Tag Archives: the last great Cornish Engineer

William West of Tredenham – A new page is launched

wpid-backimagewest.jpg

The Last Great Cornish Engineer now has a web page

The completion of my talk at the Friends of  Luxyluyan Valley was a good reason to dig back through all the assorted posts on William West and place then in some sort of logical order. The result of this piece of web house keeping is a page dedicated to William West of Tredenham, with links across to the various rabbit holes that my research has tempted me to dive into.

I have no doubt that this will be a page that will get added to as time goes by, there are plenty of ideas bubbling away, demanding to be explored. So if Victorian Engineers are an interest of yours, especially those with a Cornish connection, pop back to this website once in a while to have a browse.

And now that bit of tidying up the site is completed, time to go exploring history again…. 

 

 

 

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Some threads in history and the last Great Cornish Engineer

Notes and musings for the Friends of Luxulyan Valley William West talk.

This is post is a resource for all those who attended my talk in March 2017 in the Luxulyan Valley, an area rich in William West’s History.  The post follows the order of the presentation, contains links to references within the Navbooks blog, along with a few facts, figures and dates.  

If you did not attend the presentation, then feel free to wander among the links on this page, and perhaps enjoy forming your own conclusions about the significance of the Austen’s engine trial.

wpid-screenshot_2015-08-21-17-43-45.pngThread one-The Steam engine Duty race

Steam engine development in Cornwall

  • Newcomen engine first used at Wheal Vor in 1715
  • The first James Watt engines in Cornwall  1777

The Cornish engine

  • 1812 the first high pressure condensing engine

Duty

Number of pounds of water raised one foot by an engine using one bushel of coal.

The Duty race

  • 1811 Lean’s Engine reporter started publication, Maximum duty recorded  22.3 Million
  • 1815 Woolf’s compound 50 Million duty

Click here for a post on Lean’s Reporter and some layers of history>

Samuel Grose

Click here for  more information about Samuel Grose>

  • 1825 Grose erected his engine at the Wheal Hope Mine .  This engine first introducedTowanHeather the concept of insulating the  the cylinders, nozzles, and steam pipes, an introduction that greatly improved the efficiency of the engine.
  • 1827 Grose’s 80″ at Wheal Towan is recorded at 67m.

Thread two- J.T Austen

Click here for some key dates in Austen’s life>

Austen before the engineaustin

  • 1782 Austen is born
  • 1778 His Mother inherited estate from her brother
  • 1803 He came of age, and was managing the family estate, which was not in a good condition
  • 1814 Early evidence of Austen investing in mining ventures.

Fowey Consols is formed

Click here for information about Fowey Consols>

  • 1816 Austen buys shares in Wheal Treasure, this would later develop into Fowey Consols.
  • 1822 Wheal Treasure, Wheal Fortune and Wheal Chance combined as Fowey Consols

Fowey  Consols success

  • The total production of copper from the mines between 1815 and 1836 was 383,359 tons which brought in sales of £2,247,478.

A new engine is required

Thread three- William West

The engineer is born

Click here for some key dates in William West’s life>

  • 1801 William West is born at Dolcoath

Influences

Click here for the story of West and Trevithick>

  • 1808 West holds a candle for Trevithickw6

Dolcoath and engineering

  • 1817 to 1819 West works at Dolcoath fitting shop

West becomes and engineer

  • 1822 West is chief working engineer at South Roskear and other mines

Wheal Towan

  • 1828 Grose achieved 87m with his Towan engine, trial is demanded, a trial is run.

Click here for information about West and the engine at Wheal Towan>

  • 1831 West was Engaged by  J. T. Austen at Fowey Consols and Austens Engine was austinpanfirst proposed
  • 1833 The contract for Austen’s engine signed

The threads converge at Austen’s engine

Click here for information on Austen’s engine trial>

Fame and controversy

Click here for a letter from James Sims>Click here for a letter from James Sims>

“I have no doubt that at least all practical engineers will agree with me, that it is perfectly absurd to think of making a fair trial of the duty of a steam engine (working under similar circumstances as the engine in question), in the short time of 24 hours” James Sims

A diverging thread, wealth

West is sought after

Click here for information of William West’s Caradon mines>

Properties

Click here for some maps showing some of William West’s properties near St. Blazey>

  • 1848 St. Blazey foundry built by West
  • 1852 Tredenham House is built

 

Beyond engineering

  • 1864 Liskeard Bank is founded

Click here for information about Liskeard Bank>

Phoenix Unitedwpid-th-5.jpeg

  • 1868 West gains majority shares in Phoenix United Mine

Click here for information about William West and Phoenix United Mine>

Click here for information about Phoenix United Mine>

  • 1898 Phoenix United closes.

A diverging thread-innovation

Steam Capstan

Click here for information about the steam Capstan>

  • 1835 Installed at South Hooe mine

Horizontal whim

  • 1843 Installed at Par Consols

Sims compound

Click here for some information about the Sims compound engine>SimsCoverClose2

  • 1843 The Sims family granted West the licence to build the Sims compound engine, and West installed several large engines of this design in Devon and Cornwall.

Open work beams

Click here for some information about William West’s open work beams>

Click here for information about the President engine ( external link)>

  • 1846-1849 Cruquius engine 144″

 

“In 1869, the company’s engineer, Cornishman John West, was asked to design an engine capable of pumping 12,000 gals/min from a depth of 300 ft. His engine, a condensing, double-acting rotative beam engine weighing 675 tons, was unique, but proved to be as successful as it was gargantuan. With a 110-inch cylinder and two latticework beams, the engine worked pump rods in the shaft and a pair of huge flywheels inside the engine house.”NANCE, R. Damian,

The man engine

Click here for information about the Man engine>

Click here for information about the Loams>

man%20engine

28th July 1851 William West engine at Fowey Consol’s started

  • Powered by a  30 foot diameter water wheel, 12 foot strokes
  • Co-designer John Puckey
  • 1872  South Caradon engine installed
  • 20 October 1919 Levant man engine disaster

 

A final diverging thread- the engine

Austen’s engine performance

  • 1840 Hocking and Loam’s 85″ engine at Taylor’s United mine achieves 107m, the largest figure recorded in Lean’s
  • 1850s onwards-duties decline the battle is over.
  • 1905 The last issue of Lean’s is published.

Click here for some information about the engine reporters>

 

The old Ford engine startsw13

Click here for information about the double beat valve>

 

The double beat valve

Cholera

1866. Cholera’s final onslaught came through water provided by the East London waterworks


Reading list for William West of Tredenham

Click here for some recommended books on Amazon>

wpid-50150fcb361d2756f4bd40336f24004a.jpgIf you are passing through Liskeard then pop into The Book Shop to buy a copy of  The Last Great Engineer in their excellent local history section.

 

NavsBooksStore

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The James Sims Compound Engine- What did it look like?

Sims

James Sim’s had several connections with William West, and their relationship was a mixed one. As seen in an earlier post, he was one of the most vocal of the Austen’s Engine trial critics.   He would became related to West through marriage, when he William married his sister, Grace Sims.

The West-Sims business relationship would in time evolve from  bitter rivalry into a working partnership.  In 1843 the Sims family granted West the licence to build the Sims compound engine, and West installed several large engines of this design in Devon and Cornwall.

Jame’s engine was developed in the late 1830s. It used two cylinders one above the other; the smaller higher pressure cylinder sat on top of the larger lower pressure cylinder. The design was attempt to reduce the ‘kick’ being induced by using higher pressure steam. Unfortunately it required a taller, and therefore more expensive engine house, in addition to being difficult to maintain as a result of steam packing gland located deep within the engine, between the two cylinders. It was not a design that was widely adopted, although it did form the basis of the huge dutch engines at Cruiquis.

I have been hunting the web for a good picture of the design, as SimsCoverCloseso far this is the best I can discover. A cover of a book for sale at Plough books.  Feel free to comment if you have stumbled across others. The Cruquis museum on their excellent website has a diagram and description of its operation.

This is the best I have managed with the book cover, not a good image  I admit. It does show well the overall layout however, and more importantly, the impact its design had on the engine house. Having the high pressure cylinder stacked on top would have demanded a significantly taller building.


If you do know of some better images of this type of compound engines please post a message, I am sure there must be some better ones out there. Meanwhile the preparation for the Luxulyan valley talk continues….jm

 

 

 

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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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William West of Tredenham-Index of posts

 

wpid-screenshot_2015-08-21-17-43-45.pngNow that the series of posts on William West is over, it seems a good opportunity to index all the posts on this blog covering William West, the last great Cornish engineer. So if you wish to learn more about his life and works, have a wander around the posts.

William West- The boy who held a candle for Trevithick

West’s Double beat valve and the scourge of cholera

West and Darlington’s Hydraulic machinery

West’s Hydraulic accumulator

George Stevenson did not invent the railway

Phoenix United map

William West’s Caradon mines

William West The Last Great Cornish Engineer

William West-A Rapid Fire BiographyW50

West’s Lattice Beams-Aesthetic engineering

Liskeard’s Lloyds Bank and William West

Richard Nicholls Worth and ‘A Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham’

Luxullianite -West and Wellington

Luxullianite-A close up

w1310 Facts about William West, The Last Great Cornish Engineer

Phoenix United-William West’s Speech

1870-Phoenix United Mine, William West, and a grand day

The Man Engine- who invented it?

Steam Capstans- William West’s hidden invention

William West at Great Towan Mine-“a new era in duty of the steam engine”

William West and St. Blazey-Some mapsaustinpan

The Austen’s Engine trial

Austen’s engine trial, a letter from James Sims

Some threads in the history of the Last Great Cornish Engineer


The William West book  reading list.

NavsBooksStore

The last Great engineer bookwpid-wp-1415226867597.jpeg

 

 

Sketch of the life of William West C.E. of Tredenh51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_am-The last of the great Cornish Engineers

 

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William West at Great Towan Mine-“a new era in duty of the steam engine”

TowanHeather
Porthtowan is one of those locations that can only be in Cornwall. The idyllic blue mix of Atlantic surf, golden beaches and heather topped cliffs are punctuated by the scree of mine waste tips pouring down from long disused mine shafts. Where there are now holiday makers and second homes, there was once miners and engine houses; where now is heard the sound is now of playing children the hammering of the Cornish stamps once dominated.

On a day, sometime in 1828 a young William West was working on one of the engines that stood on here at Great Towan mine. It was no ordinary engine, for this was one of  Samuel Groses’s 80″record breaking steam engines at Druce’s and Wilson’s shafts. Groses’s understanding of thermal efficiency had been pushing the performance of his engines up and up. He was the star of the Cornish engineers of the time, his engines were dominating the performance league tables, and now he was determined to increase his lead further.

William West on that fateful day was also determined, he had an idea that, if successful,  would move steam engine efficiency along in another leap. If successful, it would also  move his own career in another leap.  And so, when Captain Grose away, the young west, the un-schooled  farmer’s son born on Dolcoath mine, made a bold request of Captain Vivian,  could he experiment with Grose’s  precious engine? Captain Vivian in what must have been a great act of faith, agreed.

OS1888Towan

Towan mines in 1888 

OS 1884 (survey 1881) Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Website

His plan was simple, and one that was an extension of the concepts proven so successful by Grose.  Captain Samuel Grose and made huge advances by insulating the huge cylinder of the steam engine. This insulation kept the precious heat energy where it was needed, in the cylinder. West took the idea further, right back to the Cornish Boiler where the high pressure steam was produced.

Os2016Towan

The Site of Great Towan in 2016

Ordnance Survey 2016 Contains OS data © Crown copyright  published under OGL

On that day the boiler and pipework had been lagged with sawdust. On that day, on the hill slopes above Porthtowan  another advance in steam engine technology was made. More water was raised for every bushel of coal fed into the boiler because less heat was wasted heating the air above Cornwall, and more heat went into producing the high pressure steam demanded by the engine.

WhymBoiler

West’s idea worked, and Grose on his return was impressed. He adopted West’s improvement, and was rewarded with the engine achieving a new record of 87 million duty. A result that Thomas Lean described as,

“Began, as it were, a new era in duty of the steam engine.”

But there was a flaw in West’s plan. A simple basic flaw, with disastrous consequences. Of all materials to encase a hot, fire filled, boiler with sawdust should not have been a first choice. The result was predictable, the sawdust caught fire, along with the roof and woodwork of the engine house.  But once the smoldering wood and been put out, the boiler was re-lagged, the lesson had been learnt, this time ash or burnt earth was used.

Grose gained the accolade of his achievements at Porthtowan, and West went on to make his own name.


 

For my Amazon Author Page, Click here>
authorspage

 

 

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William West- The boy who held a candle for Trevithick

 

I thought long and hard on which event to start the story of William West with. After some deliberation it boiled down to one of two good tales; the bottle of gin, teacher, and roaring open fire, or the Candle story.  It was the candle story that won, so if you desire to know more about the fate of the gin soaked teacher of West’s very brief education, then skip to the bottom of this page.

Trevithick’s cottage now lies , white washed and pristine, in the care of the National Trust in the village of Penpond, south  west of Camborne.

In that cottagimage003e during the evenings of 1808 an eight year old boy would stand holding a candle. Each evening he had walked across the fields from his Father’s farm on Dolcoath mine to hold that candle. Each evening he stood beside the great stature of  Richard Trevithick as the light he held flickered over his drawings.

Those drawings would be transformed by a Bridgenorth Foundry into a machine that Trevithick knew would change the world.  Under the light of West’s candle he was evolving his compact high pressure steam engine into what seemed to him a obvious concept. Add wheels beneath one of his high pressure engines, add rails beneath the wheels, add carriages behind the engine, and then  sit passengers in carriages. So obvious, so simple, and yet it would have the power to change society for ever. All Richard Trevithick needed to do was  show the world the world’s first  passenger train and then the world’s first passenger railway would soon follow.  In those evenings at Penponds he was designing the Catch-Me-Who-Can locomotive, the engine that was destined to pull that first passenger train.

And so the young West played his very small part in the birth of passenger railways. Holding that candle, whist listing to Trevithick, and soaking up his enthusiasm. How he was given that amazing opportunity  history does not tell us, what the link was between the greatest of all Cornish engineers and a farmer on Dolcoath mine history also fails to tell. History has left many gaps in the tale of West and Trevithick’s candle, but we do know where the story went.

The Catch-Me-Who-Can fulfilled its task of pulling a passenger train. A train that went  around and  around a circular track at Euston , pulling those first fare paw6ying
passengers at shilling a ride. Although the engine was a  success, the track proved a failure, brittle and not fit for the task, it caused  frequent, and sometimes dramatic derailments. The general public understandably were not impressed, Trevithick’s technology demonstrator  did not achieve the engineer’s vision, and he walked away from railway development for ever.
The world had missed its chance, it would now have to wait until on  1830 before the first passenger railway was open, George Stephenson’s Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
That eight year old boy would through a mixture of chance, skills, and perseverance wpid-p8191096.jpgbecome an engineer. Just like Trevethick he would design steam engines, and just like Trevithick he would add his innovations to the engineering world, but unlike Trevithick he would build and run his own successful railway.  William West was the boy that held the candle for Richard Trevithick.
To learn about that Gin fueled incident then have a read of  one of these:
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William West and St. Blazey-Some maps

The opportunity to give a talk at the Old Cornwall Society at Par has been an excuse to go exploring maps. An excuse to poke around the wonderful resources of the Scottish Library and Ordnance Survey websites to find traces of William West in and around Saint Blazey, 

Ordnance Survey 2016
Contains OS data © Crown copyright  published under OGL

OS 1884 (survey 1881)

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Website

DSCF3996

The Foundry from Tredenham House

Tredenham House, West’s gas works, West’s Foundry, West’s Hammer Mills  and Elmsleigh House

Map1881Tredenham

1881

This small section of map contain’s the center of West’s business empire, and his own private properties. The foundry is today a builder’s merchant.

Map2016OSTredenham

2016

Fowey Consols

OS1881FoweyConsols

1881

 

Fowey Consols was the site of West’s most famous steam engine engine, Austin’s. It was here that he first installed his new design of man engine,

OS2016FoweyConsols

2016

Par Consols

OS1881ParConsols

1881

Par Consol’s was where West erected Cornwall’s first steam capstan.

OS2016ParConsols

2016


Over the next set of posts this blog will be telling some of the tales behind these maps,the and wandering further afield  exploring some events in William West’s life. So if you wish to learn more about the Last Great Cornish engineer, follow the blog.


wpid-westcover.jpg

Click here for ‘The Last Great Engineer’

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William West of Tredenham- A gallop through his life

As I leave John Taylor behind and prepare for my talk at the Par old Cornwall Society this blog will become home for my random musings on William West, the last Great Cornish Engineer.  To set the scene for the next set of posts here is a gallop through  the famous engineer’s life:

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William West was born on  Dolcoath mine as the son of a farmer, had a poor start and poor education, but held a candle for Trevithick. He became an engineer through a mixture of skills, luck and contacts. He learnt shed loads from the best Cornish Engineer of the time, was head hunted to build a very famous steam engine, invented several things, became rich. Built lots of engines, became even richer. Bought a big mine, and yet again became richer. West was born poor, died rich, and was known on his death as the last great Cornish Engineer.

Oh yes…this is William West of Tredenham, not the other William West of Trevithick fame, be careful of confusion,their paths did cross several times, and some writers have merged their lives. This one was not related to Trevithick, whatever else you may read.

To learn a bit more, start following this blog. To learn even more read one of  these books.

51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_wpid-westcover.jpg

The Last Great Cornish Engineer (paperback)

Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham

 

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John Taylor’s St. Austell Mines-And a constructive rivalry

As this series of posts approaches its closure I finally get to bring William West into the story. He has had some brief appearances, but now the two paths start to intertwine.

Among the many Cornish mine’s that came under the Taylor’s control there was a group that merged to form a Taylor dominated district; that was those around St. Austell.  These coastal mines had been worked for many years, but from 1810 onwards they enjoyed a huge copper boom that made this district one of the most important in Cornwall.

John Taylor was behind this success, the  mines of Poolgooth, Pembroke Crinnis and Charlestown becoming very rich after he commenced working them.

Poolgooth

OS1883Poolgooth

OS 1884 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. Website

This was a mine with an ancient history, its workings being active hundreds of years before John Taylor’s arrival. By the 18th century the mine was one of the richest in Britain and its wealth justified the installation of an early 50-inch Newcomen steam engine erected in 1727 by Joseph Hornblower.  As technology moved on the engine was replaced in  1784 by a 58-inch Boulton & Watt engine. Taylor again updated the steam power in 1823 when he installed an n 80-inch William Sims engine.

From 1846 William West built several engines at the mine, some of which were built at his foundry in St. Austell.

 

Pembroke

OS1883Pembroke

OS 1884 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. Website

 Pembroke Mine was started before 1815 by John Taylor and worked until 1877. For a while he was very successful, becoming the second largest mine in the county.

For a while west’s long stroke 80″ engine was installed here. This remarkable 12 foot long stroke engine was built by Harvey’s of Hayle for Fowey Consols. From there it was moved to Par Consols, before being installed at New Pembroke in 1869.  That was not its final resting place for in 1879:

The very last, though not the least, mining work on which he was engaged was the taking down of an 80″ engine at New Pembroke, making good all the repairs, and refixing, with other additional machinery, at the Great Holiday(sic) Mines Flintshire”.

Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham

Crinnis

OS1883Crinnis

OS 1884 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. Website

This mine was originally known as Crinnins Cliff Mine which dated from 1811. It rapidly became a large producer of copper, 10,000 in 1812 and 40,000 by 1816, and all at shallow depths. This spectacular performance encouraged an influx of investment into the area, its copper reserves proved that significant amounts of ore could be found in the eastern half of Cornwall.

 Unfortunately it quickly exhausted its reserves , its mining boom was short lived. It  closed temporarily in about 1833, and reopened again in 1854 as Great Crinnis. After another closure it ended its life in the late 1870s as Great Crinnis and Carlyon Consols.

To the East

This John Taylor controlled mining district had a rival to the east. As the coastline turned towards Par Harbour it entered was Jospeh Austen’s ( latet Treffry) domain. Austen was an industrialist whose business empire in many way’s resembled Taylor’s. He also had canals and railway’s built, he also owned many mines, and he also used heavy investment in technology.

wpid-westcover.jpgAusten and Taylor’s rivalry found outlet in the arena of the battle of the duties. This was the drive to produce the best performing steam engine, a battle which Taylor was at the fore with his consolidated engines. Austen was determined to own an engine that would 51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_out perform any of Taylor’s. From this desire William West’s famous ‘Austin’s’ engine was born……but that is of course another story.


Click here for details of ‘The last Great Engineer’ William West>

Click here for information of the Sketch of the life of William West>

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