Beam engine

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A Watt engine: showing entry of steam and water Watt7783.png
A Watt engine: showing entry of steam and water

A beam engine is a type of steam engine where a pivoted overhead beam is used to apply the force from a vertical piston to a vertical connecting rod. This configuration, with the engine directly driving a pump, was first used by Thomas Newcomen around 1705 to remove water from mines in Cornwall. The efficiency of the engines was improved by engineers including James Watt, who added a separate condenser; Jonathan Hornblower and Arthur Woolf, who compounded the cylinders; and William McNaught, who devised a method of compounding an existing engine. Beam engines were first used to pump water out of mines or into canals, but could be used to pump water to supplement the flow for a waterwheel powering a mill.

Steam engine Heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid

A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid. The steam engine uses the force produced by steam pressure to push a piston back and forth inside a cylinder. This pushing force is transformed, by a connecting rod and flywheel, into rotational force for work. The term "steam engine" is generally applied only to reciprocating engines as just described, not to the steam turbine.

Beam (structure) structural element capable of withstanding load by resisting bending

A beam is a structural element that primarily resists loads applied laterally to the beam's axis. Its mode of deflection is primarily by bending. The loads applied to the beam result in reaction forces at the beam's support points. The total effect of all the forces acting on the beam is to produce shear forces and bending moments within the beam, that in turn induce internal stresses, strains and deflections of the beam. Beams are characterized by their manner of support, profile, equilibrium conditions, length, and their material.

Piston moving component of reciprocating engines that is contained by a cylinder and is made gas-tight by piston rings

A piston is a component of reciprocating engines, reciprocating pumps, gas compressors and pneumatic cylinders, among other similar mechanisms. It is the moving component that is contained by a cylinder and is made gas-tight by piston rings. In an engine, its purpose is to transfer force from expanding gas in the cylinder to the crankshaft via a piston rod and/or connecting rod. In a pump, the function is reversed and force is transferred from the crankshaft to the piston for the purpose of compressing or ejecting the fluid in the cylinder. In some engines, the piston also acts as a valve by covering and uncovering ports in the cylinder.

Contents

The cast-iron beam of the 1812 Boulton & Watt engine at Crofton Pumping Station - the oldest working, in situ example in the world Uk-crofton-pumping-station-beam-gallery.jpg
The cast-iron beam of the 1812 Boulton & Watt engine at Crofton Pumping Station the oldest working, in situ example in the world
Back of Museum De Cruquius near Amsterdam, an old pumping station used to pump dry the Haarlemmermeer. It shows the beams of the pumping engine and the 9 meter drop in water level from the Spaarne river. The beam engine is the largest ever constructed, and was in use till 1933. Cruquius-gemaal-achter.jpg
Back of Museum De Cruquius near Amsterdam, an old pumping station used to pump dry the Haarlemmermeer. It shows the beams of the pumping engine and the 9 meter drop in water level from the Spaarne river. The beam engine is the largest ever constructed, and was in use till 1933.
The remains of a water-powered beam engine at Wanlockhead Wanlockhead Beam Engine.jpg
The remains of a water-powered beam engine at Wanlockhead

The rotative beam engine is a later design of beam engine where the connecting rod drives a flywheel, by means of a crank (or, historically, by means of a sun and planet gear). These beam engines could be used to directly power the line-shafting in a mill. They also could be used to power steam ships.

Flywheel mechanical wheel specifically designed to efficiently store kinetic energy

A flywheel is a mechanical device specifically designed to efficiently store rotational energy. Flywheels resist changes in rotational speed by their moment of inertia. The amount of energy stored in a flywheel is proportional to the square of its rotational speed and its mass. The way to change a flywheel's stored energy without changing its mass is by increasing or decreasing its rotational speed. Since flywheels act as mechanical energy storage devices, they are the kinetic-energy-storage analogue to electrical capacitors, for example, which are a type of accumulator. Like other types of accumulators, flywheels smooth the ripple in power output, providing surges of high power output as required, absorbing surges of high power input as required, and in this way act as low-pass filters on the mechanical velocity of the system.

Crank (mechanism) simple machine

A crank is an arm attached at a right angle to a rotating shaft by which reciprocating motion is imparted to or received from the shaft. It is used to convert circular motion into reciprocating motion, or vice versa. The arm may be a bent portion of the shaft, or a separate arm or disk attached to it. Attached to the end of the crank by a pivot is a rod, usually called a connecting rod (conrod). The end of the rod attached to the crank moves in a circular motion, while the other end is usually constrained to move in a linear sliding motion.

Sun and planet gear

The sun and planet gear is a method of converting reciprocating motion to rotary motion and was used in the first rotative beam engines.

History

The first beam engines were water-powered, and used to pump water from mines. A preserved example may be seen at the Straitsteps Lead Mine in Wanlockhead in Scotland.

Wanlockhead beam engine beam engine in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK

The Wanlockhead beam engine is located close to the Wanlock Water below Church Street on the B797 in the village of Wanlockhead, Parish of Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. The site is in the Lowther Hills above the Mennock Pass, a mile south of Leadhills in the Southern Uplands. This is the only remaining original water powered beam engine in the United Kingdom and still stands at its original location. It ceased working circa 1910 after installation circa 1870.

Scotland Country in Northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, with a border with England to the southeast, and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Beam engines were extensively used to power pumps on the English canal system when it was expanded by means of locks early in the Industrial Revolution, and also to drain water from mines in the same period, and as winding engines.

Pump Device that moves fluids by mechanical action

A pump is a device that moves fluids, or sometimes slurries, by mechanical action. Pumps can be classified into three major groups according to the method they use to move the fluid: direct lift, displacement, and gravity pumps.

Canal Man-made channel for water

Canals are waterways channels, or artificial waterways, for water conveyance, or to service water transport vehicles. They may also help with irrigation. It can be thought of as an artificial version of a river.

Industrial Revolution Transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the 18th-19th centuries

The Industrial Revolution, now also known as the First Industrial Revolution, was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power and water power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the mechanized factory system. The Industrial Revolution also led to an unprecedented rise in the rate of population growth.

The first steam-related beam engine was developed by Thomas Newcomen. This was not, strictly speaking, steam powered, as the steam introduced below the piston was condensed to create a partial vacuum thus allowing atmospheric pressure to push down the piston. It was therefore called an Atmospheric Engine. The Newcomen atmospheric engine was adopted by many mines in Cornwall and elsewhere, but it was relatively inefficient and consumed a large quantity of fuel. The engine was improved by John Smeaton but James Watt resolved the main inefficiencies of the Newcomen engine in his Watt steam engine by the addition of a separate condenser, thus allowing the cylinder to remain hot. Technically this was still an atmospheric engine until (under subsequent patents) he enclosed the upper part of the cylinder, introducing steam to also push the piston down. This made it a true steam engine and arguably confirms him as the inventor of the steam engine. He also patented the centrifugal governor and the parallel motion. the latter allowed the replacement of chains round an arch head and thus allowed its use as a rotative engine.

Thomas Newcomen English inventor

Thomas Newcomen was an English inventor who created the atmospheric engine, the first practical fuel-burning engine in 1712. He was an ironmonger by trade and a Baptist lay preacher by calling. He was born in Dartmouth, Devon, England, to a merchant family and baptised at St. Saviour's Church on 28 February 1664. In those days flooding in coal and tin mines was a major problem, and Newcomen was soon engaged in trying to improve ways to pump out the water from such mines. His ironmonger's business specialised in designing, manufacturing and selling tools for the mining industry.

Newcomen atmospheric engine Early engine invented by Thomas Newcomen.

The atmospheric engine was invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712, and is often referred to simply as a Newcomen engine. The engine was operated by condensing steam drawn into the cylinder, thereby creating a partial vacuum which allowed the atmospheric pressure to push the piston into the cylinder. It was the first practical device to harness steam to produce mechanical work. Newcomen engines were used throughout Britain and Europe, principally to pump water out of mines. Hundreds were constructed through the 18th century.

Cornwall County of England

Cornwall is a ceremonial county in South West England, bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by Devon, the River Tamar forming the border between them. Cornwall is the westernmost part of the South West Peninsula of the island of Great Britain. The southwesternmost point is Land's End and the southernmost Lizard Point. Cornwall has a population of 563,600 and an area of 3,563 km2 (1,376 sq mi). The county has been administered since 2009 by the unitary authority, Cornwall Council. The ceremonial county of Cornwall also includes the Isles of Scilly, which are administered separately. The administrative centre of Cornwall is Truro, its only city.

His patents remained in place until the start of the 19th Century and some say that this held back development. However, in reality development had been ongoing by others and at the end of the patent period there was an explosion of new ideas and improvements. Watt's beam engines were used commercially in much larger numbers and many continued to run for 100 years or more.

Watt held patents on key aspects of his engine's design, but his rotative engine was equally restricted by James Pickard's patent of the simple crank. The beam engine went on to be considerably improved and enlarged in the tin- and copper-rich areas of south west England, which enabled the draining of the deep mines that existed there. Consequently, the Cornish beam engines became world-famous, as they remain among the most massive beam engines ever constructed.

James Pickard was an English inventor. He modified the Newcomen engine in a manner that it could deliver a rotary motion. His solution, which he patented in 1780, involved the combined use of a crank and a flywheel.

Cornish engine

A Cornish engine is a type of steam engine developed in Cornwall, England, mainly for pumping water from a mine. It is a form of beam engine that uses steam at a higher pressure than the earlier engines designed by James Watt. The engines were also used for powering man engines to assist the underground miners' journeys to and from their working levels, for winching materials into and out of the mine, and for powering on-site ore stamping machinery.

Because of the number of patents on various parts of the engines and the consequences of patent infringements, examples exist of Beam Engines with no makers name on any of the parts (Hollycombe Steam Collection).

Rotative beam engines

A small rotative beam engine, built in 1870 by Thomas Horn to a design by James Watt. The crank is visible at the front, the flywheel part-hidden by the engine. (Originally installed in a waterworks in Ashford, now operational and preserved at the Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway.) Thomas Horn Beam Engine.JPG
A small rotative beam engine, built in 1870 by Thomas Horn to a design by James Watt. The crank is visible at the front, the flywheel part-hidden by the engine. (Originally installed in a waterworks in Ashford, now operational and preserved at the Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway.)
Beam machine by Thomas Horn Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci", Milan. Macchina vapore Horn Museo scienza e tecnologia Milano.jpg
Beam machine by Thomas Horn Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci", Milan.

In a rotative beam engine, the piston is mounted vertically, and the piston rod drives the beam as before. A connecting rod from the other end of the beam, rather than driving a pump rod, now drives a flywheel.

Early Watt engines used Watt's patent sun and planet gear, rather than a simple crank, as use of the latter was protected by a patent owned by James Pickard. Once the patent had expired, the simple crank was employed universally. Once rotary motion had been achieved a drive belt could be attached beside the flywheel. This transmitted the power to other drive shafts and from these other belts could then be attached to power a variety of static machinery e.g. threshing, grinding or milling machines.

Marine beam engines

The first steam-powered ships used variants of the rotative beam engine. These marine steam engines – known as side-lever, grasshopper, crosshead, or 'walking beam', among others – all varied from the original land-based machines by locating the beam or beams in different positions to take up less room on board ship.

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Rotative beam engines at Wikimedia Commons

Compounding

Compounding involves two or more cylinders; low-pressure steam from the first, high-pressure, cylinder is passed to the second cylinder where it expands further and provides more drive. This is the compound effect; the waste steam from this can produce further work if it is then passed into a condenser in the normal way. The first experiment with compounding was conducted by Jonathan Hornblower, who took out a patent in 1781. His first engine was installed at Tincroft Mine, Cornwall. It had two cylinders – one 21-inch (0.53 m) diameter with 6-foot (1.8 m) stroke and one 27-inch (0.69 m) diameter with 8-foot (2.4 m) stroke – placed alongside each other at one end of the beam. The early engines showed little performance gain: the steam pressure was too low, interconnecting pipes were of small diameter and the condenser ineffective. [1]

At this time the laws of thermodynamics were not adequately understood, particularly the concept of absolute zero. Engineers such as Arthur Woolf were trying to tackle an engineering problem with an imperfect understanding of the physics. In particular, their valve gear was cutting-in at the wrong position in the stroke, not allowing for expansive working in the cylinder. Successful Woolf compound engines were produced in 1814, for the Wheal Abraham copper mine and the Wheal Vor tin mine. [2]

McNaught engines

William McNaught patented a compound beam engine in 1845. On a beam engine of the standard Boulton & Watt design he placed a high-pressure cylinder, on the opposite side of the beam to the existing single cylinder, where the water pump was normally fitted. This had two important effects: it massively reduced the pressure on the beam, and the connecting steam pipe, being long, acted as an expansive receiver – the element missing in the Woolf design. [3] This modification could be made retrospectively, and engines so modified were said to be "McNaughted". The advantages of a compound engine were not significant at pressures under 60 pounds per square inch (410 kPa), but showed at over 100 psi (690 kPa).[ citation needed ]

Preserved beam engines

Baseplate and mahogany lagging, beam engine, British Engineerium, Brighton Engineerium beam engine baseplate.jpg
Baseplate and mahogany lagging, beam engine, British Engineerium, Brighton

See also

Related Research Articles

James Watt British engineer

James Watt was a Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer, and chemist who improved on Thomas Newcomen's 1712 Newcomen steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1776, which was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.

Thomas Savery British steam engineer

Thomas Savery was an English inventor and engineer, born at Shilstone, a manor house near Modbury, Devon, England. He invented the first commercially used steam powered device, a steam pump which is often referred to as an "engine". Savery's "engine" was a revolutionary method of pumping water, which solved the problem of mine drainage and made widespread public water supply practicable.

Watt steam engine Industrial Revolution era stream engine design

The Watt steam engine, alternatively known as the Boulton and Watt steam engine, was an early steam engine and was one of the driving forces of the industrial revolution. James Watt developed the design sporadically from 1763 to 1775 with support from Matthew Boulton. Watt's design saved so much more fuel compared with earlier designs that they were licensed based on the amount of fuel they would save. Watt never ceased developing the steam engine, introducing double-acting designs and various systems for taking off rotary power. Watt's design became synonymous with steam engines, and it was many years before significantly new designs began to replace the basic Watt design.

Richard Trevithick British steam and mining engineer

Richard Trevithick was a British inventor and mining engineer from Cornwall, England, UK. The son of a mining captain, and born in the mining heartland of Cornwall, Trevithick was immersed in mining and engineering from an early age. He performed poorly in school, but went on to be an early pioneer of steam-powered road and rail transport. His most significant contribution was the development of the first high-pressure steam engine. He also built the first full-scale working railway steam locomotive. The world's first locomotive-hauled railway journey took place on 21 February 1804, when Trevithick's unnamed steam locomotive hauled a train along the tramway of the Penydarren Ironworks, in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

Stationary steam engine Fixed steam engine for pumping or power generation

Stationary steam engines are fixed steam engines used for pumping or driving mills and factories, and for power generation. They are distinct from locomotive engines used on railways, traction engines for heavy steam haulage on roads, steam cars, agricultural engines used for ploughing or threshing, marine engines, and the steam turbines used as the mechanism of power generation for most nuclear power plants.

Steam power developed slowly over a period of several hundred years, progressing through expensive and fairly limited devices in the early 17th century, to useful pumps for mining in 1700, and then to Watt's improved steam engine designs in the late 18th century. It is these later designs, introduced just when the need for practical power was growing due to the Industrial Revolution, that truly made steam power commonplace.

Compound steam engine type of steam engine where steam is expanded in two or more stages

A compound steam engine unit is a type of steam engine where steam is expanded in two or more stages. A typical arrangement for a compound engine is that the steam is first expanded in a high-pressure (HP) cylinder, then having given up heat and losing pressure, it exhausts directly into one or more larger-volume low-pressure (LP) cylinders. Multiple-expansion engines employ additional cylinders, of progressively lower pressure, to extract further energy from the steam.

Improvements to the steam engine were some of the most important technologies of the Industrial Revolution, although steam did not replace water power in importance in Britain until after the Industrial Revolution. From Englishman Thomas Newcomen's atmospheric engine, of 1712, through major developments by Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer James Watt, the steam engine began to be used in many industrial settings, not just in mining, where the first engines had been used to pump water from deep workings. Early mills had run successfully with water power, but by using a steam engine a factory could be located anywhere, not just close to water. Water power varied with the seasons and was not always available.

Arthur Woolf Cornish engineer

Arthur Woolf was a Cornish engineer, most famous for inventing a high-pressure compound steam engine. As such he made an outstanding contribution to the development and perfection of the Cornish engine.

History of the steam engine

The first recorded rudimentary steam engine was the aeolipile described by Heron of Alexandria in 1st-century Roman Egypt. Several steam-powered devices were later experimented with or proposed, such as Taqi al-Din's steam jack, a steam turbine in 16th-century Ottoman Egypt, and Thomas Savery's steam pump in 17th-century England. In 1712, Thomas Newcomen's atmospheric engine became the first commercially successful engine using the principle of the piston and cylinder, which was the fundamental type steam engine used until the early 20th century. The steam engine was used to pump water out of coal mines

Whitbread Engine

The Whitbread Engine preserved in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, built in 1785, is one of the first rotative steam engines ever built, and is the oldest surviving. A rotative engine is a type of beam engine where the reciprocating motion of the beam is converted to rotary motion, producing a continuous power source suitable for driving machinery.

Consolidated Mines

Consolidated Mines, also known as Great Consolidated mine, but most commonly called Consols or Great Consols was a metalliferous mine about a mile ESE of the village of St Day, Cornwall, England. Mainly active during the first half of the 19th century, its mining sett was about 600 yards north–south; and 2,700 yards east–west, to the east of Carharrack. Although always much troubled by underground water, the mine was at times highly profitable, and it was the largest single producer of copper ore in Cornwall. Today the mine is part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.

<i>Old Bess</i> (beam engine)

Old Bess is an early beam engine built by the partnership of Boulton and Watt. The engine was constructed in 1777 and worked until 1848.

Cataract (beam engine)

A cataract was a speed governing device used for early single-acting beam engines, particularly atmospheric engines and Cornish engines.

Resolution was an early beam engine, installed between 1781–1782 at Coalbrookdale as a water-returning engine to power the blast furnaces and ironworks there. It was one of the last water-returning engines to be constructed, before the rotative beam engine made this type of engine obsolete.

Newcomen Memorial Engine Newcomen engine

The Newcomen Memorial Engine is a preserved beam engine in Dartmouth, Devon. It was preserved as a memorial to Thomas Newcomen, inventor of the beam engine, who was born in Dartmouth.

References

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