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British Industrial History

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Kidwelly Tinplate Works: Rolling Mill Engines

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Foden rolling mill engine
Cole, Marchent and Morley engine which drove tinplate rolling mill stands. Barring engine in foreground

Note: This is a sub-section of Kidwelly Tinplate Works

Three of the steam engines installed to drive rolling mills survived long after the works closed and became derelict. More information below. Eventually part of the site became a museum and the engines and associated equipment were cosmetically restored. Sadly, the museum is now closed, and its future is uncertain.

The following information was provided when the works were advertised for sale in 1899:-

'The plant, buildings, etc., in the upper portion of the works are of very recent construction, and consequently in first-class order. In the Upper Works there are 8 complete black-plate mills (26in. and 30in.), driven by 2 inverted tandem compound engines (by Foden and [at] Sandbach); 2 sets of Babcock's patent tubular boilers, 2 of Lowcock's patent fuel economisers, 6 pairs of cold rolls with separate engine, and other necessary buildings, and plant.'[1]

Foden Engine(s)

The 1899 advert mentions two Edward Foden of Sandbach engines. They directly drove the (hot) black-plate hot rolling mills mentioned in the advert. The engines had heavy flywheels of 24 ft diameter. The engines also drove the 'crocodile shears' (and the doubling presses?). They also had gearing to allow the rolls to be turned for re-profiling.

George Watkins thought that the engines were probably installed as c.48-inch bore simple engines in the 1870s, using steam at 50-60 psi.[2] He states or suggests that the engines were converted to tandem compound by the edition of a 24-inch cylinder with steam admission by piston valves. He suggested that this was probably done in 1892 when the Babcock and Wilcox water tube boilers were installed. He suggests that the modification may have been done by Price of Llanelly or R. Nevill of Neath. However, the name Bright and Garrard, Engineers, of Carmarthen, can be seen on the bedplate of one (or both?) of the engines. See below.

A George Watkins photo of one engine, taken in 1958, shows certain features consistent with an HP cylinder being added on top of the original cylinder. A clerestory has been added above the engine, supported by four iron or steel columns. An accesss platform at the top of the LP cylinder has a rather ad hoc appearance (as does the pipe conveying steam from the HP to the LP cylinder).

Now matters become less clear:

Another book by George Watkins[3] states that one of the engines was by Foden, while the other was similar but without a name. It is quite possible that the name of Bright and Garrard was not visible to Mr Watkins when he saw it in a very untidy state. He also adds that Edwin Foden supplied four 43-inch single cylinder engines to the tinplate trade

This photo shows the clutch and gear train which allowed the rolls to be turned at low speed for reprofiling.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. South Wales Daily News, 15 April 1899
  2. 'Stationary Steam Engines of Great Britain', Vol 4, by George Watkins, Landmark Publishing, 1993
  3. 'The Steam Engine in Industry - Mining and the Metal Trades' by George Watkins, Moorland Publishing, 1979 & 1994