HISTELEC NEWS No.24 August 2003
Supplement to Histelec News No.24 Electric Lyme
Our Secretary Peter Lamb requests that information, articles, photographs or letters be sent to him at 35 Station Road, Backwell, Bristol BS48 3NH or telephone on 01275 463160 or by
HISTELEC NEWS No.24 August 2003
We hope that you have had a super Summer-time and have been able to enjoy the sunny days. Certainly the Summer events have been well attended.Newsletter index
Annual General Meeting
I forgot to welcome two new members of the South Sub-Committee, David Hood and Keith Morgan. Both David and Keith have been heavily involved already in organising some of our Summer programme for which we thank them.Newsletter index
Recently with the acquisition by the National Trust of the Wraxall Estate near Bristol, the NT has made claims about the very early installation (believed to be about 1890) of a private electricity supply at the house. We have offered to explore this further for the NT and they are delighted by our offer.Newsletter index
The Museum, we visited in April (review elsewhere), is planning to open a new gallery devoted to the public utilities. We have been asked to contribute an item of electrical equipment specific to Bath. Since we didn't have anything specific to Bath, we asked member, Steve Riches, who is still working for WPD, if he could find something. He found an old 2kV transformer, an excellent example of Bath's early electricity history.Newsletter index
"Wireless" Power System
French engineers are constructing a micro-wave link down the side of a canyon at Grand Bassin on the Island of La Reunion, a French dependency situated in the Southern Indian Ocean. This will deliver 10kW through the air over a distance of 700 metres.
The intriguing aspect of this is that Henry Massingham the electricity entrepreneur of the South West, who established the first public supply in the South West at Taunton in 1886, always foresaw electricity being transmitted through the air in lectures that he gave in the 1920's.
WPD are sponsoring an exhibition at Lyme Regis old generating station, see Supplement for further details.Newsletter index
Following the request in the last issue for a scaffold platform, John Muggleton kindly lent us his, even delivering it to site, for which we are extremely grateful. This has enabled two working parties to clean and decorate the second room. Those involved were Chris Buck, David Peacock, Peter Lamb, John Heath, David Hutton, David Cousins, Marcus Palmen, Roger Hughes and John Gale, the last two gents doing the lions share with subsequent work sessions to complete the task.
Subsequently Marcus and Peter have completed new steps outside for safer access and Mike Hield, with his carpentry skills and John Heath's help, have fixed a new frame and door to the new Archive Room. WPD have promised to replace the electrics in the rooms we use. When this is complete, we will complete the decoration and then will have a new meeting room for use of speakers in the Bristol area.
Further to the articles in the last issue, I thought that many members would be interested in an update on renewable energy, in particular wind power. Some love it, while others loathe it - so both groups will be interested to know that a record 6868 MW of new wind power was installed world-wide in 2002. In the UK 2003 looks like being a record year with 10 new projects, totalling 567 MW, receiving planning permission in the first 12 weeks of the year.
In all 1.3 gigawatts of new wind power is ready for construction. A recent MORI opinion poll in the South West of England has found huge support for renewables from 89% of the public and that 84% of people living in the South West now support the use of wind power.
Since Barrie wrote this, many of you may have read of the Government's initiative for off-shore wind-farms at three locations around the British Isles. The Guardian stated the Country needs 100 gigawatts, of which 6 gigawatts could be wind-farms. By 2010, renewables could be receiving as much as £1 billion in support. Ed.
"Every Home Should Have One"
Did you see the BBC2 series on Tuesdays from 15th July? Our contribution (2mins) from Cairns Road was on the 5th August, when you might just have seen our BTH Frig.Newsletter index
Amberley Chalk Museum
Following our visit there in March to collect the old reference books reported in the last issue, there was a surprising sequel to the visit. I had noticed the centre-piece of the Museum was a Bellis & Morcom steam engine and made some remark, which gained the response "well it came from Bristol". I remember three B & M Machines at Wills, Raleigh Road being disposed of and two of the larger machines reputed to have gone to South Africa. It appears that the smaller one was bought by SEEB to add to the Milne Collection, which is now housed at Amberley. When I returned home I managed to find from my own collection the negatives of photos I had taken of these machines in 1974. The Museum was very keen to get some enlargements of these machines in their original situation, and we have obliged.
Bryan Weston has died in June. Not only was he SWEB's first Student Engineer in 1949 alongside Roy Street, but also he rose to the greatest heights of all the students, becoming firstly a member of the SWEB Board, then Deputy Chairman of the Yorkshire Board and finally Chairman of MANWEB.Newsletter index
Proteus Engined "Pocket Stations"
The so-called "Pocket Power Stations" built around the South West in the 1960's are being de-commissioned. There were originally 5 remote controlled stations at Princetown, Lynton, Porlock, Mevagissey and Roseland powered by Proteus gas turbine engines. Lynton was replaced some years ago and Porlock has been removed and the site redeveloped. Now there is no need for the three remaining sites anymore, particularly at Princetown, where an alternative circuit has been built.
A group from South Wales are proposing to save two of the engines from Princetown and Roseland, either for use in the Museum at Tanygroes near Cardigan, South Wales or in situ. We have been asked to provide information from our archives on these. We will investigate this further to find out more about this group's activities.
World Heritage Railways
Following the 2003 AGM on 22nd March, Mr Alan Stansbridge gave a talk on "World Heritage Railways" as applied in the UK. A Heritage Railway being one that had been preserved after closure. Alan was not a railwayman by trade and had worked in the road surfacing industry for 40 years. However, he became "hooked" on railways in 1987 after a visit to the Severn Valley Railway Society.
With the aid of some excellent slides, Alan went on to explain that there were some 400 miles of track in the ownership of Railway Preservation Societies, with 2292 locomotives of various types in operation and 570 stations. The Societies employ just over 1,000 people, supplemented by many more unpaid volunteers.
With the demise of steam in the 1960s, many locomotives ended up in a scrap yard at Barry in South Wales and 213 of them were retrieved and got back into working order by Societies all over the country. Many smaller locomotives were acquired from industrial works, typically 0-6-0 shunting engines, both steam and diesel. Electrically operated locomotives do not appear in Preservation Society collections for safety reasons and a lack of electrified track. Members were interested to find out that the West Somerset Railway was the longest in the country with 20 miles of track and operated with 10 steam locos and 10 diesel units. The Isle of Man has the longest narrow gauge track with 15.5 miles and that the Bluebell Line had the most steam locos with 30 engines.
Chris Buck thanked Alan for his very interesting talk and for the slides that brought back many childhood memories to those present.
Dan at 92 is beginning to feel his age. He has decided to move from his flat in Henleaze, Bristol to be near his son at Huckfield, Sussex. We wish him well.
Peter had an operation in March and is recovering well.
Clive Goodman & Mike Gee
Both gents have been to the Isles of Scilly in June and both reported seeing each other three times. You can't go anywhere without being spotted.!
David has been to Guernsey recently and picked up a history of their telephone system - see separate entry.
David apologises for not getting details of the St. Sampson Generating Station, which is on standby duty.
Has been elected Chair of Chipping Sodbury Rotary.
Visit To The Museum Of Bath-At-Work
On a rather indifferent Saturday at the end of April some 30 members and their guests met at the Globe at Newton St. Loe for lunch and a chat. After a very pleasant lunch and a few drinks, a couple of ladies decided to take the opportunity for some retail therapy in Bath, while the remainder of our party went to the Museum of Bath-at-Work, a brisk stroll up hill.
The Museum is located in a building designed originally in 1776 as a Real Tennis Court. The Curator gave us a short talk about the history of the building and the exhibits, after which we split into two parties for a tour of the Museum. The center-piece of the Museum is the Bowler Collection, a complete engineering works and fizzy-pop factory. Other exhibits include the Bath stone industry, cabinet making and the Horstmann Car Co, which was of great interest to Roger Horstmann a family member. Roger was able to give us some background to Horstmann's involvement in the car industry.
After the tour we gathered at the shop to compare notes and say our farewells before returning to the car park.
An excellent day out - many thanks to Chris Buck and David Hutton for organizing the visit.
Review - Visit To Morwellham
Some 50 members and friends enjoyed, despite cool and showery weather, a fascinating day at this restored port on the River Tamar. At the highest navigable point of the river, 23 miles from Plymouth, Morwellham Quay was, in the 1860's, a major port for the export of copper ores, from the Devon Great Consuls Mine and others, to the refineries in South Wales and elsewhere. A video introduced us to the history of the port.
The village is dominated by a huge waterwheel. Several of the old buildings and cottages have been restored, with many artifacts and other memorabilia to help the visitor to picture life in the village. The guides and staff were dressed in authentic Victorian costume, as we were conducted on a short walk around the quays and the railways. Among other things we learnt how an assayer went about his work, and we all went back to school! Our teacher, (who had a job keeping us in order!), told us how it would have been for the children. We tried our hand at writing on slate boards with slate sticks (no chalk!). And although we hardly dare admit it, several of us were defeated by an arithmetic test paper designed for twelve year olds. Our excuse being that we could not cope with the combinations of pounds, shillings and pence, and pounds and ounces! However the teacher desisted from using her cane, although one boy had to don the dunce's cap, and was made to stand in the corner!
But the highlight of the day was the unique experience of a train ride into the Charlotte and George Copper Mine. Deep below the ground, various tableaux showed us the harsh conditions for the miners. We were astonished to find a large waterwheel constructed within the mine.
We were able to see the hydro-electric station from a viewing gallery. It seems as though the two generators (2 x 320kW) are rarely employed. They were uncoupled from the turbines for summer maintenance work.
Although we were there for several hours, which included a very acceptable lunch, we were not able to see everything e.g. the farms and nature walks. We are greatly indebted to John Ferrier for making all the arrangements for this most enjoyable day, and which made the long journey (for many) well worth-while.
Colin Hill has been visiting various museums:
1. Berlin: Deutsches Technikmuseum, Trebbiner Str, 9. The nearest U-bahn station is Mockernbrucke on Line 1, which is, in itself, a museum. It has very old stations and some beautifully restored car sheds and, despite its being a U-bahn is mostly overhead! The museum has a fine collection of historic technology with lots of railway items but the electrical section is fairly small and tucked away in the far corner. The domestic electrical section is being reconstructed at present.
2. Krakow, Poland: City Engineering Museum, Sw. Wawrzynca St.,15. This museum near the centre of Krakow looked good but only the motor vehicles and fire engine galleries were open. Electricity supply, tramways and street lighting sections were being refurbished. Admission is free.
3. Roe Valley Country Park, near Limavady, Northern Ireland, Tel 028 7772 2074: Here, in a splendid park, lies an early 20th century hydro-electric station complete with generator and switchgear and a few domestic appliances including an extraordinarily ornate Dowsing-tube fire. The brochures indicate open-access to the power station but a sign at the information point says, "access by appointment only". I persuaded them to let me have a look but I would advise a phone call to avoid disappointment. There is a fine booklet published by the former NIE, "Electricity from the Red River", modestly priced at £2.25.
I visited Hemswell Cliff Antiques Centre on a former RAF airfield north of Lincoln and to my amazement I found, tucked away on a top shelf, a very early electric heater of the type using iron wire encased in vitreous enamel on a cast iron back-plate. This type of heater was shown at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1891 and put on the market by Crompton in 1893. They were superseded in the late 1890s by Dowsing-tubes. I think it has lost its backplate (on which there may have been a maker's name) and there are signs that it once had four small wooden or porcelain feet. It has a Reg. No. and I have written to the Patent Office and the Science Museum to try to find out more. Even more amazingly, it is still in working order producing 500W at 220V. If anyone can help on how to track down its origins I would be pleased.
Reported In 1911
Hilaire Belloc wrote "Lord Finchley tried to mend the electric light himself, it struck him dead, and serve him right. It is the business of the wealthy man to give employment to the artisan"!!Newsletter index
"A Lazy Summer Afternoon"
A Review of the Canal Trip
On the last Sunday in June, twenty-three members gathered at the Tiverton Hotel for a three course lunch, tucking in to a range of meats from the main course carvery followed by some mouth-watering sweets. Suitably replete, we moved off to the nearby Grand Western Canal for an afternoon boat trip. We were joined at this stage by a few more members, who had, for reasons best known to themselves, decided to forego the lunch. Perhaps they had been concerned about overstressing the motive power for our boat!
Our 1 HP of motive power was 'parked' a few yards along the towpath, munching a few carrots. One onlooker was heard to remark that it was very unfair to expect a poor old horse to pull a large heavy boat full of people. However, as explained to us later during the cruise, a little knowledge of fluid dynamics soon confirms that this task is not as onerous as it appears at first sight. Our 1 HP engine, standing at around 16 hands and weighing in at around a ton, was in fact able to pull many times his own weight due to the little resistance offered by the boat, coupled with the effects of displacement, when floating on water.
We set off along the canal at a sedate walking pace, the outward journey lasting around an hour. The boat was then turned ('winded' in canal jargon) and moored for a brief stop to enable us to stretch our legs with a short walk onwards along the towpath to an aqueduct over the former Tiverton branch of the Great Western Railway. This location effectively summed up the history of the canal, which had originally been envisaged as part of a canal providing an inland route for goods through from Topsham on the river Exe to the Severn estuary, thus avoiding the long and dangerous sea passage around Land's End. However, like so many of the aspirations during the age of canal mania, the original plan was much modified and eventually only partly completed. The reason for the construction of the Tiverton section of the canal in the early years of the 19th century could be seen at the Tiverton canal terminus, where there was evidence of former lime-kilns. This section of the Grand Western Canal had been built first to ease the transport of coal and limestone to where it could be burnt to provide a ready supply of lime to the local agricultural community. However, as today, technological progress, in the form of the coming of the Bristol and Exeter Railway, soon rendered the canal redundant and eventually the canal company was bought out by the GWR.
In later years, when the branch line from Tiverton junction to Tiverton was routed across the line of the canal, the railway company paid for the canal to be taken over the new line on a double arched aqueduct. This was to cater for a double track line, although the branch remained single throughout its life. Subsequently the canal was not looked after properly and soon started to fall into disrepair. A subsequent breach left the original canal divided into two by a dry section. The section at the Tiverton end was kept in water because it apparently provided a source of water supply for the steam engines at Tiverton.
Time moved on and the Beeching Axe saw the end of the Tiverton branch line, plus all the other railway lines that passed through the town at that time. The canal, however, survived and now has a new lease of life, having been acquired by Devon County Council and designated a linear water park. The horse-drawn trip boat typifies the early days of canals when goods were transported in horse-drawn boats, before the advent of the famous single-cylinder Bolinder narrow-boat diesel engines (Phut-phut)!
We were soon retracing our route back along the canal from whence we had come, assured that the towing horse had done the journey many times before and knew exactly where to go. In fact, as we neared the terminus one detected a spring in the horse's step, knowing that more carrots were in sight and that he would be rested the following day. Thanks go to Keith Morgan for organising this lunch and canal trip for us.
A report commissioned by the Government and produced by Sir Robert McAlpine concluded that it would now cost less (40% less) than previously thought to build the Severn Barrage. They estimate that it would only cost between £6.2 billion and £8.4 billion, which makes the project more viable. That report was produced in the Spring and nothing has been heard since!!Newsletter index
Marine Current Turbine
A Bristol design team have launched the world's first tidal current turbine, so the Bristol Evening Post reports. The £3.5 Million project has been driven forward by engineers at Basingstoke and Aztec West, backed by the Government, who agreed to back half the costs of the project. The revolutionary prototype is like an underwater windmill, using the flow of sea currents to drive rotors and therefore generate electricity. Project bosses have hailed the Marine Current Turbine as a milestone in the search for alternatives to nuclear power.
The Managing Director described the prototype machine as the most powerful device of its kind in the World. It is capable of producing up to 300kW, comparable to a typical wind-farm. The prototype machine is situated in the sea a few 100 metres off the coast at Lynmouth and was switched on in June. The team is planning to build an array of four or five machines at a total cost of £10-12 million.
(From the Torquay Electricity Undertaking advertising dated April 1933)
There was an old woman, who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do,
She gave them a whipping, she gave them some bread,
And did all the work, when she'd sent them to bed.
The modern old woman, who lives in a shoe,
Though she has many children, she knows what to do,
In a "Shoe" all-electric, they are good and well fed,
And the work is all done, e're she sends them to bed.
Electricity On The Isle Of Wight
The Isle of Wight has had an electricity supply since 1899 when the first generating plant was switched on at Ventnor to light up the town hall and nearby hostelry. By 1902 power stations were operating at Lake and Newport, with further stations at Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin. These stations eventually came under the Isle of Wight Electric Company, which also had a smaller plant in Yarmouth (based on the local steam laundry).
In the mid-1920's the Isle of Wight Electric company decided to centralise generation at East Cowes, where the Coal-fired plant began operation in 1928 and at the same time an 11kV underground distribution network was installed to Ryde, Newport and Cowes. Initially there were 2 - 1.5 MW units, which increased to 12 MW by the outbreak of the second world war.
In 1941, following a heavy raid on Cowes, it was decided to lay a 33kV cable under the Solent to Egypt Point. Within 7 years the cable suffered 31 faults caused by ships anchors as they went in and out of Southampton. In 1948 and 1949 two more 33kV submarine cables were laid from Lepe (near the mouth of the Beaulieu River on the mainland) to Gunard and on to the power station. In 1955 the power station capacity was increased to 35MW and was in regular production until 1971, when 2000 MW stations began operation on the mainland.
In 1964 the first 132kV oil-filled cable in British waters was laid from Lepe to Gunard followed by a second cable in 1966. A further 132kV cable was laid in 1967, which operated at 33kV until 1973. In March 1976 the power station was closed, since supplies to the Island were adequately secured from the mainland.
Electricity generation returned to the Island in 1982 when the Central Electricity Generating Board commissioned a gas turbine generating station. The main purpose was not to supplement or replace the Island's existing supplies, but to reinforce the National Grid in the South of England. However, dependence on three 132kV cables may well have tipped the scales in favour of the site.
The generation consists of two 70 MW generators positioned between two turbines and two pairs of Rolls Royce Olympus engines. The units run on light fuel oil and may be run up to full load in 7 minutes, however in emergency the full load may be reached in 3 minutes. Four fuel storage tanks have a capacity of 18,280 tonnes, which is enough to keep the station running at full output for 300 hours. Following privatisation in 1990, Cowes power station was vested with National Power (now Innogy plc).
Bizarre Substation Attendant
John Haynes has been reading a book about Cornwall's writers and found that a Cornwall Electric Power Company S/S attendant had only acquired the role on renting a small stone cottage from them at Nancledra, between St.Ives and Penzance. Arthur Caddick was his name and his duties were a condition of renting the cottage in 1946. Arthur would be summoned into action by an alarm bell (presumably a telephone) ringing in his bedroom at any time of day or night directly from Hayle Power Station. He would have "to hare like hell over the croft to the sub-station and peer at a special array of dials until the hand of one of them revealed to me what had blown up and where."
Arthur was a writer and poet and has been described as the "Poet Laureate of West Cornwall". He was a genuine eccentric among many contemporary Cornish writers and he wrote regularly for the Cornish Review up to 1960's.
The History of Guernsey Telecoms, which has been donated to the Archives by David Hood, is interesting in that right from the start in 1896, they were fiercely independent wanting to be separate from mainland GPO, because they believed that their tariff would be cheaper. So it was vested as the States Telephone Department. The disappointing aspect of the history is that it doesn't detail anything about the technical side, other than saying the initial system was a magneto type, where one had to turn a handle to make contact with the exchange, this was later changed to a battery system. There are no details about the equipment and manufacturers involved until its most recent period, when Ericsson equipment has been bought for the STD system.
The telephone boxes were like the mainland ones, but were painted yellow. David says that since the system was sold recently to Cable & Wireless, the telephone kiosks have been painted blue - and that's progress!
Musicians in the future will no longer have to turn sheet music. Someone has produced a device and software program for converting a music score into a digital format. It is called "MusicPad Pro". All the musician has to do is to touch the screen to turn the page. The device can contain up to 5000 sheets of music!Newsletter index
It has been decided to change the rules once again. Although at the AGM, it was felt that there was no need to alter the rules following our withdrawal from seeking charity status. Due to the anomalies and the fact that we have been advised that one of the existing clauses is unsatisfactory. The Rules Sub-Committee have decided that a change is necessary. A date has to be decided, when the changes could be put before the membership.Newsletter index
Surprise Winner Of The "Round West Cornwall Cycle Rally"
There was a large turnout for the West Cornwall Rally held last weekend. It was organised as usual by Henry Watt, who runs the Dynamo Cycle Hire business in the Newton Valley.
The field included Mr. Watt's daughters, Milli and Mega and their cousin Mica Mho. I counted 50 cycles distributed around the starter, and at 10am they were off around the circuit. The excitation among the crowd peaked as the pack zoomed away, all having the potential to win. The early leaders were Eddy Current, and Scott Connection, who were the stars of last year's rally. They zig-zagged down the first section, holding off the two Welsh entrants, Di Ode and Di Electric. The latter pair rode side by side at synchronous speed, but lagged behind, not having the power to be leading. Unfortunately their friend, Di Taff Onic retired hurt.
There was some unexpected impedance around the circuit this year. Mud created resistance in some places, causing a few riders to slip. This resulted in some hysteresis among the onlookers, who thought it a great yoke!
I heard later that there was some reluctance to take part by two or three riders. Arti Fact was heard to complain "My saddle hertz". The others objected to the brake-test, which was compulsory this year. However, these few were torqued into participating by increasing the cash prize, which rectified the situation.
After 70 gruelling miles the first rider to reach ohm was Mary Tavy from the 'Dartmoor Wheelers'. This surprise winner usually only rides in relay races. She showed exceptional power, but her slight frame was ideal to overcome the windage encountered on the exposed sections. The runner-up was the current champion Leonard Ward, who used his accurate speed control to advantage.
The 'Cairns Cup' was presented by Prince Rock from Plymouth, who congratulated the riders on their energy. Afterwards, Henry Watt announced that the rally would be held at a greater frequency in future, but this would have to be phased in gradually, as he would have to cut-out other events.
Report submitted by our Cornwall correspondent. There are no prizes for spotting over 50 electrical terms or associated names. Ed.
We have had a surprise enquiry. Someone has asked us - "How were the voltages levels decided, all multiples of eleven ?" i.e. 11kV, 33kV, 132kV, 275kV & 400kV, except of course the last one at 400kV. The best answer that Roger Hughes and myself can muster is as follows - Ferranti was the first engineer to establish a high voltage link from his Deptford Power Station to central London at 10kV. So we believe that a 10% was added to compensate for volts drop i.e. 11kV, and likewise 33kV, 132kV & 275kV, all multiples of the original eleven. The original 10% would probably have occurred before tap-changing equipment was available for voltage regulation at the primary substations. David Whitehead says that Upper Boat Power Station in South Wales and others generated at 33kV directly into the primary system.
Anyone-else have any better ideas, please direct them to the Secretary Peter Lamb. It would be interesting to have some factual information on this topic.
An evening lecture on "A Short History of Computers" is being given by the Bath Museum guide at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution 7.30pm on Friday September the 26th. All welcome.Newsletter index
Report from a Portsmouth newspaper following a disconnection of supplies at Gunwharf "Engineers finally traced the problem to an armoured cable beneath a car park, which had pierced the cable causing a dead short". After restoration a Southern Electric spokesman made an electrifying statement "We've managed to locate the problem, but as yet it's too early to say what pierced the cable, though it must have been something sharp"