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British Industrial History

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PS Sphinx: Side Lever Engine

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1. 1843 model of 1829 Sphinx engine at the Musée des Arts et Métiers
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See also PS Sphinx (France)

The Sphinx, a sail/steam corvette, was the French Navy's first steamship, built at Rochefort by Jean-Baptiste Hubert and launched on 3 August 1829.

The side lever engines were built by Fawcett, Preston and Co of Liverpool. The engine design was copied at Indret for other vessels of the Sphinx class.

As the French Navy's first steamer, Sphinx was the focus of much attention. Models of the ship are on display at the Musée national de la Marine in Paris and at the annex of the Museum in Toulon. A superb model of her engine can be seen at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.

The model was made in 1843 by Eugène Philippe of Paris, and its size is impressive. It weighs 680 kg and its overall dimensions are 1.2m high, 1.34m wide, 1.69m long.

Some Details

Photos 1 & 2: The low-level horizontal copper pipe passing through the hull served to discharge the water from the condenser hot well. Note the valve on the pipe, next to the hull, which would be closed when the engine was shut down, to prevent sea water entering.


In photo 2, note the six bolts on the nearest crank, presumably to allow disconnection. One end of the crankpin has a spherical journal surface (see photo 12).


Photo 3: The copper pipe is the live steam main, connected to the cylinder steam jackets.


Photo 4: Note the ornate link (top centre) connecting the eccentric to the slide valve via the gab gear (see also photos 13 & 14). In the centre of the picture, just above the side rod, is the sight glass which showed the water level in the hot well.


Photo 6: Sections, from left to right: Condenser extraction/air pump; condenser hotwell; cylinder.


Photo 8: Top of cylinder, showing slide valve, cylinder steam jacket, and insulating top cover.


Photo 9: Bottom of cylinder, showing slide valve and piston with soft packing.


Photo 10: Closer view of bottom slide valve.


Photo 11: Operating gear top slide valve on the other cylinder.


Photo 12: Crankshaft.


Photo 13: Crank, bearing, and slip eccentric. The plain disc behind the slip eccentric is a counterweight to bias the eccentric one way or the other (to facilitate reversing).


Photo 14: This shows the 'gab gear' in the link which is oscillated by the eccentric to raise and lower the slide valve. The gab gear was used when reversing the engine, and is shown disengaged.

See Also

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