Category Archives: Engineering and construction

A Tale of a Tug

Improvement in Steam Vessels

(from a correspondent)

One of the greatest applications of Steam Vessels, has lately been made in Scotland, and, we learn, with the most complete success. It appears that since the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal (upwards of 30 years ago) a navigable communication has existed between Glasgow and Leith, the port of Edinburgh, notwithstanding which, by far the greatest portion of the trade between these places, has been carried on by land carriage, an an expense more than double what it might have been done by water.

This navigable communication consists of a Canal, for 29 miles, and a broad River or Firth for 26 miles; and it appears, that the obstacle which has prevented the benefit being taken of such apparent advantages, is the extreme difficulty of constructing vessels, which from draught of water and mode of rigging, would answer for the navigation of the Canal, and at the same time be able to contend against strong and contrary winds in the Firth of Forth.

To obviate this difficulty, a Company in Leith, have equipped a powerful steam vessel, or tracker, possessing extraordinary strength, and completely adapted for encountering stormy weather. This vessel, which is most appropriately named the Tug, is meant to track ten other vessels alternately, which have been peculiarly constructed by the same Company for carrying goods along the Canal.

The Tug, which may thus be compared to a team of horses in the water, tracks these vessele between Leith and Grangemouth, the entrance of the Canal, along which they are tracked by horses. But the utility of the Tug is not confined to tracking; she has also two commodious cabins, and combining the two purposes of tracking and conveyance of passengers, she is able to convey the latter with a degree of cheapness, which resembles more the track schuyt of Holland, than any conveyance we have in this country; the passage in the best cabin, being for a distance of 26 miles, two shillings, and in the second, one shilling.

For this most ingenious application of steam to this conveyance, we understand the public are indebted to Lieut George Crichton RN, Edinburgh, an officer who has long been distinguished for scientific knowledge in his profession.

It has long been known that a steam vessel will tow a ship out of harbour, in calm weather, or with light contrary winds, but her velocity was generally considered so much obstructed by the operation, that no idea appears to have been formed that an expeditious conveyance could be so established; but Lieut Crichton, it seems, had calculated on the peculiar manner in which a steam vessel is impelled, and by which any increased resistance to her motion through the water enables her wheels or paddles to act with more effect in proportion, and had estimated that in drawing a vessel of half her own size, she would not lose more than a fifth of her velocity. The Tug draws a loaded vessel of 50 tons, against a moderate breeze of wind, at the rate of nearly seven miles an hour.

The improvements which this invention may lead to in the river navigation of this country are incalculable; for by thus uniting the conveyance of passengers and goods, steam vessels will probably be established between points, which, [illegible] only one of these objects, would not have found sufficient employment.

We understand that Colonel [illegible] of Edinburgh, Kirkman Finley Esq MP for Glasgow, and several other Gentlemen of high respectability, are at the head of a Company, which have with much promptitude and [illegible] carried into effect the plan proposed by Lieut Crichton.

Perthshire Courier 23 October 1817

Speedy communication

New Post Office Steam Packet

By the arrival of the Packet we received yesterday, at the early hour of three o’clock, pm, the London Mail of Tuesday. Had we stated a few years ago the probability of such an occurrence, we should have been reckoned wild and visionary enthusiasts.

But now the period has arrived, when, by the astonishing improvement of the roads from London to Holyhead, and the establishment of those noble vessels, the Post Office Steam Packets [inaccurate article here], the public may almost invariably calculate on the arrival in Dublin of the London Mail, within 44 hours after it is despatched from the British Capital. It is needless to point out the great advantage which the mercantile world must derive from the expeditious conveyance of the English Mail, and the consequent postponement of the departure of the Mail for London, from 10 o’clock pm to eight o’clock am.

While we bestow our warmest panegyric on the Post Masters General, for the strenuous exertions they have made to effectuate this desirable object, we must also pronounce, that Sir Henry Parnell amply merits the grateful thanks of every Irishman, for his unceasing and successful efforts to facilitate the communication, improve, and shorten the distance between the capital of the Sister Kingdom.

Considerable anxiety was evinced yesterday to witness the arrival of the Government Steam Packet; a number of the first characters, among whom were several Ladies, were on the Pier at Howth about one o’clock, at which hour the Meteor, commanded by Captain Davis, and also the Talbot [private sector] Steam vessel, were in view — both ploughed the ocean in grand style, the Meteor being first at the Quay by a quarter of an hour, and the Mail was landed from her at 10 minutes past two, 42 hours only having elapsed from its leaving London. The Lightning, which is to arrive to-day, is a larger vessel, being 80 horse power — the Meteor is only 60.

Saunders’s News-Letter 1 June 1821

The progress of new technology in America

So safe and useful has this mode of conveyance been found in America, that, in a New York Paper of the first of July, now before us, we observe seven Steam Boats advertised to sail from that City to different points of the Union.

Dublin Evening Post 10 August 1816

Clever chaps, those Americans: they’ll go far.

Looking after Fido

I have today sent this email to both Waterways Ireland and Clare County Council.

This email is being sent to Waterways Ireland (Scarriff office) and Clare County Council.

Let us suppose that, during the summer season (15 May to 15 September), I set  off on my boat, with my dogs, from somewhere at the northern end of Lough Derg; I moor in Mountshannon at 11.15am.

Under Clare County Council’s beach bye-laws (number 16), I may not take my dogs ashore until 6.00pm: they will be confined to Waterways Ireland’s piers and pontoons. The entire area of the car park, the access from the piers to the roads, is off limits to dogs between 11.00am and 6.00pm.

Perhaps you might, for the convenience of visiting dog-owners, designate a corridor through which dogs (on leads) might be taken to land. After all, the area in question is not actually a beach: it is a car park.

 

 

A sign of the times

Driving through the village of Castleconnell [Co Limerick] recently, I found that it had acquired one — nay, two — of those stupid signs.

Road closed display 1

They’re stupid because, with the information spread over several displays, you can’t take it all in quickly. Unless, of course, you’re prepared to focus entirely on reading the sign, ignoring everything else on and around the road. Which in this case is passing a primary school.

I suppose you could stop and photograph it ….

Road closed display 2

The information on the first two displays could have been compressed and put on one:

8AM 13th – 6PM 14th

That still leaves two displays, but on the last one, the important one, compression has been taken too far:

Road closed display 3

 

 

Road closed at X, eh? Well, there’s a useful piece of information … or it might be, if we had Long John Silver’s map, with X marking the spot.

X is, of course, the unknown quantity, so this sign is telling us that the road will be closed at a specified time but at an unspecified place.

What dictionary are road-users to consult to find the meaning of X?

And why can’t the powers-that-be communicate clearly in English?

 

 

 

Ennis to Dublin 1838

The public car from Ennis to Williamstown was quite a treat in the way of public travelling; a leather strap, and afterwards a branch of a tree, sufficed for a whip, until an innocent country lad was coaxed into an exchange pro tempore — that is to say, he very good-naturedly lent our driver his whip on a simple promise to return it, and took the branch instead. Although half an hour too late at starting, our loquacious conductor assured us that we would arrive in due time at Williamstown to meet the packet, ‘barring accidents’ — which was well put in, for the wheels were once or twice so hot and the horses so lazy that a stoppage at one time seemed inevitable.

A voyage in a large steamboat of one hundred horse power was quite a novelty to be enjoyed in an inland piece of water, and I greatly enjoyed both this and the voyage up the Shannon, in a less steamboat of twenty four horse power. I had never in my life travelled in a canal passage-boat, and the voyage therein from Shannon Harbour to Dublin was described by a Limerick attorney as a nuisance, horrible beyond endurance. I have never, however, been disposed to rely so much on the opinion of others as on my own experience, and therefore I resolved to try the voyage.

Never was I more agreeably surprised that to find, after sailing in it eighteen hours, I arrived at Dublin too soon, so far as the pleasantness of the journey was concerned. I heard the best Irish songs and recitations, and had a most interesting account of Irish scenery and superstitions from Mr Dennis Leonard, of Kilrush; besides this, I had a very comfortable night’s rest and was altogether much interested and pleased with my first journey on a canal.

From Chapter XV Ireland and the Irish 1838 of Benjamin Ward Richardson Thomas Sopwith MA CE FRS, with excerpts from his diary of fifty-seven years Longmans, Green & Co, London 1891

 

 

Is Brendan Smith a disguised Theresa May?

Theresa May, who is Prime Minister of Unicornia, is renowned for her inability to take “No”, or indeed “Definitely not”, or “What part of NO do you not understand?”, or “FOAD”, for an answer.

The same may be said of Brendan Smith, a Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan (in a region where mental health is a big issue). For many years, Mr Smith has been asking when a navigation (first proposed as one of W T Mulvany’s insane drainage-cum-navigation projects in the 1840s) is to be constructed between Belturbet and Lough Oughter. And, year after year, he is told, in the politest possible terms, that it’s a non-runner.

Here’s the latest example, where the unfortunate Minister for Fairytales devotes a lot of effort to telling him to FOAD. Waterways Ireland has the right idea:

There is already extensive existing underused navigation for example at Belturbet and Waterways Ireland has reiterated the potential in the waters of the Lough Oughter area being promoted as a distinct Blueway. The national context is that Blueways Ireland (National Trails Office, Canoeing Ireland and other state bodies) is currently considering the establishment of Blueways beyond the Waterways Ireland network of inland waterways.

To this end, Waterways Ireland has met with the Chief Executive of Cavan County Council, other council officials and elected representatives concerning Blueways developed successfully on the Waterways Ireland network to advise on possible ways forward. Waterways Ireland is happy to support Cavan County Council should it decide to develop a Blueway on the River Erne from Belturbet to Killykeen and Killeshandra but as the area is officially outside of their remit, this offer extends to advice and support only.

It would be nice if Mr Smith would stop wasting parliamentary time on the pursuit of unicorns. If he doesn’t, I’ll be forced to conclude that he and Mrs May are somehow related.

From Hull, Hell and Halifax good Lord deliver us

Actually, the original version seems to be

From Hull, from Halifax, from hell, ’tis thus,
From all these three, good Lord deliver us.

That’s from “A Merry-Wherry-Ferry Voyage” by John Taylor, the Water Poet, in 1622, collected in Early Prose and Poetical Works of John Taylor, The Water Poet (1580–1653) Hamilton, Adams & Co, London 1888.

I’ve been to (a few bits of) Halifax. The Piece Hall is stunning and the Calderdale Industrial Museum [Saturdays, 10.00am to 4.00pm] has not only a wonderful collection of machines but also a wonderful collection of knowledgeable volunteers who can tell you all about them: well worth a visit if you have any interest in industrial history, but allow plenty of time.

So that’s Halifax, and now I find [thanks to Caught by the River] that Hull is full of interesting stuff too, at least on the Open Bridges website, with lots of stuff about the river and barges.

So there is much to be said for visiting Hull and Halifax.

I wouldn’t bother about Hell, though: it’s full of Brexiteers, all thinking up magical solutions for getting out.

 

Shave and a haircut

Scarriff Harbour after a haircut

Looking downriver

I hope that the same is being done on the Shannon—Erne Waterway.

Newry: canal, steam railways, ships …

Thanks to Andrew Waldron for the link to this film, The Clanrye Connection, about Newry and its transport systems: the inland canal, the ship canal and the railways. The film was made by the BBC in 1996 and is about 50 minutes long.

There is even an electric tram.