Tag Archives: Engineering history

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.

wpid-westcover.jpg 51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_

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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?

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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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William West- Some key dates

wpid-screenshot_2015-08-21-17-43-45.pngDates in the life of William West of Tredenham

The Last Great Cornish Engineer

As a foundation to build my next talk around I have thrown together a few dates in William West’s life. Yes there are many gaps, and yes it is all a bit random in topics, but it does create a quick orientation time.  As this series of posts progress, so will this post be updated.  For a very quick biography of  William West Click here

1801

William West is born at Dolcoath

1808image003

West held a candle for Trevithick has he designed his ‘Catch-Me-Who-Can’ locomotive

1817 to 1819

West works at Dolcoath fitting shop

1822

West is chief working engineer at South Roskear and other mines

1828

Grose’s engine at Great Towan achieves an impressive 87 million duty with Wilson’s engine, a result TowanHeatherpartially the result of West’s improvement in insulation

1831

  •  Engaged by  J. T. Austin at Fowey Consols
  • Austins Engine was first proposed

1833

Contract for Austen’s engine signed51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_

1834

Austen’s Engine is started


1835


1837

  • West became the Fowey Consols sole engineer
  • The East Cornwall The engine was put up for sale by Harvey’s

The Victorian period starts

1838

The East London Engine was startedw13

1839

W4

1840

West started working for South Caradon mine

1843

  • West installed the first horizontal whim at Par Consols
  • West obtained a licence to build Sims compound engines

1845

  • West installed his first large Sims engine at Great Wheal Martha
  • Was contractor  on  Brunel’s atmospheric railway

1847-1858

Brownes engine reporter is printed

1848Map1881Tredenham

St. Blazey foundry is established by West

1850

William West commenced wpid-th-5.jpeghis association with Phoenix United Mine

1852

Tredhenam  house is built

1852

1856

St. Austell Lower foundry purchased by Westwpid-41f3tbq-cnl._sl500_1-2.jpg.jpeg

1863

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

1864

1867

  • Fowey Consols failed
  • South Fowey Consols founded

1869

Newquay and Junction Railway completed to Drinnick Mill

1868

  • Penquite house purchaced
  • West obtains majority shares in Phoenix United

1870

Presentation to West of a time piece by the Phoenix United minersPhoenixCounthouse

1872

The South Caradon man engine is installed

1873

Cornwall Minerals Railway’s Act of Parliament was laid

1874

Cornwall Minerals Railway opened

1879

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1891

St. Blazey Foundry closed

1897

Phoenix United closed


wpid-westcover.jpgThe Last Great Cornish Engineer

William West of Tredenham

A paperback from the Trevitihick Society

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