The Fieldhouse Steam Winding Engine (1954) by William Brian Stocks (c.1914-1982)

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DWARD BROOKE of Honley (1799-1871) founded the Fieldhouse Fireclay Works in 1850 as an outcome of sinking a coal-pit shaft during which an extensive bed of fireclay was discovered.* The works were situated between the railway and the canal, near Deighton, and sidings for the transport of the firm’s products connected the site with the main line. As much of the siding system was laid on a gradient a method of rope haulage was adopted to move the loaded wagons from the load- ing and weighing point in the heart of the works up to the level of the main railway tracks. The steam engine which provided the power for winding the rope is of an unusual early design and has been restored for exhibition on a site adjoining the Tolson Memorial Museum.

To understand the historical background of the engine it must be remembered that in 1850 the large and rather cumber- some beam engine was the principal application of steam power for stationary purposes. The direct coupled horizontal or verti- cal steam engine was still in the earliest stages of

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from Euston to Camden Town, at Edgehill, Liverpool, and at Werneth, Oldham. One example, well-known to holiday-makers on the North Wales coast and still working, is the Great Orme Tramway at Llandudno. It was proposed originally to work the Huddersfield Tramways by this means and a site was chosen for the winding engine house where the Grand Picture House

now stands on Manchester Road.

The Fieldhouse engine stood on a secure foundation of pitch pine balks bolted to massive stone blocks. A brick hut surrounded the engine but the winding barrel was outside in a pit. It was driven by a large gear meshing with a pinion on the engine crankshaft. A lever was provided to slide this out of gear and a foot-operated lever applied a simple band brake round the winding barrel. The engine flywheel is unusual in having only four spokes though its diameter is 8ft. dins. One of the spokes had been cracked and had been repaired by riveting plates at either side. The engine could be turned by hand by inserting a bar in the holes round the rim. Before the engine was dismantled for res- toration iron segments had been bolted to the rim by these holes.

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Dia. of Flywheel

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difficulties of machining a precise bore in the wheel boss at a time when neither suitable tools nor measuring instruments were available. A staked wheel is adjusted for truth by means of the tapered keys which secure it to the shaft.

The cylinder presents several points of interest. Practi- cally all its bolt holes are ‘‘cored’’ in, 1.e., they were made when the cylinder was cast in the foundry and not drilled afterwards. The bore of the cylinder was found to be extraordinarily good showing that the engine never ran very fast. The piston has two rings in the same groove. ‘The large brass casting at the end of the cylinder where the piston rod emerges is the gland and serves to prevent steam leaking through the moving surfaces. It is similar to those fitted to William Hedley’s “Puffing Billy’ locomotive of 1813. The drive between the piston rod and_ the crank is another distinctive feature of this engine. It appears that the intention of the designer in reversing the cylinder was to obtain

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rod of maximum. practical length. A similar reverse action was used in certain early types of vertical engines such as “‘table engines”, the earliest locomotives and sometimes steam pumps. This system dispenses with slide bars and cross-head and cer- tainly gives the mechanical advantage of a long reciprocating motion, but the designer ran into difficulties when he had to crank one side of the double connecting rod to clear the exhaust pipe, which is certainly bad practice.

The cut away part which mars the decorative beading on the front cylinder cover suggests that the original engine had no nut to secure the leading butt end of the connecting rod to the cross member but relied entirely on the cotter. This probably proved insufficient and a new butt end with screw thread was substituted requiring the beading to be chipped off to give clear- ance for the path of the nut.

The valve gear was probably worked by hand when the engine was new and the eccentric and eccentric rod added later.* This hand gear has been left intact and could still be used simply by lifting the eccentric rod off the peg on the valve lever. It would be necessary to do this in order to work the engine back- wards as no other reversing gear exists.

Two brass taps will be noticed protruding from the lower part of the cylinder at either end. ‘These are “‘drain

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by a large flat cotter pin driven between two

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device used by engineers where the fixing bolts do not pass through accurately drilled holes.

Almost all the nuts and bolts are typical handmade pro- ducts of the blacksmith. Most of them have square shanks to prevent them turning in the cast square holes in which they fit loosely. Many of the threads and also the proportions of most of the hexagon nuts and bolt heads are off standard.

The brass cylinder lubricator, a replica of the original, has two cocks and a middle chamber. When the middle chamber is charged the oil can be admitted to the cylinder whilst the engine is running without losing steam, by keeping the upper cock closed.

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