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 163,480 pages of information and 245,913 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.

Farme Colliery Engine

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2019
Note the unusual 'pickaxe' flywheel construction, with wooden spokes and cast iron rim sections
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There were several steam engines in use at the Farme Colliery of the Farme Coal Co, near Rutherglen, but this entry refers to the remarkable old beam engine now preserved at Summerlee Museum of Industrial Life in Coatbridge, near Glasgow, having spent its long working life at the colliery.

Its significance has long been recognised. In 1879 The Engineer described it as 'in many respects the most remarkable old steam engine in existence.' It is a Newcomen-type atmospheric engine, constructed in 1810 or 1811. This is a late date for such an engine, and furthermore, the valve gear harked back to an earlier era, being of a very simple hand-operated type. [1]. Newcomen engines were rarely used to provide rotary motion in any era.


The engine is believed to have been constructed by the Camlachie Foundry.

Note: There were two other Newcomen engines at Farme Colliery, used for pumping.[2]

c.1908 photograph here, showing the open topped cylinder and its piston and the small sealing water pipe. Hemp packing for the piston lies nearby.

More old photos here.

From David Napier by David Napier and David Bell: Note 3:-
The cylinder, which was never bored, is 32.25 inches diameter and 5 feet 6 inches stroke. It is open at top, and the piston was packed about twice a year with hemp, which, with a small feed of water, kept it sufficiently tight. Steam of 5 - 6 pounds per square inch was admitted by a hand lever, the reverse movement of which allowed a jet of water for condensation to be injected through the bottom of cylinder, supplied from a tank placed about ten feet above and kept filled by a pump on the engine. With 27 to 37 rpm, about 30 HP was obtained, the work done consisting in winding up coal from a depth of about 43 fathoms.

The engine worked until 1915, when it was presented to the City of Glasgow.

1902 Newspaper report:
'OLDEST STEAM ENGINE AT WORK
TO BE BE SEEN AT A COLLIERY.
Last Summer, much to one's surprise, while at the Glasgow Congress of Engineering, and directed by the excellent hand-book prepared for the guidance of members of the Congress, a real live Newcomen engine was discovered at a colliery at Rutherglen, near Glasgow. It is almost certainly the oldest engine now at work and is really a quite remarkable case of the survival of the unfittest.
A few years ago an engine of James Watt's manufacture, with sun and planet wheel complete, was taken down at a London brewery. It had been continuously working for 102 years, and was not at all decrepit when dismounted. It now forms an archeological exhibit in the museum of Sydney University. But this engine, though interesting and of about the same age as the Glasgow Newcomen, was of a comparatively modern type. It did not represent an extinct race.
The Newcomen engine at Farme Colliery, Rutherglen, was built in 1809, and has worked continuously to the present time. As it was constructed long after Watt's invention of the separate condenser, it may, perhaps, be inferred that one object in its design was to escape payment of royalty. Curiously enough, unlike all other Newcomen engines of which there is record, it is a winding, not a pumping engine. The cylinder is of pure Newcomen type, but there is a modified Watt parallel motion with the radius bar above the beam, and a crank and fly-wheel of comparatively modern type. The cylinder is 3 1/2 feet in diameter, and the stroke 6 feet. It takes about thirty-five seconds to raise coal from the bottom of the pit to the ground level. The cylinder was never bored, but it has now a beautiful internal surface, having worn out probably a thousand packings. The piston is packed with hemp gasket, and carries a layer of water on top, which makes it quite steam tight. There is no automatic gear. A single handle, worked by a man, opens alternately the steam and injection valves. There is no air pump. Gravity and the pressure of the incoming steam drive out the condensed steam and injection water through a flat footvalve. It is stated that except brasses and one or two spur wheels, broken by accident, no important part of the engine has been renewed since it was built.
The beam is about 17 feet long and the flywheel is 15 feet in diameter. There is a feedpump worked from the beam. The latter is carried on a masonry pier. The engine works quite smoothly and well, and, strange as it may seem, it is probably, for the intermittent work it is doing, not so extravagantly wasteful as might be supposed.— W. C. Unwin, in Cassier's Magazine for March.'[3]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] The Engineer, 13 June 1879, pp.423, 430. Note: the illustration on p.430 is not fully representative of the preserved engine.
  2. [2] The Engineer, 6 June 1879
  3. Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette, 1 March 1902