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Note: This is a sub-section of 1950 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Accles and Pollock, Ltd., is a subsidiary company of Tube Investments, Ltd. The company celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1949, during which time it has grown from small beginnings to the largest manufacturer of cold drawn seamless precision tubes in the world.
The scope of its works is extremely wide since it manufactures seamless tubes in stainless steel as well as in carbon and alloy steels. The size range of tube produced varies from 6 inches outside diameter down to hypodermic needle tubing, and even much smaller tubes having an outside diameter of a few thousandths of an inch, which are used for scientific instruments and research work of various kinds.
Apart from the production of tubes the company has also developed a wide range of manipulated articles made from tubing. Very many high quality cycle components such as handle-bars, forks, and chain stays, etc., are produced as well as large quantities of box spanners; golf shafts, ski sticks, badminton racket handles, and a complete range of archery bows and arrows and fishing rods, are amongst the company's recent developments.
Other departments are engaged on machining operations on tubes, such as honing, turning, grinding, etc. Much of this work is used for retractable undercarriages for aeroplanes.
The company employs about 4,500 people.
Late in the nineteenth century a small works in Black Bull, Staffordshire, was making what was then a novel form of steel chain from wire by forming and knotting the links in power-driven automatic machinery. For many years afterwards the orthodox way was hand forging of individual links and fire welding carried out, except for the heaviest chains, by women and children working in tiny back-yard workshops.
From this automatic wire-chain business sprang the company now known as the Aston Chain and Hook Company, Ltd., makers of chain, metal smallwares, and non-ferrous metals. The chain-making business was transferred to Aston, a small town then only a neighbour of Birmingham, and came to Whitehouse Street, Aston, in 1904. In that year, one of the concerns of the Dugard family, Heaton and Dugard, Ltd., was making ladder, jack, and ornamental chains, as well as producing brass strip and wire. The Dugard family purchased the Aston Chain and Hook Company, and converted it into a private limited liability company in 1904.
Soon after that date the steam turbine was adopted generally for the propulsion of warships, resulting in a considerable demand for brass and phosphor-bronze turbine blading, and the Aston Chain and Hook Company became interested in, and was very successful in the development of processes to make the impulse and reaction blade forms. Shortly before the 1914-18 war the demand for the material became too great for existing capacity, and the directors decided to centralize production in this company, and to build a new modern factory for the purpose, in Bromford Lane, Erdington.
The new works was occupied in 1912, and during the 1914-18 war production reached its peak in turbine blading, copper shell driving-bands, and a variety of ammunition parts made from brass.
With the development of the steam turbine, higher temperatures and pressures and increased speeds and decrease in turbine rotor size combined to reduce the potential sale of brass and bronze blading, except for low-pressure ends or exhaust turbines, and as a result, the activities of the company were progressively changed to cover a wider range of specialized drawn metal sections, of which one of the most important today is commutator section metal in copper and high-conductivity copper alloys.
In addition, a wide range of non-ferrous metals are produced in the form of wire, tubes, strip, rods, and bars from all the ordinary copper alloys. Alloys are produced for special purposes, and a point has been made of developing high-strength phosphor-bronzes, which have been made with tin contents of up to 14 per cent
The Dugards no longer remain in the business, but their policy has been continued by Mr. W. H. Williams, who succeeded them in 1923, and guided the business until his death in 1937, and, since then, by his son, Mr. Noel Bond-Williams
The factory buildings on a site of 5 acres in Erdington have been extended considerably since they were first occupied in 1912, but have maintained the original design of bay, so that they now cover approximately 100,000 sq. ft., in a few large shops 30 feet from column to column in each direction and with a clear height to the underside of the roof beams of 17 feet in all except two bays, which are 2 feet higher
The casting shop is of different design, using the roof construction as two large smoke extraction hoods, each fitted with an extraction fan 6 feet in diameter
Separate buildings on the site contain the canteen, surgery and welfare office, laboratory, and substations. The offices form part of the main block of buildings.
Electric power is supplied by the Midland Area Board of the British Electricity Authority at 11,000 volts, which is transformed in the company's substations to 440 volts A.C. and 480 volts D.C. A 125 kW. steel-tank rectifier is used for D.C. rectification. Static power factor correction condensers are installed on all large motors, the overall power factor being 0-98. The substations are situated as near as possible to the main load centres, in small annexes to the main building.
The installed horse-power of electrical machinery has a total horse-power of 2,200.
Compressed air is supplied from a separate annexe, arranged to take two 35 h.p. Broom and Wade compressors operating at 100 lb. per sq. in. High-pressure air is obtained where needed from small two-stage compressors installed close to the plant for which it is required.
Steam for process and space heating comes from two vertical cross-tube boilers generated at 100 lb. per sq. in., and reduced to 40 lb. per sq. in. for most uses.
Town gas is used for all gas-burning equipment, including heat-treatment furnaces and neutral-atmosphere production for bright annealing.
The manufacturing processes mainly used are casting, rolling, extrusion and drawing, with secondary processes such as heat-treatment, cleaning, polishing, inspection, etc. The casting shop turns out strip castings and extrusion billets in brass and bronze to various specifications. Billets are poured into water-cooled copper moulds from 600 lb. oil-fired tilting furnaces. Strip castings are melted in Wigley patent pit furnaces in 180 lb. crucibles, and poured into vertical cast-iron moulds of book type.
The strip mill adjoining the casting shop includes a modern two-high strip-finishing mill, driven by a two-speed slip-ring A.C. motor, and controlled by push-button switchgear. There is a modern strip-shearing machine, a roller leveller, and a Birlec batch type of electric-annealing furnace. The extrusion plant in the main block is centred round a 1,250-ton vertical Fielding and Platt press, powered by Fielding and Platt three-throw 120 h.p. pumps operating at 2 tons per sq. in. The weight-loaded accumulator has a ram 13 inches in diameter, with a stroke of 13 feet. The press and billet reheating furnace are mounted on an overhead platform, to which billets are raised by a Morris conveyer. The extrusion returns to floor level as it is completed.
In the main block there are a number of conventional rod and section rolling mills and draw-benches, both for tubes and solid section material. After rolling, shaped sections are mainly finished on drawing blocks. The machines are of the latest kind and contain a direct-worm drive, die-box traversing mechanism, forced-feed die lubrication, and a disappearing "dog". They are driven by D.C. motors, and the push-button controls are arranged to give rapid pulling in and steady acceleration to a pre-set variable speed.
In this section there are a number of conventional single and multi-hole wire-drawing machines. After final drawing, regular sections are straightened on a multi-roll straightener, irregular sections on machines of draw-bench type, and rods and tubes on two Bigwood multi-roll straighteners.
The chain-making department specializes in the production of weldless automatically made chain in mild steel and non-ferrous metals. The machinery employs an interesting variety of cam and link motions to obtain the complicated movements required at the tools.
Adjoining the chain department is the tool room, well equipped with modern machine tools of all types for production of both extrusion and drawing tools, and also for heavy maintenance machinery and machine construction. There is a small heat-treatment section with modern gas-fired furnaces and a salt bath. Production heat-treatment and annealing is carried out mainly in electric furnaces. There are two bright annealers of bell type using burnt town gas as a neutral atmosphere, and two Birlec vertical forced-air circulation furnaces. The latter are installed in a line with quenching, pickling, and soaping tanks.
The laboratory is equipped for chemical analysis, metallography, and hardness testing. All work demanding more complex equipment is done by the Midland Laboratory Guild, a co-operative organization of several companies in the non-ferrous metal industry.
At Longbridge, the largest single motor factory in Great Britain, more of the complete process of motor manufacture takes place than in any other British plant. In these immense works can be seen virtually the complete process of motor manufacture; not merely the assembling of units and parts derived from widely different sources and the machining processes, but the initial preparation and shaping of the raw materials and every subsequent stage of manufacture until the car or truck is complete.
In normal times the output from Longbridge is in excess of 3,000 vehicles a week, each of which incorporates 7,000-8,000 parts, for the manufacture of which over 17,000 workers are directly employed, and some 130,000 indirectly.
Lord Austin of Longbridge was born in Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, on 8th November 1866. He received his education at Rotherham Grammar School and Brampton College, and commenced his apprenticeship at Langland's Foundry, Melbourne, Australia, after emigrating at the early age of eighteen. While in Australia he joined the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company, ultimately becoming manager. In 1893 he returned to Birmingham to supervise the manufacture of sheep-shearing plant, and at this time the labour of propelling a bicycle to and from the works in Birmingham first turned his mind to the problems of mechanical transport. As a result, two years later he designed a three-wheeler car powered by a horizontal two-cylinder engine.
A car of this design was exhibited at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1896, and in 1900 his 3 h.p. two-seater carriage (list price £225) secured a silver medal by successfully emerging from the legendary 1,000 miles trial. Five years later he founded his own organization, opening, with some £15,000 capital, a small factory at Longbridge, seven miles from Birmingham. So commenced the Austin Motor Company.
The original factory occupied 2+ acres, and when in full swing was able to produce 120 cars per annum, employing about 270 workers. The Austin car which appeared early in 1906 was a tourer with a four-cylinder engine rated at 25-30 h.p. and was a tremendous advance over the first Austin design of 1895, or even that of 1900. By 1910 the factory had extended to an area of over 8 acres, and the 1,190 workers produced 576 cars.
It was in this year that the first "Austin Seven" was introduced — a two-seater with a single-cylinder of 4 1/8-inch bore by 5-inch stroke.
Some nine years later, in 1914, the factory had achieved an output of 1,500 cars per annum, and the personnel numbered 2,000.
In that year the company was reconstituted with a working capital of £250,000, and the models then made were of 10, 20, and 30 h.p.
Within a few weeks of the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 the factory was producing large supplies of munitions of all types. During the national emergency Longbridge turned out over 8,000,000 shells, 650 guns, 2,000 aeroplanes, 2,000 lorries, 480 armoured cars, and 148 ambulances, amongst other important supplies.
With the return to the employments of peace after the war years of 1914-18 the Austin Motor Company produced the first British car of post-war design. This was the Austin "Twenty", which quickly earned success.
Herbert Austin was in 1918 created a Knight of the British Empire in recognition of his services to the State, and he was created a Baron in the King's 1936 Birthday Honours List, when he assumed the title of Lord Austin of Longbridge.
In the depression of 1920-21 the Austin organization had to face the storm of industrial difficulties. But it was in this period of stress that the foundations of its present success were laid.
The Austin "Twelve" and the four-cylinder Austin "Seven" appeared on the market in 1921 and 1922 respectively. These models, by reason of their immediate popularity, heralded a new advance. At first the "Seven", on account of its diminutive proportions, was the butt of much badinage. But the surprising capabilities of the first practicable baby car were soon fully appreciated. Both these models by their wonderful endurance created a standard of motoring dependability. The "Seven" in motor contests the world over had 3,000 racing and competition successes to its credit.
The production of cars at Longbridge in 1922 was over 2,600, and nearly 3,200 men were employed. From this date there began a rapid advance, and, by 1926, the employment figure had risen to over 8,000 workers, who turned out over 25,000 cars in the year. The next year saw over 37,000 cars built, and the erection of a 51 acre extension to the factory, involving an expenditure of £100,000. Since that time, a period during which ten new models, a new range of lorries, and the complete post-1945 range of cars and commercial vehicles have successfully been produced, the factory area, employment, and production have grown apace.
By 1939 the factory had a road frontage of over a mile, occupied 100 acres, and in normal times an average of over 17,000 workers were employed through the year, producing vehicles at the rate of 90,000 per annum.
During the 1939-45 war a very high output of munitions of all types, for the land, sea, air, and civil defence forces, was maintained. This included a total of 118,000 military vehicles of all types ranging from the light utility liaison cars to six-wheel four-wheel-drive lorries of numerous specialized types; 1,350,000 rounds of armour-piercing ammunition, 3,350,000 ammunition boxes; 500,000 steel service-helmets; 600,000 jerricans; 110,000 bogie suspension units for Churchill tanks; 440,000 sea-mine pistol and depth-charge assemblies; 110,000 Oerlikon gun magazines; 3,500 marine engines for ship and airborne lifeboats; 5,000 "Miles Master", "Beaufighter", and "Horsa" glider aircraft assemblies; 15,000 fuel tanks for heavy bombers; 122,000 exhaust rings for Bristol aero-engines; 120,000 bomb tails; 300,000 "Vickers" and "Hispano" machine-gun magazines; and for civil defence, 5,000 2-ton N.F.S. vehicles, and 10,000 fire-pump engines, among a host of minor products.
Since 1945 this factory has concentrated on the peace-time output of cars and commercial vehicles. Austin's was the first factory to announce production of a post-war car, the A40 "Devon" and "Dorset", and today the company has car models of b.h.p. ranging from 40 to 135, light commercial vans of 10, 15, and 25 cwt. capacity and trucks of capacity from 2 to 5 tons. Their manufacture, in addition to that of industrial power units, ambulances and marine engines, taxis and hire cars, is carried on in the largest single motor factory in Great Britain.
In the year 1730, before there were any factories as are understood today, in the Birmingham street still called Digbeth, James Ford made steelyards, and, probably assisted by an apprentice or two, carried on his business in a small workshop attached to his dwelling house. All his work was done by hand; machinery was at that time unknown in the trade. In this humble domestic workshop the business now conducted by W. and T. Avery, Ltd., began.
Ford died in 1761, and the business passed through the hands of several family connexions, until it came under the control of William and Thomas Avery in 1818, in whose hands it began to grow from a purely local concern trading with Midland people and a few travelling merchants, into a nation-wide, and finally world-wide organization.
As new types of scales were made, and new markets were found, the old hand tools became inadequate, and machinery began to be used. Under the control of successive generations of the Avery family this process of expansion has continued.
By the middle of the nineteenth century the business had progressed to such an extent that although the original Digbeth premises were still occupied as the head office, manufacturing had spread to three other factories. Platform scales and sack scales were made at Mill Lane works, Birmingham, while the nearby Moat Lane works produced brass and agate beam scales. Iron castings were made at Atlas foundry, West Bromwich, about five miles away, which was acquired in 1854.
In 1894 the business was formed into a public limited liability company, and a year later the famous old Soho foundry was purchased. All the other factories were closed, and the whole of the manufacturing was concentrated at Soho. Only the Digbeth premises were retained, as a Birmingham office, the head office being moved to Soho.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, branch offices were established in various parts of the British Isles, these being the beginning of a sales and service organization which now covers not only every important town in the United Kingdom, but many other parts of the world.
The present century has seen the development of self-indicating scales and testing machines of all types on a large scale.
In both the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars the company supplied very large numbers of scales and testing machines and also a considerable quantity of direct munitions such as fuses and gun parts.
The productive capacity of Soho foundry, great as it is, proved unable to handle the great volume of post-war business. Consequently an ex-aircraft factory at Sherburn-in-Elmet, near Leeds, was taken over in 1946. This factory is a valuable supplement to Soho foundry, which remains the head office and principal factory of the company.
Bakelite Limited are engaged in the production of thermo-plastic and thermosetting plastics, and operate a number of factories of which the Tyseley works, occupying a 30-acre site, is the largest. Here they concentrate on the manufacture of phenolic plastics, which are industrially the most important single group of plastics materials, and in which field Bakelite Limited were pioneers.
A tank farm is situated at one end of the works which receives the chemical raw materials employed in the manufacture of "Bakelite" products. Storage is provided here for thousands of gallons of phenol, cresol, and formaldehyde which are fed to the resin department, where they are converted into the basic resinoid. The chemical reaction between phenol and formaldehyde, the ability of the resinoid to change from solid to plastic, and then finally back to a permanently solid and insoluble state, all under the continuous application of heat, is the basic property on which much of the modern plastics industry has been founded. The heavy treacly liquid, which is the resinoid as tapped from the still, is allowed to cool to a hard, brittle solid before being passed on to large crushing machines.
The main moulding-material manufacturing building is divided into bays, in which the powdered resinoid is mixed with suitable fillers and pigments in large mixers which feed into hoppers stationed above rolling-mills, where the mixture undergoes a complete metamorphosis, entering the rolls as a fine powder and emerging as a steaming hot rubber-like sheet. At the touch of a control actuated by the operator's foot, the sheet drops on to a conveyer and begins its journey to the final crushing and grinding operations. Air blasts arc concentrated on the material during the journey and it is completely cooled when it reaches the crushers, two or three minutes later. The material is finally ground to a fine powder, blended, and fed over a magnetic separator into drums for despatch.
In the department devoted to the manufacture of laminated materials several impregnating machines are in service, in which large rolls of paper are inserted at one end, fed slowly through a bath of liquid resinoid, and then passed through a drying oven; the treated paper again being formed into a roll at the other end of the machine. At this stage, further machines are employed to cut the impregnated paper into sheets of standard size, when they are ready for the press. All of the presses have steam-heated multiple platens, so that a number of panels can be formed by each press at a single operation. A few or a hundred laminations may be present in one board, depending upon the purpose for which it is intended. The sheets of paper necessary to form a panel of the required thickness are stacked one on top of the other between metal plates before their entry into the press. Prior to the pressing operation, the surface of the laminations, even the surfacing sheet in decorative veneers, is dull and unattractive; when taken from the press, however, the sheets have a brilliant finish, fully comparable with highly polished glass. From the entry of the raw materials into the works, to the despatch of the finished products, exhaustive tests are conducted on "Bakelite" materials during every stage of their manufacture. Chemical and physical control tests are made on materials during production, and many tests, mainly of a physical nature, on finished products. The application of these methods of control has led to the establishment of a large chemical laboratory, a well-equipped physical laboratory, a moulding test laboratory, and an inspection department which is capable of handling and measuring the whole output from the presses employed on the manufacture of laminated materials.
The importance the company has always attached to research and development is borne out by the extent of the buildings devoted to this department. Every industry has its specific problems the solution of which frequently demands the production of a special grade of "Bakelite" material. The company therefore maintains well-equipped laboratories and pilot plant for this purpose, and the first permanent building to be erected on the Tyseley site since the end of the war houses new research laboratories and a comprehensive science library.
The history of these works began in the year 1852, when the late Mr. George Edward Belliss finished his apprenticeship with the local engineering firm of Bache Brothers, which he acquired some seven years later.
The manufactures were of a general engineering nature until the year 1864, when Mr. Belliss produced steam-launch machinery of exceptional lightness and much higher speeds of revolution. These were speedily adopted by the navies of the world and became the accepted standards for both propulsion and auxiliary purposes.
The year 1890 saw the first forced-lubrication steam engine, which now has its place in the exhibits of motive power developments at the Science Museum, South Kensington, London. Gradually the nature of the business changed from marine to land interests with the development of the generation and distribution of electricity on an ever-increasing scale.
The premises in Ledsam Street, which were first occupied in 1872, were extended at the end of the century by the building of the Icknield Square works, about a quarter of a mile away. To the vertical steam engine was added successively the manufacture of steam turbines and air compressors in 1904, and oil engines in 1913; and these, together with steam condensers, comprise the main products of the company today.
The range of sizes handled covers : 1/4-15,000 kW. in rotary machines; 5-1,500 kW. in reciprocating engines; up to 6,500 cu. ft. per min. in reciprocating compressors; and pressures to 1,000 lb. per sq. in. in steam and 15,000 lb. per sq. in. in air. This requires a large variety and flexibility of production plant which is continually being modernized to meet changing needs of manufacturing technique. Recent additions are the first portions of a set of crankshaft-turning machinery, including a modern crankpin-turning machine.
The majority of the electric power required is generated on the premises through the medium of the company's own products.
Well-equipped test houses are maintained for verifying performance of machinery prior to despatch, turbines being particularly well catered for with a boiler of 500 lb. per sq. in. pressure.
Iron castings up to 15 tons individual weight are made in a well-lighted foundry, where the majority of the work is skilled floor moulding.
The newest addition to manufacturing space is a portal-framed building in which will be housed the smithy, a welding department, and a plating shop.
Research activities are carried on continuously, and are accommodated both in separately housed chemical and physical laboratories and in the various test houses.
With a total personnel of 1,500 the plant is capable of producing some 100,000 b.h.p. of machinery a year.
Birmetals, Ltd., is a subsidiary company of Birmid Industries, Ltd. The Woodgate works of Birmetals, Ltd., were completed in 1938, and were extended during the war years. The four factories which are built on a site which will be served by a new road yet to be constructed, known as Birmingham's Town Planned Road No. 1, are devoted to the production of all light alloys in all wrought forms.
Aluminium alloys are in regular production to comply with all official specifications. The magnesium alloys made include the latest strong alloys of magnesium, the "Elektron" magnesium— zirconium group.
The company specializes in a series of "Birmabright" aluminium alloys, which are made from high-purity aluminium and magnesium. They cover a complete range of medium-strength materials which are not subject to heat-treatment and are very widely used in all spheres of engineering activity, particularly for marine use.
The works are situated on a site of approximately 165 acres, of which 80 acres are devoted to the works proper, the remainder providing sports ground facilities and sites for future extensions. Installed electrical capacity is 21,000 kVA., thus making the company one of the largest users of electricity from the Grid supply in Birmingham. The current is taken at 11,000 volts.
The company buys pure aluminium in ingot form, which is melted and alloyed with the necessary elements for the desired alloy. The melting is carried out in ten coke- or oil-fired melting furnaces of capacities up to 20 tons each (equivalent to 60 tons of steel). A large low-frequency induction-furnace is also employed.
The melting furnaces deliver to continuous casting machines which incorporate the latest casting technique for light alloys, whereby complete metallurgical soundness is obtained in large masses of metal in the form of rolling slabs or extrusion billets. The casting machines employed will handle up to a cast of 4 tons in one operation of the machine. The largest rolling slab or billet may weigh as much as 2 tons (in steel it would weigh 6 tons). The rolling slabs are then processed hot, through a two-high reversing mill which reduces the slab thickness of 8 inches to desired thickness, usually 1/4 inch. Subsequent rolling operations are carried out cold, on a train of two-high mills or through four-high reversing strip mills.
The extrusion billets are processed hot through extrusion presses which vary in capacity from 3,500 to 650 tons. Magnesium alloys are extruded or rolled hot at all stages.
Complete equipment is installed for the subsequent processes of heat-treatment, annealing, levelling, flattening, etc.
Extruded tube blooms are processed through draw-bench installations to finished solid-drawn tubes.
All production operators in the works are paid on a direct piece-work system based on time study by the industrial engineer's department, and major production units operate in two or three shifts.
All fabrication operations are laid down and controlled by process engineers under laboratory control. The quality of the product is maintained by rigid standards set by the metallurgical and inspection departments. Metallurgical analysis is carried out by spectrographic and colorimetric methods, chemical analysis being solely used for check and development purposes.
The history of the Birmingham Small Arms Company, Ltd., is linked with the origin of British-made military arms and to the connexion that Birmingham had with the inception of that trade. Prior to 1692 military arms were mainly procured from Holland, and it is said that a remark by the King (in William and Mary's reign) regretting this fact led Sir Richard Newdegate, M.P. for Warwickshire, to interest himself in the matter to such good purpose that the Government, after giving a trial order about the year 1689, entered into a definite contract in 1692 with five leading gunsmiths to supply 200 Snaphance muskets per month "at seventeen shillings per piece ready money".
This group principle of dealing with the gunsmiths of Birmingham continued more or less for over 150 years. In 1854 about fourteen of the master gunsmiths principally concerned in this contract work with the Government formed themselves into an Association known as the "Birmingham Small Arms Trade", and it was this body that founded the Birmingham Small Arms Company in 1861.
In 1862, the newly formed Birmingham Small Arms Company, Ltd., bought 25 acres of ground at Small Heath at a purchase price of £300 per acre, and a contract for the building of the factory was placed in January 1863. It was no easy task to induce men skilled in handicrafts to depart from custom, for tradition dies hard — one of the curiosities of history in the gunsmiths' trade, for instance, was the superstition that springs would break if tempered after ten o'clock in the morning.
In March 1864 the new company was in negotiation with the War Office for an order for arms, but it was not until July 1866 that the Government placed its first order with the B.S.A. Company for the conversion of 100,000 muzzle-loading Enfields into Sniders. The first orders for complete new manufactured arms came in 1868. In 1873 the manufacture of munitions was added to the company's activities by the acquisition of a factory at Adderley Park, and for twenty-three years the company traded under the name of the Birmingham Small Arms and Metal Company. In 1896, however, this branch of the property was sold to the Nobel Dynamite Trust, Ltd., under whose aegis it became known as the Birmingham Metal and Munitions Company, Ltd., and the parent company reverted to its original name.
For the first nineteen years of its existence, 1861-80, the Birmingham Small Arms Company was fully and exclusively occupied with orders for military arms, either for the British or for foreign Governments.
At the beginning of the 'eighties the trade in military arms had temporarily decreased to a point that induced the directors to turn their attention to the newly developing field of cycle manufacture, in which they considered the company well fitted to succeed by virtue of certain similarities in the problems of rifle and cycle construction.
In 1888, in view of the anticipated heavy demand for the new magazine rifle, work of all descriptions in connexion with cycles was superseded.
The company's second entry into the cycle industry was in the early 'nineties when it began the manufacture of cycle parts for the trade, and made bicycles with B.S.A. fittings famous throughout the world. In 1902 the War Office adopted B.S.A. fittings as their standard for military bicycles. In 1907, the company obtained an important enlargement of capacity and goodwill in the purchase of the Eadie Manufacturing Company, of Redditch.
In 1908 the company once more introduced a complete machine, and in 1909 made its first motor cycle. In the following year it amalgamated with the Daimler Company of Coventry, and thereby consolidated its policy of direct representation in the field of road transport.
During the 1914-18 war, activity at Small Heath was concentrated on the production of arms. Only a year before the war broke out the company had acquired the sole manufacturing rights for the Lewis machine gun, and two thousand guns per week of this pattern were made during the later part of that war period.
With the Armistice and the immediate cessation of orders for military small arms, the B.S.A. company turned once more to the production of cycles and motor cycles and in 1921 began the manufacture of cars, beginning with the sturdy air-cooled 10 h.p. car.
The unprecedented demands of the war had caused the main departments of the B.S.A. Company's business to grow to such an extent as to lose their purely departmental character. It was deemed advisable to recognize their changed character by separately incorporating the cycle, gun, and tool-making sections, each of which, accordingly, became subsidiary companies under the titles B.S.A. Cycles, Ltd., B.S.A. Guns, Ltd., and B.S.A. Tools, Ltd., while the old established steel firm of Jessops of Sheffield became part of the B.S.A. organization.
B.S.A. Cycles, Ltd., now concentrated on the production of motor cycles to such purpose that in two years the company was recognized as the lender in the industry, manufacturing and selling a variety of models wider in range and much greater in numbers than any of its competitors.
The company has maintained its position as leader in the motor cycle industry up to the present day, and now one in every four motor cycles sold in Great Britain is a B.S.A., and they are known and appreciated in every country in the world where motor cycles are used.
In the production of pedal bicycles the company has made remarkable progress. Output has increased enormously, particularly since 1940, fostered by the realization on the part of the public of the health-giving benefits of outdoor recreation, of which cycling is such a popular example.
During the 1939-45 war, the company controlled sixty-seven establishments in various parts of the country, and amongst an enormous output of armaments of all kinds were 468,098 "Browning" guns for aircraft, 1,250,000 service rifles, 126,334 military motor cycles (over 25 per cent of the total supplied by the entire motor cycle industry), 128,334 military bicycles, including folding paratroop bicycles, and 10,000,000 shell fuses.
Since 1945, change-over to peace-time production of bicycles and motor cycles has been rapid, and the company is easily the largest manufacturer of motor cycles in the world today, with a record output and a range of machines which covers every class from the lightweight 125 c.c. B.S.A. "Bantam" to the very latest development in motor cycle design — the new B.S.A. "Golden Flash 650 Twin". During the last few years the B.S.A. organization has absorbed Sunbeam Cycles, Ltd., producing the high quality Sunbeam bicycles with the famous Sunbeam "Little Oilbath", and the latest 500 c.c. "O.H.C. Sunbeam" motor cycles; New Hudson, Ltd., producing "New Hudson" bicycles and autocycles; and Ariel Motors, Ltd., also manufacturers of motor cycles.
B.S.A. Tools Group had its foundation in a small branch factory of the Birmingham Small Arms Company, Ltd., at Sparkbrook, Birmingham, at the beginning of the century. During the 1914-18 war this branch was producing machine-gun parts and gauges and small tools in increasing quantities.
In 1919 a separate company was formed called B.S.A. Tools, Ltd., for the manufacture of jigs, fixtures, and, eventually, special machines as well as small tools, from designs of both the company and its customers. Today this company has entirely new works at Marston Green, equipped with the most up-to-date plant devoted to the manufacture of machine tools, and small tools are produced at Sparkbrook. The Group now comprises besides B.S.A. Tools, Ltd., B.G. Machinery, Ltd., Sparkbrook, Burton Griffiths and Company, Ltd., Marston Green, Cardiff Foundry and Engineering (1947), Ltd., Cardiff, Index Automatic Machine Company, Ltd., Redditch, and Leo. C. Steinle, Ltd., London. The Group is united in the manufacture, factoring, and reconditioning of high-grade machine tools and small tools.
In 1921, B.S.A. Tools, Ltd., produced the then entirely new centreless grinding machine, in which research and manufacture has continued to the present time. Multi-production lathes, lapping machines, and honing machines followed rapidly.
In 1926 the company produced its first single-spindle automatic screw machine. This was followed by a multi-spindle chucking machine and automatic turning machines.
Parallel development took place in small tools with the production of cut- and ground-thread taps and dies. In a little over a quarter of a century B.S.A. Tools, Ltd., has developed into a large organization devoted to the manufacture of precision machine tools of ten distinct types in more than thirty sizes, and over twenty-five lines of small tools and accessories. The contributions of the other companies in the Group are as follows:—
Burton Griffiths and Company, Ltd. Established in 1897 for factoring and distributing metal equipment, has always maintained full acquaintance with the latest trends in machine and tool design. As well as representing B.S.A. Tools Group it is the sole agent in the United Kingdom for much American metalworking equipment.
B.G. Machinery, Ltd. This company specializes in used and reconditioned high-class machine tools in association with the B.S.A. Tools Group.
Cardiff Foundry and Engineering Company (1947), Ltd. This member of the Group specializes in ironfounding, engineers' pattern making, and repetition casting, and supplies the Group with the various castings required for its production. The foundry is modern and well equipped. The new building was completed in 1941 and extensions continually take place.
Index Automatic Machine Company, Ltd. In 1947 B.S.A. Tools, Ltd., acquired the whole plant of the German Index-Werke, Esslingen, and formed a company to continue the manufacture of the world-famed "Index" automatic screw machine. British made "Index" automatics in operation were exhibited at the first post-war machine-tool exhibition, held in London in 1948.
Leo. C. Steinle, Ltd. This company joined the Group in 1949. For many years prior to the 1939-45 war it had been agent for several prominent continental machine-tool makers, including the Index-Werke, and was thus familiar with such machine tools, including the "Steinle" thread-generating machine and "Huller" tapping machine.
The manufacturing side of the Steinle business was transferred to B.S.A. Tools' works at Marston Green and Sparkbrook, the latter continuing with the production of thread rolls and the former handling the production of the thread-generating machines and tapping machines.
Leo. C. Steinle buildings in London are being adapted for housing the whole of the Group's London staff, and the ground and first floors are being equipped as extensive machine-tool and small tool showrooms and stores for all types of machines, both manufactured and factored by the B.S.A. Tools Group of companies. The new London headquarters will have provision for the business accommodation and reception of overseas visitors and agents.
B.S.A. Tools Group Research Laboratories. The machinability laboratory is situated at the Marston Green works of B.S.A. Tools, Ltd., and is adjacent to the laboratories and heat-treatment departments. It is in active co-operation with the Production Engineering Research Association of Great Britain. In addition, active co-operation is maintained with a number of industrial laboratories.
Within the same building, and under the same immediate control as the machinability laboratory are the main laboratories. These undertake metallurgical work, physical testing, analysis of component materials, tool and cutting fluids, heat-treatment, and X-ray work.
Thus the various companies within the Group are well served from the research and development angle. In addition, a rigid system of inspection at each stage of manufacture ensures the accuracy and uniformity in every detail and the absolute reliability of the whole range of machine- and small-tool products.
Electricity was first generated in Birmingham by the Birmingham Electric Supply Company in 1891, at Dale End power station. This undertaking was acquired by the Birmingham Corporation in 1900 and, to meet the growing demand, the Summer Lane power station was erected in 1906-13, followed by Nechells temporary station in 1915 and Nechells Prince's station 1923-29.
In anticipation of a still further growth of demand, the Birmingham Corporation in 1919 acquired a 900-acre estate at Hams Hall, situated some ten miles north-east of the Birmingham city centre. This site is in every way suited for power generation, both river and sewage effluent water being adequate for cooling tower make-up. The site is also conveniently situated for the supply of coal from the Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire coalfields, and is adjacent to the Derby—Leicester main line, along which the rail-borne coal is supplied.
Work on the Hams Hall "A" station was commenced in 1927, it being opened in 1929, and completed in 1939, with a capacity of 249.45 megawatts.
The experience gained in the design and operation of the Hams Hall "A" and Nechells stations was used in the design of Hams Hall "B" station, which was commenced in 1938, and opened in 1942, the final turbo-alternator being commissioned in 1949.
The coal is delivered to the sidings in wagons, of capacities varying from 8 to 20 tons, and is discharged by tippers into hoppers from which it is fed to bucket elevators and inclined belts, and thence to the shuttle belts which distribute it to the boiler bunkers. There is a store ground of 220,000-tons capacity adjacent to the coal plant. Coal is fed to this store ground from the tippers by means of belt conveyers and is distributed over the store area by means of two transporter bridges. The process is reversed for reclaiming coal from stock. The average coal consumption of Hams Hall "B" during the winter months is 4,000 tons per day. The fuel consumed is of a comparatively low grade, having a calorific value of 9,200 B.Th.U. per lb. approximately, and an average ash content of 18 per cent. Consequently, approximately 250,000 tons of ash per annum has to be handled, and this is discharged as a slurry to a low-lying portion of the estate, where the ash settles out, and the clear water is decanted to the river from which it was originally derived. It has been established by experiment on site that such ash disposal areas can be reclaimed to pasture land at reasonable cost by resoiling, fertilizing, cultivating, and reseeding.
The boiler house contains twelve boilers, of 320 k.lb. per hr. evaporative capacity, single-pass type. The boilers were designed for pulverized-fuel firing on the unit system, employing six "R" type burners, situated in the lower front wall of the furnace. Each boiler unit is complete with steaming and non-steaming economizers, primary and secondary air heaters, and controlled superheater. Electrostatic precipitators are incorporated to cleanse the flue gases before they are discharged to the atmosphere through two 400-foot chimneys. The coal is pulverized by three mills of ring-and-roller type per boiler, each having a maximum capacity of 8 tons per hour.
In the turbine room, six turbo-alternators are installed, rated at 53.5 megawatts continuous maximum output, 50 megawatts being generated on the main alternator and 3.5 megawatts on an auxiliary shaft alternator. The stop-valve steam pressure and temperature are 650 lb. per sq. in. and 825 deg. F. respectively, and four stages of feed heating are employed, giving a final feed-water temperature of 375 deg. F.
The main generation voltage of machines Nos. 1, 2, and 3 is 33,000 volts. Machines Nos. 4, 5, and 6 generate at 11 kV., but generator transformers are installed stepping up to 132,000 volts. The auxiliary alternators generate at 3.3 kV. and supply the works load of the power station.
Each turbine is fitted with a condenser having a total of 60,000 sq. ft. of cooling surface designed to give a vacuum of 28.2 inches of mercury (barometer 30 inches of mercury), when supplied with 2,400,000 gallons of cooling water per hour at 75 deg. F., with the turbine operating at maximum continuous rating.
For cooling the circulating water, four reinforced ferro-concrete cooling towers 317 feet high have been installed, each capable of cooling five million gallons of water per hour.
The station is now operated by the Midlands Division of the British Electricity Authority.
For well over half a century the British Thomson-Houston Company has been a pioneer in the development of electric plant and apparatus, and, today, from its eleven factories all kinds of electric products go even to the remotest parts of the world, each to play an important part in the battle to raise standards of living.
The head office and main works of the company are situated in Rugby. When manufacture began in 1902, the works consisted of fourteen buildings with a manufacturing area of 200,000 sq. ft., and was planned for about 800 operatives. Today the site area is some 123 acres, on which are 147 buildings (some over 1,000 feet long) having a floor area of over 2,000,000 sq. ft., and giving employment to nearly half of the company's 24,000 personnel.
There are several miles of railway track for steam and Diesel-electric locomotives and cranes, giving direct communication with the main line (London Midland Region) of British Railways. The entrances to the works have recently been supplemented by a new approach road designed to take the largest and heaviest loads, weighing up to 250 tons. It gives direct access to all parts of the works without any road restrictions.
Among the historic developments that have taken place in the Rugby works is the design and manufacture in 1928 of an extra-high-temperature 10,000 kW. steam turbo-alternator for the Detroit Edison Company of U.S.A., the total temperature of the steam being 1,000 deg. F. The experience gained with this turbine had a direct bearing on the subsequent development in the Rugby works of the Whittle gas-turbine jet-engine. This work commenced in 1936, and in May 1941 an experimental Gloster aircraft powered by a B.T.H. jet-propulsion engine of Whittle design was successfully flown for the first time.
Products. Products of the Rugby works include turbo-alternators and all kinds of turbine plant, for land and marine service; gearing; electric motors; generators; transformers; rectifiers; control gear; electronic equipment; and Mazda lamps, millions of which are made annually.
Recent Extensions. One of the most recent additions to the Rugby works is the first section of extensions devoted exclusively to the manufacture of heavy plant. This building has a main bay 500 feet long and 90 feet wide; the total floor area being over 125,000 sq. ft. Overhead cranes run on rails 50 feet above floor level, and the two largest cranes can each lift 110 tons.
The height of the building is such that it is necessary to have high-powered lamps to ensure satisfactory illumination on the working plane of the main bay. A new 5 1/2 kW. lighting unit was specially designed by B.T.H. for the purpose, fourteen of these units being used. In each lighting unit there are one 2 1/2 kW. mercury-vapour and two 1 1/2 kW. tungsten lamps. Other parts of the building are illuminated by fluorescent lamps.
The machine tools and factory equipment in this building are designed for the manufacture of the largest transformers, hydro-electric water-wheel alternators, generators, and motors yet envisaged.
Another factory of considerable interest is the new air-conditioned gear factory, where facilities are available for cutting precision gears of all sizes ranging from the smallest up to gear-wheels of 10-12 feet in diameter for marine and other applications.
Fabrication was first introduced by B.T.H. in 1926, stator frames being among the first large parts to be fabricated. Today, not only are protection caps, baseplates, bearing pedestals, gear-wheels, gearboxes, transformer tanks, etc., fabricated, but this form of construction is applied to large steam-turbine casings, such as the exhaust casings of 30,000 and 60,000 kW. machines.
The fabrication factory has recently been doubled in size to accommodate the great increase in fabricated (welded steel) construction, which replaces the use of the heavier and less predictable castings formerly employed. To reduce internal stresses, completed structures are normalized in a stress-relieving furnace designed to take the largest fabricated structures made.
Research Laboratory. Behind all the many activities of B.T.H. is the research laboratory at Rugby, employing over 300 workers, representing nearly every branch of physical science; with its closely allied departments it covers a remarkably wide field of electrical, physical, and chemical research. The work ranges from investigations of insulations, metals, oils, glasses, semiconductors, and phenomena such as electron emission, to the design and making of apparatus on an experimental or pre-production scale. Such work includes that on fluorescent lamps operating at 10 kW. Of equal importance are studies leading to the evolution of circuits, test gear, or processes helpful to production.
Other B.T.H. Works. In addition to the main works at Rugby there are ten other factories. Of these, the Willesden factory is a self-contained organization for the design and manufacture of all types of switchgear, from small low-voltage industrial units to the largest circuit-breakers for 275,000-volt service. Electric motors for industrial uses are made on a quantity production basis at the Blackheath, Birmingham, factory, while from the Coventry factories come the world-famous magnetos for internal combustion engines for use on land, sea, and in the air, an exhaustive range of electrical equipment for aircraft, fractional horse-power motors, the Single Unit Projection Assembly for cinema projectors, and the B.T.H. 16 mm. sound-film projectors. The manufacture of fractional horse-power motors is also carried on at a factory in Newcastle-under-Lyme, while fluorescent and other Mazda lamps are the entire output of a large factory in Leicester. In that city, also, there is a factory devoted entirely to the production of radar equipment, including B.T.H. marine radar.
Apprentice Training. The company offers complete and extensive training facilities to young men seeking an opportunity to enter the engineering industry.
Training courses for apprentices have been in operation almost since the Rugby works started, in 1902; in 1919 it was introduced on a comprehensive scale, and the courses, now available, are in line with the recommendations of the Institutions of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
In 1947 an advanced engineering course was introduced for suitably qualified engineers; the course is believed to be the only one of its kind in Great Britain.
John Cadbury, the founder of the firm, commenced business in 1824, in a shop in Bull Street, Birmingham, chiefly for the sale of tea and coffee, and where he first experimented in making cocoa and chocolate. His success was such that in 1831 he took a small factory to develop the manufacturing side of the business, and by 1847 the demand for his products had increased to such an extent that new premises were secured in Bridge Street, occupying a quarter of an acre, where forty people were employed, 20 h.p. being required to run the factory.
Today the Bournville works are devoted to the manufacture of cocoa, food drinks, and chocolate, with such subsidiary trades as card-box and tin-canister making, and printing; there are also large departments concerned with the various branches of engineering and building. Bournville, about four miles from the centre of Birmingham, was completely rural when the factory was transferred there in 1879, and although it has been a suburb of the city since 1911, the area surrounding the factory still preserves its rural character or has been developed in such a way as to gain for it the title of "The Factory in a Garden". The site covers about 75 acres of factory and 200 acres of recreation grounds. Many of the buildings are of six-storey construction and there are approximately 2i miles of streets, and 5 miles of railway. It is also served by canal. Cadbury's well-known brand of milk chocolate ("C.D.M.") is made from fresh, full-cream English milk, and subsidiary factories have been established in dairying districts where the early stages in the manufacture of milk chocolate are carried out; some other initial processes also are carried on away from Bournville. Factories have also been established in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Eire, South Africa, and India. The total number employed directly in England (under post-war restrictions on consumption) is nearly 9,000, of whom over 7,500 (including 700 part-time) are at Bournville. The peak number (over 10,000) was attained in 1939.
In making drinking cocoa, cocoa beans are cleaned and roasted, and the shell removed; the kernel or nib is then ground into a viscous liquid, which due to the high fat content (cocoa butter) in the nib would make the cocoa too rich for drinking, and, accordingly, part is removed by pressing. The resultant cake is then converted into a fine powder, which is weighed and packed into the familiar tins or cartons.
Plain chocolate consists of cocoa nib selected according to the flavour desired, with finely powdered sugar, and also some extra cocoa butter to give fluidity for moulding into blocks or for covering confectionery centres. The ingredients are mixed and then ground on steel-roll refiners until the requisite degree of fineness is obtained. Further refining processes follow which also help in developing the flavour.
The manufacture of milk chocolate is very similar, the main difference being the incorporation of milk solids at the mixing stage.
Chocolate-covered confectionery occupies a large section of the factory. In making the centres, the original art of the confectioner has been developed and improved to enable continuous methods of production to be used.
The factory produces most of the many types of boxes and tins required for packing the very diverse range of lines listed, although this is very limited by comparison with pre-war production. In addition, printing of labels is done on a large scale. The big steam demand required for the process work is generated in a central power plant of 140,000 lb. capacity at 230 lb. per sq. in., superheated to 500 deg. F. About 70 per cent passes through back-pressure-engine generating sets which exhaust at 30 lb. per sq. in., the steam then being used for cooking and heating. The balance goes to processes which require higher temperatures. About 25 per cent of the electricity required is generated, the remainder being taken from the Grid; the demand for steam being the controlling factor.
Over the past twenty-five years considerable advances have been made in the development of continuous processes and mechanization, and a large staff of engineers and other specialists is employed. Perhaps the most obvious changes have been in the use of automatic machinery for wrapping, packing, and weighing, and in the production of moulded blocks, where liquid chocolate is fed into one end of a continuous plant, the finished goods being packed at the other.
The creation of new processes has called for many new machines which have had to be specially designed at Bournville.
It has also meant a large and highly skilled staff of engineering and allied tradesmen who constitute about 10 per cent of the total personnel.
The history of the firm of Chance Brothers began at Spon Lane, Smethwick, in 1824, when Robert Lucas Chance bought the works of the British Crown Glass Company and other property, amounting to some 15 acres. Six years later he was joined by his brother William, and the two brothers or their descendants have been active principals in this business ever since.
The Spon Lane works have grown in a century and a quarter to occupy some 40 acres. In addition there are branch works at Glasgow, St. Helens, and Malvern, and the company's pay-roll today exceeds 3,000.
When the firm began, crown glass alone was used for glazing, and glass of every sort was subject to crippling taxes. These taxes were repealed in 1845, largely through the efforts of Robert Lucas Chance, who was then free to develop his business to the full. He persuaded Georges Bontemps, author of the monumental "Guide du Verrier", and the glass authority of the age, to come to Smethwick and teach them how to make sheet glass. This he did so well that in a short time crown glass had almost disappeared and most windows in the land were being glazed with sheet glass made by Chance Brothers. In 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, the entire glass structure (over 1,000,000 sq. ft.) of what later became known as the Crystal Palace was supplied by Chance Brothers.
Bontemps also rediscovered the "brilliant ruby" of the old makers. This was a lost glass-manufacturers' secret and its development was a great achievement. It was his experience, also, that made possible the establishment of an optical division.
A further achievement was the establishment in 1851 of the lighthouse works at Smethwick. Up to this time lighthouses had been built by anyone with a whim for them, and their construction often reflected the idiosyncrasies of the designer. Chance Brothers made lighthouse building a specialist's job, built to sound engineering and optical principles, of which those at the Lizard, St. Catherine's Point, Beachy Head, and in many parts of the world are examples.
Today the Spon Lane works produce an immense range of glasses and manufactured products to meet the needs of science, industry, and the home-for Britain and many oversea countries.
The manufacturing side of the business is divided into four production divisions.
Optical and Special Glass. This division produces optical glasses for lenses, prisms, etc.; special glasses (0B9 colour temperature conversion filter, ON20 heat-absorbing and heat-resisting) and colour filter glasses in a range of forty shades; spectacle glass (White and Crookes); glass beads for blood storage; "Ballotini" for surfacing cinema screens; "Veridia" precision-bore tubing and all-glass hypodermic syringes with interchangeable parts. Ninety per cent of the lenses used at Hollywood are made from British Chance glass.
Blown and Pressed Glass. The products of this division are "Hysil" (registered) heat-resisting laboratory glassware and tubing; cathode-ray tubes for radar and television; lighting glassware for all kinds of oil, gas, and electricity, including fluorescent tubing; petrol pump globes; coloured lenses for railway signals, traffic lights, ships' navigation lights, etc.; domestic table glass, tumblers, ashtrays, and refrigerator sets.
Flat Glass. This division specializes in roofing glass; architectural glass (cathedral, figured, Flemish, reeded, etc., made by the continuous flow process on the plant known as "Swannee River" by the men who work it !); coloured sheet glass; flashed sheet glass, antique glass; microscope cover glasses (to 0.003 inch) and slides; and eye-protecting glasses ("Protex", "Neodex", "Protal", etc.).
Engineering. Lighthouse and marine lighting equipment are made in this division; also airways and beacons, including the famous war-time "Chance-Light"; an automatic light valve for marine buoys, etc.; an automatic lamp-changer for electric lighthouses; "Austinlite" electric generating sets, including automatic stand-by plant for telephone and signalling systems, etc.; "Sumo" electric submersible pumps; and the "Flamemaster" universal hand-torch.
Every year has seen a widening use for glass as science progressed and new industries developed. In recent years, for example, Chance Brothers have produced in glass such varied forms as culture flasks for penicillin and streptomycin, cathode-ray tubes for radar and television, lenses for the submarine-spotting Leigh light and the all-glass hypodermic syringe. The research laboratories and development staff are still working on new problems to meet the need of the future and to ensure that Britain does not fall behind, either in glass manufacture or in those branches of engineering in which Chance Brothers play a part.
This firm, which has the reputation of producing some of the world's most famous precision machine tools, measuring instruments, gauges, and equipment, was founded in 1913, when it occupied the premises formerly used as a weaving mill in the Earlsdon district of Coventry. From small beginnings and under the leadership of its present chairman, Mr. H. H. Harley, C.B.E., it made rapid progress, and in 1928 was converted into a public company. In 1936 the present head office and works were built on Fletchamstead Highway, Coventry, occupying 250,000 sq. ft. on a site of 16 acres. The layout, modern equipment and natural lighting all provide working conditions unsurpassed throughout the Midlands.
Subsidiary factories have been opened in Scotland and at two other centres in England. In addition, the company has manufacturing interests in Australia and South Africa. A total of about 3,250 personnel are now employed.
Amongst the many machine tools produced are thread grinders capable of extremely accurate work. The firm was one of the pioneers of thread-grinding practice, and much of the advancement and development of this branch of machine-tool design can be credited to them. Other machine tools manufactured are grinders for producing worms, gears, hobs, and special forms, all to high degrees of accuracy; screw-cutting lathes which will, for example, cut a thread on a 54-inch lead-screw with an accumulative pitch error on its complete length of only +/- 0.0003 inch; a jig borer with an accurate optical system for setting the movement of the table; and broaching machines, both vertical and horizontal, together with broach-sharpening machines of interesting design.
The instrument division includes the design and manufacture of instruments capable of extremely accurate measurement: a pitch-measuring instrument which reveals positively pitch inaccuracies of less than 0.0001 inch over 2 inches on all forms of thread and will repeat readings to 0.00002 inch; an instrument that measures diameters to within 0.00005 inch; and instruments for measuring angles, tapers, hobs and worms, cams, gear teeth, drill points, etc., whilst dividing heads, level comparators, and interferometers are but a few of the optical type of instrument.
The company is the largest manufacturer in England of standard, and "slip" gauges. These are produced for reference purposes of an accuracy within two-parts in the million; is also licensee in Great Britain for the manufacture of American Petroleum Institute reference master gauges. Much of the gauge and instrument production and all the final checking and calibration is carried out under temperature- and atmosphere-controlled conditions.
Other departments are set aside for the design and manufacture of broaches of every type, industrial clutches which are supplied to makers of machinery throughout the world, and press tools, jigs and fixtures.
As an ancillary to production the company has well-equipped heat-treatment and electroplating departments which are available for the carrying out of these processes for other engineering concerns.
Fort Dunlop, known today as "The Stronghold of the British Tyre Industry", was commenced in 1915, and is the largest rubber factory in the Commonwealth, covering an area of 260 acres, with a total floor space of 3,000,000 sq. ft.
Fort Dunlop not only houses tyre producing departments, but is the headquarters of the research and technical services of the world-wide Dunlop organization. The research centre is the most completely equipped in the rubber industry and the machine tool department is the largest in the world owned by a tyre manufacturer. The test house contains apparatus for testing every conceivable size and type of tyre, including those built for world land speed-record attempts, which are tested at speeds of over 400 m.p.h.
Relationships with the 10,000 employees are on a very high plane, and all divisions have a constitutional method of consultation for which purpose a joint factory council was originally formed in 1919, with a constitution based on the Whitley councils.
For the tyre making processes the rubber, a large quantity of which comes from the company's own plantations in Malaya, is used dry (coagulated). After scientific selection and blending it is compounded with various chemical ingredients and then passes a series of comprehensive tests in a control laboratory. For the casing of the tyre, woven or weftless cotton cord, from the firm's Rochdale mills, or rayon cord is used. It is processed with compounded rubber to completely insulate all the cords and is then subjected to qualifying tests in a works control laboratory. The rubberized fabric and compounded rubber is built up into a tyre, the fabric being made up into plies which are secured to high-tensile wire beads and finished with the fitment of a plain layer of rubber from which the tread is finally formed. Tyres are all made initially as a flat band and then the raw tyre is shaped to its final condition and fitted with a curing tube, after which the complete assembly is placed in a mould and vulcanized collectively in autoclaves or in single units. During this heating process the curing tube, which is used repeatedly for successive tyres, is inflated at pressure with steam and air.
The equipment available has a capacity for a weekly output of nearly 4,000,000 lb. weight of rubber, fabric, and steel bead wire. For this large output the related engineering services play a major part in the factory's efforts. Fort Dunlop is highly mechanized, and constant research is being carried out to improve both methods and mechanical equipment for simplifying production and at the same time giving the operators more freedom to concentrate on the very high standard of quality required.
The engineering divisions account for nearly 15 per cent of the total people employed, and are responsible for the supply and efficient use of large quantities of steam, compressed air, and hydraulic power. In addition, 1,500,000 units of electricity taken from the national Grid are used each week, and this supply is used principally to feed the electric motors, totalling 50,000 h.p.
The boiler plant has a capacity of 320,000 lb. of steam per hour, at a maximum pressure of 200 lb. per sq. in. (520 deg. F.).
The hydraulic equipment installed provides a range of pressures between 250 and 2,000 lb. per sq. in., with capacities of 1,660 and 510 gal. per min.
The rubber industry calls for a considerable amount of cold water, and for this purpose five bore-holes have been sunk in the site, fitted with the most modern submersible type of pump capable of abstracting water at the rate of over 100,000 gal. per hr.
Compressed air is also used in great quantities and the producing plant gives an available supply of pressures between 80 and 300 lb. per sq. in., and the total capacity is of the order of 20,000 cu. ft. per min. of free air.
Space heating is carried out for the greater part of the year with steam exhausted from the tyre-making processes at 21 lb. per sq. in. This is supplemented during the winter season by the exhaust from steam-driven air compressors, hydraulic pumps, and other service units. These units acting as prime-movers, give valuable relief to the electrical load and make an important contribution to load spreading in the national interest.
To provide this factory, and others overseas with tyre moulds and rubber processing machines, the extensive machine tool department, employing nearly 600 people, is fully equipped with the most modern tools.
A high degree of instrumentation is in use for the many and varied processes, and these are developed and maintained by a self-contained instrument department.
The English Electric Company's works in Rugby were formerly owned by Willans and Robinson, Ltd., whose business originated in the manufacture of high-speed reciprocating steam engines for marine propulsion, and later for electric power generation, and was developed to embrace steam turbines and Diesel engines.
In 1918, the English Electric Company was formed by the amalgamation of Willans and Robinson, Ltd., with several other old-established engineering firms, all pioneers in their respective spheres, whose activities were associated with electrical engineering in its earliest days. These firms included Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works, Ltd., at Stafford, Dick Kerr and Company at Preston, and the Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Company at Bradford. The English Electric Company now also controls D. Napier and Son, Ltd., and Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company, Ltd., with its subsidiaries.
The "English Electric" group of companies provides complete electricity supply systems, employing steam, water, or oil power for generation; the rolling stock and equipment for railway electrification schemes, including Diesel-electric traction; marine propulsion and auxiliary plant; aircraft and aero-engines; all classes of industrial and domestic electrical equipment; radio, radar, and television apparatus.
The Rugby works, which have been extended and improved from time to time to keep pace with their increasing scope and output, make the steam turbines and condensing plant, water turbines and associated hydraulic equipment, Diesel engines, and gas turbines. Steam turbines have been made at the Rugby works since 1903 when they were developed to meet the demand for steam engines of greater power than that of the reciprocating engines then available.
In 1904, when the development of the Diesel engine was making headway, the experience acquired in the manufacture of reciprocating steam engines provided a sound basis for the design and construction of this new class of engine which became one of the regular products of the Rugby works.
The design and manufacture of water turbines and other hydraulic plant at Rugby was initiated in 1920, prior to which the English Electric Company's other works had for many years been making water-turbine-driven generators and associated electrical equipment for hydro-electric installations.
In addition to the Nelson Research Laboratories at Stafford, which serve the whole "English Electric" organization, there are also extensive and modernly equipped laboratories at the Rugby works specializing in work relating to steam turbines, hydraulics, and internal combustion engines.
The unusual architecture of the works' buildings was influenced by agreements made when the land was purchased to ensure some conformity in appearance with the principal buildings in Rugby, notably Rugby School.
Steam Turbines. The company has specialized in the development of steam turbines for high pressures, and of large-capacity turbines running at 3,000 r.p.m. The first 30,000 kW. unit operating at this speed was installed in 1929, and a 32,000 kW., 3,000 r.p.m. machine operating with steam at the stop valve at 1,300 lb. per sq. in. pressure and 950 deg. F. temperature, commissioned in a London power station in 1943, was the first extra-high-pressure turbine of this output and speed to be installed in Great Britain.
The steam turbines built at the Rugby works now range from 600 to 80,000 h.p., with steam pressures of 200-1,500 lb. per sq. in. and temperatures of 600-1,050 deg. F. Condensing and feed-water-heating plant are also made. There is at present a heavy programme of steam-turbine work in hand, comprising mainly 30- and 60-megawatt sets for the British Electricity Authority. There are also two 60-megawatt, 60-cycle units under construction for Canada, and six 30-megawatt sets for South Africa to be delivered within the next two or three years.
Water Turbines. The company is in the exceptional position of being able to treat hydro-electric development comprehensively, as it designs and manufactures all the equipment required for a hydro-electric power station. The design centre for the hydraulic plant is at Rugby, working in close collaboration with the electrical centre at Stafford. The Rugby designs are backed by a hydraulics laboratory where models of all types of turbines are continuously tested. Facilities are also available for solving civil engineering design problems.
Because of the intimate relations between turbine and governor, this company has always designed, built, and tested its own governors at Rugby. The company also makes its own main valves, the latest design being the "straightflow" type which presents a smooth straight bore when open. "Straightflow" valves up to 11 feet in diameter have been built.
While the Rugby works are the water-turbine centre, developments in Scotland have necessitated the transfer of a substantial section of manufacture to Glasgow. Similarly, a desire to make portions of the plant in the country where it is to be used has resulted in some manufacture in Australia and New Zealand.
The company's range of water turbines covers the high-speed impulse type such as the 39,000 h.p. units being built for Vila Nova, Portugal; the high-head reaction type of which the 56,000 and 45,000 h.p. machines for the Clachan and Loch Sloy power stations of the North of Scotland Hydro-electric Board are examples; the medium-head reaction turbines such as those of 73,000 h.p. under construction for Castelo do Bode, Portugal; and the feathering propeller type as supplied to Tekapo, New Zealand, of 35,000 h.p.
Diesel Engines. The power range of the company's Diesel engines extends from 165 to 3,500 b.h.p., covered by four-stroke-cycle types and "Fullagar" two-stroke-cycle opposed-piston types. The four-stroke-cycle engines can be either naturally aspirated or turbo-pressure charged. The four-stroke "RL" and the "Fullagar" two-stroke "Q" types are made at Rugby; other types are made at the Preston works.
Rugby works are the development centre for Diesel engines, including the dual-fuel engine which can operate on town gas, sewage gas (methane), and natural or producer gas, with a pilot injection of fuel oil.
The various designs of English Electric Diesel engines are applied to electric power generation for all purposes, pumping, Diesel-electric railway traction, ship propulsion and auxiliaries.
An example of a British power station completely equipped with Diesel engines made at Rugby works is that of the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board at Aberystwyth. The plant capacity of this station is 4,500 b.h.p. comprising both "L" type and "Fullagar" engines, and this station has the lowest fuel consumption and highest thermal efficiency of any oil-driven station in Great Britain, generating all current used and operating continuously. The Hamilton power station of the Bermuda Electric Light, Power, and Traction Company will contain 19,290 h.p. of generating plant driven by "Fullagar" Diesel engines built at Rugby works, when the new engine now on order is installed.
Gas Turbines. The gas-turbine department at the Rugby works is well equipped with a fully instrumented compressor test bay and large gas-turbine test shop, both overlooked by a well laid out, sound-proof control room from which all tests can be observed and recorded.
The appropriate design, drawing, and contracts offices are at present handling orders for a wide range of units for a diversity of applications.
Research and Development. The wide range of prime-movers designed and produced at Rugby necessitates a correspondingly wide field of research and development to achieve steady progress.
For the investigation of flow problems in the blading and other passages of steam and gas turbines a flow laboratory, using air as the testing fluid, is maintained. Models of convenient size are constructed of wood, and studied under conditions giving similarity of flow in the model and its counterpart in the turbine. The vibration characteristics, at rest or in rotation, of turbine blading and rotors are under constant investigation. The performances of components of gas and steam turbines, for example, air compressors, can be examined in special test berths under running conditions corresponding to full-scale operation.
Hydraulic turbines manufactured in the works are proportioned according to the results of tests made on running models, simulating the operating conditions on site. High efficiency and safety against cavitation are thereby ensured.
A special station for testing internal-combustion engines is in continuous operation. Single-cylinder units are employed in investigating and checking the combustion and mechanical details of new designs, and endurance tests of complete engines ensure reliability of the final product.
Auxiliary laboratories for materials testing and metallurgical investigations guide the correct selection of constructional materials. These include an X-ray laboratory with 400,000- and 250,000-volt equipment having 5- and 21-inch penetrations respectively, a spectrograph and micro-photometer for metallurgical analysis, and general metallurgical and chemical laboratories.
Technical Education. The manufacture of the four prime-movers previously mentioned requires the highest possible engineering skill, and it is the function of the works' Technical Education Officer to recruit and train the apprentices who will eventually be not only the skilled craftsmen in the various departments but also the draughtsmen and technicians.
Three grades of apprentices are accepted for training :—
Graduate — the qualification required being a university degree in engineering or allied science, or equivalent diploma.
Student — the qualification required being a Higher School Certificate or a School Certificate with Matriculation exemption.
Craft — commencing from the sixteenth birthday, the qualifications being aptitude and desire to be trained as skilled craftsmen.
The selection in each case is by interview. Technical education throughout the company is co-ordinated and directed by an educational administration, centred in London, through officers and staffs at individual works.
Welfare. The Willans Social and Games Club provides for the recreation of the employees, and has sections covering nearly every sporting activity. The works have one of the best bowling greens in the district for the use of their workpeople and staff. There are works and staff canteens and an ambulance and first-aid room with a resident nurse. Two housing estates comprising a total of 350 houses for employees are due for completion by the end of this year.
This year will mark the hundredth anniversary of the founding of Fisher and Ludlow, Ltd., in Sherlock Street, near the centre of Birmingham. There, with a staff of three, the company manufactured small pressed-metal components and domestic hardware.
Shortly afterwards larger premises were needed, and these were found in a disused screw factory in Rea Street. During the 1939-45 war, the buildings in the centre of Birmingham were heavily damaged by bombing; expansion far exceeded the supply of suitable buildings and, by the end of the war, over twenty unit factories had been established in the neighbourhood of the old Albion works, and the need for expansion and regrouping was urgent.
The present Albion works at Castle Bromwich, which had been engaged during the war in the manufacture of Spitfire and Lancaster aircraft, was transferred to Fisher and Ludlow, Ltd., in 1945. This involved the transfer from the centre of Birmingham of some 50,000 tons of machinery and equipment. The task was completed at the end of 1947 and continued expansion is in progress.
The site occupies an area of more than 45 acres, and the buildings cover over 1,500,000 sq. ft. There are five main buildings in which employment is found for over 5,500 work-people; the automobile body finishing plant near Coventry and the subsidiary company of Fisher and Ludlow, Ltd. (Gridway Division), employ a further 1,500.
Whilst the greater part of the company's productive capacity is devoted to the manufacture of fully painted and trimmed car bodies, considerable effort is devoted to other branches of engineering. Over a million pressings are supplied each week to all branches of industry in Great Britain and overseas. The company also manufactures and markets a wide variety of finished products always closely related to press work, amongst these are the Bendix home laundry, stainless-steel sinks and lavatory basins, bottle crates, railway carriage doors, and many forms of factory handling-equipment.
The main press bay, 300 yards long and 100 yards wide, uses more than 1,500 tons of sheet steel each week, and produces upwards of a million pressings varying in size from a tiny clip to the roof panels of a modern motor car. There are 320 presses, ranging in capacity from 20 to 1,500 tons, amongst which are examples of the most modern mechanical and hydraulic single- and double-action types. The largest have bed areas of 14 ft. by 10 ft., and some of the tools used weigh more than 40 tons. Nearly all are fitted with pneumatic die-cushions.
Material handling is effected by overhead cranes of 10 and 20 tons capacity, and by an overhead chain conveyer of approximately 3,500 feet which carries pressings direct from the presses to the stores. Work handling on the floor is carried out by the latest developments in palletization (a form of work handling pioneered by the company).
The pattern shop and tool room, which cover an area of 100,000 sq. ft. and employ more than 500 skilled toolmakers and machinists, are engaged in the production of press tools, and fixtures for use throughout the organization. A tool try-out department, built up from a representative section of production presses and including both hydraulic and large double-action types, ensures that all tools are fully serviceable before they are handed over to the production department.
A production heat-treatment section houses the latest types of furnace for the annealing and normalizing of all forms of steel. Pickling and chemical cleaning plants are available to cover a wide range of material specifications.
At one end of the block is an air-compressor house supplying the factory with 4,000 cu. ft. of free air per minute.
Motor body components are fitted and welded together in a main welding jig, so arranged that there are four loading stations connected to the main jig by rails and thus allowing for maximum loading of the assembly jig. From the main welding jig, the bodies are carried by overhead runway to a pincer welding track, at the end of which the body is mounted on to a chassis, bolted up, and moved to the mechanized assembly track for the fitting of doors, bonnet tops, and trunk lids. By the time the shell reaches the end of the track it is complete and ready to begin its journey through the Rotodip plant.
This plant is the first of its kind to be used in the motor industry of the world. Its functions are the cleaning, phosphate coating, and prime painting of car bodies.
The Fisher and Ludlow stainless-steel sink was the first example of a one-piece bowl and draining board to be produced. Since the inception of the first model, other models have been introduced, and the company now produces a comprehensive range, catering for all requirements.
The porcelain-enamelled lavatory basin is produced in the main press-bay and enamelled in a modern enamelling shop, equipped since the war to deal with this and the enamelled components required in the assembly of the Bendix automatic laundry.
During 100 years, Fisher and Ludlow have served every branch of industry where press work is required, and have built a reputation as the largest fabricators of sheet metal in the British Empire.
The growth of the G.E.C. is one of the romances of British industry. It began in the 'eighties of the last century, when the electrical industry was in its infancy. Since that time it has developed into the largest British electrical manufacturing organization, employing over 50,000 people and occupying a pre-eminent position in the electrical field.
Its many factories are spread over the length and breadth of Britain, and include the Witton group of works, telephone and radio works at Coventry, the world famous Osram lamp works and valve works in London, turbine and mechanical engineering works in Kent, lift works at Northampton, cable works at Southampton and Eastleigh, domestic heating appliance works at Birmingham and Swinton, meter works in Birmingham, instrument works at Salford, not to mention glass works, refrigerator works, medical appliance works, and many others. With such manufacturing resources at its disposal, backed by the famous research laboratories at Wembley, the company is able to handle in their entirety the largest projects in any part of the world.
To augment oversea undertakings, manufacturing facilities are available in Australia, India, South Africa, China, France, and Eire, while in addition to the sales branches in every important town in Great Britain, the overseas organization comprises ten companies with thirty-four branches and eighty-three agencies, covering all the principal markets of the world.
The Witton works is itself a group of factories and is, in fact, one of the largest centres in the world devoted to the manufacture of electrical machinery and switchgear. On a site of 150 acres are separate works for the heavy engineering, switch-gear, high tension equipment, transformers, rectifiers and electronics, standard motors, small motors, fan and fractional-horse-power motors, domestic appliances, and a foundry (the largest in the Midlands). These various factories are each self-contained with their own machine shops, assembly bays, and stores, and are known collectively as the Witton Engineering Group.
The variety of equipment produced extends from domestic vacuum cleaners with their tiny motors to the huge generators for modern power stations; from small ironclad switches for domestic and factory use to the massive circuit breakers for outdoor distribution schemes. It includes transformers of every type and size, mercury-arc rectifiers, electronic-control equipment, traction and marine equipment, cranes, lifting magnets, magnetic separators, photo-electric equipments, etc.
On the same site are situated the Witton Moulded Insulation Works, claimed to be the largest of the kind in the Commonwealth, Battery Works and Lamp Black Works. These factories are devoted to the production of specialized products. Carbons for searchlights and the cinema trade, as well as carbon rods for batteries, which were formerly produced at Witton, are now made in a large modern factory some few miles away, at Four Ashes.
Much experimental and development work is undertaken at Witton, a most comprehensive range of testing equipment being installed in the development laboratories. Immediately adjacent to these laboratories is situated the high-power testing station, extensions to which are nearing completion and will enable circuit breakers rated up to 7,500 megavolt-amperes to be tested.
In the high-tension works is the 2,500,000-volt laboratory where investigations on high-voltage phenomena are carried out, as well as essential tests on high-tension switchgear and transformers.
The development of the Witton site began in 1900, when the General Electric Company (1900), Ltd., was formed, and has steadily progressed until today the various factories, laboratories, and offices occupy a total built-up area of well over 2,000,000 sq. ft. and provide employment for some 10,000 men and women.
Further extensions to the heavy engineering works are now in an advanced stage, and include a new building which will add yet a further 100,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing floor space. This new shop will enable the company to build machines up to 100,000 kW. and practically to double its output of heavy rotating electrical machinery. The main erection and test bay is some 525 feet long by 100 feet wide and is served by two 110-ton cranes. Large extensions are also being made to the switchgear and transformer works, to enable the company to meet the ever-growing demands for this equipment.
Fraser and Chalmers Engineering Works. For the manufacture of heavy engineering plant, the Fraser and Chalmers Engineering Works at Erith forms the mechanical counterpart of the Witton Engineering Group. At the Erith works are built steam-turbines, turbo-blowers, mining plant of every type, winding engines, colliery plant, steelworks equipment, etc. These two extensive manufacturing centres enable the company to undertake comprehensive contracts for all the electrical equipment and much of the mechanical plant for modern power stations, turbo-electric propulsion plant and auxiliaries for ships, electric-traction equipment, complete electrification schemes for textile mills, rolling mills, collieries, and mines - in fact, for every known industry both in Britain and abroad.
Engineering Works. These are devoted to the production of large electrical rotating machines. Alternators of the hydrogen-cooled type, rated at 60,000 kW., for the new Uskmouth power station, and standard 30,000 kW. sets for Accrington power station can be seen in various stages of construction. Other large machines in the works include 25,000 kW. alternators for hydro-electric power stations in Scotland and Tasmania, and steelworks equipment for the Steel Company of Wales and for Richard Thomas and Baldwins, Ltd.
Rectifier and Electronic Works. Here pumpless air-cooled steel-tank rectifiers for New Delhi, Rotterdam, New Zealand, Holland, and South Africa are being built, as well as many for power stations and steelworks in Great Britain. The G.E.C. pioneered the design and development of this type of rectifier. Experimental production began seventeen years ago, and today equipments are in service under the most varying climatic and site conditions in all parts of the world.
Transformer Works. In this building transformers up to the largest sizes are made, and units rated at 70,000 kVA. are in course of construction. Extra-high-voltage demonstrations are given in the 2,500,000-volt laboratory.
High-tension Switchgear Works. This factory specializes in the manufacture of high-voltage switchgear, both for indoor and outdoor service, and 132 kV. oil-circuit breakers with breaking capacities of 2,500 megavolt-amperes and heavy-duty metalclad switchgear for the British Electricity Authority can be seen in course of construction. These types of switchgear are largely fabricated, and several bays in this works are therefore devoted entirely to welding, plate cutting, and so on.
Main Switchgear Works. Here, traction control equipment and large contactor boards for industrial and marine service are made. This works also specializes in the production of all forms of cubicle type and air-insulated switchgear as well as power-station control boards. Many examples of all these forms of switchgear can be seen, including electrical equipment for Diesel-electric locomotives for Ceylon and for electric locomotives for the South African Railways and Harbours Administration, for whom the North British Locomotive Company, Ltd., are building forty, the contract placed with the G.E.C. for the electrical equipment being valued at approximately £1,000,000.
High-power Testing Laboratory. Some idea of the plant necessary for the testing of modern switchgear is afforded by the machine room of this laboratory. The power equipment includes a 2,000,000 kVA., 22-kV. alternator with its separate exciter set, complex banks of concrete-type reactors as well as a large outdoor substation by means of which the voltage is stepped up to 132 kV. for testing the extra-high-voltage circuit breakers. A second machine, which will be a duplicate of that mentioned above, is now being built.
Witton Moulded Insulation Works. Here an extensive range of component mouldings is produced. These are by no means confined to the electrical industry, but cover the widely varying requirements of many other industries. Many articles, complete in themselves, are also made, of which the "Mutac" switch is a well-known example. A separate shop is devoted to mouldings from thermoplastic compounds, the most important products of this section being car battery boxes.
Domestic Appliance Demonstration. A special demonstration of domestic appliances, staged at the Magnet Club, includes motor-driven appliances made at Witton such as cleaners (more usually known as "vacuum" cleaners), floor polishers, hair dryers, sewing machine motors, and so on. Other works of the company in Birmingham, Coventry, and London show cookers, toasters, kettles, irons, refrigerators, radio receivers, and television sets.
The screw division of Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds (Midlands), Ltd., consists of the group of works which are centred on the administrative offices at Heath Street, Birmingham — the actual production mills lying partly in Birmingham and partly in Smethwick — and of the outlying works at Cannock, King's Norton, and Hillington, Glasgow. Within these works, taking into consideration the various sizes and finishes, 25,000 standard articles alone, the majority of them screws, nuts, bolts, rivets, hooks and eyes, are manufactured.
The remarkable growth of the screw division began as long ago as 1823, when John Sutton Nettlefold, then a wholesale ironmonger of Holborn, London, acquired from John Gilbert, who was a mechanical watchmaker of St. Marylebone, Middlesex, the patent which he had taken out for "certain improvements in the method or methods of making screws of iron, brass, steel, or other metals for the use of all kinds of woodwork".
John Sutton Nettlefold's first mill for the manufacture of wood screws was at Sunbury-on-Thames and was worked by water power; this was in 1826. Eight years later, in 1834, Nettlefold took into partnership his eldest son, Edward John, and moved his factory to Baskerville Place, Broad Street, Birmingham, which was the steam-engine manufacturing centre. At this factory steam power replaced the water wheel.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, wood screws produced by machines had parallel cores and blunt points. The manufacture of gimlet-pointed screws began in America, and Nettlefold soon realized the importance of acquiring patents to enable him to manufacture gimlet-pointed wood screws in this country. His brother-in-law, Joseph Chamberlain, father of the statesman, supplied the necessary money, and in 1851 Nettlefold purchased the patent of an American machine for cutting gimlet-pointed screws. These machines so increased his production that in 1854 he had to build new works at Heath Street. Joseph Chamberlain, Jnr., then aged only eighteen, joined his cousin, Joseph Henry Nettlefold, as joint manager, and the name of the firm became Nettlefold and Chamberlain.
In 1874, Mr. Chamberlain retired to go into politics, the style of the firm becoming Nettlefolds until 1879, when the Birmingham Screw Company and the Manchester Screw Company and several smaller undertakings were amalgamated under the name of Nettlefolds, Ltd.
In 1902, Nettlefolds, Ltd., and Guest, Keen and Company amalgamated to become Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, Ltd., and in 1948, Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds (Midlands), Ltd., was formed as a subsidiary company.
Many specialized machines are utilized by the company in manufacturing its products, these being primarily cold forging or heading machines. There are four such types of machine, these being solid- and split-die and single- or double-blow, the size of head on a bolt or screw and the finish required determining the machine to be used.
Subsequent to the primary machine in manufacturing bolts and screws, are the finishing operations of trimming or turning, and slotting and threading. These operations are performed on specialized machines, developed for the purpose.
On woodscrew production, there are two large mills, mainly devoted to this product, covering an area of 61 acres. In each mill, roughly 3,000 machines are run, and here the specialized machines and tools have been developed and manufactured by the firm in their engineering department, this having recently been rebuilt and newly equipped with the most up-to-date plant; many machines and nearly all tools in their production shops also being manufactured in this central engineering department.
In addition to the cold forged products, there are two sections manufacturing bar products, these utilizing single- and multi-spindle bar automatics as the primary (and in some cases, only) machines. A constant check is kept on quality by the inspection departments of all mills.
The employees of the firm have many facilities at their disposal. At the works, there are four canteens; any ill-health or accident is treated immediately at one of two surgeries; there are two resident doctors and a staff of nurses; a dental surgeon is in the company's full employ, and other medical facilities include a part-time eye specialist and a chiropodist.
For welfare generally, two special departments are employed, one for men and boys and one for women. A boys' club is run by the men's welfare department and has its own building, in which such games as billiards and table tennis may be played.
The company has a recreation club in Smethwick, standing in its own grounds of 16+ acres, where many sports are practised, including tennis, cricket, bowls, football, fishing, etc.
In May 1914 Mr. Sydney S. Guy founded Guy Motors, Ltd., and a factory was built at Fallings Park, Wolverhampton. The building now covers an area of 14 acres and some 1,500 people are employed. The firm builds commercial vehicles in the 2-6 ton range and passenger vehicles, both single and double deck. Mass production in its usually accepted sense is not attempted, every vehicle being individually built for long life and low running costs.
The first goods range made by the company was a 30 cwt. lorry, but shortly after its establishment the factory was virtually taken over for armament production for the 1914-18 war. After the war the company's designers produced various special vehicles, and in 1933 the "Wolf" 2-3 ton vehicle made its appearance. This was soon followed by the "Vixen" (4 tons) and the "Otter" (5-6 tons). These models continued to be improved until in 1936 their production was somewhat curtailed for the production of military vehicles, and by 1938 ceased altogether, as by then the firm were exclusively on Government contracts.
Military vehicles had been built in 1923, and six-wheeled gun tractors and armoured cars had been supplied during the next decade. The main productions of military vehicles during the 1939-45 war were the "Ant" 15 cwt. general service wagon, the "Quad-Ant" gun tractor, the six-wheeled searchlight generator chassis, and four-wheeled light tanks. At the end of the war the "Wolf", "Vixen", and "Otter" chassis reappeared, with considerable improvements as the result of war-time experiences in many parts of the world. The latest edition of the "Otter" (5-6 tons) incorporates a Diesel engine and a two-speed rear axle.
The first Guy passenger vehicle was produced in 1914, but production was stopped during the 1914-18 war. In 1919, the char-a-banc appeared and the first thirty-seater 'bus was produced in 1921. In 1926, the company produced the first six-wheeled double-deck 'bus ever to run in Britain, and this was immediately followed by the world's first pneumatic-tyred, six-wheeled trolleybus, and the well-known "Arab" single- and double-deck 'bus chassis fitted with Gardner oil engines appeared early in the following decade.
During the first years of the 1939-45 war the manufacture of 'buses ceased altogether, but in 1941 the company was asked by the Ministry of Supply to produce a war-time version of the "Arab" double-decker. Large numbers of these 'buses were produced and are still giving satisfactory service in the hands of many of the most important operators in the country. The post-war "Arab" is now firmly established, not only in the British Isles but also in many oversea countries.
The complete range of Guy vehicles is now manufactured in right- or left-hand steering to the lengths and widths required by the various markets of the world, and at the moment these vehicles arc successfully operating in forty-one different countries.
In 1948, Guy Motors, Ltd., acquired the Sunbeam Trolleybus Company, Ltd., whose works are also situated in Wolverhampton, and this merging of interests has made the Sunbeam Trolleybus Company, Ltd., the largest trolleybus manufacturer in this country, if not in the world.
This business was established, in 1889, by the present Chairman, Sir Alfred Herbert, K.B.E., Hon. M.I.Mech.E. The manufacture of machine tools and equipment is carried on in four factories, having a total floor area of 29 acres. The number of employees is 5,600.
Head Works. These comprise drawing office, pattern shop, chemical and physical laboratories, foundry, machine shop and erecting shop, and a factory in which small tools and other equipment are made. The machines built are capstan lathes, combustion turret lathes, automatic chucking machines, vertical milling machines, and high-speed drilling machines.
Drawing Office. The drawing office provides the works with all the information required in building the machines forming the manufacturing programme, and controls an experimental shop where prototypes of new machines are built and tested without interfering with production.
Light and Heavy Foundries. The light foundry is mechanized; boxes leave the moulding machine on a conveyer which carries them past the cupola where pouring is done, they then travel by a serpentine route to the knocking-out grid where they are emptied, the sand dropping through the grid on to a belt conveyer.
Each day's melt comprises five different mixtures.
The Chemical and Physical Laboratories. Under the control of a qualified metallurgist the quality of Herbert products is maintained by some 30,000 analyses every year. The laboratory is an approved A.I.D. Test House and many tests are carried out for customers.
Machine Shop. Here, lathe beds are milled on plano-milling machines, the top surface is machined by gangs of cutters which produce the entire profile, including the two vee guides, at one cut.
Beds, capstan and turret slides, and other surfaces are hardened after milling by the company's patent "Flamard" process to a Brinell hardness of 478-555. They are then finish-ground to close tolerances on Lumsden hydraulic surface grinding machines.
Capstan and Turret Lathes. These include practically all current models, on which female and boy labour are largely employed. Many parts are machined from blanks previously sawn from the bar — an economical method of production when quantities are insufficient to warrant the cost of stamping.
By the patent preoptive headstock all idle time due to speed changing is eliminated.
Automatic Chucking Machines. These comprise a large battery of auto-lathes for the machining of parts that can be put through in large quantities. The work of operators, who each attend to several machines, is greatly facilitated by special air chucks fitted to the machines.
Cylindrical and Internal Grinding. Extensive use is made of cylindrical, internal, and surface grinding machines in the finishing of component parts to the fine tolerances necessary to ensure interchangeability.
Boring and Radial Drilling. Headstocks, gearboxes, saddles, and other parts are jig-bored on horizontal boring machines and radial drilling machines. The latter when equipped with suitable jigs and quick-change drill chucks become very efficient manufacturing machines.
A "DeVlieg Jigmil" is fitted with an electrically controlled positioning device by which the spindle is automatically located to 0.0001 inch. It can therefore be used for making jigs or for production boring without jigs, using simple end-measuring rods.
Tool Room. In the tool room, turret lathes arw used which permit even small quantities of parts to be machined more quickly than is possible on a centre lathe.
A section of the tool room is equipped with a number of precision jig-boring machines.
Gear Cutting and Gear Grinding. The large plant of gear cutting and grinding machines deals with the cutting of straight and helical spur and bevel gears up to 8 ft. 6 in. diameter and the grinding of spur gears up to 24 inches diameter.
All headstock gears are of alloy steel, heat-treated and ground; sliding gears are mounted on splined shafts.
Inspection. Every part is inspected at each stage of its progress. The raw material is tested in the laboratory, where the correct heat-treatment is prescribed; this is checked by Brinell test. Each machining operation is passed by inspectors, as is the fitting and assembly of the machines, which must pass a final inspection for alignment and finish.
Testing. After leaving the fitting shop all machines undergo a careful working test, which can be carried out in the customer's presence when ordered with special tool equipment for producing parts under estimates of production.
A generating set supplies electrical current at any desired voltage, frequency, or phase so that a machine can be tested together with its own motor.
Gauge Control. In the measuring room, which is certified as an A.I.D. Test House, and is equipped with a range of optical measuring instruments, all workshop gauges are periodically compared with reference gauges to maintain accuracy. Tests are also carried out for customers and advice is given on methods of inspection.
Demonstration and Research Department. This department, where many interesting examples of high-speed production can be seen, covers some 2,800 sq. ft., and is equipped with a range of the latest Herbert machines, complete with standard and special tooling arrangements for experimental and demonstration work with "Ardoloy".
Routine tests of various grades of "Ardoloy" are carried out to determine its cutting qualities and other characteristics. These tests are conducted under accurately controlled conditions and the tools are subsequently examined.
Combustion Engineering Department. A branch of the business is the manufacture of the Atritor Unit Pulverizer, a machine for drying and pulverizing coal, clay, chalk, limestone, sewage sludge, and other materials. In boiler and furnace firing the Atritor feeds, dries, pulverizes, and discharges the coal direct into the furnace without the introduction of extensive subsidiary plant. It will deal with moist fuels without difficulty, and has an exceptionally low power consumption.
Apprenticeship. The firm has a five-year apprenticeship scheme for both premium and non-premium pupils. All pupils are responsible to an apprentice supervisor, who looks after their welfare, offers advice, deals with any problems which arise and reports on individual progress.
Safety in the Works. A safety engineer co-operates with factory inspectors in the guarding of machines, precautions for the prevention of all types of accidents, educational propaganda, and insistence on treatment at the surgery for even minor cuts to prevent sepsis. All straight-cutting oils are disinfected with "Diabactol". Reports of all accidents are regularly submitted to Sir Alfred Herbert.
Sports and Recreation. A recreation club, managed by the employees, provides a variety of recreations. There are facilities for dancing and lectures, a large sports ground adjoins the buildings, and an additional ground is available at Wyken, a few miles from the works.
Lutterworth Works. The Lutterworth Works, which cover approximately 5 acres, are 15 miles east of Coventry on the main Rugby — Leicester road. They constitute a self-contained unit equipped for the manufacture of capstan lathes and all spares for current design.
Exhall Works. These works are about 3 miles from the head works, on the Longford road. They constitute a self-contained unit equipped for the high-precision operations entailed in the manufacture of "Coventry", "Tangic Tangel", and "Tangar" dieheads and dies, ground thread taps, and flat- and circular-ground-thread rolling dies.
The plant includes many high-class thread grinders and other specialized equipment essential to the production of ground threads to close limits of accuracy, and a well-equipped heat-treatment department, closely controlled by the laboratory. Hilger optical projectors are used for checking the accuracy of the threads.
Red Lane Works. These works, with a total floor area of 4 acres, are situated five minutes by car from the head works, and cope with the extensive business in factored machines, second-hand machines, grinding wheels, small tools and accessories, plastics machinery, and diecasting machines.
Main Office and Warehouse. This houses the commercial and technical staffs dealing with each section of the factored business. In the adjoining warehouse a large stock of machine spares, small tools and accessories, and Norton grinding wheels is carried.
At the north end of the office block is the die and mould shop equipped for the production of dies and moulds for the plastics and diecasting industries.
Showroom and Demonstration Department. A showroom comprising two bays, each 500 by 50 feet, accommodates a representative stock of new and used machine tools.
Reconditioning Department. The reconditioning of machine tools is carried out in a shop having a floor area of 50,000 sq. ft. situated near the Red Lane Showroom.
Second-hand Machine Department. The company purchases used machines, either as complete plant or singly, or takes approved machines in part payment for new plant. These used machines are brought back to Coventry either to be reconditioned or offered "as purchased" and form part of the stock of some 1,600 machine tools, light, medium, and heavy, covering practically all the requirements of the modern machine shop.
The Sales Organization. This is world-wide, covering practically every country where mechanical engineering is carried on. Showrooms where machines and tools can be demonstrated under power are maintained in Great Britain, France, Italy, Australia, and India, while agents in other countries are always ready to show to interested customers machines in use.
A special feature is made of the advisory service offered on all machining problems. There is a staff of workshop-trained production engineers, attached to the head office at Coventry and to all the branches at home and abroad, who are competent to give advice on machines and methods for the economic production of any desired work.
Demonstrators attend at customers' works to give assistance and advice to operators, and service engineers call periodically at users' works after machines have been installed to ensure satisfactory results.
N. Hingley and Sons was established in 1838, and was founded by Mr. Noah Hingley who was born in 1796 and, with his father, had an earlier chain business. It was in 1820 that Noah Hingley made the first chain cable in the South Staffordshire and East Worcestershire district. In 1848 the chain business was augmented by the making of larger sized anchors which was followed by the supply of complete outfits.
Anchor making necessitated heavy forge plant, and Noah Hingley, now assisted by his sixth and youngest son, Benjamin Hingley, proved themselves pioneers by getting James Nasmyth, in the year 1850, to install personally the first steam hammer to be erected in the Midlands.
In 1855, the now famous Netherton Iron Works were built. Coal mines were developed, and blast furnaces were erected on a neighbouring site, giving the company complete control of wrought iron, chain, and cable.
Today, under the chairmanship of Mr. Cyril Lloyd, M.I.C.E., the company has largely extended its interests in iron and steel rolling mills, chain and cable works, forges, and engineering works.
At the Netherton Iron Works can be seen:—
(a) The making of puddled wrought iron with the puddling furnaces, shingling hammers, forge, and finishing mills.
(b) The manufacture of hand-made wrought-iron chain and ships' cable of diameters from 1/2 to 3 3/4 inches, and the mechanical testing and examination of such chain.
(c) The forge, which includes hydraulic press and steam-hammer plant for the making of specialized steel forgings and smith work from a few pounds in weight up to forgings of 6 tons, and comprising weldless forged-steel rings for gear blanks, etc., special forgings, standpipes, flanges, etc., for boilers and high-pressure pipe lines, etc., and forged and smithed hooks of the largest capacity.
(d) Drop-hammer plant.
(e) Flash butt welding of light rings for gears.
(f) Heat-treatment plant.
(g) General machine shop to deal with the products of the forge.
In addition to seventeen waste-heat boilers, the works are served by a battery of seven Lancashire boilers, hydraulic service at 1,500 lb. per sq. in., and compressed air at 80 lb. per sq. in.
The mechanical test house deals with all routine tests and inspection, and the research laboratory on a nearby site deals with all the research work required by the companies coming within the group.
Every encouragement is given to the craft training of the youth, and a well-established apprenticeship scheme has been in operation for a number of years. The company has been fortunate in its personal contacts with its employees, and the welfare of the latter has always been a matter of first consideration.
In addition to the usual works' amenities, the Hingley athletic club is noted for its excellent football ground, cricket pitch, tennis courts, bowling greens, and the large club-house is used for all social purposes.
Humber, Ltd., founded in 1887 as a limited liability company, can be looked upon as one of the pioneers of the motor industry. Its earlier activity was the manufacture of bicycles, following the diamond-frame cycle designed by Mr. Thomas Humber in the year 1868.
From the inception of the first motor car, the business quickly developed, and in 1908, the present factory in Humber Road was completed.
In 1926 Humber, Ltd., acquired the interests of Commer Cars, Ltd., with its commercial vehicle factory at Luton. These two companies were then merged with the Hillman Motor Co., Ltd., which itself was founded in 1907, and as a result the foundation of the Rootes Group, as a manufacturing company, was laid, for by that time, realizing the tremendous potentiality of road transport for the markets at home and overseas, Messrs. W. E. and R. C. (now Sir William and Sir Reginald) Rootes had developed Messrs. Rootes, Ltd., into one of the principal distribution and export concerns in the United Kingdom.
In 1934, the Group was then enlarged by the acquisition of Karrier Motors, Ltd., and of Clement Talbot, Ltd., and in 1935 was added the Sunbeam Motor Car Company, Ltd. In 1938, the Talbot and Sunbeam companies were merged and became Sunbeam-Talbot, Ltd. British Light Steel Pressings, Ltd., was acquired in 1937, since which time, expansion has resulted in the development of larger premises at Acton, with valuable facilities at the disposal of the Rootes Group for the production of car and true bodies and fittings.
There followed a plan of rationalization when the various manufacturing processes were centralized. The standardization and interchangeability of assemblies and components within a wide range of the Group's products amplified manufacture, increased efficiency, and lowered production and service costs.
The Group's contribution to production for the 1939-45 war commenced three years previous to 1939, when it was among the first to enter the Government aircraft scheme for the volume manufacture of both air-frames and aero-engines. With the ending of the war, an immense task of conversion, concurrent with a great programme of expansion was undertaken which, at a cost of several million pounds, involved the taking over and the equipping of two of the magnificent war factories which the Group had been operating. The total effect of this expansion more than doubled the production capacity of the Group’s factories, for all kinds of vehicles.
Occupying 1,000,000 sq. ft. of covered floor space, the plant in Humber Road is primarily engaged in the manufacture and assembly of all engines, gearboxes, and transmission units for Humber, Hillman, and Sunbeam-Talbot cars and for Commer and Karrier vehicles. Also located in this plant are the departments for experimental research, the drawing office, the laboratories, and the coach-work paint and trim section. The foundry, an excellent example of a fully mechanized plant, was completed during the war and, constructed on the same site as the original foundry, is now capable of a production three and a half times its former output.
Adjacent to this plant is the Aldermoor factory which, occupying approximately 250,000 sq. ft., is devoted to the assembly of Commer vehicles, the engines for which are received from the factory in Humber Road. Thus is formed a link between the factories at Coventry and Luton.
The Ryton-on-Dunsmore factory, also with a covered area of 1,000,000 sq. ft., undertakes the assembly of all Humber, Hillman, and Sunbeam-Talbot cars and the Commer 8 cwt. van, and also the packing of all vehicles for the Group's oversea assembly plants.
The Lucas organization had its foundation in 1872, when Mr. Joseph Lucas employed a small number of skilled craftsmen on the manufacture of ships' lamps, bicycle oil lamps, bells, and other accessories. With the rapid growth of road transport and the increasing use of electrical equipment on all classes of road vehicles, the organization has expanded to meet the ever-growing demand for dynamos, starters, batteries, ignition coils, distributors, lamps, and many other devices which have now become standard fitments on all forms of road transport from the pedal cycle to the largest commercial and passenger-carrying vehicles. Today, the Lucas organization employs 35,000 workpeople in seventeen production plants situated in Birmingham, London, and various other parts of the country. In addition, branch companies and factories have been established in Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and South Africa, and a worldwide service organization has been built up.
In the air, too, the Lucas organization has kept abreast of design development; all forms of electrical equipment for air-craft are produced by factories specially equipped for the purpose, and Lucas products will be found on the majority of British aircraft.
Another branch of the organization specializes in the design and manufacture of fuel-injection equipment for Diesel-powered road, rail, and marine transport. As a result of great experience with this type of engineering, the organization undertook intensive research into some of the more intricate problems involved in the development of the gas-turbine engine, including the design of the high-pressure fuel system, the technique of fuel atomization, the principles of combustion, and the design of combustion systems. The successful outcome of this work has resulted in the formation of a subsidiary company engaged in the development and manufacture of combustion equipment, fuel system components, and associated control gear for this new form of power unit, and the majority of British gas-turbine engines will be found to utilize Lucas products.
On the south side of Birmingham is the factory where stages in the manufacture of automobile dynamos and starters can be seen. This factory covers a variety of different types of machines, and is subdivided into sections which produce the machines by methods related to the production quantity.
Hot forging of pole shoes, shaft processing (centreless grinding), end-bracket machining and yoke construction are among the earlier operations. Commutator building is assisted by the use of specially developed triple-purpose hydraulic riveting presses and reaming machines. Quality control checks are made at all stages of manufacture.
Armature laminations are cut on the Bliss lamination press (190 strokes per minute, three laminations per blow) and are automatically fed along stacking rags to the core driver, where the correct number at laminations are secured in each armature shaft. After insulation of the care in another specially designed machine, the commutator is fitted on the shaft, and the armature core passes to the winding section. Winding completed, commutator connexions are soldered and the armature is varnished. Next follows drying by the low-frequency induced-heat method, the floor-to-floor time for complete impregnation and drying being 60 minutes with this method, compared with 18 hours for convection oven baking.
Core and commutator are then turned, using tungsten carbide tools, and the commutator is finally skimmed with a diamond tool.
Meanwhile, field coils have been wound and taped, brush boxes, terminal posts, and other sub-assemblies made ready, and all meet on the final assembly line. Careful testing and inspection of complete machines ensures correct performance, after which the units pass through the automatic spraying device, and on to the despatch department.
The firm of Henry Meadows, Ltd., was founded in 1920 by the late Mr. Henry Meadows, and began in a small way by making a three-speed automotive type of gearbox. In 1921 the company was joined by Mr. John E. Dorman, who had had long experience in the production of internal-combustion engines. He brought with him a team of specialists, many of whom are with the company today. The design and production of the now well-known Meadows' overhead-valve petrol engines was immediately begun, and in the 1922 Motor Show at Olympia Meadows' engines were first exhibited, and were adopted by many of the leading car manufacturers of the day.
One of the most popular of these earlier types of engine was the 1 1/2 litre, four-cylinder sports engine, used extensively in the Lea Francis and Frazer-Nash cars, both of which were very successfully used in road racing. A larger model, the 4 1/2 litre, six-cylinder engine was also very successful in the Invicta and Lagonda cars. In specialized forms this engine was standardized in the Scott Paine high-speed motor boats and gained a high reputation with the Service departments. A further version of the engine was fitted as standard in the "Mark VI Vickers Carden-Lloyd" tanks used in the early days of the 1939-45 war.
As the engine business developed the works were expanded, and by 1938 the Park Lane works comprised 16,000 sq. ft. The financial structure of the company was strengthened; its share capital became £200,000 in March 1926 and £500,000 in 1947; and its shares began to be quoted on the Birmingham Stock Exchange during that year.
War Work. The company had worked in close collaboration with the Mechanization Department of the War Office from 1927 onwards, and in 1938 it was decided that the engine factory should be extended and the production of much larger engines for tanks undertaken for the Ministry of Supply. A 200 h.p., twelve-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine which had been developed and built was immediately put into production, and large numbers manufactured and used, among other applications, in the "Tetrarch" tank.
In 1939 the Mechanization Board instructed Meadows to produce a 300 h.p. engine on similar lines; within six months this prototype was built, tested, and approved. Several thousands of this engine were produced in new works adjacent to the Park Lane works and became the power unit of the "Covenanter" tanks.
In 1942 Cannock Road factory was built and equipped with the most up-to-date machine-tool equipment, adding a total of 430,490 sq. ft. to the productive space previously available. A chemical and physical testing laboratory with heat-treatment plant was built and equipped with a range of plant now used, not only in connexion with the company's own production, but by other factories in the area requiring independent test reports and heat-treatment service.
Post-war Development. Immediately prior to the 1939-45 war, Henry Meadows, Ltd., had been experimenting with Diesel engines, and, in particular, with the "Lanova" type of combustion head. During the war experimental work had continued on an attenuated scale and by the end of the war the company had available their four- and six-cylinder direct-injection engines of 130 mm. bore and stroke, which proved that it was possible to get with a square bore/stroke ratio a specific fuel consumption as good as the better established long-stroke engines, also achieving the important advantage, with respect to wear, of low piston speed.
The present range of engines made by the company covers a petrol engine of 95 mm. bore and 130 mm. stroke with traction rating 59 h.p. at 2,400 r.p.m. and industrial rating 42 h.p. at 1,800 r.p.m. and weight 830 lb.; and five types of Diesel engine each having bore equal to stroke, ranging from 120 to 150 mm., with traction ratings from 80 h.p. at 2,200 r.p.m. to 250 h.p. at 1,650 r.p.m., and industrial ratings of from 60 h.p. at 1,800 r.p.m. to 200 h.p. at 1,500 r.p.m. and weights from 900 to 3,900 lb. Three of these are also available in petrol versions at an increased power rating of approximately 40 per cent, and these versions of the same basic engine can also be run on natural gas. All these engines are for public-service vehicles, road-transport vehicles, and for a variety of equipments such as earth-moving equipment, portable compressors and welding sets, and they are also built into complete marine units, power mules, and portable generating sets.
In addition the company has in production a range of automotive gears of torque capacity 75-400 lb.-ft. and weight 38-320 lb. for petrol engines, and of torque capacity 250-420 lb.-ft. and weight 150-430 lb. for Diesel engines.
The company is also producing Diesel and petrol marine gears of torque capacity 40-600 lb.-ft.
It also produces automotive clutches of diameters 14 and 16 inches and torque capacities of 350 and 600 lb.-ft.; and industrial clutches of diameters 11 and 16 inches, and slipping torques 250 and 800 lb.-ft.
A new range of automotive and marine gears suitable for the newer engines and other engines in the Associated British Oil Engines Group is now in the process of development and should be available during 1951.
Management. The company has been working since March 1949 in close association with the Associated British Oil Engines Group, and there has been an interchange of directors.
Employment. The number of employees in the factory at present is some 1,200 and the number is steadily increasing.
The Metropolitan-Cammell Carriage and Wagon Company was founded at Saltley in 1845, and has become the largest railway rolling stock contractor in Europe, now having three large carriage- and wagon-building factories in the Birmingham area. It also has a large 'bus body-building factory at Elmdon, near Birmingham. The total area of these four factories is 188 acres, and the total number employed is about 6,000. In addition, the company owns the steelworks of the Patent Shaft and Axletree Company, Ltd., Wednesbury, from which supplies of plates, sections, bars, and billets are obtained for the construction of railway vehicles. The total area of the steel-works is 79 acres and the number employed is about 1,200, besides administrative, technical, and commercial staff.
During its long history, the company has supplied passenger carriages and merchandise wagons to railways in almost every part of the world and has thus made a valuable contribution to the development of the agricultural and mineral wealth of vast areas which to a large extent were inaccessible before the construction of railways.
In progressive improvements in the design and construction of rolling stock — including the evolution of steel-bodied passenger carriages — the company has collaborated with railway engineers in Britain and overseas, and generations of skilled technicians and craftsmen in its service have accumulated unrivalled knowledge of the widely varying conditions in conformity with which vehicles are required to operate. The use of this knowledge has established for the company a high reputation for sound design and quality of workmanship.
In March 1946, when reconversion from armament production was still in process in its shops, the company was selected by the South African Government to undertake the design and construction of eight special carriages, each having a different layout, for the use of Their Majesties The King and Queen, the two Princesses, their Staff, and Ministers of the Union Government during the Royal Tour of South Africa in the spring of 1947. The completion of these air-conditioned vehicles, fitted with radio and telephone installations, and incorporating the most up-to-date features of travel comfort, in the remarkably short period of nine months, enhanced the prestige of British industry.
Amongst other notable productions by the company have been the famous "Blue" and "Golden Arrow" trains for the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, and the fully air-conditioned "Blue Train" for the Cape Town—Johannesburg service of the South African Railways. It has also supplied most of the tube cars for the London Underground service.
It is also one of the principal builders of omnibus and trolley-bus bodies for road passenger services, and in this sphere its patented metal-body construction has, since its introduction in 1931, upheld the high reputation gained in the railway world.
Associated with the company in the production of road passenger vehicles is Messrs. Weymann's, Ltd., of Addlestone, Surrey, the sales organization of both companies being undertaken by Metropolitan-Cammell-Weymann Motor Bodies, Ltd., London.
Having manufactured in 1939 trolleybuses of chassisless construction, the company is now marketing overseas and in the United Kingdom, in conjunction with Messrs. Weymann's, Ltd., and Leyland Motors, Ltd., vehicles of entirely integral construction known as the "Olympic" series, for which a considerable future demand is expected.
During the war the company was the largest supplier in this country of fighting tanks and also of radar mechanical equipment.
At the present time 65 per cent of the total value of orders on hand is for export.
Henry Mitchell started brewing at the old Crown Brewery in Oldbury Road, Smethwick, in 1866, and moved to Cape Hill in 1879. In the same year (1866) William Butler started as licensee of the London Works Tavern in Smethwick, and in 1876 moved to the Crown Inn, Broad Street, Birmingham, and started brewing. In 1898 these two brewers joined forces at Cape Hill, where artesian wells furnished an unlimited supply of suitable water; and the company of Mitchells and Butlers, Ltd., was incorporated.
The brewery at that time occupied 14 acres and the employees numbered less than 300; today it occupies over 90 acres and the employees number 1,900, with an additional 5,000 in the company's managed houses.
Over 1,200 houses are owned by the company of which 900 are under their direct management. The fine siting, architecture, and approaches of these houses are a feature of Birmingham and the surrounding districts.
The capital of the company, which in 1899 was £1,000,000, was by 1928 £5,000,000, at which it stands today, and the brewery is one of the most modern.
Over a million pounds of hops and over a million bushels of malt are used annually by the company.
Power for lighting and driving machinery is generated on the premises. There is a well-equipped repair shop for the fleet of lorries. Large automatic washing machines deal with 120-140 bottles a minute in baskets on an endless chain, they are then automatically discharged into machines where they receive five successive rinsings with fresh water at a pressure of 50-60 lb. per sq. in.; emerging under brilliant inspection lamps they are conveyed by conveyer belt to beer filling machines.
Wine and Spirits. The "duty paid" wine and spirit store is one of the finest in the country, the reducing and conditioning vats have a total capacity of 33,000 gallons, and in the four local bonded warehouses, over 297,000 gallons of spirits at full strength lie maturing — Government duty paid by this department alone exceeds £820,000 per annum.
There are sports grounds of 25 acres, a private fire brigade, and motor ambulance service. Welfare activities include a benevolent fund, a superannuation fund to which the employees do not contribute, and a contributory pension scheme for staff and brewery employees. In fifty years the company has not experienced a strike or lockout.
Morris Commercial Cars, Ltd., was founded in 1924 by Lord Nuffield, then Mr. W. R. Morris, when he purchased the works of Messrs. Wrigley, axle makers, in Soho, Smethwick, and commenced the manufacture of a light van and truck, utilizing therein many of the components of the range of motor cars being built by him at Oxford at that time.
Production at Soho was progressively increased, and in 1927, when he purchased the Wolseley works at Adderley Park and Ward End the field of commercial vehicle manufacture was extended to cover public-service and heavy-type commercial vehicles, the manufacture of which was concentrated at the old Wolseley motor car works at Adderley Park. Later the Soho works were closed.
The works cover some 17 acres, and are devoted entirely to the production of commercial vehicles with a load capacity of up to a maximum gross laden weight of 165 cwt. The number of models has been many and varied, ranging from the 12 cwt. van upwards. At the present time the principal products are the Oxford taxicab, 10 and 20 cwt. vans, 30 cwt. and 2- and 5-ton trucks, and a thirty-seater coach chassis. In the 5-ton and passenger range, alternative Diesel engines of "Saurer" design are available. The body works manufacture van and truck bodies of all types for the current range of vehicles, with the exception of the passenger types.
From 1926 onwards, at Soho and later at Adderley Park, a large section of the works was devoted to the development and production of special army types of vehicles, commencing with the original type six-wheeler in 1926, and, later, from 1936 onwards, the production of four-wheeled-drive, four-wheeled artillery tractors and light vehicles of many types for the War Department.
The prototype "Crusader" tank was produced largely at these works prior to 1939, and the efforts of the associate company, Nuffield Mechanizations, Ltd., were supplemented in 1940 by the production at these works of "Crusader" tanks, later the "Terrapin" amphibian vehicle, and, ultimately, the "Neptune" amphibian vehicle.
During the war years the company built approximately 70,000 wheeled vehicles of all types, and was responsible, immediately on the outbreak of war, for the conversion to rubber-tyred wheels of a large number of artillery gun carriages.
A close liaison has always been maintained with the War Department, and many and varied have been the types of vehicles produced to meet their special requirements.
The company today concentrates on the light type of commercial vehicle for which there is a large demand, not only in the home market but also overseas, where at least 75 per cent of the production is now being sent.
The company is one of the units in the Nuffield Group, and recent developments in that grouping have concentrated the bulk of research work at the Cowley headquarters. Rationalization within the Group has meant the transfer of the axle assembly to Morris Motors, Ltd., machining branch, at the old Wolseley works at Ward End, but engines of 100 mm. bore and upwards, a variation of which is the engine at present fitted in the Nuffield tractor, are still manufactured at Adderley Park.
Representative assemblies of the full range of products are on exhibition in the despatch department.
The foundations of the Rover Company were firmly laid in the very early days of the cycle industry, seventy-one years ago. In the year 1877, when the famous old Midland city of Coventry was seeking for something to replace its ruined silk and watch industries, two engineers, John Kemp Starley and William Sutton, joined forces and commenced to manufacture bicycles of the "Penny Farthing" type. Obviously, this type of cycle appealed only to the athletic cyclist, consequently the demand was not great, and the partnership of Starley and Sutton did not exist very long.
Sutton withdrew, but Starley, however, with characteristic foresight, realizing that there was no great future in the high bicycle, evolved the idea of a bicycle driving through the rear wheel. This bicycle was the original of the only type of bicycle now made throughout the world, and in 1884, the "Rover" rear-driving bicycle was exhibited at the Stanley show. Thus came the industrial salvation of Coventry, and a school of engineers was founded who, when the motor car came along, were best equipped to develop it.
About 1896, J. K. Starley and Company became the Rover Cycle Company, and continued to build cycles which became famous all over the world, in fact, an expedition to the forbidden city of Lhasa, in 1904, found that a Rover cycle had preceded it.
From building cycles it was a natural step to motor cycles, and, in 1903, the first Rover motor cycle, of 21 h.p., was completed. Following motor cycles came the decision to build motor cars, and, in 1904, the first Rover car made its public appearance. It was of 8 h.p. and, surprisingly, was considered too powerful, consequently a smaller and, for that time, a more orthodox model of 6 h.p. was produced in 1906. This car was sold at the astounding price of 100 guineas and was probably the first approximately £100 car to be made. The Rover Cycle Company then became the Rover Company, Ltd., and devoted its entire production capacity to building motor cars. Two more models were introduced, one of 10-12 h.p. and the other of 16-20 h.p. In 1911, a new high-efficiency, 12 h.p. model gained great popularity, until the 1914-18 war stopped car production, and the company was occupied on war work.
In 1919, the company at Tyseley, Birmingham, produced an air-cooled car of 8 h.p., which from the first was destined to make motoring history. Meanwhile, at the company's Coventry works new models were added and demand was in excess of production. In 1939 private car production ceased almost overnight, and the production of motor car engines gave way to aeroplane engines; and car bodies to aeroplane wings. The company's productive capacity was vastly extended to assist in meeting the demands created by the 1939-45 war, in the development of a new type of power unit for jet-propelled aeroplanes; the highest powered operational tank engine, the "Meteor", was a Rover product. The company's works at Coventry were severely damaged by enemy action and after the war one of the Government war-time aircraft shadow factories, managed by the Rover Company, Ltd., during the war, was taken over. This factory has an area nearly 90 acres in extent, the buildings occupying 1,000,000 sq. ft., with a frontage of nearly 1,200 feet. The work of re-tooling and re-planning was one of great magnitude, but with night and day work, seven days a week, reconstruction was accomplished, and within six months finished Rover cars commenced to leave the production lines.
Shortage of essential materials, however, has very severely restricted the building of cars for the home market, and the resources of the Rover factory have been mainly occupied in building cars for export.
In 1947 the company designed an entirely new general purposes vehicle for the use of farmers, building and constructional work, and industry generally. This vehicle, called the "Land-Rover", was introduced publicly in April 1948, and has been exported since to nearly every country in the world, from as far north as Iceland to as far south as Steward Island and the Falkland Islands. A further development of the "Land-Rover" is the station wagon and the fire engine.
New designs of old Rover car models have appeared, and in September 1949 an entirely new model was put into production. In March 1950, the Rover Company demonstrated, in an experimental form, to the Press and R.A.C., the first motor car to be driven by a gas-turbine engine.
The value of the company's exports in 1946 was £650,000, and in 1949, was £4,000,000.
Joseph Sankey and Sons, Ltd., a private company with an issued capital of £3,000,000, is a subsidiary of Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, Ltd.
It developed as a family business from very small beginnings. The business was founded in 1854 (and so will celebrate its centenary in four years' time) by Joseph Sankey, the grandfather of the present managing director, who, with a few pounds of capital, started making trays in a small shed on the site of the Albert Street works.
The business prospered and grew in the period of the development of iron and steel in the Black Country. Today, with four large factories, three in the Bilston district and one at Hadley, near Wellington, Shropshire, it employs 6,500 people. Among a great variety of products, its main business is pressings and stampings of all descriptions.
A pioneer in the development of electrical steel, it rolls electrical steel sheets at Manor rolling mills, Ettingshall. From these sheets, electrical laminations for motors, dynamos, transformers, generators, wireless, etc., are manufactured at the company's Bankfield works, Bilston.
Hadley Castle works, near Wellington, manufacture wheels for cars, trucks, and tractors, and here the wheel shop is believed to be the largest shop of its kind in Europe. At that works also are manufactured chassis frames and cross-members, agricultural implements, and the famous Sankey-Sheldon metal furniture.
The company has extended overseas during recent years. A subsidiary company in India, Sankey Electrical Stampings, Ltd., has factories at Bombay and Calcutta, manufacturing electrical laminations. A company has recently been formed in South Africa for the manufacture of metal furniture, and another company is being formed in Australia for the manufacture of electrical laminations.
The Albert Street works, Bilston, which cover an area of approximately 10 acres and employ 1,450 people, have a first-class tool room, and manufacture amongst other articles, pressed steel hollow-ware (black, enamelled, galvanized, tinned, and stainless), frying-pans and bake-pans, stainless-steel hospital utensils, the Florence oil cooking and heating stoves, the Pentecon pressure cooker, steel wheelbarrows, butane and propane gas containers, stainless-steel beer barrels, and pressed and welded parts of all descriptions for the motor and engineering trades. Great calls were made on the works during the war — for ordnance stores involving pressings of many types and descriptions. During this period was developed a large business in the manufacture of spinners, and jet combustion chambers and parts for aeroplanes, which are incorporated in the new De Havilland: Comet and in other jet-propelled aircraft. Considerable experimental work and developments are taking place in these works in connexion with heat exchangers for other types of jet-propelled locomotion.
The company realizes the necessity for welfare activities and has a first-class social and sports club, excellent canteens and first aid rooms. It has a reputation for retaining its work-people and recognizing and appreciating the value of long service. Since the inauguration of a scheme of long service awards in 1936, some forty-seven employees have completed fifty years' service, and over 200 employees more than forty years' service, with the company.
When Mr. Walter Somers came to Halesowen in 1866 and took control of Haywood Forge, the works consisted of one small steam hammer and a small rolling mill. The iron forgings made in those days were mostly axles for carts and carriages and buffers for railway carriages and wagons.
As the demand for heavier forgings grew, heavier plant had to be installed, and in 1887 a 7-ton steam hammer was put down. In the year 1895 the business was converted into a private limited company, Mr. Walter Somers occupying the position of chairman until his death in 1917. In 1899 a new works was commenced, a 12-ton steam hammer was installed in the forge and a machine shop 200 feet long was erected.
In 1903 a 3,500-ton steam hydraulic forging press was ordered, and this was the beginning of large developments.
Steel having taken the place of iron for forgings, ingots of large sizes had to be forged down, and this necessitated larger furnaces and also heat-treatment plant. New lathes and machine tools also had to be ordered, and additions made to the machine shop.
During the 1914-18 war, in addition to marine shafting, turbine forgings, propellers brackets, etc., the firm also had to manufacture shells.
In 1932 special equipment was installed for manufacturing die blocks for the drop-forging industry, and the trade grew so rapidly that further equipment had to be installed in 1937 to meet the demand. At the present time a new die-block department is being equipped with the most up-to-date plant, including electric furnaces for heat treatment.
During the 1939-45 war, forgings were manufactured for Admiralty ships and guns. Since the war the works have again been re-equipped to deal with the needs of peace-time, and a large proportion of the plant is at present occupied in making crankshafts for marine engines, some weighing over 100 tons.
With the progress of science, etc., and to keep abreast of the times, new heat-treatment plant consisting of automatically controlled clean gas furnaces have been installed.
In a development shop a high-speed turning lathe and a high-speed boring lathe have been installed, specially for developing high-speed turning and high-speed trepan boring, with tungsten-carbide cutting tools.
The Standard Motor Company, Ltd., was founded, in 1903, for the sole purpose of manufacturing motor cars, unlike many car firms, who developed from cycle and other industries. It occupied small premises in Much Park Street, Coventry•.
The first Standard car had a single-cylinder engine of about 6 h.p. The design was advanced for its time, having a shaft drive and a three-speed gearbox, whilst entry to the rear seats was effected from the side as opposed to the rear, which was customary in those days.
The company progressed slowly, and the small number of cars which were produced were sold by a London firm of distributors.
The year 1912 marked the first really definite progress, when the company introduced one of the first light cars, a 9.5 h.p., four-cylinder car, which sold for about £200. During the 1914-18 war, the company were engaged on many forms of munition production, and on the present Canley site, part of the existing factory was built for the manufacture of aeroplanes, the then famous R.E.8. Following the 1914-18 war, the company gained considerable success with revised versions of the car which it introduced just before the war, but by 1926, in common with many other firms in the industry, they were severely affected by the slump in motor car sales, and by 1929 they were in a precarious situation.
In that year, Sir John Black, then Captain J. P. Black, joined the company, and a new range of models was introduced, and from then until 1939, the company went from success to success. The most successful models of a large number that followed one another were the range of "Flying Standards", and the popular "Standard Eight". The year 1939 marked the peak in the company's production of motor cars, when well over 50,000 cars were produced. By this time the car-production plant had steadily developed into one of the most modern in the country. The company had acquired a large service depot at Park Royal, London, and they had built and were operating the first of the famous shadow aeroplane factories, which was situated on their site near to the Canley factory. This shadow factory was manufacturing parts for the Bristol "Mercury" and "Pegasus" aero-engines, and also carburettors.
Shadow Factories. Owing to the success of this scheme, the company was commissioned to build, equip, and operate another and far larger shadow factory at Banner Lane, for the manufacture of Bristol "Hercules" aero-engines. During the war, the Canley factory, among its many war activities, was devoted chiefly to the production of De Havilland "Mosquito" aero-planes, of which 1,066 were produced, and "Oxford Trainer 'Planes", along with fuselages for "Beaufighters". Other war-time production included : 20,000 Bristol "Hercules" aero-engines; 10,000 service vans; 54,400 aircraft carburettors; 2,800 light armoured cars; 5,000 fire pumps; 417,000 cylinders for Bristol "Mercury" and "Pegasus" aero-engines; 63,000 constant-speed units for aero-engines; 3,000 fuselages complete for "Beaufighter" aeroplanes; 250,000 bomb release slips; and millions of other vital components. During the war Captain J. P. Black was knighted for his work on the Joint Aero Engine Committee.
Post-war Period. Following the 1939-45 war, the company, one of the first to return to car production, in order to supply the immediate post-war needs confined itself to building the famous "Eight" and "Twelve—Fourteen" cars, in slightly modified forms. In 1945, it acquired the Triumph Company, Ltd., and designed and manufactured two entirely new Triumph cars, the "Saloon" and the "Roadster".
Ferguson Tractor Production. In 1946, the company completely re-equipped the Banner Lane factory for the production of the Ferguson tractor for Messrs. Harry Ferguson, Ltd. The reconstruction and development of the tractor occupied some nine months. Thirteen months later 10,000 tractors were delivered from the factory, in the following thirteen weeks yet another 10,000, and production has now passed the 100,000 mark.
The Standard "Vanguard". Immediately after the war, arrangements were made for research work to commence in connexion with the design and production of the new Standard "Vanguard", a single model intended for world use. This model was announced in July 1947, and large numbers have been exported to some seventy-five different countries.
The Triumph "Mayflower". On 23rd September 1949, Sir John Black announced the company's re-entry into the light-car field with the introduction of the Triumph "Mayflower", a completely new design based on the accumulated experience gained in overseas markets, and following the Triumph tradition.
Production. Exports for March 1950 constituted an all-time record for the company, with a shipment of 4,200 motor vehicles during the month. The total output of the Standard products for the period of the financial year ending 31st August 1949 amounted to 42,000 cars and 55,000 Ferguson tractors, a total of 97,000 vehicles, of which 60,000 were exported. In addition to the output of vehicles, a vast number of spares and components were produced and shipped abroad.
The Modern Factories. Car production is concentrated in the Canley factory, tractor production in the Banner Lane factory, while the Fletchamstead shadow factory is equipped to house the company's sales, car despatch, and service and spares departments. These three factories have been planned and equipped to produce 100,000 cars and 100,000 tractors a year. Some idea of the extent of the present Standard Motor Company's plant will be gained from the following figures of productive and overall area of the three factories respectively : Canley, 1,200,000 sq. ft., 103 acres; Fletchamstead, 500,000 sq. ft., 12 acres; Banner Lane, 1,000,000 sq. ft., 90 acres. The company directly employ some 10,000 people.
Subsidiary companies have recently been registered and are now in operation in a number of countries to build Standard and Triumph cars from C.K.D. units shipped from England, and to distribute the company's products through its existing chain of distributors. These companies have been established in South Africa, Australia, India, Canada, and New Zealand. In the following countries Standard and Triumph cars are also assembled from C.K.D. units : Eire, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and Belgium.
In the year 1856 the five Tangye brothers started in business as general engineers, but it was not until 1864 that they moved to the present site of the Cornwall works, a move necessitated by the rapid growth of the business. These early years saw the development of two products which rapidly became well known, namely, their patent hydraulic ship jack and the "Weston" pulley block. The jacks received considerable publicity owing to their successful launching of the Great Eastern, and this was an important factor in establishing the firm's reputation. The "Weston" block was the first lifting tackle to use pitch chain successfully and was the forerunner of many other applications of this principle.
Following the move to Cornwall works, the business continued to expand rapidly until at the close of the century it was employing over 3,000 men on a wide variety of engineering products, including steam and gas engines, pumps, hydraulic machinery, machine tools, lifting tackle of all types, together with many other products. The year 1881 was noteworthy for the introduction of the two-cycle gas engine, and in 1894 the first oil engine was built. The succeeding years saw continued development of these varied products, with a gradual swing from steam and gas engines to oil engines of the compression-ignition type. In the same way steam-driven pumping machinery gradually gave way to electrical and oil-engine driven types.
The firm has always had an extensive export organization as many of its products are especially designed for overseas conditions, the change to war production during the 1939-45 war was, therefore, considerable. To mention but a few items, large numbers of heavy-duty fire pumps were produced, many cordite extrusion presses, special purpose machine tools and presses for armament work. Diesel generating sets, hydraulic jacks for "Bailey" bridges and for many other purposes, petrol pumps for the "Pluto" system, shells, gun cradles, tank components, and so on.
Since the war considerable re-design of the firm's products has been carried out, together with the installation of many new machines, and once again the greater proportion of output is being exported. The main groups of products at the present time are oil engines, mainly of the heavy-duty horizontal type, hydraulic machinery, pumps, and hydraulic jacks. A certain number of special-purpose railway machine tools are also made.
The present works cover an area of some 20 acres, and in addition to the machine shops comprise a grey-iron foundry, brass foundry, pattern shop, steel fabricating shop, heat-treatment and engine and pump testing shops. A certain amount of mechanization has been carried out in the foundry, including the use of machine moulding and sand slingers. The factory as a whole is laid out to deal with a wide variety of work on a "one-off" and "batch production" basis, ranging from small bar components to hydraulic presses of 90 tons and more in weight.
Owing to this variety of work it is an ideal training ground, and at present some 88 apprentices are receiving instruction in all departments.
Throughout the firm's history welfare has taken a high place. A dispensary was started in 1865, and a works canteen in 1877. In more recent years a large recreation ground has been acquired and a staff superannuation pension scheme has been instituted.
Founded in 1824, the Wolverhampton works now occupy 80 acres, 30 of which are covered. Extensive reorganization has taken place since the war, several new shops have been built and existing ones enlarged, modernized, and equipped with new plant. The four companies, John Thompson (Wolverhampton), Ltd., John Thompson Water-Tube Boilers, Ltd., John Thompson Motor Pressings, Ltd., and John Thompson Beacon Windows, Ltd., provide employment locally for some 3,500 men.
The main products of these companies are :—
John Thompson (Wolverhampton), Ltd. Shell boilers, water-tube boilers, drum and pressure vessels for the chemical and oil industries; mechanical stokers for water-tube and shell types of boiler; ash- and coal-handling plant; high-pressure pipework; and pulverized-fuel mills and burners.
Water-Tube Boilers, Ltd. Complete steam plant for electric power stations, from foundations to turbine stop valve.
Motor Pressings, Ltd. Chassis frames for private cars and for trucks ranging up to the heaviest commercial vehicles, together with general pressings for a number of industries.
Beacon Windows, Ltd. Metal window-frames in steel and aluminium, also pressed metal doors and frames, industrial flooring, galleries and ladders.
Outstanding developments since the war include the provision of a new plate-bending department. This shop in itself is of outstanding interest; with a length of 420 feet, and 83 feet wide, it is of welded construction throughout. The rolls are designed to roll cylinders up to 20 feet long and of thicknesses up to 4 inches. Adjacent to the rolls is an oil-fired plate-heating furnace with electrically controlled manipulators to convey the heated plate to the rolls. Fusion welding is also carried out in this department and additional union-melt welding machines have been installed. Four X-ray machines for radiographic examination are provided.
An interesting addition to the motor pressings plant is the recent installation of a large single-action power press believed to be the largest in Europe. The total weight of the press is 400 tons and it imparts a load of 2,000 tons. The overall height is 39 feet, the foundations going 29 feet below shop floor level. Intended primarily for cold work, it has an oil-fired furnace conveniently located for the production of heavy hot-pressings.
A central power house for compressed air and hydraulic power has recently been completed. Supplies are piped to all departments, and the works heating is also carried out from here by means of two "La Mont" high-pressure, hot-water boilers. A turbo-alternator set is in commission to take part of the works load during the winter months.
Boiler steelwork and other structural work, including self-supporting chimneys, are fabricated at the Dudley works, which also produce stainless-steel and similar types of vessels for chemical plants and for the food processing industries.
The research laboratory is available to all the John Thompson companies and is fully equipped for chemical and metallurgical examination.
A long and fascinating perspective of industrial history can be enjoyed at the company's works in Garrison Street.
In a glass case in the reception room is a section of coir rope, 47 inches in circumference, and containing 3,780 separate yarns, which was made for the broadside launching in 1858 of Brunei's Great Eastern, then the world's largest ship. Engravings show the original rope-walk which Mr. William Wright established in Dartmouth Street in 1770.
To glance from one side of the room to the other is to traverse a century, for opposite the Great Eastern rope is a case of Wrights' modern steel ropes - intricate pieces of mechanism with a fantastic diversity of cross-sections, which are used in mines, oil wells, for aerial ropeways, dams, cranes and ships throughout the world. Every known type of steel rope is represented - round strand, flattened strand, locked coil, and preformed. The Great Eastern launching ropes remain the largest fibre ropes ever made, for steel ropes now achieve greater strengths in a smaller circumference. Wrights' claim the largest locked coil steel rope ever produced; its diameter was 90 mm., and it consisted of a series of layers of round and interlocking wires of great strength, the breaking load of the complete rope being 650 tons.
In the works (which are half a mile long), where some hundreds of workers are employed, are produced hemp ropes and twines for every conceivable purpose, "John Bull" binder twine, for harvesting, and baler twine, for mechanical balers, steel ropes and cables in every type of construction. Fifty per cent of production is exported, the company being represented in almost every part of the world.
The firm provided in 1930 the giant ropes which held in position the cantilevers of the Sydney Harbour bridge, until they met over the middle of the harbour, and, in 1937, the 74 locked coil ropes, 2 inches in diameter, which now support the structure of Chelsea Bridge, London. It was necessary that the ropes should have a constant modulus in the load range, all irregular stretch being taken out after fabrication by the operation known as pre-stressing. A special pre-stressing plant, installed for the purpose, consists of a hydraulically operated Avery testing machine mounted on a heavy ferro-concrete foundation, and over 1,000 feet away in a horizontal straight line, an anchorage end of suitable steelwork also mounted on a heavy foundation block, both foundations being designed to withstand a pull of 100 tons without movement.
Two years ago the company evolved a main cable nearly 5 miles long in one continuous length, tapered to three diameters, so that the Swedish Albatross Oceanographic Exploration party could drag the ocean bed. Two cables were supplied, although the spare was not needed throughout the voyage, which occupied fifteen months, and record depths were reached by extensions which made an overall cable length of more than 6 1/2 miles. The special rust-resisting high-tensile steel wire used in the making of these ropes was supplied by the subsidiary company, the Rollason Wire Company, Ltd., of Bromford, Birmingham. Wrights' also supplied the four sets of steel ropes which support the 750-foot high B.B.C. television mast at Sutton Coldfield.
The basic process of twisting wires or fibre yarns into strands, and strands into ropes remains unchanged, but a modern catalogue of Wrights' products shows the infinite number of structural permutations which the stresses and strains of present day engineering demand. The rope technician desires the fullest information about the nature of the work to be performed, and when colliery cables are required, preliminary evidence is frequently gathered by a "decelerometer" - a device somewhat like a seismograph - which is placed in the cage and records stresses and strains.
The company still maintains the modern form of the original rope-walk to make particularly fine grades of hempen rope for special purposes, such as ships' hawsers and whaling lines. In this process the strands, stretched over a length of about 350 yards, are fixed to a rotating head which imparts the spiral form. Considerable quantities of rope of all sizes are produced on machines such as the "Sun and Planet" type, in which bobbins containing strands revolve as the strands are fed through dies to be closed into a rope, which is coiled on the same machine.
Constant checking ensures the reliability of wires and ropes, and the hemp and sisal fibres are carefully inspected and graded before spinning.