Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Co 1899-1949 by John Dummelow: 1909-1919
From Graces Guide
SECOND DECADE 1909-1919
During the early years of the second decade the life of the British Westinghouse Company moved slowly towards an ordered pattern. Survival had been achieved, prosperity was to come, but there were many loose ends to be tied up.
Trading results improved steadily on the basis of economical administration and efficient manufacture. By the end of 1910 the profit and loss account showed a credit balance once more, in spite of trade depressions and severe competition. Nevertheless, though profits were continuing to rise they were still far from providing for any distribution to the shareholders.
In 1910 the Company lost its managing director, Newcomb Carlton, who was appointed vice-president of the Western Union Telegraph Company. He had filled his position with great distinction, showing energy and foresight through a critical period. Although departing for a highly valued post in his own country, he felt the break acutely, and when P. A. Lange broke the news to a gathering in his office Carlton, under the stress of the occasion, could only respond and tender his farewells with difficulty. He was left in no doubt that all present were conscious of the loss they were to suffer and of the end of a phase that had meant much to them personally and to the Company.
Fortunately Lange was still at the helm at the works, where his reforms were now bearing fruit. He had joined the Board of the Company in September 1909, and in August 1913 (after a period of rule by C. A. Park, previously superintendent of the carriage department of the London and North Western Railway) he was appointed managing director.
Despite the railway and coal strikes of 1911 and 1912 output had continued to mount slowly, and prospects became more favourable. During 1913 the capital was reduced by £725,000, and a preference dividend was paid for the first time since 1903. The gilding of the lightning symbol on top of the water tower, at Miles Walker's suggestion and expense, was a sign of growing optimism. The teamwork that had been inspired and developed by Lange had produced an efficient and well organized undertaking ready to meet any demands.
CHANGES AT THE WORKS
The engineering and manufacturing organization grew up haphazard and was at first in a somewhat misty state. This was clarified in October 1910, when Lange set up three main departments—electrical machine with M. A. McLean as superintendent, engine (including turbines) under H. Mensforth, and detail under A. M. Randolph, who now covered transformers, insulation and arc lamps in addition to switchboards, instruments, meters and control gear. Three years later a separate transformer department was created with A. P. M. Fleming as superintendent. Transformer manufacture had previously been moved from A aisle to the building once occupied by the steel foundry, which had been closed as an economy measure early in 1908, and the instrument and meter section had moved into two bays on the first and second floors of the pattern shop building.
When Lange became managing director in 1913 he appointed H. Mensforth as works manager, and G. E. Bailey became superintendent of the engine department. 'G.E.B.' was a popular superintendent as he was always approachable by the men in the shops, most of whom he knew by their Christian names. Very little escaped his notice: when reprimand was deserved it was given in no uncertain terms, but for some indefinable reason ill-feeling did not linger.
Mensforth was later responsible for setting up works and staff committees and also for starting foremen's efficiency meetings; these were monthly conferences at which the foremen throughout the works could discuss any matters affecting efficiency in the shops. His appointment synchronized closely with the extension of the 'clocking' system to the whole of the staff, an edict that caused at least one important resignation. Later it gave rise to a rumour that the managing director and the comptroller had missed their boat to Norway through calling in at the Newcastle office to clock off.
Early in 1914 the works was startled by a sensational accident on 'dynamo test'— the bursting of the flywheel of a d.c. equalizer set. The wheel, which was made in Germany, was of cast steel 8 feet in diameter and weighing about 6 tons and, when the fractures were examined, showed signs of insufficient annealing, which accounted for failure at 85 per cent of the designed speed. As the fragments tore through the shop they killed one man, injured several others, wrecked a nearby generator stator, and punched a hole through a 9-inch bedplate. Other pieces went up through the roof, one landing near the Trafford Park Hotel, close on half a mile away, where it caused some damage to the houses and broke through a main sewer. Another large section was never recovered.
For the engineering staff a notable event was the arrival of K. Baumann in 1909. Having, as we have seen, cast the die for impulse turbines the Company required an engineer to take over their development, and during a visit to the Continent Lange consulted probably the greatest living authority, Professor Stodola of Zurich. As a result Baumann, who had been one of Stodola's assistants, was chosen to come to Trafford Park, and a year later he became chief engineer of the engine department. In 1912 he read before the I.E.E. a paper on "Recent Developments in Steam Turbine Practice", which was the first of a notable series on steam turbines, and at the end of the year he was raised to the position of chief mechanical engineer, having charge of the design of the Company's mechanical products. H. L. Guy, who had joined Baumann's staff in 1910, was appointed turbine engineer in 1916; later he became chief engineer of the mechanical department. The electrical engineering department and indeed the whole Company suffered a severe loss in 1912, when Miles Walker was appointed professor of electrical engineering at Manchester. Walker had joined the Holy Forty after a brilliant academic career, both legal and scientific, and he had studied design at Pittsburgh under B. G. Lamme. In the electrical engineering department at Trafford Park, he was responsible for developments in compensated a.c. generators, d.c. generators (particularly the radial commutator), power factor improvement for induction motors, and many types of measuring instruments. He was also a doughty champion of the rotary converter. Though caring little for administrative responsibility and finding factory routine irksome, he did much valuable work, and he continued to serve the Company as a consultant for nearly twenty years.
Walker combined facility in the analysis of difficult problems with lucidity in explanation, perhaps due to his early legal training, and many electrical engineers were brought up on his works, for instance the famous Specification and Design of Dynamo-electrical Machinery. He was kind and humane, and a man of high moral principles, some of which were expressed in an unorthodox presidential address to the engineering section of the British Association. He died in 1941.
In 1913 Gilbert North, who had been in charge of instrument and meter design and manufacture, left the Company. A man of great independence of character and a genius in his own line. North was the originator of many features of the a.c. meters of today. He was succeeded by L. C. Benton.
The introduction of British designs and the growth of electrical business generally brought about a tendency to set up self-contained though not independent sections, each dealing with one type of apparatus. When Rosenberg resigned in 1915 (later to be repatriated and become chief engineer of Elin at Linz) the electrical engineering department was first divided vertically into a.c. and d.c. sides. This proving unsatisfactory, a horizontal division was instituted: G. A. Juhlin was put in charge of large machines and R. Johnson of small, both being under J. S. Peck as chief electrical engineer. These sections soon developed into the plant and motor engineering departments of today. By 1918 chief engineers had been appointed for the detail and transformer departments — W. A. Coates and A. G. Ellis.
THE SALES SIDE
The sales side continued to expand under W. W. Blunt, the general sales manager, who became a director of the Company in 1910. In 1912 J. C. Whitmoyer took over the sales of large machines in succession to W. W. Hughes (a future chairman of Hackbridge and Hewittic Electric Co) and henceforward dealt with all electrical rotating machinery—more than half the Company's total business. Whitmoyer had been sent over from America to the German Westinghouse Company, from which he came to Manchester in 1904 to handle export matters.
By 1915 however business in railway electrification had increased sufficiently for a separate traction department to be set up with P. S. Turner as manager, dealing with design as well as sales. Turner, who had joined in 1903 and later taken charge of control engineering, had developed a special interest in traction and had also shown a flair for salesmanship: on his personality hangs the main story of the Company's traction activities.
When D. N. Dunlop left in 1911, the publicity work (now separated from that of the European companies) passed to A. G. Seaman, who also handled sales management statistics until his departure for BEAMA in 1918. Before this, in April 1912, there appeared the first issue of The British Westinghouse Gazette (now The Metropolitan-Vickers Gazette). It contained twelve pages of technical and semi-technical articles, freely illustrated, and was the only journal of its kind published in this country. For the first two years it was circulated only to the Company's staff, but since then a wide external distribution has been maintained with monthly issues (except under wartime conditions). M. Hird, who had joined publicity from switchgear sales in 1915, edited the Gazette for some twenty-five years, also finding time to write topical verse and dialogue for 'pantos' at the Club.
The export organization was extended around 1909, when a policy was adopted of attaching special representatives to the B. W. agencies; they remained employees of the Company, and their task was to assist the agents and generally promote our interests. Among the first to be sent out were A. McKinstry to Australia, potentially a very valuable market, and G. Laird to India; McKinstry was soon followed by A. Maling. By 1913, however, business had developed sufficiently for the Company to have established its own offices in Melbourne and Calcutta as well as Johannesburg (to which A. E. du Pasquier was appointed in 1915).
The B. W. Company had long been closely associated with the French and Italian Westinghouse Companies by the interchange of design and manufacturing information, and round about 1910 Carlton brought over W. E. Bouette from Le Havre to look after their interests. Two years later Bouette was put in charge of an export and continental sales department, which was then located at Trafford Park, and in 1915 he was joined by E. J. Summerhill as assistant manager. Early in the same year British Westinghouse acquired the American interest in the continental companies.
For some time business developed very well, and on occasion specialist engineers were lent from England — for instance, J. F. Perry for work on the re-equipment of the French mines and collieries damaged in the war.
Meanwhile trade with Russia had grown considerably. This was no new market to the B. W. Company, for it had carried out the electrification of the Moscow tramways in 1906 and had supplied a large number of turbo-generator sets to the Russian Westinghouse. Shortly before the war — and nearly slipping into partnership with a competitor — we became associated with the Russian Electric Company 'Dynamo' Limited, which had taken over the original Westinghouse Company in Moscow. When S. M. Mohr enlisted, C. S. Richards took charge of the Russian interests, and with W. Eccles on erection and W. A. Coates on the electrical side a large amount of plant was supplied to munition factories before the revolution.
In June 1916 the British, French and Italian Companies jointly set up in London a Westinghouse traction bureau. This was to deal with all traction projects in Europe and other overseas markets and was put in charge of P. S. Turner, who had recently taken over traction work at Trafford Park.
During the war the supplies side of the Company's business found an unexpected field for development in the manufacture of electric lamps. The gas-filled tungsten lamp with coiled filament (the 'half-watt' lamp) came on to the British market in 1914. In spite of its price — 12s 6d for a 100-watt lamp — it became very popular, particularly for factory lighting, and with the added difficulty of obtaining carbons during the war it was decided to stop making arc lamps at Trafford Park.
Among foreign firms who had a share of the lamp industry in this country was a large Berlin concern with a factory at Brimsdown, Middlesex. The outbreak of war cut off supplies of money and materials from Germany, and towards the end of 1915 the position was so desperate that some of the lamp-making machinery had to be sold to pay the wages. The factory was taken over by the Public Trust Custodian and two years later was put up for sale and bought by the Company.
It was decided to make lamps with drawn wire filaments under the trade name Cosmos. A subsidiary. The Cosmos Lamp Works Limited, was formed on July 23, 1917, and G. Layton, a member of the Holy Forty who had been in charge of the Manchester district office, was appointed manager. Layton introduced new manufacturing methods, which, together with a bonus scheme based on quantity and profits, brought the first year's output to nearly a million lamps, and manufacture which had been only seasonal was distributed over the year.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR
The First World War made considerable demands on the Company's people and on its organization. As the general attitude was 'business as usual' it was some months before the need for munitions brought calls for assistance and the realization that war had become a matter of machines as well as men. In August 1914 the Company issued a notice asking as many as possible to enlist, particularly young men, and, though the need for continuity in the factory was pointed out, nearly 500 joined up during August. By the end of the year one-third colours. Although the War Office began to refuse those who could not produce a certificate of dispensability, it was not until a year after war broke out that the drain of valuable men from the works was stopped. Far too many craftsmen had left — a lesson that was borne in mind on a later occasion.
Manufacturing activities were carried on not only under difficult conditions with regard to men and materials but also under a special sense of urgency; the annual summer shut-down was forgone for a time. Rapid output was essential, and it had to be secured with an ever-changing body of workers. Men went off to the services and were replaced by others with less skill or, more frequently, by women and girls; these certainly rose to the occasion, but they had to be trained at a time when every minute was important.
Almost everything that was made had a war purpose, direct or indirect. There was an enormous demand for equipment for power supply, for munition factories and for use in the field and at sea, and this greatly increased the load on the works. As examples at random, marine turbines were made for the 'standard' ships built to offset those sunk by submarines, other turbines were made for Russian ordnance factories, and narrow-gauge petrol-electric locomotives were made for carrying ammunition and supplies on service.
Actual war material manufactured included field gun parts, engines for tanks and submarines, mines and mine-sweeping paravanes, shells, bombs and fuses, and aircraft magnetos. As these last had been practically a German monopoly, some supplies of Dixie magnetos were got from America, but the work of modifying them came to a sudden end when a Zeppelin was brought down at Cufley. A Bosch magneto salvaged from the wreckage was sent to the works, and in due course machine and assembly shops were set up in the instrument and meter department and manufacturing methods developed, chiefly by G. A. Cheetham. The results were creditable enough, as the 'Bosch' magnetos eventually produced in large numbers were said to be the best used by our airmen. Many other sections of the works were handed over to new activities. For instance, a shell shop (in charge of R. B. D. Lauder) was organized in a gallery over the brass foundry, and a new building of concrete and glass was constructed for the manufacture of mines and paravanes. In 1916 when it was becoming necessary to obtain large quantities of goods and machinery from America, the purchasing agent, W. D. Crumpton, sailed for New York, where he acted as the Company's representative for many years.
Early in the war, three B. W. men — Fleming, Miles Walker, and Mensforth — joined forces with scientists such as Rutherford, Horace Lamb, and E. W. Marchant in the Lancashire Anti-submarine Committee. Schemes, possible and impossible, for attacking the technical problems of the submarine menace were investigated, and experimental work carried out on the more promising. A system of detonating mines was examined at Trafford Park by B. A. G. Churcher, who also collaborated with W. Symes in work with R. W. Beattie of Manchester University on a system of detection. Another important research activity was testing the hearing of naval recruits intended for listening duties.
In May 1917, at the height of the war, the works was cheered by a visit from King George V, who was making one of his frequent tours of industrial centres. On his arrival the King 'clocked on' — at 10.05 according to the card — and he toured the shops for nearly an hour before clocking off again.
On August 18, 1915, the works became a 'controlled establishment', and as time went on all manufacturing work was controlled by government priorities; the activities of the branch offices diminished accordingly, and many salesmen were brought back to the works to assist production. In the same year Mensforth's responsibilities were enlarged owing to Lange's growing detachment from Trafford Park, and in October 1917 he was appointed general manager of works.
British Westinghouse had a proud record of service in the forces. No fewer than 3,519 men joined up, and over a hundred awards and decorations were gained, The three hundred and four who lost their lives are commemorated on a Roll of Honour at the entrance to the main offices. About sixty joined the Manchester Regiment, mostly in B Company of the Sixth Battalion, a Territorial unit. They went to Egypt on garrison duty and then took part in the disastrous Dardanelles campaign of 1915: very heavy losses were sustained, including some twenty-four of our men, before the withdrawal in the following January.
At home recruiting for Kitchener's Army was encouraged by a scheme under which all men of military age were asked to attest, even though on essential work. Others joined the district units of the 'local defence volunteers' — the home guard of the day — and a Stretford defence corps was recruited at the Town Hall, with G. E. Bailey, T. Fraser, and L. C. Benton as company commanders. A works rifle club was provided with a miniature range, where J. Hamilton of the mechanical department was the instructor. A relief fund was started at the outbreak of war to meet cases of hardship among employees and their families. In six weeks £1,100 had been collected, and a trust fund was formed, which apart from contributions by the Company reached a total of nearly £50,000, all provided by deductions from pay. A war savings movement inspired by J. H. Tearle was also launched, and talks were given in the shops.
During the war, the number of workpeople increased from 5,200 to a peak figure of 8,000 in May 1917, but the old skilled workers nearly disappeared. Women came into the factory in large numbers, growing from 620 to 2,500 — nearly a third of the employees. They worked on munitions such as 9-2 and 3-3 shells, Hotchkiss fuses Marks III and IV, and magnetos, thus adding machining, inspecting, and varnishing to their normal occupations, and they were also employed for storekeeping, crane-driving, transport and maintenance work. During the same period the Company took the lead in giving women professional engineers opportunities on the same terms as men, the first time that this had been done.
A superintendent of women workers, Miss E. E. Wilson, was appointed in May 1916 to deal with women's employment and with canteens, ambulance services and other welfare work; her foresight and organization laid the foundations of the women's employment and canteen departments of today. Much was done to train fore-mistresses and charge-hands, who were often inexperienced, and to support them in their responsible positions.
Typing, though one of the chief staff occupations for women, was by no means reserved to them. When some centralization of typing work began and dictaphones were installed about 1910, the staff of the stenographic department on the fifth floor of the main office block consisted of about twenty typists, men and women; one, Fred Clayton, is still with the Company. The department was then in charge of Everard H. Raby, who was immortalized in an early Club 'panto'. The Girl from Raby's, or the Passing of the Fifth Floor Back. By 1915 the department under the supervision of Mrs. G. Wibberley had trebled its original size, and in 1918 centralization and the use of dictaphones were carried still further. 'Steno' has continued to grow, and today, under Miss E. Taylor who has been in charge since 1929, it operates 60 typewriters and 60 transcribers.
THE HUMAN FACTOR
Relations between the management and their fellow-employees had changed steadily for the better, but during the war there arose a general feeling of unrest in the shops, largely due to the continued ebb and flow of workpeople and the dilution of labour by unskilled men and women. As a result two important steps were taken in 1917, when Mensforth as general works manager instigated the setting up of a 'works committee' and a 'staff committee'.
The British Westinghouse works committee, which can claim to have anticipated the Whitley Councils by nine months, was formed in February 1917 with fourteen men to represent various sections of the factory and two for the management. As the works has grown these numbers have increased to twenty (who are all trade unionists and shop stewards) and four respectively. A shop superintendent and two foremen also attend the meetings, which are held in working hours.
The original constitution gave the object as "to promote a close feeling between the management and all employees, and to work in conjunction for the mutual benefit of all". In fact, every matter that affects conditions of employment, welfare, or relations with the management is discussed; the only exceptions are questions having a national aspect, which are left to employers' federations and trade unions, though the committee may and does deal with the interpretation of agreements.
The committee has been successful in promoting the welfare of workmen, but perhaps its most important function has been to provide a platform for the discussion of grievances from either side. These have frequently been prevented from developing into serious causes of friction, and many complaints that would not bear neglect even for a day or two have been settled by the chairman or secretary on the spot. One other important function has been to enable the management to discuss with the whole works, by proxy, any matters affecting the prosperity of the Company, to explain actions that have been difficult to understand, and to ask for the support of the workpeople in matters vital to the general welfare.
The first chairman of the works committee, Sam Ratcliffe, was a sound trade unionist who became a well-known figure during his twenty-six years in office, and the first secretary was T. Brookes. Ratcliffe was succeeded by Fred Lee, who since 1945 has been M.P. for Hulme and is now Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Stafford Cripps. Other ex-members of the committee are Ellis Smith, M.P. for Stoke since 1926 and sometime Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, and Ben Gardner, now general secretary of the A.E.U.
The staff committee was formed in October 1917 "to represent staff employees of the Company and to work in furtherance of their interests and those of the management". Engineers and technicians, draughtsmen, sales correspondents, general office staff, and others (but not foremen, who had their own association) elected delegates from the various departments, and these chose members to represent them on the committee. Originally there were eleven committee members (including two women), taken from forty-seven delegates, together with two management representatives. Early meetings dealt with questions such as office lighting, decorating, ventilating and heating, train and tram services, cycle accommodation and canteen facilities, and these are still typical of the week-to-week work.
Benevolent and pension schemes were yet to come, but a foretaste was the B. W. 'approved society' inaugurated in 1912. This supplemented the benefits from Lloyd George's National Insurance Act, which had just come into force, and provided for surgical, dental, optical and convalescent treatment. It lasted until February 1948 when it was taken over by the Ministry of National Insurance in view of the coming national health scheme.
The social life of the Company continued to develop. The B. W. Engineers' Club flourished with a strong apprentice element, and departments organized hotpot suppers and smoking concerts; the last were often provided with souvenir programmes carrying advertisements of well-known firms like "McLean and Hunter, The Scotch House — Fresh Supplies daily from Dee Isle." The main event of the year for athletes and their friends was the annual sports. At the first meeting, which was held in 1909 at Belle Vue Gardens, the famous Manchester amusement centre, G. E. Bailey captained a tug-of-war team for 'engine d.o.', but in those days his weight was insufficient to overcome the iron foundry labourers.
In 1912 the Club was thrown open to all male employees, the word 'Engineers' being dropped from the title, and thenceforward it played an ever-increasing part in developing a 'Westinghouse spirit' throughout the organization. In the following year it moved into new premises in Moss Road, Stretford, not far from the south gate of the works. The new buildings provided an entertainment hall, a billiard room, and a bar; original prices were 11/2d for beer, 3d for whisky, and 2d for gin. Grounds were available for tennis and bowls, which became the most flourishing sections of the Club. The bowling green was opened by a match between Lange and Peck, an auspicious start for a club that has provided many successful competitors in local championships.
In October 1913 appeared the first issue of The British Westinghouse Club News, a monthly publication dealing with matters of social and personal interest. The various social and sporting sections grew and multiplied, and at the first annual 'gathering of committees' in 1917 nine reports were given. Ten years later there were double the number.
In 1918 came the completion of a permanent stage on which to perform the 'Club panto'. This annual event dated from eight years back, when the apprentices had produced at the old club-house Aladdin, an original musical show full of topical allusions. At first there was always an all-male cast and an all-male audience, but the new surroundings inspired more ambitious and more decorous productions. Ali Baba and the Forty Salesmen was put on under the auspices of the football section of the Club in 1914. Temporary staging of oil drums and planks had to be erected for each production until dramatic enthusiasts built the permanent stage, after which a Club panto sponsored by the 'musical society', later the 'dramatic and operatic society', was produced regularly for ten years. In 1923, however, straight plays made their appearance, and musical productions began to decline in favour. The society now has its own headquarters with rehearsal and committee rooms, and a fully equipped studio stage built by members; it has also started a magazine. Backstage.
In 1916 a golf association was formed to provide games throughout the summer. The present captain is the managing director, I. R. Cox, and the association holds annually a greensomes stroke competition, a handicap stroke competition, and a knock-out competition; the first two have been played for many years on the Davyhulme Park golf course. Outside the association's orbit a feature of golfing seasons since 1922 has been an annual match with Ferranti's. So far the Company, represented by directors and other members of the staff, has won twelve out of eighteen matches with one drawn.
All social activities owed a great deal to the younger element, particularly the growing number of apprentices With them a permanent camp at Horton Hall Farm in Staffordshire was for some years a popular rendezvous, and a regatta held on Rudyard Lake in 1913 is said to have attracted over 10,000 spectators.
The works had always contained a number of trade apprentices, but the right type of boy was difficult to find; there was an idea that the growing use of machine tools would minimize the need for manual skill. However, in 1912, A. P. M. Fleming's field was enlarged to include trade apprentices, and a bound apprenticeship system with a probationary period was instituted, employment being guaranteed up to the age of twenty-one.
In January 1914 the Company started a works school, the first in the country and the model for many successors. Here about 100 lads were taught by foremen and engineers, receiving two hours of workshop instruction and general education weekly in working hours. By 1916 the school was attended by 330 apprentices, and it had begun to interest the Board of Education; by 1919 the numbers had grown to 450. Other classes were held for women and girls. Apprentices were also released to classes at local technical colleges, a release that today is given half a day a week, or a whole day for those attending second and higher courses for Ordinary National Certificates (in addition to a half-day release to the works school).
In 1916 a trade apprentice association was formed under the chairmanship of R. Lazenby (who remained with the Company until his death in 1940), and in the same year it issued the first number of The British Westinghouse Trade Apprentice. This was a two-page lithographed sheet containing articles and news items, and within a few months it won high praise from the Director of Boys' Welfare at the Ministry of Munitions. With the formation of a joint apprentice association in 1921, the magazine was expanded and renamed The Rotor, under which title it has rapidly progressed in size and quality and developed a tradition of individuality that makes it unique among works publications. In 1917 an annual speech night and concert was first held.
College and school apprentices were also increasing in numbers. By 1911 two-year courses were being offered to young men of 20 having B.Sc. or equivalent degrees; they were paid 1s a week for the first year and ?s for the second. The Company also led the way in taking 'vacation apprentices' for preliminary workshop training for two months in the summer. At the beginning of the war the demands of the forces caused a lull, during which Fleming took the next important step-the coordination of all apprentice training in a self-contained education department.
Materials testing under Fleming and R. Johnson had by 1914 reached a stage where insulation specification and routine test had become more or less standardized This had been Johnson's side of the work, and accordingly he transferred to d.c. motor design, leaving the insulation and magnetic testing sections to be combined as a so-called 'insulation test. Here Fleming installed a 100,000-V testing transformer. He also took over a small and not very effective chemical laboratory and extended it to cover mechanical testing.
From time to time enterprising engineers had carried out investigations for special purposes in the various works testing departments. The facilities were rudimentary, and the results (except Miles Walker's) seldom went beyond the form of private notes. The ineffectiveness of much of this effort suggested that greater technical advances could be achieved by systematic investigations made with proper resources and on a broad basis, even in advance of immediate needs. By 1910 the first decision had been taken to set up a general research organization, and at the beginning of 1914 Fleming put forward detailed proposals. These having been approved in principle by Mensforth and Lange, he made a personal inspection of research organizations in America and produced a report, which had a considerable influence on the formation of industrial research associations in this country.
The claims of the war delayed matters, but eventually a research department was constituted with Fleming as manager on October 1, 1917. It had a three-room headquarters in the main office building, and the chemical laboratory and insulation test as its main sections. It also absorbed a small library, from which J. G. Pearce (now director of the British Cast Iron Association) proceeded to develop a technical intelligence service, which has grown more and more extensive.
In the early days the path of research was not easy. Financial resources were limited and the aims of the work were not always grasped, even by those who would benefit most. However, the work gradually extended to conform with the original plan of investigating future possibilities as well as present needs, and for most of its history the department's work has covered fundamental research as well as applied research and raw material control. All three objectives, which are not of course mutually exclusive, have done their share towards developments of far-reaching importance to the Company's products. Once the early financial, commercial, and manufacturing troubles had been overcome, it became possible to enlarge the field of technical development, and in the Company's second decade British designs began to appear in greater numbers and in a wider range.
I. C. ENGINES
Gas engines continued to be developed up to the end of the war; in fact orders for spares were being received as late as 1940. Complete power installations were undertaken for public electricity supply and for industrial purposes, the largest double-acting engines built being two 26-in x 30-in 1,500-b.hp three-cylinder units for the Mersey Power Company. Small horizontal single-cylinder engines from 2 to 30 b.hp were designed in 1910 and found a ready market. From 1912 onwards a few vertical Diesel engines were made in a single-acting four-stroke design developed by the Company, the largest being a 485-b.hp four-cylinder engine for the Linotype factory at Broadheath. Towards the end of the war submarine engines were being built to a Vickers design employing the Ricardo solid injection system, which facilitated the use of compression ignition on small high speed engines.
Meanwhile the Company's impulse turbines were winning golden opinions for efficiency and reliability, and the engineers under Baumann were soon getting out their own designs and establishing characteristic features for subsequent development. In 1910 when the manufacture of impulse turbines began on a large scale, they were generally fitted with a velocity-compounded stage followed by a number of single impulse stages. The condensers were of the jet type with rotary air pumps, surface condensers being used only where the feed water supply was very limited.
One of the earliest impulse turbines was a 5,000-kW machine installed at the Greenwich power station of the L.C.C. in 1910. A turbine was chosen for this work because the delicate instruments at the Observatory had been disturbed by the vibration from large reciprocating engines, and though the speed was only 750 r.p.m. the authorities sent inspectors to the works to watch the balancing at each stage of rotor assembly.
The ability of the turbine to utilize steam at high vacuum seems to have been quickly appreciated: more than a third of the two hundred and thirty machines put in hand during the next five years were of the mixed pressure type, generally for use with reciprocating engines driving colliery winders or rolling mills. In 1911 the Company made the first pass-out turbines in this country — two 1,500-kW 3,000-r.p.m. units for the Runcorn works of Salt Union.
Turbine sizes began to increase steadily after 1914, when the largest turbine on order was rated at 5,000 kW at 3,000 r.p.m. Machines of 10,000 kW were ordered in 1916 and of 15,000 kW in 1918, both at 1,500 r.p.m.; these were economic ratings. But the great advances of this period were the regenerative feed heating system and the multi-exhaust, both originated by Baumann.
Regenerative feed heating by means of steam extracted from the low pressure stages of the turbine was the subject of patents taken out in 1915, and the next year saw the first installation put in hand for Carville power station, Newcastle; this was followed shortly by one for Stoke. Single-stage feed heaters were employed, and the Stoke tests showed a rise in feed water temperature of 54.8°F with a net reduction of 4.4 per cent in the total heat consumption. Regenerative feed heating has had a profound effect on subsequent development, and its adoption has saved more fuel than any other turbine improvement.
The Baumann multi-exhaust was devised in 1916 in order to increase outputs. A point was approaching at which the output would be limited by the physical properties of the materials available, unless either a greater leaving loss was accepted or a double flow exhaust used: the former reduced the efficiency, and the latter increased the first cost. The new invention enabled the output at a given speed to be raised by no less than 60 per cent, using the same materials and methods of construction and without affecting the leaving loss. It was first used on an 18,750-kW 1500-r.p.m. turbine ordered in 1917 for Dalmarnock near Glasgow, and the results were highly satisfactory. The multi-exhaust principle was adopted by the Company for all large turbine plant, and by the end of 1920 it had been employed on fourteen machines aggregating over 250,000 kW.
In 1917 there came two turbines of revolutionary design. They were the first two-cylinder impulse turbines to be made in this country, they employed a steam pressure of almost double the previous maximum, and they were the first commercial units to use steam reheating between the cylinders. The turbines were rated at 20,000 kW 2400 r.p.m., and were installed in North Tees power station. The pressure specified by the consulting engineers, Merz and McLellan, was 450 p.s.i.g. at a time when pressures of 180-200 were in general use. Here was the first step towards 'super pressures'. Three-stage feed-water heating was employed, giving a final feed temperature of 300°F.
The smaller industrial and marine turbines were also being made in advanced designs. Better materials and methods of construction made it possible to run these turbines at speeds higher than 3,000 r.p.m., thus attaining a higher efficiency, but gearing was required to suit the generator speed. As it was difficult to buy gears of the quality and accuracy desired, the Company installed gear-cutting machines. In 1918 highly efficient gears of great reliability were being produced for use with the small turbines, and after further development work, particularly on the floating frame type, gears were also made for marine propulsion turbines. Development continued under J. M. Newton, who came from the Brush Company and was superintendent of the engine or 'mechanical' department; he became a recognized authority on the manufacture of high speed gears before retiring in 1947.
Marine auxiliary turbines were first undertaken in 1911, when four 400-kW 1,500-r.p.m. d.c. turbo-generator sets were ordered for the famous Cunarder Aquitania. Later on, propulsion turbines and reduction gears began to be made and in 1917 two 2,500-s.hp geared sets were built for the Assiout and Amarna owned by the Moss Steamship Company. These were very successful: subsequent orders covered nine more sets, a further fourteen were built under licence, and ten 1000-s.hp units were supplied for ships built in Canada.
For large generators the cylindrical rotors, which had superseded the salient-pole engine types, were at first of laminated construction, and it was not until 1911 or thereabouts that solid rotor forgings began to be used. Another development of the period was multiple-inlet ventilation, and from about 1918, as sizes increased the stator end windings were insulated with mica tape to enable them to be run at higher temperatures.
At this time a 25,000-kVA 25-c/s generator for the Dalmarnock turbine mentioned on page 60 was under construction, the biggest two-pole machine that had been made in this country. As the Glasgow authorities feared loss by submarine, the stator weighing about 30 tons travelled by road with frequent stops for traction engine maintenance. The journey took nearly three months, and the stator arrived covered with names written in chalk. It transpired that the truck and its retinue had created great interest, and, watchful of war security and other considerations, the crew had told inquirers that it was part of a German submarine and that names could be chalked on it at a shilling a time. Shortly afterwards another stator almost as large was sent to the Clyde area by sea — the normal method — and arrived safely in about five days.
Hydroelectric equipment also had been made in large sizes. Three 12,000-kVA waterwheel generators were supplied to Tyssefaldene in Norway in 1913, and they are still running. Towards the end of the war several generators were made for stations in the Pyrenees, for instance one of 2,000 kVA at 1,000 r.p.m. and one of 5,000 kVA at 1,500 r.p.m.; the latter was fitted with a cylindrical rotor designed to allow it to run at 85 per cent overspeed.
Transformers progressed chiefly in the direction of higher voltages The first British transformers for 22-kV service were made at Trafford Park in 1909, and for 55-kV service (3000-kVA units) in 1912. These were for the export market, but by 1912 some 22-kV units were also being built for use at home.
In 1918 the first 33-kV and 66-kV transformers were made. The 33-kV units were used for interlinking the supply systems of Manchester and Salford. The 66-kV units, for the Newcastle supply undertaking, were 12,000-kVA three-phase groups and represented a big step forward in capacity as well as voltage. Large single-phase 25-c/s transformers, forming 23,400-kVA three-phase groups, were also supplied for the Dalmarnock power station, Glasgow.
New switchgear designs were beginning to appear. As early as 1906 the Company had made a totally enclosed mining pillar, having an oil circuit-breaker and compound-immersed busbars, and 1909 saw the introduction of its first draw-out mining switch, which was called the 'S type' after the designer, H. R. Schultz. This was the direct forbear of really flameproof mining gear and, later, of the modern type of high-capacity draw-out metal-clad switchgear.
At this time the race between the ability of generating plant to deliver ever larger short-circuit currents and of switchgear to interrupt these currents had been temporarily lost. The American designs of circuit breaker were therefore considerably changed, and F. B. Holt produced the 'H type', which initially went up to 350 MVA at 33 kV. This first step beyond generating voltage enabled the Company to compete successfully in the continental markets where high voltage transmission was being introduced.
The increasing complexity of British main distribution systems emphasized the need for more rapid protective relays, and the Merz-Price differential protective system, either current or voltage balance, was accepted as the solution. The Company not only designed such equipment but also developed many variants, which were needed for unusual conditions. Induction relays were introduced to replace the less reliable solenoid types.
In meters the largest business lay overseas, where its development required a small and cheap a.c. meter, particularly for countries with import duties. The first design met with manufacturing difficulties and was accordingly modified by T. W. Ross. His new meter fitted with a cyclometer register was cheap, small, and exceedingly accurate, and it sold in large quantities abroad, at one time over 2,000 a week
A.c. meters being firmly established, the Company turned its attention to the d.c. field, which provided the main market in this country. It was decided in 1909 to develop an ampere-hour meter of the commutator type, and North therefore made a slow-speed design with tungsten magnets and a thin aluminium disc, which carried flat coils of aluminium strip fed from a three-part commutator; later a change was made to silk-covered copper wire for the coils, which were mounted between two thin aluminium discs spun together at the edges.
Motor generator sets for main rolling mill drives were originally equipped with flywheels having a central bore for the shaft. As such wheels were inherently weak, W. E. Taylor, now head of the rolling mill section, put forward a solid design having central bosses for coupling to flanged shafts. The unpierced flywheel, which was stronger and had a higher factor of safety than the pierced type, was adopted by the Company as standard in 1914. Continental manufacturers followed suit, and solid flywheels are now widely used.
Special motors were beginning to be developed for various industries, one of the first being a loom motor introduced in 1910; the starter was designed for frequent operation. Automatic control gear with electromagnetic contactors was being made by 1914 and was soon being applied to steelworks service. Early types of liquid starters and controllers included a controller with cam-operated oil-break reversing switches mounted on the side of the tank for mine winders and an automatic slip regulator for rolling mills.
American types of traction motors and control equipment were gradually modified to suit British conditions, and new designs, including magnetic brakes and tramway controllers, were introduced through the initiative of P. S. Turner. For multiple-unit control gear the Company had standardized on electro-pneumatic equipment. Unfortunately this was disliked by the London and South Western Railway, who were starting to electrify their suburban lines, so Turner, after a visit to America, inspired the production of the first British designs for electromagnetic control. This equipment was duly supplied to the L. & S. W.R., the motors, which had to be totally enclosed, being made at Trafford Park to American designs. This first contract was followed by many others, which for all the constituent companies of the Southern Railway have covered 1150 traction equipments with motors aggregating well over 500,000 hp.