Category Archives: Engineering and construction

Royal Canal drawbridge

According to the Freeman’s Journal of 5 April 1837, Henry Garnett was

superintendent or agent to the èxtensive and highly respectable firm of Purcell and Jameson, coach proprietors.

Their offices were in Sackville Street. On Sunday 2 April 1837 Mr Garnett had been on his way home to [Royal] Canal Terrace when

as he ascended the hill at the bend of Upper Dominick-street he met a man habited in a dark cloak, and having a cap on his head, who, after looking him steadfastly in the face, opened the cloak, and fired at him.

The man was not more than a yard away, so close that the powder scorched Garnett’s hand, but the bullet struck a suspender button, wounding but not killing the victim.

The scene of the crime

The scene of the crime [OSI ~1840]

William Cagburn heard the shot and also heard Garnett calling out

I am shot — stop the murderer, he has run in the direction of the aqueduct.

Cagburn gave chase:

He instantly pursued, crossed the draw-bridge, and came under the aqueduct, when he saw the prisoner running along the Phibsborough road.

Cagburn and the watchman seized the man; the watchman took two pistols from him and another witness found a third, discharged, pistol nearby on the pathway.

The prisoner, Christopher Clanchy, had been a road maker for eight years. The Freeman’s Journal said:

While a contractor for repairing part of the Ashbourne road, in the employment of Messrs Bourne, he [Clanchy] was allowed to travel free by Mr Purcell’s coaches, and Mr Garnett in the discharge of his duty having occasion to withdraw this privilege, hence proceeding his desire to be revenged. [...] We are happy to state Mr Garnett is not likely to suffer any inconvenience from the injury.

But of more interest for this site is the route taken by William Cagburn. What or where was the drawbridge he crossed?

Foster Aqueduct

Upper Dominick Street and the Foster Aqueduct [OSI ~1840]

I haven’t come across [or at least I haven't noticed] any previous mention of a drawbridge in this area. I presume that it was across the canal. And, looking closely at the map extract above …

Possible site of drawbridge

Possible drawbridge [OSI ~1840]

… I see what might be a bridge just to the left of the F of Foster. It shows up more clearly on the black and white OSI map. At Clanchy’s trial before the Commission of Oyer and Terminer, reported in the Freeman’s Journal of Monday 26 June 1837, the bridge was said to be a wooden bridge; George Cayburn [probably the William Cagburn named in the earlier report] described it as “the swinging bridge”.

Perhaps Mallet’s Insistent Pontoon merely replaced an old nuisance with a new.

Clanchy, incidentally, was found guilty: there were suggestions that he was insane, but the jury rejected them. Baron Richards said [Freeman’s Journal 1 July 1837]

The court had no discretion but to pass the extreme sentence of the law, that he should be hanged by the neck [...].

Purcell, Garnett’s employer, had requested a commutation of his sentence; Richards said that it was open to Clanchy to memorial for a commutation, and the court would put no obstacle in his way; indeed it hoped he would meet the mercy “which he would have denied his intended victim”. I do not know what happened to Clanchy.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

A concession to new technology

It appears that these new-fangled railways are here to stay, displacing the passage-boat and the mail-coach, the Scotch cart and the lumber boat.

Accordingly, I have rearranged my small number of railway-related pages under a top-level heading of their own.

I have added a new railway page, about the Lundy Island Railway and Colonization Company, from the Dublin Evening Mail of 2 May 1845. Gerald M King has produced stamps for Lundy, including Railway Parcel Stamps, but it is not clear whether they depict any of the engines or rolling stock described in the Mail and there are few other sources of information about the railway.

I have tried to explain as many of the references as I could, but some are still obscure to me and I would welcome comments from those expert in Irish religious conflicts of the 1840s (as well as those knowledgeable about railways and other technology of the period).

 

The Black Bridge at Plassey

I am repeating here a point I made in response to a comment on this page. I do so because the point is, I think, an important one: some readers don’t check the comments and might miss this.

I have an imperfect copy [with some lines missing] of an indenture made on 8 July 1849 between the Minister for Finance and Limerick County Council under which the Council leased from the Minister

… all that those parts of the lands of Garraun and Sreelane on which Plassey Bridge abuts on both banks of the River Shannon and the site and piles of said Plassey Bridge together with said Plassey Bridge [...].

I am not a lawyer, so my interpretation may be misleading, but I think that there are two points of interest.

The first is that, under the indenture, the Council is obliged to “well and sufficiently repair cleanse maintain amend and keep the hereby demised premises”, which includes the bridge. The Council is also required to “use the said demised premises as a public highway”.

The second is that, if the Council fails to do so, the Minister, and his agents the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, are entitled (after giving due notice) “to enter upon the hereby demised premises and to execute and to do the necessary repairs and works and the Lessees [ie Limerick Councy Council] shall repay the expenses of such repairs to the Lessor on demand [...]“.

As far as I can see, Limerick County Council is in breach of its agreement with the Minister for Finance, and that Minister is entitled to repair the bridge and charge the Council for the cost.

If only there were a Minister for Finance who had an interest in Limerick (or in bridges) ….

A little rain goes a long way

Here are some water level readings from Athlone Weir. I’ve taken them from the OPW’s very useful water levels site, where you can monitor levels from the comfort of your own armchair. [If only there were a gauge at Killaloe ....]

At Athlone, staff gauge zero is 35.360m above Poolbeg datum (from 18 Oct 2003). I chopped the bottoms off the first two graphs. The first one shows the level for 35 days to 30 September 2014; I presume that the level of Lough Ree was being reduced to enable it to hold some of the autumn’s rainfall.

Athlone Weir 20140930

Athlone Weir 35 days to 30 September 2014 (truncated)

Here’s the graph for the 35 days to 15 October 2014.

Athlone Weir 20141015

Athlone Weir 35 days to 15 October 2014 (truncated)

Then, in October, the level began to rise again. By 30 October, it was back to about 2.1 metres, roughly the starting point on the first of the graphs above.

Athlone Weir 20141030

Athlone Weir 35 days ro 30 October 2014

And since then it has continued to rise.

Athlone Weir 20141117

Athlone Weir 35 days to 17 November 2014

Met Éireann’s weather summary for October 2014 [PDF] has this chart:

Met Eireann weather Oct 2014

Met Éireann rainfall October 2014

It says:

Rainfall: wet conditions nearly everywhere

Monthly rainfall totals were above-average nearly everywhere with the exception of stations in coastal areas in the Northwest and West and in parts of the Midlands. Percentage of Long-Term Average (LTA) values ranged from 81% at Gurteen to 161% at Johnstown Castle, which recorded it wettest October since 2002.

Fermoy (Moore Park) reported 135% of its LTA with 153.6 mm and its wettest October in 10 years. The wettest days were mainly the 3rd, 5th and 28th, with the month’s highest daily rainfall reported on the 5th at Cork Airport with 38.6 mm, its wettest October day in five years. Mullingar reported its wettest October day in 12 years on the 28th with 26.4 mm. The number of wet days (days with 1 mm or more rainfall) ranged from 12 at Casement Aerodrome to 24 at Valentia Observatory and Claremorris, with Claremorris reporting its highest number of October wet days since 1973.

Use of the OPW charts is licensed under Directive 2003/98/EC [PDF] of the European Parliament and of the Council on the re-use of public sector information. Met Éireann allows use of “the web pages, and the information contained within them, for private and non-commercial purposes, for teaching, and for research [...] is allowed subject to the condition that the source of the information is always credited in connection with its use”.

 

 

Recent developments in boat design

Mr Busk’s elastic paddle

A small Steam Boat (apparently about fifty feet long, and six or seven feet wide), belonging to Mr Wm Busk, of Pall-mall, was exhibited on Friday on the Thames. The boat was propelled easily and rapidly through the water, both with and against the tide, by a very small steam power, without the use of any paddle-wheel, by means of an elastic paddle, or fin, recently invented by Mr Busk, which was subject to a reciprocating motion wholly under water, and acting equally both ways.

When the action is not brought too near the surface, no motion seems to be occasioned in the water which could at all prejudice canal banks; and as the range of the fins, by their being placed in the narrow after-part of a boat, admits of being confined completely within the depth and breadth of the boat, no impediment need be presented to the passing of locks or bridges. The invention appears to be extremely simple and efficacious, and of very ready application to vessels of all classes and dimensions.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 5 May 1825

Canal steam navigation

Experiments of rather a novel character have for some weeks been in progress on the Forth and Clyde Canal, to ascertain the merits of an invention for propelling boats on canals at greater velocities than have hitherto been attained either by steam or horses. The principle on which the experiments are founded may be thus described.

A light chain is laid in the canal, from one extremity to the other, and firmly fixed at each end. To effect motion by this means, a twin boat is used, in the trough of which a grooved wheel (receiving the chain) is made to revolve by a steam engine placed in the boat. From this description it will be evident that, as the wheel revolves, the boat is drawn forward at a speed equivalent to the power, or at precisely the same velocity as the periphery of the grooved wheel.

At first sight there appear to be several objections to the plan, not the least of which are turning the bends, and meeting and passing general craft on the canal. The experiments made on Friday the 29th ult, however, fully prove the facility with which the vessel can be steered from side to side of the canal; describing, at the same time, quicker curves than any to be met with on the Forth and Clyde navigation.

On the whole the experiments, though conducted under great disadvantages, were highly satisfactory, and such as to induce further trials. A speed of 8¼ miles per hour was attained, and there was little doubt in the minds of those who witnessed the trials, that, with a lighter engine, and a boat drawing less water, a higher velocity might be acquired at a cheaper rate than is now produced by horses.

It will be proper here to observe that it is not intended to carry passengers in the same boat that contains the engine and propelling apparatus.

Chester Chronicle 12 September 1834

India Rubber Boat

An American journal says that a Mr Caleb Williams, of New York, has just constructed a boat of this material, and that he has applied for a patent for his invention.

Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette 4 July 1835

 

 

Any old iron

Amongst the objects of iron found during the Shannon Navigation Works, 1843–48, and presented by the Shannon Commissioners to the Academy, an iron sword (figure 1) is of much interest. It is of the Halstatt class, and is, I believe, the only iron example of that class which has been found in Ireland.

A label attached to the sword states that it was “taken up in the buckets of the ‘C’ dredger” out of the bed of the Shannon above the new bridge of Athlone, August, 1847.

It is incomplete, and has lost much of its substance from rust, especially along the edges. The form, however, can be distinguished. It is made on the pattern of the leaf-shaped bronze sword. The width of the blade increases towards the point, and the handle-plate was of the flat form of the bronze swords.

Fig 1 Iron sword found in the Shannon [rotated]

Fig 1 Iron sword found in the Shannon [rotated]. Top end to right-hand side

This latter feature is certain, and is the most definite in the specimen. The edge of the handle-plate is intact for a short length at the right side; and the remains of a rivet-hole can be seen on the expanded portion at the hilt.

The curve in the blade does not appear to be intentional, but to be due to a bend it has received about one-third up; the line of the ridge is straight to and beyond the bend. This ridge along the centre of the blade is not a very usual feature; but it occurs occasionally on the bronze swords, and on an iron Halstatt sword found in Poitou, figured by the Abbé H Breuil (Revue Archéologique 1903 II p57).

This latter sword was found at Mignaloux-Beauvoir, near Poitiers, in 1836, but had remained unnoticed in the Museum at Poitiers until the paper mentioned. It measures in its present state 45 cm. The Irish fragment is 18½ inches long (47 cm); so the two swords were much of the same length.

A fairly large number of the bronze swords of the Halstatt type have been found in Ireland. There are twenty in the collection, and six of the winged chaps or scabbard ends of that period.

The occurrence in Ireland of the type in iron is therefore of considerable interest. The somewhat slender look of the sword and the ridge disposes me to regard it as late in the series; it must, however, rank as probably the earliest type of the iron sword which has been found in this country.

The early iron sword with flat handle-plate had been found in considerable numbers east and south of Poitou in Berry, Bourgogne, and in Lot. But its extension to the west had not been known till the example figured by the Abbé Breuil. It should be noted that Poitiers is close to the old line of communication between Ireland and the Continent by way of the Loire valley.

Illness has prevented me from placing before the Academy the archaeological evidence I have collected bearing on the question of early intercourse between Gaul and Ireland; but I should like to state as a preliminary note, that certain forms of bronze caldrons and types of pottery at the close of the Bronze Age, also of types of iron spear-heads and other objects of the La Tene period, may be advanced in support of the historical tradition in our tales of a settlement of Gauls in Leinster under Labraidh Loinngsech, at a date placed perhaps too early by the Four Masters (BC 541), and from whose “broad blue spears” the name of the province of Leinster (Laighen) is derived.

George Coffey “Early iron sword found in Ireland” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Vol XXVI Section C No 3 February 1906 Hodges, Figgis & Co Ltd, Dublin; Williams & Norgate, London

The uses of lunatic asylums

Finally, as to the want of cleanliness of which you complain — although I do not pretend to say that the Irish peasantry are as fond of order as the English, yet here also we can discover how much is owing to want of education and early training.

If you visit the union workhouses, the prisons, the lunatic asylums, and other public institutions in Ireland, you will perceive that, under proper instruction and discipline, Irish men and women can be cleanly, and can keep rooms and houses as orderly and neat as any other people.

The fact is, that the Celtic race appear to stand in need of training and discipline, for the acquirement of those habits which seem to come naturally to the Saxon; but with such training, and the stimulus of suitable encouragement, or even of a kind word, the Irish may be made all that their English neighbours can desire.

Edward Newenham Hoare The English Settler’s Guide through Irish Difficulties; or, a hand-book for Ireland, with reference to present and future prospects Hodges and Smith, Dublin; John W Parker, London 1850

Airholes on the Kennet & Avon Canal

John Ditchfield very kindly photographed some airholes on the Kennet & Avon Canal and sent on the photos. The captions are his comments.

Bath05_resize

Good length of overflow. Water flowing.

Bath07_resize

No overflow.

Bath06_resize

(Rebuilt) small openings are above the level of the top of the adjacent lock gate. However, just upstream there is another paddle or sluice gate on the canal side (next photo), so perhaps that is used to control the level.

Bath08_resize

The upstream paddle or sluice gate.

Bath09_resize

Overflow in action, preventing water overflowing gates.

Note: this lock connects the canal with the River Avon, and the building in the background was a steam pumping station, presumably for topping up the canal from the river.

Many thanks to John for taking the trouble.

Fuel consumption

The Dublin Monitor of 3 December 1839 quoted the celebrated Dublin-born adulterer and polymath Dionysius Lardner [who said that Victorians were prudish?] as saying

A train of coaches, about eighty tons, and transporting 230 passengers, with their luggage, has been taken from Liverpool to Birmingham, and from Birmingham to Liverpool, the trip each way taking about four hours, stoppages included. The distance between these places by the railway is ninety-five miles.

This double journey of 190 miles is effected by the mechanical force produced in the combustion of a quarter of a ton of coke, the value of which is 6s.

To carry the same number of passengers daily between the same places by stage coaches, on a common road, would require twenty coaches, and an establishment of 3,800 horses, with which the journey in each direction would be performed in about twelve hours, stoppages included.

Dr Lardner on the Steam Engine

The fuel consumption figure seemed odd to me, because I had recently read about the fuel consumed by a steamer on the Shannon in 1851. This was evidently one of the two screw steamers put to work by the Grand Canal Company in 1851, on which Sir John MacNeill conducted the experiments described here.

A luggage boat propelled by steam, on the screw principle, has been for the first time placed on the waters of the Shannon between Shannon Harbour and Limerick, taking in Portumna, Dromineer, Williamstown [probably Hollands], Killaloe, and the river and canal, to the terminus lock at Limerick.

As a specimen of aquatic architecture, the boat presents no very peculiar or striking features; it is built of iron, with a flush deck; it is capable of carrying about thirty tons, and the rate at which it goes on the canal, is about three and a half miles an hour, whether singly, or as a tug boat with two or three heavy lighters after it; whilst on the broader waters of the river, it is capable of going at a rate of seven and a half miles an hour!

This phenomenon may be explained by the fact that on the canal, which is comparatively narrow, there is no expansion of the waters displaced by the boat, whilst there is always a considerable swell raised about the prow, causes which conspire to retard her speed, and which do not operate when she is on the river.

The expense of working this boat is considerably less than that of the ordinary boat drawn by horses. A ton of coal supplies the engine between Limerick and Shannon Harbour; whereas the horsing alone of a boat between Limerick and Killaloe amounts to something about ten shillings.

The experiment, however, has not been sufficiently tested; and there is some doubt that it may succeed according to the expectations of its projectors. Just now several industrious persons with horses are employed on the canal: and it is to be hoped that in this season of dearth and destitution, no hasty means will be adopted to force them for subsistence on overgrown poor rates.

Limerick Reporter 27 May 1851

The Limerick Reporter article does not say, and I cannot determine, whether this was  Towing steamer No 2 [Appendix 3 in Ruth Delany The Grand Canal of Ireland David and Charles, Newton Abbot 1973], the twin-screw vessel which MacNeill, confusingly, called the No 1 Boat, or the single-screw Towing steamer No 1, which MacNeill called the No 2 Boat.

But I was surprised that the railway train could do 190 miles on a quarter ton of coke while the steamer required a ton for the (roughly) 54 miles from Shannon Harbour to Limerick.

On consulting the online Gutenberg version of the seventh edition of Dionysius Lardner The Steam Engine explained and illustrated; with an account of its invention and progressive improvement, and its application to navigation and railways; including also A Memoir of Watt Taylor and Walton, London 1840, I found that there were some differences between that and the Dublin Monitor‘s version:

A train of coaches weighing about eighty tons, and transporting two hundred and forty passengers with their luggage, has been taken from Liverpool to Birmingham, and back from Birmingham to Liverpool, the trip each way taking about four hours and a quarter, stoppages included. The distance between these places by the railway is ninety-five miles.

This double journey of one hundred and ninety miles is effected by the mechanical force produced in the combustion of four tons of coke, the value of which is about five pounds.

To carry the same number of passengers daily between the same places by stage-coaches on a common road, would require twenty coaches and an establishment of three thousand eight hundred horses, with which the journey in each direction would be performed in about twelve hours, stoppages included.

So 240 passengers, not 230; 4¼ rather than 4 hours — and most significantly 4 tons of coke, costing about £5, rather than ¼ ton costing 6s [£0.3].

Did the Dublin Monitor get it wrong — and, if so, why and how? Or were the lower figures in some earlier edition of Lardner’s work?

 

 

Demolishing the bridge at Athlone

If you happen to be thinking of demolishing the road bridge in Athlone at any time, please try to remove the foundation stone carefully, without breaking it, and look for a cavity.

Mr Rhodes, the principal Engineer of the River Shannon Improvement Works, having paid a visit of inspection to the bridge works of Athlone; a copperplate, with an inscription thereon, was deposited in a cavity in the foundation stone, which was laid on the 6th instant. The site on which the new bridge is to be erected is 70 yards up the river from the present bridge. The new bridge is to consist of three elliptical stone arches, each of 60 feet span, and 14 feet rise, and one iron swivel arch of 40 feet, to admit the passage of steam vessels of a large class.

The Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser 27 November 1841

If you find the copperplate, do please tell us what the inscription says.