One of the most interesting, but least visually prominent of the South Caradon engine houses.
It housed a horizontal 22″ (or 24″) single cylinder engine, a type pioneered in Cornwall by William West.
The building has been demolished and stone robbed but its outline can still be identified. A deep hollow to the east identifies the location of its boiler house. The chimney still stands behind the boiler house.
The prominent blocks of masonry are the granite loading for the winding gear. It does not however appear to line up with the shaft. The Brenton Symons map shows the engine as WE to the north of what is marked as “New Shaft”.
This is a bit of a jump in the South Caradon Engine house posts, a jump across the southern slopes of Caradon Hill to the most easterly of the mine’s shafts. This jump has been inspired by my recent visit to the visits to one of Will Coleman’s amazing Man Engine Puppet events.
The man engine’s modern manifestation is working it way through the UK’s mining districts as this post is being written, its mechanical spectacle enthralling crowds wherever it ‘resurrects’. Meanwhile, up on Caradon Hill, sits hidden away behind waste tips, the remains of the last of the original man engines. This post describes those historic remains at South Caradon Mine.
The man engine moves
This was the second site that this William West designed man engine operated from, its original location being on the western end of the site at Jope’s Shaft. Its move to Kitto’s reflected the movement of production eastwards across this the hill as it chased the riches of the Caunter Lode.
The Man Engine was moved here in 1884. The equipment movement did not include the power supply, because a different engine was used used. The engine was a small 23″ single cylinder horizontal engine.
One closure of the mine this steam engine may have been sold to West Wheal Grenville, an unsuccessful adventure that quickly failed. (Ref Kenneth Brown)
This an interesting set of remains. The flywheel loading is clearly visible with a prominent semi-circular cut out for the flywheel. and holes for the holding down bolts. This is the remains of the reduction gearing and crank that drove a short length of flat-rod to the shaft.To the east a depression marks the site of a balance bob.
Brenton Symons published his map at a time when Cornish mining, its miners, methods, and engineering dominated hard rock mining all over the world. This map reproduces his map of the Liskeard, Menheniot and Ludcott mining districts at the peak of their production, when their output dominated mining in Cornwall.
This publication uses the original Victorian map as a starting point to explore the mines of the district. Each map extract is accompanied by a history of the adventure, and a description of its activities in 1863.
This is a book that uses the Kindle format to bring a fascinating Victorian document back to life; forming an invaluable resource for anyone studying the history of Cornish Mining, or for those wishing to discover more about the amazing landscape of Bodmin Moor.
The maps display best in the Kindle Fires, tablets or phones running a Kindle reader where the colours can be seen to their full advantage. If you intend purchasing the book for an e-ink reader, then I suggest you download a sample first to check the grey scale contrast on your device.
The resurrection of the old South Caradon Website continues with another engine house.
Pearce’s engine house is one the most distinctive of all Cornish Engine house ruins. What it lacks in grandeur , it replaces with a strong Gothic profile; a profile that has emerged from its decay. Pearce’s hill slope location above the Seaton Valley make it a prominent landmark and its distinctive look arises from an unusual buttressed wall.
Pearce’s shaft is located uphill from Sump Shaft. It was sunk on main lode, but cross-cuts also gave access to other lodes to the north and south.
The pumps on this shaft were originally powered by flat-rods running uphill from the winding engine at Sump Shaft.
These rods were replaced by Pearce’s 50″ engine in 1870, relatively late in the mine’s life.
Reasons suggested for the distinctive buttressing are unstable ground, or the angle of the shaft. The shaft may have been sunk on the underlie from the surface, as opposed to the normal practice having a short vertical section before following the lode at an angle. Why this was does is not known, but it would have resulted in the engine house requiring additional support to oppose the forces pulling it down the sloping shaft.
The unusual buttresses are clearly visible on the north side supporting the collapsing bob wall, and the tallest remaining wall corner supports the chimney stump. The boiler house is on the western side and only foundations remain. More obvious is the reservoir pond, sited close uphill, which has a large retaining wall on its southern end.
If you fancy a quick browse around the Amazon store for some South Caradon Mine related books, then click on these links to try some pre-made searches. If you have a local independent bookshop that stocks local history books, then pop along and ask if they hold the titles on the shelves.
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 and 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
Thread 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
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
1825 Grose erected his engine at the Wheal Hope Mine . This engine first introduced 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.
“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
“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,
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 so 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