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Hugon Gas Engine

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Invented and developed by Pierre-Constant Hugon (1814-1885) of Hugon et Cie, Paris

It was produced under licence by a number of makers. Demonstrated at the 1867 Paris Exhibition.

It sold moderately well until displaced by Otto and Langen's engine.

1867 'PUBLIC NOTICE,— Monsieur PIERRE HUGON respectfully notifies that he is NOT CONNECTED either directly or indirectly with any GAS ENGINE COMPANY, and that his sole representative and licensee for England and English Colonies is Mr. EDWARD CASPER.' ......

....'THE HUGON GAS ENGINE. No Electricity nor other complication. Sole Licensee, EDWARD CASPER, 33, Poultry. Sole Manufacturers, THOS. ROBINSON and SON, Rochdale. An Engine is constantly at work at 33, Poultry, and professional gentlemen are invited to test its power.'[1]

The engine was described and illustrated in The Engineer in 1867 [2].

A double-acting Hugon vertical gas engine is on display at the Musee des Arts et Metiers. The museum give the date as 1855-60. This is inconsistent with the c.1858 date given above for the start of experiments, although the 1867 article in The Engineer stated that Hugon had been developing his original idea 'during fourteen years'. However, the design of the engine in the museum appears to be identical to the one shown in 'The Engineer' in 1867, and it is unlikely that the design would have remained static since 1855-60.

Newspaper Reports and Advertisements

To what extent the principle of this engine may be usefully or practically carried it is not easy at the present moment to infer, but that it is available to a very large extent as an economic and reliable power is without doubt. Gas engine is not a term new to science, although as yet gas engines are not familiar objects, but Monsieur Hugon claims to have been the primary discoverer of the applicability of common coal-gas, such as we burn in our streets, as a motive power. Since 1852, we are told that, reserving for his household necessities a small portion only of a handsome income, he has devoted the residue to the perfecting of his plans, not selling a single engine until he had overcome all difficulties, and had succeded in burning, or rather exploding, his mixture of gas and common air directly within the cylinder, without the use of electricity or magnetism for the purpose of ignition.

'The engines, for which Mr. Casper, of the Poultry, is the English licensee, are brought forward to the world in a state of great simplicity. They have no boiler, like a steam engine : no furnace, sending out into the atmosphere dense clouds of smoke ; they need no stoker, no engineer, for a child could set them going, and once started the motion goes on with unceasing certainty without further attention.

'We have recently seen one of these engines, a very small one, of a single horse power, employed for hoisting purposes at the warehouse of Messrs. Alexander, Austin, and Poole, at Victoria Wharf, Upper Thames-street, and must express our satisfaction both with its performances and its construction.

'Everybody knows what a steam-engine is, aud everybody knows that to raise attain requires a boiler and furnace. It is also well known that the expansion of the water into steam may be carried by superheating to such a degree as to accomplish the entire separation of the two constituent gases of water, oxygen and hydrogen, into their elementary gaseous conditions.[!] But nobody so superheats steam, and then attempts to make available the explosion which would follow the ignition of the two separate gases.

'Nevertheless, this result, so obtainable at the cost of so much fuel, so much time, and so many processes, is exactly where, by a simpler means, M. Hugon commences to obtain the motive power in his gas-engines. He dispenses with coal and with water, with furnace and with boiler, and he simply takes gas out of the street mains, and pumps one part of gas and nine parts of common air into his cylinder. We have all been startled at the lecture-table by the explosion of such a mixture, and in our early days of childhood equally astonished at the result produced by a drop of water. It is one of the commonest experiments of the professional lecturers. But inside M. Hugon's iron cylinder the explosive mixture would harmlessly remain until a fame, or spark of some sort, were brought into communication with it.

'We are all familiar with the lamplighter ; we see him daily running along our streets with a small gas lanthorn at the end of a long pole. Ladies do not go into cigar-shops, but even they will be familiar with the little jets of flame which tobacconists often burn outside their shop-doors, pro bono publico: and they will know very well indeed the little jets which chemists also keep burning at the side of the brass pillars of their counter lamps to melt the wax for sealing up small parcels.

'Now, let us see how M. Hugon gets over all those troubles and difficulties which it is evident he originally had before him, and what the prospectus of his invention tells us has necessitated no fewer than " twelve patents, each revealing a difficulty removed, a facility obtained, a defect remedied." First the cylinder of the engine had to be made strong enough to resist the force of the explosion of the gaseous mixture ; that was easy enough. Next the gas had to be exploded in the cylinder ; that would have been easy, too, if the cylinder had been open like the lecturer's test-tube, for we could have put a candle to it, and very soon have had a grand " blow up." But to get the force of the explosion for motive power the gas cylinder must be closed like the steam cylinder, and the explosions of the gas must be alternately continuous at the top and at the bottom, alternately above and alternately below the piston, to drive it up and down ; and then the piston-rod being attached to the crank of a beam there would be, as in the steam engine, a transference of the vertical linear motion into that rotatory or "driving" motion by which, through straps, wheels, levers, the power of the engine is transferred to the crane, or mechanical machinery, required to do any particular kind of work. To get this alternation of explosions of a gaseous mixture in a closed vessel is evidently no easy task, and others have called in the aid of the electric spark to do that inside the cylinder, they could not see the way to make the engine do for itself. M. Hugon, however, has found out the way to make the gas light itself and set off its own explosion. Suppose the piston to rest exactly in the middle of the cylinder, dividing it into two chambers, each filled with an explosive mixture of gas and common air, and from each of two small tubular passages lead horizontal outwards — one from the top of the chamber above the piston, and one from the bottom of the chamber below it — directly to the side of a close-fitting vertical iron box, or, as it is technically called, " tray," attached to a rod, the end of which works over an excentric on the shaft of the engine. From the side of this vertical box. or " tray," there issues near the top a jet of gas, and another horizontal jet of gas passes out from the lower end, both jets issuing from orifices towards the cylinder in such a way that when the excentric depresses the rod top jet would play into the orifice leading up to the vertical or tray from the top chamber of the cylinder, and when the excentric elevated the rod the bottom jet of the tray would play into the tubular passage leading from the lower chamber of the cylinder. If, then, these jets from the tray be lighted, and that jet at the top could be kept alight inside the tray whilst it is descending to its position opposite to the tubular entrance to the chamber, it will, so soon as it gets in front of the orifice, dart out again and fire the explosive mixture. Just so the bottom jet from the tray ascending by the opposite action of the excen tric will, when it gets opposite the small entrance to the lower chamber, fire the mixture in it. And so as the eccentric works the tray up and down it converts it into an automaton lamplighter that never tires or flags, nor even for an instant neglects its regular and constant duty. However, all is not quite so easy as this, for the explosion blows out the flame of the jet. Well, relight it. So M. Hugon does. He keeps a little long jet like the tobacconist's or tho chemist's perpetually burning, and playing across the part of the jet issuing from the top end of the tray, and another little lighted jet playing across the path of the jet from the bottom of the tray, and thus, directly either the one jet comes above the frame in which the slide works or the other below it, the flame is instantly rekindlod by the little permanent jets. Thus regularly and certainly are the alternate explosions maintained in the cylinder, and the motive power of the engine regularly and certainly produced. To avoid irregularities in the supply of gas it is pumped into the cylinder from a reservoir, and the same lever which works the gas pump also works a bellows for the proportionate supply of air. The force of the explosion of the gaseous mixture is, of course, instantaneous, but this instantaneous force is accumulated and stored in a large fly wheel, and does not extend, therefore, practically, beyond the upper or lower chamber of the cylinder itself, whilst the high temperature of the gas in exploding is absorbed by a jet of water injected simultaneously into the cylinder, the result being a sufficient volume of super-heated steam to assist the lubrication of the piston and render unnecessary more than a very small amount of oiling, such as would be used in a steam engine of corresponding power. The small engine of one-horse power we have inspected is stated to consume at Manchester 86 feet per hour of gas, costing 3s. per thousand, but in London 80 feet are required of gas costing 4s. per thousand. It would thus seem to be that we have here an evidence that in the metropolis we are paying dearer for a less good article than tho citizens of the great cotton city are for a superior one.

'We have said enough to make comprehensible the general principles of this most ingenious engine. How far the necessity of fly-wheels to equalise the sudden motions of the explosions will prevent the application of gas to marine or locomotive engines, or whether there be any inherent difficulty in the qualities of gas to prevent its adoption for such purposes, we need not here inquire. But the use of fly-wheels is not any detriment to land engines and the innumerable workshops and small factories and warehouses in which such engines would be invaluable adjuncts, the more than equally numberless purposes to which such cleanly, safe, compact, and easily managed engines could be advantageously applied, are media of application so evident to all upon the slightest consideration as to need no comment whatever.'[3]

1868 'The Crystal Palace.— The fantastic optical illusions produced by the scientific toy called the Zoetrope, or "Wheel of Life," are presented at the Crystal Palace on a highly magnified scale, by permission of the London Stereoscopic Company, who are the holders of the patent. Except in point of size, the monster wheel which has just been fitted up in the Concert hall at Sydenham does not differ from the ordinary Zoetropes that have lately proved a source of endless amusement to innumerable Christmas parties. The figures are exactly 16 times the usual size, and consequently may be viewed by a large number of persons occcupying the seats arranged round the cylinder, which, instead of being turned by hand, is set in rapid motion by a Hugon gas engine. The machine is brilliantly lighted from the top with gas, ....'[4]

1869 'Smithfield Club Cattle Show ....Foremost amongst other ingenious and useful inventions, and which will be in working operation during the show, is that which is known as the Hugon gas engine. Amongst the recommendations of this ingenious piece of mechanism one is that no combustible is used for it, and consequently no supply of fuel is required be kept. It is stated that a Hugon gas-engine of three horsepower worked from the opening to the close of the Paris Exhibition night and day, and was applied to almost every possible species of useful manufacture. It is alike applicable for carrying out the most stupendous work, and of working the most diminutive sewing-machine. Nor islt with working machinery that the public will interested [5]

1871 'MACHINERY for SALE, for indiarubber and other works, by Crossley Bros., Manchester. One spreading machine for 66-inch cloth, also mixer and grinder; one doubling machine for 66-inch cloth, a set of paint mills by Waygood, and one two-horse power Hugon gas engine. All are perfectly new, having been used only for experiment upon a new invention, the patentee of which is too ill to attend to. Will be soldat 35 per cent. off their cost.— Invoices and machinery may seen by appointment made with R. Booth, Vale of Health, Hampstead.[6]

'1871 It was reported that the blower for the organ at York Minster was driven by a Hugon gas engine located outside the building.[7]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. London Evening Standard, 16 April 1867
  2. [1] The Engineer, 8 March 1867
  3. London Evening Standard, 25 February 1867
  4. Windsor and Eton Express, 11 January 1868
  5. Edinburgh Evening Courant, 6 December 1869
  6. Daily Telegraph & Courier (London, 8 December 1871
  7. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 13 December 1871