Mike Hand Books

Ontario Industrial Histories

Author: MikeHand (page 1 of 3)

Hornsby Engine History

Last week, I drove to Kippen,  some 40 miles north of London, Ontario where the Sad Iron Engine Show was having its annual get together. Turning into the driveway of this lovely farm, its location marked by an old engine at the entrance, I drove through into a grassed parking area. As I climbed out of my car, I could hear the soft chuff-chuff of Wayne McBride’s 9HR Ruston & Hornsby engine as it ran smoothly off to one side, and was welcomed by the host, Brian. In and around the various buildings which included a large maintenance building with an extensive machine shop adjacent were at least 50 engines of varying sizes, several of which were running. The variety of makes were almost too numerous to list but Crosley, Gould Shapley & Muir, Tangye, Lister, Otto and Dudbridge were some of the names among them. Across from the 9HR was a very old (circa 1900) Hornsby – Ackroyd engine wonderfully restored,

Hornsby Ackroyd engine

and inside the adjacent building, a Hornsby engine of similar vintage, both of which were running smoothly.

Hornsby engine

The latter engines got me thinking about the history of the Hornsby engines. Richard Hornsby began manufacturing agricultural equipment as early as 1815 in Grantham, England and by 1854 the company was making portable steam engines. By 1877, with these and threshing machines added to the product line, the company , now incorporated as a public company, was employing some 1,500 men with the factory covering 17 acres.

Herbert Ackroyd Stuart, a Yorkshire engineer, and his partner, Charles Binney, took out two patents covering the admission of air into the vaporiser and the timed point of ignition.  The vaporiser had a contracted neck and the fuel oil was injected into the vaporiser during the suction stroke.  Ackroyd Stuart was not, however, an experienced businessman so he offered the manufacturing rights to his engine design to a suitable manufacturer.  Richard Hornsby & Sons Ltd. took the rights in 1891 and produced their first Hornsby -Ackroyd engine to this design in 1892.This pioneer oil engine was an immediate success and Hornsby felt the need to bring in a new administrator, an engineer by the name of David Roberts who immediately recognised the potential of the oil engine. He soon stopped production of steam engines and threshers to concentrate production on the oil engine. Over the next few years, with continuous improvements to the engine, horsepower grew while the engine size was reduced with the increased efficiency. The reputation and world-wide sales of this engine grew rapidly and by the time the patents expired, Hornsby were well equipped to meet all coming competition and continued to grow. Enormous quantities of Hornsby engines were sold in all parts of the world.  (One installation powered the generator for the first transatlantic radio transmission by Marconi)

By the First World War, Hornsby had developed a vertical oil engine specially for submarine use and  the Admiralty ordered large quantities of it, along with gun mountings and ship fittings of all kinds. The company put all its skills at the government`s command, and its sales oversees were largely neglected. When the war ended, Hornsby were in the position that war manufacturing was at an end and they had meanwhile lost all their export engine sales. The company found itself looking at having to start all over again. Management made the decision that they would have to amalgamate with some firm in similar business and with a good reputation.

In the city of Lincoln some thirty miles to the north of Grantham, the large firm of Ruston & Proctor Ltd. had entered the oil engine business in the early part of the 1900`s. In 1857, Joseph Ruston had joined with Messrs Burton and Proctor to form a new firm known as Ruston, Burton & Proctor to manufacture agricultural equipment and steam engines. Forward thinking Ruston began to build engines for stock and push sales harder. The pace of activity was too risky for partner Burton and he demanded to be bought out. Ruston, not to be dissuaded, agreed and the firm became known as Ruston & Proctor. By 1860, sales had grown and the company was winning awards for its traction engines and threshers. When partner Proctor decided to retire, Ruston bought him out and became sole proprietor. By this time, marketing had been extended to cover most of the world with a product line that included steam rollers, steam tractors, locomotives, stationary engines for electricity generation and power driven pumps, and Ruston himself travelled worldwide promoting his company’s products.

When the 35 mile long Manchester ship canal was built, it used 71 of the newly developed Ruston Proctor steam navvies to perform the monstrous task of digging. By 1889, when the company was incorporated as Ruston & Proctor Ltd, over 1,66o men depended on it for a living. When Joseph Ruston died in 1897, his company employed over 2,550 men and was well known world-wide for its products. Ruston had been building engines for some years that ran on coal and lignite gas and when the Ackroyd patents expired in 1904, they were quick to begin utilising and further developing the Ackroyd engine designs. By the end of World War One, during which they were a huge war supply manufacturer, and during which they had maintained their engine customer base, they were in a good position to renew peace time manufacturing. Firmly believing in the oil engine as the power unit of the future, they were quick to respond to R. Hornsby and Sons Ltd. outreach.

Ruston Hornsby Main engine factory circa 1945

Hornsby shareholders received new stock in the newly formed Ruston & Hornsby Ltd., incorporated in September 1918. R & H products in the first years following this were predominently oil engines. After the change, the Ruston oil engine was built at the Ruston works in Lincoln and the Hornsby engine was built in Grantham, with a huge demand that was difficult to meet. New engine development continued at an increased pace and they began to be used to power a new mechanical shovel which was soon in great demand for new construction projects, and in shunting locomotives for the railroads. A new plant for the latter was established in Lincoln, followed in 1930 with another new plant for the growing excavator business which was now known as Ruston Bucyrus after a joint venture with Bucyrus Erie of the US, with Bucyrus providing the initial engineering and Ruston supplying all the oil engine power units. By 1950, the product line also consisted of the venerable horizontal oil engines, and a full line of vertical diesels from small single cylinder models to huge multi cylinder engines for power house and marine propulsion service.

Timberland Log Skidder

8 x 6 drive 35 ton crane carrier unit

In late 1959 I was Chief Engineer for Crane Carrier Canada, manufacturer of heavy duty truck chassis for crane installations. We had just completed our first 8 x 6 crane carrier chassis designed for mounting of a 35 ton crane, and equipped with tandem rear drive axles and tandem front axles, one of which was driven. We had built many smaller three axle carriers with both front and rear wheel drive so use of transfer cases to split the drive lines was familiar territory.

Prototype in plant test area

We got an order from Timberland Equipment in Woodstock to build them a four wheel drive tractor unit capable of working in a heavy bush environment with maximum manoeuvrability. They planned to add a winch and boom for log removal out of the bush, and the inference was that if successful, there was potential for a considerable volume of future business.

Four wheel steer in use

We were excited and put all our efforts to produce a top level piece of equipment. By mid summer of 1960, we had completed the unit and shipped it to the Woodstock plant of Timberland Equipment. It was equipped with a GM diesel engine, heavy duty transmission and transfer case, and Clarke planetary drive steer axles installed both front and rear. We had long been using the planetary axles on our large crane carriers, with the planetary gear reduction in the hub of the axle reducing the load requirements on the drive line and differential, and felt that it was an ideal application in this unit. The rear axle was rigidly mounted to the frame and the front axle was pivot mounted to provide rough terrain mobility. Power steering was set up so that either the front axle could be steered alone or alternately, both axles could be steered for minimum turning capability.

I was very proud of that unit as it left our plant, and even more so when I visited Timberland’s plant a few weeks later to see them testing the finished log skidder before shipping it to their customer. The oscillating front axle and four wheel steer capability gave the required manoeuvrability as they ran it over the rough grounds behind their plant.


Showing front axle oscillation capability

However, our expectations of volume business was quickly dashed as the company, sensibly so, after completing the prototype, decided that now they had the basic design they could produce the complete unit themselves. In service, they quickly realised that in the harsh environment in which these machines worked, driving over rocks and tree stumps, the oscillating front axle design, and the vulnerable elements of the steering linkages on the axles had to be eliminated.

Prototype showing transfer case below frame

A change was made to rigidly mount two non-steering axles to the frame, and the frame was separated into two halves, connected at the centre by heavy duty pivots. This design also provided more protection to the transfer case and drive line. Steering was accomplished using hydraulic cylinders to pivot the front and rear sections of the machine horizontally.

Early production skidder with centre frame joint

Over the next forty years they built thousands of skidders which rolled out of the constantly enlarging plant of their newly established subsidiary, Timberjack Machines,

Tudhope Carriages and Cars

James Tudhope was an aggressive industrialist, building a thriving carriage business from that originally founded by his father in 1874. By 1902, the Tudhope Carriage Co. Ltd. factory occupied a full three city blocks in the downtown area of Orillia.  A separate company, Tudhope Anderson Co. Ltd. was formed, and used part of the existing factory to produce a line of wagons and farm equipment marketed under the name TACO.  In 1907, Tudhope entered the burgeoning car business, building a high wheeled automobile that looked more like a Phaeton carriage than a car. (A mint condition Tudhope automobile can still be seen in the Oshawa Car museum.) This venture died when the plant burned down in 1909.

tudhope car

Tudhope Motor Buggy

The plant, with a carriage capacity of 25,000 units a year was rebuilt without delay, helped by a $50,000 interest free loan from the city. Although his love was carriages, and he had organised a new company under the name of Carriage Factories Ltd., Tudhope wanted to get back into the car business. He made a deal with the US manufacturer to build the Everett 30 car under license. This car, built by the Tudhope Motor Co., turned out to have design flaws in the rear axle and by 1913 the subsidiary was in bankruptcy.

tudhope everitt

Everitt Car

His Carriage Factory company had been merged with three other Ontario carriage manufacturers as Tudhope pursued his dream of a carriage building empire, but the rapidly growing auto business was overtaking him, despite his attempts to be a part of it. Striving to stay alive in the disappearing carriage business, he built bodies for auto makers along with all-weather tops to keep his factories busy. As car manufacturers began building their own covered bodies, Tudhope’s business slowed down, and in 1924, he sold his dream of an empire, Carriage Factories Ltd., to the Cockshutt Plow Co. who merged it into their Canada Carriage and Body Ltd. subsidiary in Brantford.

Four year later, his farm equipment and wagon building business, TACO, was sold and reorganised under the name of OTACO Ltd, and a huge new foundry, ( now part of Kubota) was built in the outskirts of Orillia.  The OTACO name continued to exist until 2007 as an auto seat manufacturer in an Orillia suburb.

tudhope, cars, carriages.

Factory Chimney in Orillia

James Tudhope died in 1936, and despite his ventures into car building, never learned to drive one. His name lives on in Orillia in a downtown park, and for many years towered over the city in white letters on the high brick chimney at the remaining part of his down town factory. In 2000, the chimney was taken down due to deterioration into an unsafe condition.

Tree Harvesting

The Koehring Waterous Co. of Brantford, (formerly Waterous Engine Works. Ltd.), had been a major manufacturer of sawmill and wood processing equipment since the mid 1800’s, with such products as de-barkers, shredders and grinders for wood pulping, From the mid 1960’s, they remade the company into a manufacturer of large self-propelled wood harvesters, introducing the pulpwood forwarder, a rubber tired machine that could pick up and carry loads of eight foot logs. With the acceptance of this machine, their line of wood harvesting machinery was steadily expanded, the engineering group being headed by Canadian engineer John Kurelek.

tree felling

felling head assembly

Among the machines developed in the late 1970’s was the feller forwarder which cut down the trees using hydraulic shears. This damaged the wood around the cut off area and eventually the Forestry Engineering Research Institute asked Koehring to do some research on alternately using a saw to eliminate this butt damage. Under John’s direction, a prototype was placed in the field with positive results. Koehring improved the design, and drawing upon its one hundred plus years of Waterous’ saw making experience, finally developed the Disc Saw Felling Head that could cut through the trunk in seconds. Utilising a 55” diameter, one inch thick disc with bolted on carbide tipped saw teeth around the perimeter, hydraulically driven and mounted horizontally at the lower end of the felling head, it replaced the hydraulic shears. Rotating at 1,150 rpm, it was mounted in a rigid housing that left 90 degrees of the saw exposed, allowing it to cut up to 22” diameter trees. The head was fitted with a wrist mechanism that could tilt 15 degrees either way for cutting on sloping ground.

felling head saw

Disc saw blade

It was an instant success and requests began to come in from other original equipment manufacturers to purchase it for attachment to their own forestry equipment. After much discussion, Koehring made the decision, even though they had patent protection on major areas of the design, to allow such sales, a marketing style they had not previous undertaken. It was a momentous decision as it successfully delayed development of competing designs for some years. Within seven years, the company had shipped over one thousand of these disc saw felling heads.

tree felling

Felling head cutting tree

In 1988, the company was sold to Timberjack Machines of Woodstock, Ontario, a major manufacturer of log skidders. Three years later, Timberjack was purchased by Rauma Repola, a Finnish wood harvesting machine manufacturer. The 100 year old Brantford Waterous plant was closed, and the only product transferred to the new owner’s production was the Disc Saw Felling Head.

Today, the Disc Saw Feller is manufactured by most major wood harvesting equipment manufacturers throughout the world, a tribute to the design and engineering skills of the team at Brantford manufacturer, Koehring Waterous.

http://Iron, Steam and Wood

Engineering on Adams Wagon

 

 

When Peter Adams started his wagon building company in Paris, Ontario in 1863, designs were very basic and relatively simple from an engineering point of view.

Adams Wagon

Demand was such that hundreds were shipped from Paris to Winnipeg in a season and soon Adams was building a new factory to increase production.

His wagons were well built and were worked hard by the farmers who purchased them. But farmers were renowned for ignoring the load limits of their equipment. If the wagon could carry it, it was loaded on for shipment. The results were inevitable – a considerable number of broken axles, despite the fact that the axle beams were 6” x 4” hardwood section. By the mid 1800’s, Peter had solved his problem with a relatively sophisticated (for the day) engineered solution, one that had so far only been used primarily on bridge truss construction.

Axle showing truss

A length of half inch diameter round steel bar, threaded both ends, was installed under the axle beam resting against two cast iron supports. The two ends were bent up slightly and the bar ends passed through the centre of the cast iron skein bearings as they were installed on the beam ends. A nut was installed on each end of the bar and tightened to apply tension to the bar. This truss took any weight that deflected the wood beam, and had the effect of doubling the strength and carrying capability of the axle beam.

View of truss under rear axle

Peter Adam’s problems with axle breakage from customer overload became a thing of the past. And, despite Adam’s having patented this design, it was soon a feature that many competitors tried to copy with varying degrees of success.

 

Small to Large Engines

 

In 1847, after working in a wagon shop in Woodbridge for a couple of years, young English immigrant, John Abell was keen to have his own business. After building his own shop from logs, making his own lathe and tools, he then made himself a steam engine for power and was in business. With an inventive mind, he built a ditching machine for the local farmers and soon was building steam engines for sale.

Early Abell steam engine

In keeping with his thinking, his first steam engines for sale were an unusual design. The cylinder and piston were built inside the boiler, with the crankshaft and flywheel above the boiler. His rationale? With the cylinder inside the boiler, all the parts could expand at the same rate maintaining the tolerances for better operation. Admittedly, it was not a big engine, but he advanced from there and within twenty years had over 100 employees making threshers and reapers as well.

Abell Toronto plant 1903

After unsuccessfully fighting with the local railroad for better access and service for shipping of his products, he closed his factory after forty years in Woodbridge and moved the complete business to Toronto. Here, Abell built a huge new factory and was soon shipping threshers and steam traction engines all over Canada.

Abell plowing engine

His plowing engine was one of the largest in production in North America, and true to form, was a little different to his competitors. The two front wheels were mounted close together on a turntable, with a worm gear drive to steer. It proved much easier to steer than other traction engines.

From small engines to huge engines, John Abell always maintained his independent thinking.

Southworks

southworks

Southworks factory 1910

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the Southworks factory store outlet mall in Cambridge, Ontario. These fine old stone buildings stand out among many in the old part of Cambridge, formerly known as Galt, around the banks of the Grand River which flows majestically through the city. On the north side of the buildings, an old steel press mounted on a raised concrete platform provides some insight into the history of these buildings.

The Goldie McCulloch Company founded their business in 1859 and operated on this site for 120 years, the factory closing in 1980. From these buildings emerged huge steam engines, boilers and power plants, woodworking machinery, safes and vaults, water turbines and gasoline engines. As the company grew, the additions were always built with stone to maintain uniform appearance, including the square building between the factory and the river used mainly as a storage warehouse. As a result, we have today the wonderful old buildings forming the outlet mall. When they ran out of space for expansion, a new factory, the Northworks, was built on Hespeler Road. However this factory, now Babcock and Wilcox, was a more modern construction and did not have the timeless appearance of the Southworks.

Inside, as you walk through some of the stores in the south building, the remains of old lineshafts and pulleys can be seen at the roof level.

Lineshaft still visible above

The many machine tools used in the factory to make the engine parts were driven by belts running from these shafts which obtained their power from huge steam engines in each building. In between the two main buildings are the remains of the power house where the steam for the engines and for heating the factory was generated.

Southworks foundry 1900

The west half of this building housed the foundry, where the workers spent their days on a sand covered floor building the moulds into which the molten iron would be poured to cast the engine parts.

Today, it is difficult for the visitor to imagine the buildings as a noisy thriving manufacturing operation with over 200 workers toiling under conditions that would be considered less than acceptable in the modern world.

Change continues. Unfortunately, today’s retailing environment has made it difficult to stay profitable and the Southworks Mall, falling victim, was closed mid 2017. It is now in process of being transformed into housing units and I suspect the remaining line-shafts will fall victim also to this change.

 

 

Lancaster Bomber Airfields

As a boy growing up during World War Two in the east of England, we saw many things that at the time we did not consider important, but looking back to that time, we now realise would never be repeated.

Lancaster

Location of bomber bases in Lincolnshire

The British government, during the first years of the war, saw the need for bomber bases that were able to reach into Germany. They built quite a number of these bases throughout the county of Lincolnshire which was situated on the east coast of England. By the end of 1942, some 25 bases had been established, 15 of which were within a thirty mile radius of our home.(see map) In addition, within this radius were two large airfields built as Air Training bases, Cranwell and Manby, the latter being within three miles of my home. As this placed us almost within Manby airfield circuit pattern, we became extremely familiar with every plane operated by the RAF as they flew endlessly over us. Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancaster bombers, Mosquito fighters, and many others we soon could identify just by their sound.

Lancaster

Lancasters heading to Germany

Fifty years later, this allowed me to instantly identify a Lancaster bomber approaching my home in St. George, Ontario in the late 1990’s before I could see it, when the Hamilton Warbirds took their newly rebuilt Avro Lancaster for its first flight. When this plane flew to England in 2014 and toured with the only other airworthy Lancaster in the world, they spent time at several of these old bomber bases, Waddington near Lincoln and Cranwell, ten miles further south and now surviving as one of the RAF’s major training colleges.

Lancasters

Model made by author in 1980

I remember several times during the latter part of the war, seeing the evening sky filled with hundreds of Lancaster bombers massing from all these bases, fully loaded for their attack into the heart of Germany and heading for the coast on one of their “thousand bomber raids”. Many times over the years have I wished that I had had a camera to record this never to be seen again sight that is still etched in my memory. Frequently we would be wakened in the early hours of the morning as, one by one they straggled back, some fighting to stay airborne until they reached their home base, their engine noise sounding much different than when they had departed hours earlier burdened down with their bomb load. Losses were high, and one base about fifteen miles from us recorded the loss of around 140 Lancasters from their field alone during this period.

Scampton, the base immediately north of the city of Lincoln, housed the squadron of Lancasters that achieved fame for their daring raid to destroy the dams at Essen, and earning the name “Dambusters”. When I served my engineering apprenticeship in Lincoln from 1947 to 1952, some of the pubs we frequented had signed photos on the walls of many of the dambuster crews who had been regular customers, and we heard many tales from the bar keepers of their “exploits” while unwinding in town.

Lancasters

Kirton former Lancaster base

Most of these airfields were closed after the war’s end, but the outlines of the runways from which the bombers flew can still be identified in most. Satellite photos clearly show these runways, some still with weed filled concrete surfaces, but most just as outlines showing in the disturbed earth that they were there, a memento to the time when the sleepy farm country in Lincolnshire was anything but.

Steam Plowing Engines

 

Canadian Plowing Engines

As the far western part of Canada began to be settled by immigrant farmers, the task of opening up the land to arable condition was a huge challenge. The smallest property sold for this purpose consisted of a quarter section, about one half mile square, approximately 160 acres. The hard ground, matted with roots from centuries old grass covering it, was particularly difficult to plow. The opening of the western prairies around the turn of the century coincided with the growth of the steam engine for use in pulling plows.

steam engine plow

Engine gang plow

In the 1900 to 1910 period, the steam traction engine manufacturers started building huge engines with maximum weight for traction. Plow manufacturers like Cockshutt Plow Co. of Brantford developed large plows to take advantage of this extra power to more quickly open up the land for agriculture. The tremendous pulling load imposed by these huge plows, turning as many as twelve furrows, soon caused structural failures in some engines and most of the manufacturers undertook specialised reinforcing for this purpose.

Steam engines

Robert Bell plowing engine

The Robert Bell Company of Seaforth, Ontario encountered boiler leaks in its engines from these loads and subsequently added an independent steel frame running from the front axle to the rear, and  containing the countershaft, gear shaft and rear axle mountings to relieve the boiler of all gear strain. No one bothered about the extra weight which was considered a bonus for added traction.

steam engines

Waterloo engine pulling gang plow

Other major engine manufacturers such as Sawyer Massey, Waterloo, George White and Abell, heavily reinforced the rear drive wheel mounting, increased the size of the drive gears, and increased the size of the drive wheel spokes. Some moved to twin cylinder compound engines, with rated horse power from 32 to 40 hp., to handle the plowing, when the 20 hp. size engine had to date been more than adequate for all other purposes. Extra large water tanks were usually fitted to ensure that long days could be worked.

Abell engine plowing

Abell built one of the largest engines, weighing some 24 tons, and equipped it with worm gear operated front steering wheels mounted close together to make it easier to steer, and giving it a “row crop” look (although that term was still in the future).

Despite all of this development work, the steam plowing engine enjoyed only a short career as the gasoline engine tractor was introduced in the first decade of the 1900’s. Its relative ease of operation and ability to start up quickly, as compared to a steam engine that took up to several hours after lighting the fire to get the steam up to pressure, soon proved a desireable factor for the operators. By around 1920, the big steam plowing engine had had its day, especially as the once turned over prairie no longer required such large power units for subsequent plowings, and as the gasoline tractor became more efficient and less costly, it quickly rendered the steam engine obsolete.

See also my book Steam Engines and Threshers

 

Ruston Engines

engine

Ruston horizontal engine

Like many, I love to wander around the steam shows looking over the frequent displays of venerable old Ruston and Hornsby horizontal diesel engines, many thousands of which were built and shipped to all corners of the world in the first half of the twentieth century. I ‘m always fascinated by the smoothness with which they run, and almost hypnotised when I look at the rim of the huge spinning flywheel, so accurately machined that it appears stationary.

Spinning engine flywheel

My memory inevitably takes me back to when I served an engineering apprenticeship with that manufacturer in their multiple factories in Lincoln, England back in the late 1940’s. I can still see in my mind’s eye, the huge Bullard vertical lathes on which the flywheel castings, up to 72 “ in diameter, were machined on the perimeter and then at the centre for the crank shaft mounting.
As part of my training, I worked on many of the machines used to make various engine parts. One of my early assignments was the machining of the huge piston castings for the horizontal engines in preparation for the finish grinding. The castings were so heavy – the pistons were up to fourteen inches in diameter – a hoist was needed to lift them into the lathe.

Horizontal engine pistons in machine shop

As the core of the casting mould was not always central, first operation in the lathe was to measure the variation in wall thickness and offset it in the four jaw lathe chuck so that when machined on the outside, the walls of the piston were of equal thickness all around. If the core was out one quarter of an inch, it meant that the first roughing cut on the outside could be as much as half inch deep while minimal on the other side. After machining down to within .020” of finished diameter, the piston ring grooves then had to be cut. If the centring of the piston was not done accurately enough, one could find the ring groove tool penetrating through the piston wall on one side – a sure way to bring the foreman’s wrath down on one’s head. The final operation was to machine the convex shape of the head to match a template, honing one’s skill at simultaneously moving the cutting tool in two planes to obtain the right shape.

engine

Side shaft gear cover

The engine side shaft operating the valves on the Ruston horizontal engine is driven by two to one ratio spiral helical gears on the end of the crankshaft. The gears are enclosed in a cast-iron housing, three pieces bolted together. One of my jobs for a while was to machine the end cap hole and the shaft bearing hole after the housing parts had been milled, drilled and bolted together.

As I look at the restored engines, I often wonder if I am looking at pistons or gear housings that I machined myself many years ago.

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