Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,368 pages of information and 245,906 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Lancashire Steam Motor Co: 1904 Review

From Graces Guide
Fig 5. Wagon with body removed.
Fig 6. Plan of the new works.
Fig 7. Plan of compound engine
Fig 8. Fire tube boiler.
Fig 9. Valve gear.
Fig 10. Steering gear.
Fig 11. Six-ton wagon.
Fig 12. Compensating gear transmission shaft.
Fig 13. Second motion shaft.
Fig 14. Machine tool bay.
Fig 15. Fitting department.
Fig 16. Parkinson's gear cutter.
Fig 17. Erecting bay.

Note: This is a sub-section of Lancashire Steam Motor Co.


No history of the steam motor vehicle would be complete without it contained a reference to the work of the Lancashire Steam Motor Company - one of the earliest, if not the first, firm to take up seriously the production of this type of self-propelled vehicle.

The Lancashire Steam Motor Company began operations as far back as 1896 as a private company with the objects of making steam-propelled lawn mowers and of experimenting with road vehicles of the heavy pattern. The first machine that was produced was built with the idea of competing in the trials that were organised by THE ENGINEER, which took place at the Crystal Palace in 1896.

Unfortunately, this van did not comply with the conditions imposed by the judges in the matter of tare weight — namely, one ton. It was designed to weigh less than this when complete, but, to the disappointment of its builders, the stipulated margin was exceeded by 6 cwt., and it was consequently not entered for the trials.

The disappointment was, however, compensated for in the following year, 1897. In that year the Royal Agricultural Society of England instituted trials, to take place at Crewe, and although several entries were received, only one vehicle put in an appearance, and that was the van alluded to above, which was awarded the Society's silver medal. The van is shown in Fig. 1, above.

In 1898 this Society held a further series of trials, for which this company entered a steam wagon to carry four tons, and had the satisfaction of carrying off the first prize of £100.

In the same year the Liverpool Self-Propelled Traffic Association instituted a series of trials which created an immense amount of interest in engineering circles, and the same van was awarded the first prize of £100. It is interesting to note that this machine had an oil-fired boiler, and its performance was quite remarkable. The tare of the wagon was under three tons, the average load carried on several long runs over severe road surface was four tons, and the speed averaged 5.2 miles per hour. The consumption of petroleum as fuel was 0.56 gallon per vehicle mile, and the water turned into steam amounted to 3.4 gallons per mile.

This vehicle was subsequently purchased by Fox Brothers and Co, Wellington, Somerset, and the fact that it was in constant use by this firm until quite recently is excellent testimony to its durable qualities.

In 1899 a similar wagon competed in the second series of tests organised by the Liverpool Self-Propelled Traffic Association, and on this occasion the second prize was gained; while in 1901 an improved coke-fired wagon obtained the highest award, a gold medal, in this association's trials. The tare of this wagon was under three tons, and no other vehicle that competed came within the legal limit of weight. The average load carried was 4.81 tons, which is unusually high; the average speed in miles per hour, six; and the total distance travelled, 167 miles, without stoppage for repairs or adjustment of any kind. The consumption of coke was at the rate of 12 lb. per vehicle-mile. Mr. Henry J. Spurrier, jun., M.I. Mech. E., and Mr. James Sumner were conjointly responsible for the design of these machines.

In August, 1903, the company was registered privately under the Limited Liability Act, having previously been joined by Mr. William Norris, A.M. Inst. C.E., M.I.M.E. Mr. Henry Spurrier, jun., who may be looked upon as the originator, now holds the position of managing director; Mr. James Sumner, director and works manager; and Mr. Norris, director and chief engineer.

With the growth of the firm's business new and larger premises were rendered necessary to keep pace with the growing output, and a site at Leyland was purchased covering over seven acres on which the present works have been built.

The old works are still used for boiler-making, wheel-making, woodworking, and for the tinsmiths' and foundry work. We are enabled to present herewith a plan of the new works -Fig. 6- together with several photographic views of the interior. The arrangement of the new works will be readily followed by reference to the plan. They are all on the ground floor, with the exception of the offices, and are divided into three bays, 200ft. long, with saw-tooth glazed roofs, and excellently lighted.

As will be seen, one bay is reserved for machine tools, one bay for the fitters' and tool-room, and one, provided with a travelling crane, for erecting. Behind the offices are the stores, and an extension at the rear is utilised for painting. At the time of our representative’s visit the two works found employment for 160 hands, and were capable of an output of about five wagons per month.

Power for driving is supplied by a 30 horse-power gas engine, and the tools are driven by overhead shafting. The machine tools are chiefly of British make, and of the most modern types. It will not be necessary to detail these here, but there are a few to which mention should be made.

A spur gear-cutting machine, for instance, made by J. Parkinson and Son, of Shipley, is employed for cutting sprocket wheels from cast steel blanks, and is entirely automatic. Wheels of any diameter, from 2in. to 3ft. by 9in. face, can be cut by this ingenious tool. As will be observed from the engraving the gear blanks are mounted on a mandril fitted in a horizontal spindle, on which is fixed a large division wheel. The latter is operated intermittently by a train of gearing controlled by the movements of the slide carrying the cutter. The amount of intermittent movement of the division wheel determines the number of teeth to be cut in the blanks. This can be varied by a combination of change wheels provided for this purpose. When the required adjustments have been made, the machine may be started, and needs no further attention till the cutting of the wheel is completed. An adjustable supporting arm carries the outer end of the work mandril, when cutting broad-faced wheels or coarse pitches, and a thrust stop, set to the side of the rim of the blank, takes the thrust of the cutter and prevents springing of the blank. The cutter spindle has bearings on both sides of the cutter, and is driven by spiral gearing, to eliminate chatter. Its speed may be varied according to the pitch or the nature of material being cut. The mechanism for the intermittent spacing movements is very reliable. But in the barest possible event of a false division being made, the movement of the cutter slide is automatically arrested before the cutter comes in contact with the blank.

The crank shafts are turned out of solid steel forgings on a powerful high-speed crank lathe, with 12in. centres, by Dean, Smith and Grace.

The other tools include Herbert's hexagon turret lathes, Webster and Bennett's 30in boring machine, Cunliffe and Croom's drill grinder, Parkinson's horizontal boring machine, Dean, Smith and Grace's Min. sliding, surfacing and screw-cutting lathe, planing machines up to 8ft. by Cunliffe and Croom, and Herbert's universal grinder.

It will be gathered from the foregoing partial list of tools that the workmanship put into the Leyland wagons leaves nothing to be desired. The Bundy time recorder is used for checking the men's time, and Mr. Spurrier has added to this an electrical contact system which automatically rings a bell for starting and stopping the works.

The output of the works comprises two standard sizes of vehicles, "Class B" and "Class G." The first of these is designed for loads of 4 tons, and the second for loads up to 6 tons. We are enabled to place before our readers in Figs. 4 and 5 and 7 to 13 some interesting illustrations of the larger wagon, embracing all the most recent improvements. We may mention that this vehicle is tested with a load of 8 tons on a gradient of 1 in 9.

The boiler — Fig. 8 — is of the fire-tube central feed type, having 110 square feet of heating surface, and 4.9 square feet of grate area, and is built for a working pressure of 200 lb. per square inch. The distinguishing feature of this boiler is the facility with which it can be taken to pieces for cleaning purposes. It consists of an upper and lower shell, bolted about midway. The lower shell contains the fire-box, the crown of which is supported by a central tube, which is also used for feeding the boiler with fuel. Attached to the central tube is the top tube plate, the lire tubes being expanded in the furnace crown and the upper tube plate. The upper shell can be readily disconnected, exposing the whole length of the tubes.

The tubes are of tough seamless steel. The space between the tubes is ample to admit of ease in cleaning. Attached to the top tube plate is a steam drier. Washout plugs are arranged on the top plate and also at the bottom of the lower shell. A door is fitted in front of the boiler, which admits of clinkering and lighting up. Under ordinary working conditions — i.e., when the gauge glass is half full — there is 14in. of water above the furnace crown, so that there is no fear of this being burnt. The upper and lower shells are lagged with non-conducting material and covered with sheet steel. For cleaning the tubes all that is necessary is to disconnect the chimney, which is attached to the smoke-box top; this then exposes the whole length of the tubes for cleaning purposes. A baffle plate is provided at the base of the chimney to prevent the gases taking the nearest cut to the uptake.

The engine — Fig. 7 — is of the compound horizontal pattern, with cylinders 4in. and 7.5in. bore by 7in. stroke, and has a constant lead valve gear which gives absolutely the same travel in either backward or forward directions. This valve gear is shown very clearly in the drawing — Fig. 9.

The valves are of a special balanced fiat type, without springs or other appurtenances liable to become disordered. The whole of the engine and gearing is entirely enclosed in one cast iron casing, and is capable of developing 45 horse-power at 450 revolutions. Another peculiarity of this engine is that the whole of the bearings are non-adjustable, the makers claiming that the bearing surfaces are so unusually large that adjustment will not be required for years, at the end of which time renewable bushes can be inserted. It is claimed that the advantages of such bearings are that unnecessary loose parts are dispensed with, and also that the possibility of tampering with bearings by men with little knowledge of mechanics is removed. It should be pointed out that wherever possible the wearing surfaces are as long as possible, and are case-hardened and ground.

The ratios of the gearing between the engine and the road wheels are as follows:— Fast speed 11.35 to 1, giving a speed of 5.6 miles per hour; and slow speed 24.46 to 1, giving a speed of 2.6 miles per hour.

The whole of the engine is enclosed, and although the working parts are easy of access, they are kept free from dirt and run in oil. Students of valve gears will notice in Fig. 9 that the valve motion, instead of having the radial link, has a straight slot, and the makers claim that a better diagram is thus obtained under all conditions of working.

The min frame of this wagon — Fig. 11 — is built up of 5/16th channel steel of 7in. by 2.75in. section, and is well stiffened by transverse members. Motion is transmitted from the crank shaft to an intermediate or second motion shaft - Fig. 13 — by one of two sets of spur gearing and sliding clutches. From this shaft power is transmitted to the compensating shaft — Fig. 12 — by reducing spur gearing. On this shaft are the two sprocket wheels from which, by means of chains, the motion is finally communicated to the sprockets on the rear road wheels. The latter are of composite pattern, with cast steel hubs and spokes, ash felloes, and weldless steel tires.

The driving wheels are 3ft. 9in. diameter, with 10in. tires, and the steering wheels 3ft. diameter, with 6in. tires. The axles are Mannesmann solid-drawn steel tubes, with brackets for carrying the springs shrunk on.

The frame of the wagon allows of a platform up to 16ft. long and 6ft. 6in. broad. The steering gear is a modification of the Ackermann type, operated by handle, worm, and worm wheel. Details of this are shown very clearly in Fig. 10. The brakes are powerful, and operate inside the chain rings on the driving wheels.

It will be gathered from the foregoing that the whole of the wagon bears the impress of much thought and long experience. Simplicity characterises the working parts, while accessibility for adjustment and repairs has not been lost sight of. The boiler and wheels — the two essential parts which have, perhaps, given the most trouble to steam wagon users in the past — strike the critical eye favourably. The former is simple and easy to take to pieces, and the wheels appear to be capable of withstanding the shocks due to bad roads without undue injury.

Although the works are not on a large scale, the system adopted seems generally favourable to the production of sound workmanship.

See Also


Sources of Information

The Engineer of 16th September 1904