Protecting the only Cornish Engine House in the USA
A quick break from the South Caradon series of posts to pass on some news about from across the Atlantic. Here is an update from Mark Connar on activity a the President Engine house, a house that had close connections with William West.
“Lehigh University (the property owner) has now leveled the land surrounding the engine house, removed much of the destructive vegetation and has installed a protective fence around the engine house and the pump shaft immediately in front of the engine house. Unfortunately, the site continues to experience vandalism largely in the form of graffiti tagging and Lehigh is seeking solutions to this problem.
The Lehigh University has submitted at the end of February an application for a preservation planning grant to the PA Historical and Museum Commission. Lehigh, through the grant process, is requesting funding to evaluate the engine house and other remains on the site as well as the potential to convert the site into a public recreation/heritage location. Some of the activities contemplated as part of the grant includes structural/stabilization analysis of the engine house and the creation of a 3-D scan of the existing structure to establish a current condition baseline. Other activities include a cultural resource assessment and other property survey work which would support future development.
Lehigh has an innovative, award winning academic program called the Technical Entrepreneurship Capstone program. One of the Capstone classes underway for this Spring and next Fall semester involves 7 undergraduate students, with concentrations in multiple disciplines, working together to develop heritage park concepts and to create an animated virtual reality model of the President pumping engine. The funding for this initiative is also being partially provided by Lehigh’s Office of Sustainability Green Fund. It is very exciting to follow the progress of these motivated students!”
A boiler is found
“One of the boiler’s riveted 30-foot-long steam drums was found to still exist, resting on saddles on the mud floor basement of a former furniture factory on Front Street in Allentown still in use as a water holding tank!”
A date for the diary
Michael Kaas, Dr. Gerard Lennon and Mark Connar are scheduled to present on the Ueberroth Mine/President Pump and how Lehigh University students are supporting the preservation efforts at the 47th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial Archeology in Richmond Va. in June 2018.
William West the Last Great Cornish Engineer
William West was the uncle of John West, the President engine’s engineer. ‘The Last Great Cornish Engineer’ tells the fascinating rags to riches story of William West of Tredenham.
Christmas is well gone and past, and so this series of posts on South Caradon mine has restarted. Winter brought with it one of those amazing clear air days last weekend, no mist, no drizzle no rain, just pure blue light. And so, armed with a camera and Christmas cake and set off to Caradon hill to update some of my photographs of the mine.
Jope’s Shaft pumping engine house is the best preserved on South Caradon Mine, with its ivy clad engine house and chimney still standing to full height. It is fascinating engine house, packed with features.
Jope’s shaft is located on the south western corner of Caradon Hill , overlooking the entrance to Seaton Coombe.
It possibly housed one of the few Sims compound engines built in Cornwall the shaft was also historically important as the site of the last man engine to be built.
This is no ordinary engine house. This is an engine house with it has its plug door located at a level higher than normal instead of being on the same floor as the cylinder bed it hangs precariously one level up. Why this should be seems to a subject of disagreement, with two conflicting theories.
The engine transfer theory
This 60″ engine was built in New for South Garras lead mine in 1855 at Landeryou’s shaft. That mine was not a success, and the engine was sold to South Caradon in 1862.
Kenneth Brown in his excellent exploring Cornish Mines book (vol 2) explains that sometimes plug doorways were placed in a raised position when the cylinder was set down into loading to reduce the height of the engine house. This arrangement resulted in a raised engine driver’s position.
This was not case at Jope’s but may have been the case at South Gerras.
The Sims engine theory
This is the explanation given by Adam Sharpe in the Minion’s study (cau). The study states that the engine was a Sim’s compound, a design of engine that William West, South Caradon’s engineer, was an enthusiast of.
This was single acting Cornish engine in which the smaller steam cylinder was mounted above a larger low pressure cylinder, with the pistons having a common rod.
The engine was devised by James Sims in the 1840s. The duty was rarely more than a conventional engine, and its complexity and difficult maintenance meant that most Sims compound engines had short lives.
When it comes to Cornish engines Kenneth Brown was rarely wrong. This is a pity in this case, for Sims engine at South Caradon would be a wonderful example of Wests’s Sim’s compound installations. If you have more information, or comments, or views on the engine please pass me a message to share on this site.
Features to be found
This is a engine house rich in features.
The three piece granite Bedstone is still in place within the engine house, the cylinder holding down bolt holes clearly visible. Beyond the stones the cockpit/cataract pit is still open (the underfloor space were the valve timing mechanism was located). The eduction pipe is opening can be seen at the base of the bob wall, and on the western wing wall the opening for the steam pipe down to the boiler house is obvious.
To the west of the engine house is clearly defined remains of the Boilerhouse, a house which has evidence of a third boiler was added later in the engine’s life.
The Chimney putlog holes
The stack at Jope’s has one of the best examples of putlog holes in Cornwall. These holes in the side of the chimney are the remains of a crude form of scaffolding used to build the structure. Planks were inserted in the holes as the chimney rose skywards to give the masons safe footholds.
Many other fascinating remains surround the engine house, but these I will leave to a later post when I resurrect the map of the Jope’s shaft area.
This blog is written to enhance the enjoyment of those exploring Cornwall’s amazing landscape and history. It is not intended as a guide for walkers. If you are exploring industrial landscapes in Cornwall, please check the rights of way with the latest Ordnance Survey map, and take great care of yourself and anyone else accompanying you. Despite of all the due care and diligence shown by landowners, any open access ground can be dangerous to those not ensuring aware of the risks around them. So look after yourself.
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.
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.
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.
Looking from the north-east corner, the whim cage loadings are on the right.
The inside of the winding house, looking up the alignment of flat-rods
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.
In my threads of history talk on the William West, ‘The Last Great Cornish Engineer’ I gave a passing mention to an example of a lattice work beam in the USA. Now that the preparation for that talk is over, I have the chance to follow that thread of history, a thread that leads to events many miles away across the Atlantic.
The open lattice work beam was a design used on by William West on all his most important engines, but it was a design rarely copied by other engineers. The only two non William West lattice beams I know of is the massive Cruquius engine in the Netherlands the ‘President’ engine at Pennsylvania. Both engines are examples of the massive size that the Cornish Engine principle reached towards the end of its development, and both engine have indirect links with William West.
The Cruquius was the largest steam engine in the world, and the President was the largest beam engine in the USA. The latter engine had family connections with William West, so it is the history of that engine that I hope to explore in a bit more depth in this blog.
I will dig into two rich sources of material as I explore; the research of Damian Nance, and Mark Connar. I am not yet sure where this wander across the Atlantic will take this blog, but I am sure there will be some fascinating stories to uncover. So feel free to follow this blog, and enjoy the journey
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….
From 1831 onward, Treffry and West’s success became intertwined, and therefore, to gain an understanding of how their two lives crossed paths I have dipped into “The king of Mid Cornwall” by John Keast and pulled out some key dates from Treffy’s life and linked them with William West’s timeline.
These dates do not represent a full account of Treffry’s life, but will a give a framework onto which to add other facts.
Joseph Thomas Austin
The King of Mid Cornwall
J.T Austin, later to be named Treffry, was a remarkable figure. He man
aged to transform a relatively small and financially decaying estate until a large industrial and commercial empire. Treffry created an integrated business whose influence spread outwards from Fowey to dominate mid-Cornwall. It was a business that included transport links, mines, quarries, ships and manufacturing.
He was baptized at St. Andrew’s Church Plymouth. The Austens Came from Great Deviock in St. Germans Parish, but later settled in the Friary Plymouth. Joseph’s Father Jacob was a brewer, his mother was Susanna Treffry of Place Fowey.
His father died.
His Mother inherited estate from her brother.
Austen was sent to Exeter college Oxford.
His sister Sarah died, leaving Joseph as the only child
Austen Became involved in an unsuccessful attempt to move post office packet station from Falmouth to Fowey, he helped boat’s crew to survey harbour.
Austen was speaker at political meeting organised by Colman Rasheigh for political reform
He purchased Penventinue farm from the Boconnoc Estate. With it came the area of Caffa Mill where he built a lime kiln salt cellars. This was the site of Austn’s first commercial ventures. He built first ships here, and in later years built waterwheel to power an incline up to to a field near kiln 360ft above sea level; limestone, manure and sea sand used the same route.
Early evidence of Austen investing in mining ventures.
Active member of Friends of freedom and The Reform Society.
Austen buys shares in Wheal Treasure, this would later develop into Fowey Consols.
Contract signed by William Petherick for Austen’s engine.
Austen’s engine set to work.
Austin proposed a suspension bridge across the River Fowey as part of a new Torpoint to Truro road. William West had previosely visited Sunderland to inspection bridge there as an example of what could be achieved.
Engineer James M. Rendel produces survey of proposed new coast road.
This list is extracted from his estate act 1853, as reproduced in “The King of mid-Cornwall”. An idea of the range of Treffry’s interests can be gained from this list.
Tramway and Branches
Coal, Iron, Timber, granite, clay and claystone dealer
J.T. Austin (Treffry) had a major influence on the success of William West of Tredenham, and his life story and works is one that deserves further exploration. Among the events listed above are many that tempt me to discover more. Unfortunately distraction will not get the talk researched, so this blog will therefore return to him in the future. Meanwhile on to the next topic….Fowey Consols I suspect.
Navsbooks>William West>Austen’s Engine Trial The focal point of my talk at Luxulyan has to be the Austen engine at Fowey Consols. This post explains why.
An historic event at Fowey Consols
Overlooking St. Blazey Gate in Cornwall on October 22nd 1835 a crowd of the respectable, skilled and knowledgeable gathered to witness an event that would be a landmark in steam engineering history. It would be an event that would change the life forever of its engineer, enshrine the name of a landowner in history, bring wealth to a famous foundry and have have impact wherever water needed to be pumped in Britain.
Austen’s 80″ Cornish steam engine at Fowey Consols was at the center of the event. Expert witnesses watched as coal stores were measures, stores locked, meters read, machinery inspections conducted and measurements taken. The objective of the day was simple to measure the efficiency of the engine in its ability to pump water out from the depths of the mine hundreds of feet below its foundations.
As an activity this was not unique, for since 1811 all over Cornwall engines’ efficiency had been measured, recorded and published. ‘Duty’ was the unit of measurement used, and a publication now refereed to as ‘Leans Engine Reporter’ publicly shared the results; results that had driven a technology race in Cornish Mines.
What made the measurement of duty at Austen’s engine in 1835 was that this was a trial to prove or disprove the claims of duty being made for this engine. This was an engine whose arrival within the tables of Leans was with figures that outperformed all the existing famous engines in Cornwall. In addition its joint engineers, William West and William Petherick were relatively unknown in the public arena. The pair did not have a record of high performing engines, and their arrival straight to the top of the league tables sparked disbelief and accusations of foul play. And so the trial was organised, to prove in controlled conditions that Austen’s engine actually performing as the engineers claimed.
The mechanics of the trial required all the factors that made up the measurement of duty to be recorded. That is the amount of water lifted, by what distance with how much coal.
And so the coal was measured, the length of pump stroke measured and number of strokes taken by the large beam engine recorded. The resulting figure was a measurement of how much coal was needed to raise water from the depths of a Cornish mine. A figure of great importance to Cornwall, where its mine’s where deep, water was in abundance and coal expensive.
On the 23rd of October 1835 the trial finished. Measurements were taken and calculations complete; the resulting figure was spectacular. Austen’s engine had achieved 125 million duty, a performance that broke the existing records, and a performance that would never be overtaken by any other engine.
That day on Fowey Consols Cornish Steam engine technology appears to have reached its zenith. I say appears, because history is never as simple as that, disputes, accusations and controversy followed in the wake of the trial, and the duty recording system collapsed soon afterwards.
125 million did have its impact on history, despite of
the controversy. William West became very rich on its reputation, Harvey’s of Hayle would gain large amounts of extra work, and its influence would eventually result in improvements in clean water supply in the rapidly expanding British cities.
For another post about duty from this blog, ‘ Lean’s reporter, John Taylor and some layers of history ‘Click here>