Textile Mill Engines
|Thu, 27 Aug 2009 23:43
|Direct drive was eventually replaced by electric drive to the machinery and electricity could either be made on site or imported from the public utilities.
For generation on site, slow speed and high speed steam reciprocating engines or steam turbines could be used. I have photographs of examples of all three methods and these are set out below.
Another way that electricity was used was for lighting of mills and the large mill engine could also drive a generator for lighting. However, when the main engine was stopped a pilot lighting set was required and a beautiful example is preserved at the Ellenroad Engine House . Another electric lighting set with a single cylinder enclosed engine is to be seen at the former mill of the Coalisland Weaving Company in Ulster .
To return to the theme of engines for electric driving, an interesting early example of 1914 was to be found at the British Leyland works in Chorley. This had been built as a weaving shed with a Clayton, Goodfellow horizontal cross compound engine rope driving a Lancashire Dynamo and Crypto dynamo (DC) . This then powered electric motors running the lineshafts to power the looms. Unfortunately the First World War intervened and the works was taken over by Leyland Motors Ltd who used the engine until about 1938. It was removed in 1985 and is now in private hands in Derbyshire.
In later years, it was more usual to direct couple dynamos or alternators to a high speed engine (typically 350-600 rpm) with an enclosed crankcase and forced lubrication. A few works in the textile trades made use of one or more such machines and some are illustrated below.
George Street Mills, Milnsbridge, operated by James Shires was a good example of the later use of steam power. In the 1980s two secondhand Belliss and Morcom engines driving alternators were installed in an old engine house . This was an example of combined heat and power where a works requiring a considerable quantity of low pressure process steam can generate electricity highly efficiently by using engines as power producing reducing valves (much of the fuel used in a steam plant just goes in the latent heat of vaporisation and relatively little extra energy is needed to produce pressure - a little simplistic). In 1988 a third engine was added but this was less efficient and the whole plant didn't last too much longer.
Dyeworks and finishing plants were ideal for non-condensing engines as part of a combined heat and power system and examples included Belmont Dyeing and Bleach Works with a pair of Belliss & Morcom engines , Herbert Roberts, Royd Works, Keighley with a Belliss & Morcom duplex (double high-pressure) engine and Wildspur Mills, New Mill with a W H Allen engine.
A most impressive power house with four Belliss & Morcom engines was at Carpets of Worth, Stourport . Another power house with two Belliss & Morcom engines was at the Tone Mill near Wellington of Fox Bros & Co Ltd.
Condensing high speed engines were quite unusual in my experience of the textile trades and one such was to be found at the Upper Mills of Elon Crowther at Slaithwaite and was a Belliss & Morcom with a surface condenser and steam jet air extractor .
There were a few mills using steam turbines to drive alternators and an excellent example was at Manningham Mills, Bradford . In the 1930s this mill had a major rationalisation of its power supply and several reciprocating engines of varying age and efficiency were replaced by electric motors powered from the mills' own power station. This contained two Fraser and Chalmers non-condensing turbines direct coupled to alternators . Believed to have been scrapped.
Another mill with a steam turbine plant was the Brintons carpet factory in Kidderminster with a W H Allen turbine from the 1950s . This works has been very largely flattened .
Astley Bridge Mill, Bolton was built for Sir John Holden in 1925-6 and was all electric with imported electricity - the end of one era and the beginning of another.
|Fri, 9 Oct 2009 00:10
|The finishing trades (dyeing and printing for example) made use of small engines to drive individual machines. This was economical as the exhaust steam was used in process, for example in drying cylinders. A very popular type of engine was the twin cylinder diagonal (or inverted vee) and these were made in sizes from about 3' tall to 6' or so.
I saw an example by Duncan Stewart at work driving drying cylinders at Red Bridge Mills, Ainsworth - now long gone. Although the engine that was kept as a spare was later acquired by Fred Dibnah and subsequently auctioned (2010). Fred Dibnah's father had worked at this site.
The last in situ working example drove a calender at the Barracks Fabrics Finishing Co in Macclesfield. It was then removed to the Dingles Steam Village in Devon but has very recently (Nov 09) been acquired by the Robey Trust for display at their museum in Tavistock .
An example was later found in Crayford and is now at Crossness Pumping Station.
There are three in situ examples in Ulster. Two are at the former mill of the Coalisland Weaving Company in Coalisland and the third is at the Former Milltown Mills near Benburb .
Anybody can see the open air example at Burrs Country Park, Bury .
Examples can also be seen at the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester and the Bolton Steam Museum.
Mather & Platt made a 3 cylinder engine to drive a machine known as a stenter and the late Fred Dibnah acquired one that is now on display at the Bolton Steam Musem .
|Tue, 10 Nov 2009 22:22
|Textile Mills were always at risk from fire, despite the later "fireproof" construction and insurance companies were very keen that appropriate firefighting equipment be provided, usually in the form of sprinklers. Mill towers would house water tanks and the flat roofs around Oldham were used as storage ponds. The mills would have a steam firepump, often self-starting in the case of loss of sprinkler pressure.
Several horizontal duplex rotative pumps survive, including the following: -
this example was at Royd Mill, Hollinwood ] and is now preserved at Astley Green Colliery, Tyldesley.
This similar example is at the preserved Masson Mills, Matlock Bath in Derbyshire .
A larger example built c1910 by George Mills of Radcliffe is in situ (2010) at Tonedale Mills near Wellington .
A nice horizontal duplex rotative fire pump by Mills of Radcliffe is on display at Bradford Industrial Museum and came from Victoria Mills, Shipley .
A large horizontal single cylinder rotative fire pump from Fern Mill, Shaw is on display in the Bolton Steam Museum .
Springfield Mill, Sandiacre had a Merryweather inverted vertical single cylinder firepump (being made by Merryweather, the fire engine people), there was no doubt as to its purpose and it still had hoses attached . This is now preserved at Papplewick Pumping Station .
Inverted vertical duplex rotative firepumps were to be found at Bliss Tweed Mill, Chipping Norton and Fox Brothers, Coldharbour Mill, Uffculme . The original engine at Coldharbour mill was frost damaged and replaced for display by the Bliss Tweed Mill example in 1984 .
Another popular design was the horizontal duplex non-rotative pump. Mather & Platt of Manchester built many of these. This design was approved by insurance companies and was sometimes marketed as the "underwriter" pump . An example is in situ at Ellenroad Engine House . An ostensibly workable example is at the Lea Mills of John Smedley Ltd . A Dowson, Taylor "Buffalo" firepump was to be seen at Bamford Mill but is believed to have been scrapped. A fine example is preserved in the Bradford Industrial Museum .
|Sun, 22 Nov 2009 18:04
|All these steam engines required a supply of steam and this came from the boilerhouse that practically always adjoined the engine house.
The Lancashire boiler, attributed to Fairbairn and Hetherington, 1844, was ubiquitous and it and its variants enjoyed an almost near monopoly during the years that mill engines were in use. They are now rare and it is not clear if there are any commercially working examples to be found.
It is a shell boiler with two fire tubes and is set in a brick setting with passes under the bottom and along the sides. Originally they were coal fired, either manually or with mechanical stokers, but latterly some were converted to oil or natural gas.
Here are some examples. Royd Mill , Ellenroad Ring Mill , Queen Street Mill . The one in the latter picture has been converted back to hand firing and it is seen here before - .
A variant was made by W & J Galloway, Knott Mill Ironworks, Manchester, with a common furnace tube at the back traversed by conical "Galloway" tubes. This was known as the Galloway boiler but from the front looked like any other Lancashire. Here is an example at Coldharbour Mill .
An unusual installation was found at Carpets of Worth, Stourport, where there were two Lancashire boilers arranged to burn pulverised fuel (coal) .
A more modern version of the Lancashire is the Super-Lancashire with small bore tubes below the main fire tubes and air preheater tubes in the side flues. A nice set was at Brinton's in Kidderminster .
The earlier Cornish boiler, attributed to Trevithick, with a single fire tube was used when lesser quantities of steam were needed and were little encountered in textile mills. Bancroft had one alongside its large Lancashire but it was not used during the mill's commercial operation. It is now used in preservation to steam the mill engine .
I have a vague recollection of seeing a water tube boiler through the open doors of a boiler house standing where the new steel chimney appears in this photograph . If my memory is right, this is the only example I've ever seen in a textile mill. It was in the days before I would have been motivated to get a closer look.
The Lancashire boilers were often replaced by modern free-standing packaged (or economic) boilers. This photo shows a couple of large packaged boilers visible in the boiler house of a modern textile mill at Buttershaw. I have rarely photographed these beasts as they are currently of less historic value.
All boilers needed a reliable supply of water. The mill engines were fitted with a reciprocating pump that returned sufficient water to replace their usage. However, when the engine was standing an alternative was essential. Injectors were sometimes used but the vast majority of boiler houses had a "Weir pump" . These were often supplied in pairs on a common base to provide redundancy. There should always be more than one way of getting water in a boiler.
A very common money saving device was the economiser - a set of tubes in the flue through which the pressurised feed water passed on its way to the boiler. This recovered heat that would otherwise go straight up the chimney and reduced the coal bill. Mechanical scrapers kept the tubes free of soot and could be driven by steam engine, line-shafting or electric motor. Here is an example at Bancroft Mill and an electrically driven one at Queen Street Mill .
Some boilers were fitted with mechanical stokers to feed the fires and an engine that was used to drive one such set of mechanical stokers was preserved in the former workshop of the late Fred Dibnah . This had fed a set of Lancashire boilers at Manor Mill, Chadderton . Its current location is not known.
|Fri, 18 Dec 2009 23:42
|The vast majority of mills used natural draught and this was provided by the chimney. Smoke dispersal was a secondary function of the tall chimneys, the primary purpose was to provide a draught. As the large column of lighter hot air rose up the stack it would draw in fresh air through the fires.
Chimneys were usually brick or stone in the steam era and could be square, round or octagonal. As built there would be an oversailing cap or even several raised bands below the cap to prevent smoke clinging to the side of the chimney and descending. Unfortunately, many chimneys were to lose their caps before the final ignominy of demolition. Here are a few carefully chosen examples: -
There are several truly monumental chimneys from the mid-nineteenth century. By far the best is probably that known as Lister's Pride at Manningham Mill - a square stone monster with some good detailing . Salt's Mill, Saltaire has a square stone chimney with pronounced batter and blind 'windows'. It has unfortunately lost its ornate cap . The other mill (New Mill) at Saltaire has an unusual 'campanile' style stone chimney . India Mill, Darwen has a very ornate square brick stack with blind arcades, cornices, urns, polychromy and other decorative features .
Yorkshire is home to some fine stone chimneys, especially of octagonal section. Here are some - . An unusual chimney is at Parkwood Mills, Longwood and combines a large square base section with an octagonal upper section .
Although typologies overlap with regard to location and era, the archetypal Lancashire chimney would be red brick and circular with a cap and very often the mill's name picked out in white. Here are some examples - .
By the way - the study of chimneys is CAMINOLOGY - one for a pub quiz somewhere.
|Fri, 29 Jan 2010 00:06
|Although many chimneys relied on natural draught, some plants had a boost from a fan in the flues. A fan that drew gases through the boilers towards the chimney was an induced draught fan. A good example was to be seen at Tonedale Mills, Wellington . This little high-speed steam engine has now been removed for preservation at Coldharbour Mill, Uffculme.
Nearby Tone Mill, in the same ownership, also had an induced draught fan driven by a single cylinder Ashworth & Parker engine that is now preserved in Canada.
|Thu, 15 Jul 2010 23:31
|I realise that I have forgotten a small but important auxiliary steam engine that was found in the majority of textile mill engine houses, especially on engines of more than say 400 horsepower.
Small steam engines could be turned manually with a long 'bar' to carry out adjustments or move the crank to the starting position. Large engines could have over 100 tons of moving parts and be connected to thousands of feet of shafting. Moving an engine like this required mechanical 'horsepower' not just a man's musclepower. Therefore they were fitted with a steam powered 'barring' engine. These could be of one or two cylinders with horizontal, vertical, inverted vertical and diagonal layouts all being encountered.
My chosen example is at the Trencherfield Mill, Wigan . This one has a pair of inverted vertical cylinders and drives a gear train that engages with the ring gear inside the flywheel's rim. The gear is self disengaging if the main engine should start running with the barring engine engaged (like the 'Bendix' on an aotomotive starter). The rope race extends to the left and a few ropes are still in situ.
|Fri, 5 Nov 2010 16:53
|I really must provide a link to a very good website that acts as a major resource for mill engines photographed in the 1960s and '70s - http://ellisdesign.jalbum.net/Stationary%20Engines%20-%201/index.html
If you like the pictures above, you will love this. I have no link to the photographer but we do share some contacts.
|Sat, 18 Dec 2010 22:13
|More information on stationary and marine steam can be found from ISSES - International Stationary Steam Engine Society.
Website - http://www.isses.org.uk/
The Society also publishes a quarterly 60 page Bulletin, occasional Newsletters and an annual Steaming Dates List.
|Sun, 16 Jan 2011 18:57
|I have just obtained the Saddleworth Historical society Bulletin, 31.1, 2001 containing an excellent article by Roger Holden - Lancashire & Yorkshire Textile Mills: Some Comparisons. This is based on the mature period after 1850 and this obviously corresponds with the widespread use of steam power in such mills, making it relevant to this gallery.
Lancashire can be summed up in a word - cotton. However, there is a both a functional and geographical divide with the key processes of spinning and weaving largely taking part in separate mills in separate parts of the region.
Spinning was concentrated in south-east Lanashire and north-east Cheshire, basically most of the area now designated Greater Manchester. This area was characterised by rows of brick terraced houses overlooked by multi-storey red brick mills with their names on the chimneys and water towers - . By 1900 the standard spinning mill housed 90-100,000 spindles and Holden cites Maple No. 1 mill has a good example . Holden also describes Pear Mill at Bredbury as a larger example of the Edwardian Mill (Holden has written a separate paper on this mill). Other mills mentioned in passing include - Atlas Mills , Sunnyside Mills , Croal Mill and Swan Lane Mills - all in Bolton.
These spinning mills typically required engines of 1000-2000 horsepower and horizontal four cylinder types, large horizontal cross compounds and inverted verticals compounds or triple expansions were typical. From the 1880s these were more often rope driving and this was practically de rigueur after 1900.
Weaving was concentrated in east Lancashire with the major centres being Blackburn and Burnley with some extension into what was historically Yorkshire with Barnoldswick and Earby. The mills were known as 'sheds' and were distinct from the spinning mills being single storey windowless buildings with lighting from the 'north-light' roof overhead. The engine houses often projected above the roofline and there could be higher warehouse and preparation blocks too. The walls could be brick or stone. Here are some examples - . Holden also refers to the practice, especially in Burnley, of buiding 'room and power' mills where the owner built a mill with a power source and then rented space to multiple tennants - .
Holden also references some later single storey ring spinnig mills, such as Empress Mill, Wigan (demolished). Integrated spinning and weaving mills were few in number by the 1900s but there are survivors from an older period such as Sunnyside Mills, Bolton (see above) and there were three integrated mills from the Edwardian Period - Talbot Mill, Chorley, Eccles Mill, Patricroft and Premier Mill, Stalybridge (no Geograph images for these).
Although traditionally associated with wool, the Yorkshire industry was more diverse and there was some cotton spinning in the 20th century and some other fibres too.
Wool was divided into woollen and worsted production with the woollen centred on an axis from Huddersfield to Leeds via Dewsbury. Unlike the Lancashire cotton industry, woollens were in decline from the last quarter of the 19th century with no Edwardia boom, so that many mills are from the 1860s or before. Holden makes the point that yorkshire mills were usually built from stone rather than brick and that the clustering in valley bottoms has left some fine landscapes from above - citing Milnsbridge and Slaithwaite as prime examples.
Yorkshire mills were smaller than the Lancashire counterparts and woollen mills tended to integrate spinning and weaving. An example of a small mill in use until 1990 for 'fancy woollens' is given as Heath house Mills, Golcar . Pingle Mill, Delph is illustrated as a small woollen spinning mill still in use . Although mules were used for spinning, they had fewer spindles than the Lancashire equivalent and were arranged longitudinally resulting in mills narrower than the Lancashire equivalent. Examples include Titanic Mill, Linthwaite , Britannia Mill, North Crosland and Firth Street Mill, Huddersfield .
Worsteds were concentrated in Bradford, Halifax and Keighley. Worsted mills were generally less integrated and some added a combing division, while combing was also often performed separately by commission woolcombers. They tended to be bigger than the wooollen mills. The illustrated example is Daniel Illingworth's Whetley Mills in Bradford which included combing, spinning and warehousing. Good examples cited include Salt's Mill, Saltaire (undoubtedly the finest), Dalton Mills, Keighley (now with some fire damage) and Ebor Mill, Haworth (now destroyed by fire ).
The point is made that Yorkshire mills generally made less use of fire proof construction whilst cotton mills were invariably of fire proof construction - cotton being more combustible. Here is a view showing a non-fireproof construction while this illustrates fireproof construction .
One of the finest Yorkshire mills was actually built by Samuel Cunliffe Lister for spinnig and weaving waste silk. This was similar to worsted processing and did not use the 'throwing' process as in Cheshire and north Staffordshire. The mill in question is Manningham Mills with its huge ornate stack .
Another Yorkshire textile industry was carpet weaving and the mills involved tended to be very large to match the machinery. Holden makes specific reference to Firth's Clifton Mills, Bailiff Bridge but neglects to mention the huge complex at Dean Clough in Halifax .
Finally, there is reference to Yorkshire cotton (there was very little wool in Lancashire) and its use in worsted cloths with worsted weft and cotton warp. The cotton mills were particularly in the Calder Valley from Todmorden to Brighouse and a particularly big mill was Spa Mill at Slaithwaite, which was on a Lancashire scale but in stone . Unfortunately, the mill of the Meltham Cotton Spinning Co went before I got to it and really was a transplanted bit of Lancashire.
This completes my review of this comparison. As Holden states - many of these buildings have gone and much of what now survives will also go!