines would fill with water.

1876 Operations were suspended

1879 William West dies

The President’s later life

1881 One of the owners of the Correll Mine in Friedensville purchased the mining assets of Lehigh Zinc and unified them under the name “Friedensville Zinc Company”

1883 New shafts were being dug and that the plan was to move the President to the new shaft location. This equipment move never transpired.

1884, Water was controlled in the mines by using two new steam pumps with the President was being kept in operational condition as a backup pump. Later that year, in May, the President was restarted.

By 1890 The Ueberroth mine was no longer being worked and the President was being used to lower the water in the other, still active, mine works.

1891 The last reported time that the President Pump operated

Events after the engine’s final steaming

1898 Unsuccessful efforts were made to raise capital in Europe to restart the Friedensville mine.

1893 All mining activities in the Friedensville area ceased

1899 The President was for sale

1900 The President was sold to Philadelphia based scrap dealers for $10,000

1901 The sixteen boilers were removed from the site to South Bethlehem by the New Jersey Zinc Company. The plan was to reuse these equipment pieces at other New Jersey Zinc mines.

1940s A new Friedensville mine was opened by the New Jersey Zinc Company which operated until 1983

Other Time Lines on this blog


51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham

This publication describes the life and work of John West’s uncle through the eyes of a Victorian biographer.

Available on kindle>

The paperback “Last Great Cornish Engineer” explores the Engineer’s life beyond the words of the sketch.

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