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British Industrial History

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Mekarski Compressed Air Traction Co

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1881 After the successful trial of the Mekarski compressed air engines on the Wantage Tramway, the Compressed Air Engines Co promoted a new company Mekarski Compressed Air Traction Co Ltd to purchase the patents, and work and develop the system[1]

'THE MEKARSKI AIR-ENGINE. The Times states that for about three months during the autumn of last year, the traffic of tbe Wantage Tramway was conducted temporarily by means of locomotives driven by compressed air on Mekarski principle. One of these engines is now in London, and we have recently had the opportunity of inspecting it. These locomotives weigh about 7½ tons each, and consist of cylindrical steel air reservoirs, a special regulating apparatus, and ordinary cylinders and driving gear. The locomotives are supplied before starting on a journey with air a pressure of 450lb. per square inch, the air being compressed by means a stationary engine and plant. On starting the engines the air passes through a reservoir of hot water and steam to the regulator and thence to the working cylinders. The hot water raises the temperature of the air, and thus increase its volume and economises the store, while it has the further important effect of preventing the formation of ice in the exhaust passages of the cylinders, which would otherwise take place as the spent air escaped. The moisture with which the air becomes charged, moreover, assists the lubrication of the working parts of the engine. By means of the regulator the pressure of the air when passing to the cylinders can reduced to any desired extent. In practice the working pressure is constantly maintained at 90lb. per square inch. The exhaust air escapes quietly from the cylinders, thus rendering the locomotive noiseless in this respect, while there is, of course, a total absence of smoke or other product of combustion. Ample brake power is provided, and the general mechanical arrangements are such as to place the engine well under the control of the driver. The system is carried out in two different ways : in one the engine is separated from the tramcar, while in the other the engine and car are combined. The principle, however is the same in both, and is one which commends itself to notice from tramway work. The system has been employed for nearly two years past with every success on the Nantes Tramways, which are about four miles in length, and it is now being introduced into England, the offices of the company being at 8, Westminster-chambers, Victoria-street.'[2]


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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1881/02/25
  2. Portsmouth Evening News, 26 March 1881