Tag Archives: propeller

New Engine and Propellers for Canal Navigation

Mr Peter Taylor, of Hollinwood, has recently taken out patents for two inventions — one for a rotary high-pressure marine steam engine on a new principle; and the other, that which chiefly calls for notice, for paddles or propellers, also of an entirely new construction. His principal object was to attain that desideratum in steam navigation on canals, sufficient motive power for considerable speed, without the injury to the canal banks caused by the action of the ordinary paddles.

The apparatus consists of a series of vanes or curved blades, placed obliquely, like the sails of a windmill, or like portions of a continuous screw. The apparatus is placed at the stern of the vessel in a small enclosure of water, the sides of the boat being continued beyond the stern, and the rudder being fixed beyond the propellers. They occupy a space of about a yard and a half in length, and, in the instance under notice, seven feet in breadth.

There are two parallel axes or shafts, which project from the stern, each shaft having four pairs of vanes or blades, at short distances, and so placed as to strike the water in quick succession, and obliquely, like the scull of a boat. The oars or blades on one shaft have an action like that of a right-hand screw, and those of the other like that of a left-hand one; and the vanes of each shaft work nearly up to the other shaft, and thus their joint action has the effect of propelling the boat forward, or when reversed, by altering the motion of the driving-wheel, in a direction stern first. They are said to differ (amongst other respects) from all propellers previously invented, both in their screw-like action, and in the axles being wholly under water.

By way of trying experiments with these propellers, Mr Taylor has had a set of them fitted to an old iron boat, about fifty-two feet in length, and seven feet in width, formerly worked on the canals by Messrs Buckley, Kershaw and Co. One of Mr Taylor’s new rotary engines of only five horses’ power has been fitted into the boat, which has been named “The Experiment of Hollinwood“. After several private trials, this boat made its first experimental trip on the river Irwell, yesterday week.

Mr Taylor and a few friends proceeded from the Old Quay, Manchester, as far as Barton-on-Irwell, and on the whole they state that the action of both engine and propellers was satisfactory; though in returning there was a deficiency of steam, from the filling-up of the fire-tubes with coke; a casualty which was remedied as soon as discovered. The speed was regarded as in a high degree satisfactory; being, it is stated, generally at the rate of six, and occasionally seven miles an hour. The motive power was deemed inadequate to accomplish all that the inventor had a right to anticipate; but it is mentioned as one proof of the superiority of his inventions, that the Jack Sharp, a passage boat belonging to the Old Quay Company (whose first trip, after being fitted with engine and stern paddles, we noticed some time ago), was not at all able to keep up with the Experiment, though the engine of the former is twelve horses’, and that of the latter is only five horses’ power.

On Wednesday the Experiment steamed down to Runcorn, by river and canal, and the whole distance was accomplished in about five hours’ working; including the stoppages at the locks, and those caused by the parties on the boat having themselves to open the bridges on the Runcorn Canal. The boat stopped a short time at Barton, and several hours at Warrington, which place it did not leave until dark, and performed the distance between Warrington and Runcorn (which, it is said, is about seven miles and three quarters) in about an hour, including delays from the cause just noticed. This increased rate was attributed to having obtained a better description of coke at Warrington.

The boat remained at Runcorn for some hours, and, having so far performed her work to the satisfaction of the voyagers, they determined to proceed in her to Liverpool. They started from Runcorn at half-past three o’clock on Thursday morning, with the tide, and reached the Rock Ferry, opposite Liverpool, by five o’clock, performing the distance in about an hour and a half.

The Experiment is considered to be by no means well adapted for the purposes of canal steam navigation. She is described as in form more like a box than a boat, and as drawing two feet nine inches water; a manifest disadvantage with so small an engine. We are informed, that all who have seen the boat’s performance, including several engineers who took a trip in her, have expressed themselves much pleased with her speed and general action. We understand there is some probability of the Old Quay Company making a trial of the propellers and engine in one of their twin quick passage boats on the Runcorn Canal.

The Experiment, in these trips, was placed under the care of Isaac Taylor, an experienced captain in the Old Quay Company’s employ, the aid of whose services, as pilot and steersman, was afforded for the occasion by Mr T O Lingard. Taylor says the boat answers her helm readily, turns well, and is very manageable. When at her greatest speed, it was found that the agitation and swell caused by her passing through the water, and by the propellers, had very little effect on the canal boats, the stream from the propellers being thrown off in the centre of the canal, leaving a considerable wake there.

Newcastle Courant 5 June 1840, quoting the Manchester Guardian

From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

M’Gauley’s mysterious mechanism

In 1851 Alex Thom, Printer and Publisher of Dublin, produced the third edition of Lectures on Natural Philosophy by the Rev James William M’Gauley, Canon &c, Professor of Natural Philosophy and one of the Heads of the Training Department to the National Board of Education in Ireland. [The Morning Post of 9 October 1840 suggests that the first edition seems to have been in 1840: Longman, Orme & Co in London, W Curry, jun & Co in Dublin and Fraser and Crawford in Edinburgh.]

You can read the third edition of the Lectures here, paying special attention to any electro-magnetic apparatus, given that the Rev James read papers on the subject to the meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Dublin in 1835 and in Liverpool in 1837.

But I can find nothing, there or elsewhere, about his contributions to steam propulsion on canals. Several British newspapers copied this story from the Dublin Pilot in 1837:

We understand that the Rev Mr M’Gauley, of Marlborough-street, in this city, has completed a series of experiments upon a subject which for some time has occupied his attention — the application of steam to canal boats, with perfect success.

Our readers are aware that the great obstacle to the application of steam to packet boats on canals is caused by the great injury which would arise to the banks from the wave created by the paddles. He has, it seems, adopted a paddle on an altogether new principle; one of great simplicity and of such a nature that the injury to the banks shall not be greater than what is produced by the ordinary boat.

He gets rid entirely of backwater, his paddles work without noise, and require for their application a steam engine of the simplest construction.

It is said that Mr M’Gauley contemplates a velocity which to seem possible would require his working model to be understood. We hope and indeed believe, that Mr M’Gauley will not have to contend with apathy and want of enterprise in the introduction of so important an application of steam in Ireland, one which would render our canals incalculably more profitable and more useful than at present, and to give us an opportunity of consuming to advantage the turf with which so large a portion of the country is covered.

And in its issue of 29 December 1838 [No 803] the Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, & Gazette carried this story from the Dublin Post:

Steam-boats on Canals. — The Rev J W M’Gauley, Professor of Natural Philosophy to the Board of Education, we understand, has at length succeeded in fabricating a machine for propelling boats on canals without raising a surge, which has been very detrimental to the banks, causing a considerable annual outlay to keep them in repair.

The power will be derived from a steam-engine; but instead of the usual paddle-wheels, there will be a machine immerged in the water underneath the centre of the boat, the working of which will not cause the least ripple on the surface of the water. There will be a public test of the invention on the Grand Canal about a fortnight hence, with a boat fitted up under the immediate inspection of the Rev gentleman.

But I have found nothing after that: no report of the success or otherwise of the machine. I would be grateful for information from anyone who knows anything about it.

By 1840 the Rev M’Gauley’s attention had returned to electro-magnetic apparatus with a practical application. In November and December of that year several British newspapers reproduced this report from the Dublin Monitor [I take this from the Leicester Chronicle, which was so excited that it reported the news twice, on 21 November and 12 December 1840]:

Important improvement. — The Rev Professor M’Gauley, whose scientific experiments in electro-magnetism excited so much interest in the philosophic world some time ago, has communicated to some of the principal Railway Companies in England a valuable invention, which will be attended with most important results in the preservation of life and property from almost all the casualties to which they are at present subjected in railway travelling.

His object is to render the stoppage of the train entirely independent of the engine conductors; so that, should they, as was lately the case, fall asleep, get drunk, or otherwise become incapacitated for the discharge of their responsible duties, the steam can be turned off, and the train stopped, totally independent of them. The simple announcement of the object of Mr M’Gauley’s invention is sufficient to render its vast importance obvious to every man who has bestowed one moment’s thought upon the subject. We have been favoured with an examination of the invention, and consider it at once simple, ingenious, and admirably adapted to effect the desired end; its cost is trifling.

This important improvement has been submitted to the directors of some of the first lines of railway in England, to the Dublin and Kingstown and Ulster Railway Companies who are giving it their best consideration, and, we presume, will test its utility by experiment.

Addendum April 2017:  could this be relevant?

More on M’Gauley (lots of variant spellings) in Wikipedia and here in a short notice at the bottom right of page 376 of The Engineer for 1 November 1867 [PDF courtesy of Grace’s Guide]. Who knew that folk left the priesthood and got married in the nineteenth century?

A further brief mention here [January 2019].