Tag Archives: steam

Who stole the technology?

I was thinking of buying a (secondhand) copy of Juliana Adelman and Éadaoin Agnew eds Science and technology in nineteenth-century Ireland Four Courts Press, Dublin 2011. But, even though the secondhand copy was much, much cheaper even than the publishers’ reduced price, I thought I should check what I’d be getting for my money. I therefore had a look at the contents list, which I reproduce here having nicked it from the publishers’ web page:

The list of contents

 

Is it just me, or is there a big gap there? How can you discuss nineteenth-century technology without an extended discussion of steam power, whether in ships, on railways, for drainage or in mills and other manufactories?

 

New locomotive power

Mr Mullins, MP for Kerry, has made a very important discovery in the scientific world, that of applying galvanism, instead of steam, for propelling vessels and carriages. He is now building a carriage upon this principle, and several of the first engineers, who have seen it, say there is every prospect of success, and that it will supersede steam. — Limerick Star. The Dublin Evening Post claims the merit of this invention for the Rev J W M’Gawley, one of the clergymen of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in that city, who, that Journal says, explained it at the meeting of the British Association of Science there last August. “The discovery,” proceeds our Dublin contemporary, “has excited considerable interest amongst the savans of Germany by Mr M’Gawley’s interesting and important invention, which is to form one of the most attractive features of the proceedings of the British Association at its approaching meeting in Bristol.”

Berkshire Chronicle 13 August 1836

How nice to know that a current MP TD for Kerry, noted for his scientific knowledge, is continuing a great tradition.

 

Limerick gammon

Thanks to AOD for alerting me to an article by Morgan McCloskey “O’Maras of Limerick and their overseas business” [PDF] from the Old Limerick Journal summer 2001. O’Maras were bacon and ham curers: according to Frank Prendergast “The Decline of Traditional Limerick Industries” in David Lee & Debbie Jacobs, eds Made in Limerick: History of industries, trade and commerce Volume 1 [Limerick Civic Trust, Limerick 2003]

James O’Mara of Toomevara in County Tipperary had established the business in a small house on Mungret Street in 1839. He started bacon curing in the basement but it became so successful that he had to move shortly afterwards to the premises in Roches Street, which they occupied until its closure in 1987.

The waterways interest arises from McCloskey’s having drawn on Patricia Lavelle James O’Mara: a staunch Sinn Féiner Dublin 1961, republished in 2011 under a slightly different title. Lavelle’s O’Mara, her father, was also covered here and was the grandson of the original James who set up the business in 1839. We are concerned with neither of the Jameses: Stephen, son of the first and father of the second, is the man of the moment. McCloskey says that Lavelle says that Stephen preferred to go to Dublin by boat rather than by rail and that she gives this description of one such trip:

Then the boat went through the heart of Ireland; and the country, with its hills and green fields, was spread before him in all its changing beauty for the best part of a couple of days. The steamer left Limerick and made its way up the Shannon, avoiding the rapids by various canals and locks.

After Killaloe it reached the wide waters of Lough Derg. The passengers had the run of the boat and could get a snack meal if they wished. Once, when grandfather was travelling this way, terrible squalls sprang up and the lake was very rough, but usually they could stop for a moment at Holy Island and see the ancient ruins there, and pass on by the wooded heights of the Tipperary shore, past Dromineer to Portumna, crossing and re-crossing the lake until they found anchorage in Shannon Harbour, as far north as Offaly.

There was a big hotel there owned by the Grand Canal Company, where they all stayed for the night and got to know one another; and feasted on chicken and bacon and cabbage followed by apple pie, and then sat round huge turf fires swopping stories or playing cards.

Next morning the canal boat awaited them, gay with its overhead canopy to protect passengers from the heat of the sun or from inclement weather. The passengers sat in two long rows, back to back, and gazed out across the fields as the paddle lazily churned up the turbid waters and the boat made leisurely progress along the canal. The monotony was broken once in a while by the excitement of passing through a lock.

The problem with this romantic account is that, as presented, it’s rubbish.

Stephen O’Mara was born in 1844 and began work in the family business in 1860. The passenger boat service between Limerick and Killaloe ceased in 1848, when the railway reached Limerick (though there were occasional special excursions after that).

The service was by horse-drawn boat, not by steamer; though there had been some attempts at running steamers, the Limerick boats did not go beyond Killaloe, whence larger steamers ran to Portumna or, later, to Shannon Harbour and places further north.

Scheduled passenger services did not “stop for a moment” at Holy Island, which was off the main route to Portumna.

The canal hotel at Shannon Harbour effectively ceased operating as such in 1847, according to Ruth Delany The Grand Canal of Ireland David and Charles, Newton Abbot 1973.

The canal passage boats did not have canopies, the passengers sat facing each other rather than back to back and the boats were horse-drawn rather than paddle-driven. Furthermore, the service ceased in 1852.

I cannot explain the extent of the inaccuracies, but perhaps Lavelle’s account should have been attributed to the elder James rather than to his son Stephen. I would be glad to hear from anyone who can cast light on this; please leave a Comment below.

 

 

 

Cardboard and paper

Some folk have been sailing on the Thames in a boat made of cardboard.

Over two hundred years ago, Isaac Weld navigated the lakes of Killarney in a boat made of brown paper:

Whilst engaged in illustrating the scenery of that beautiful locality, Mr Weld derived additional pleasure from the occupation, in introducing a young and amiable wife to scenes so familiar to himself. To facilitate their rambles, and profiting by his Canadian adventures and his skill as a “voyageur“, he constructed with his own hands the model of an Indian canoe. In the absence, however, of birch bark, he had recourse to successive layers of stout brown paper, creating a sort of papier-maché boat, sufficiently roomy for two. In this paper skiff he actually had the hardihood to intrust himself and fair companion in sundry adventurous voyages on the Lakes.

That is from “Mr Foot’s Memoir of the late Isaac Weld, Esq” in The Journal of the Royal Dublin Society Volume I 1856–57 Hodges, Smith & Co, Dublin 1858. Wikipedia offers a shorter account of the life of the remarkable Mr Weld. His Statistical Survey of the County of Roscommon, Royal Dublin Society 1832, is an invaluable source of information about the Shannon and the Royal Canal, but Mr Weld is also notable for his voyage, along with his equally adventurous wife, on the steamer Thames [originally Argyle] from Dublin to London in 1815. There are brief accounts of the journey here and here; the captain, George Dodd, wrote a book An Historical and Explanatory Dissertation on Steam-Engines and Steam-Packets; with the evidence in full given by the most eminent engineers, mechanists, and manufacturers, to the Select Committees of the House of Commons; togerther with the Committees’ reports, distinguishing and defining safe and unsafe steam-engines, and their proper management: comprising particulars of the fatal explosions of boilers at Norwich, Northumberland, Wells-street, and in America: concluding with a narrative, by Isaac Weld Esq, of the interesting voyage of the Thames steam-yacht, from Glasgow, in Scotland, to Dublin and London [published for the author, London 1818] available here, and Isaac Weld’s account is available here. Mrs Weld may have been the first woman to take an extended sea voyage in a steam vessel.

 

Remarkable experiments in steam navigation

The duck’s paddle

A series of experiments has recently been tried in France by the Marquis de Jouffroy, with the view of getting rid of the inconveniences of the ordinary steam paddle. The apparatus of M de Jouffroy consists of two palms, or articulated duck’s feet, placed either at the sides or stern of a vessel, having an alternate motion, so as to open in order to give the impulsion, and close again precisely the same way as the foot of a duck.

M de Jouffroy’s first experiment was made in the canoe of the jardin de la Folia St James, near the Bois de Boulogne, with the model of a frigate made on a scale of 1 foot to 37 feet, and so constructed that the common paddle or his improvement might be used at will. With the common paddle the vessel performed a distance of 130 feet in seven minutes. The paddles having performed 130 revolutions, at this time the propelling power was completely exhausted.

The common paddles were then taken off, and the duck’s-foot paddles substituted. With one hundred and thirty oscillations of these paddles, the vessel performed in the same space of time a distance of 153 feet; but what was most remarkable, was the fact, that instead of stopping short when the clockwork, which in both cases put the machinery in motion, had run down, the impulsion communicated to the vessel by the steady and undisturbed motion of the duck’s-foot paddles was sufficient to keep the vessel moving 150 feet more.

The report on these experiments by the committee of the Institute is highly favourable.

The Vindicator, Belfast 16 December 1840. From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

Perhaps this marquis was the son of that marquis.

Eccentricity by steam

Folk interested in eccentric early steam inventions, such as that described on my page about chain haulage, might also be interested in the invention of Captain George Beadon RN, as described on the invaluable Grace’s Guide site.

Her late Majesty Queen Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, had the foresight to acquire a photograph of Captain Beadon’s vessel and to make it available on tinterweb.

Captain Beadon’s route to London took him through Keynsham: that’s K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M.

A Steam-ship Canal from Kilkenny to Inistiogue

A gentleman has mooted the propriety of forming a steam-ship canal from Kilkenny to the tidal water of Innistiogue,  and he has lodged £400 in the Provincial Bank as a beginning, and as an earnest of his good faith. His name is not given, why we cannot say; but of the fact that the money is actually lodged, we have been assured by the respectable manager of the bank, Andrew M’Kean Esq.

This half anonymous character is to be regretted; and we trust the promoter will not hesitate to announce his name at once, and set the project fairly before the public. Men do business now-a-days with their eyes well open. It is computed that £320000 would be sufficient for the completion of the undertaking. The distance is only thirteen miles. The promoter calls upon eight hundred men in the counties of Kilkenny, Waterford, and Wexford to come forward with £400 each, or else raise the money in £5 shares.

Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent 27 August 1850 quoting the Kilkenny Journal. From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

[NB I have not been able to find any later notice of the development of this proposal. Further information will be welcomed]

The Steam Carriage and Waggon Company of Ireland

In a piece about developments in steam propulsion in 1829, I mentioned Sir James Anderson’s contract with the Irish Post Office to carry the mails on the roads of Ireland in “coaches impelled by steam”.

The Farmer’s Magazine July–December 1838

The Farmer’s Magazine for July to December 1838 reproduced, on pages 201–211, an article from the Cork Southern Reporter headed “A visit to Sir James Anderson’s Steam Carriage”. Amidst outpourings of national pride at this Irish invention, the “Steam Drag, or Carriage for Common Roads”, praise for Sir James and his father John [who was a Scot], maunderings about the plight of the horse and admiration for Sir James’s Buttevant Castle, we learn that Sir James

[…] spent two apprenticeships and a fortune in building 29 unsuccessful carriages to succeed in the 30th.

There is even a small amount of information about the machine itself:

The “Drag”, or steam engine, is not like those hitherto attempted; it is a machine to do the work now done by horses. The vehicle by which the passengers are conveyed is to be attached to it […].

If the drag broke down, horses could pull the passengers the rest of the way. Fuel to haul 30 passengers and their luggage at 15 mph was expected to cost not more than 4d a mile. The drag’s “broad cylindrical wheels” would act as rollers, helping to preserve rather than damage the roads. Travellers could look forward to breakfasting in Cork and dining in Dublin.

We understand the Irish Company is now forming, and all arrangements making for a commencement in this county as soon as carriages can be made.

The Dublin Monitor 7 October 1841

STEAM CARRIAGE AND WAGGON COMPANY,
FOR THE CONVEYANCE OF
GOODS AND PASSENGERS ON THE MAIL
COACH ROADS OF IRELAND

APPLICATION for Shares to be made by letter (post-paid), addressed to the Directors, at the Temporary Office of the Company, 47, Lower Sackville-street, Dublin, where Prospectuses and every information may be obtained.

J GREY PORTER ATTHILL, Sec

According to the 1835 Report from the Select Committee on Orange Lodges in Ireland [HC 1835 (377) XV 1; Google version here], J Grey Porter Atthill was then Master of the Lisnarric [Lisnarick] District Orange Lodge in County Fermanagh, near Castle Archdale, meeting at Ardes [Ardess?] near the post town of Resh [recte Kesh, I imagine].

The Galway Vindicator 16 October 1841

Steam Carriages on Common Roads

Extract of a letter from a gentleman who accompanied the Steam-carriage from Dublin, on its experimental trip.

Kilbeggan, Oct 11, 1841

You are aware that it was our intention to have taken our new steam carriage to Ballinasloe fair; but finding that the boiler was not sufficiently stanched for a long journey, having only just issued from the workshop, we determined to make an experimental trip along the same line with the old carriage — one intended entirely for drawing conveyances for luggage and goods, at the rate of four to six miles an hour — to enable us to see where proper stations could be established, and to try the machine in every way, and at every speed, during this extraordinary inclement weather, on this hilly road.

We certainly set forth under most inauspicious circumstances; but feeling assured of the power and efficiency of the machinery, no matter on what description of ground, we fearlessly departed, and we have tested the carriage to the very utmost, yet without even deranging or straining a single screw. We have certainly achieved a great undertaking, and incontestibly proved the superiority of the patent of Sir J C Anderson and Mr J Rogers, especially on bad roads, against heavy hills, in rains unprecedented, and without having one station for water along the entire line.

When the steam-carriage left Dublin it rained in torrents, and has never ceased to do so since our departure on Tuesday afternoon. The hill at Chapelizod was ascended with ease, without a check of any kind; and the very steep descent going into Lucan, on the old road, was descended at a walking pace, without drags of any kind, and the engine afterwards ran on and drew up short at the Percy Arms, to the utter astonishment of all the village. From thence to Maynooth the journey was in the dark, and the incessant rain rendered the water in the ditches wholly unavailing, by making it muddy — so that the supply was absolutely obtained by bucket-fulls, at a distance often of two or three hundred yards.

The rain continuing in almost a perfect deluge on the following morning, it was considered only common justice to the men not to proceed, especially as the Duke of Leinster and the gentlemen connected with the College of Maynooth were desirous of inspecting the carriage, which they subsequently did in the midst of pelting rain, and expressed themselves delighted with the machinery and various ingenious movements. Indeed, the Duke of Leinster treated us with the utmost courtesy and condescension, and in the afternoon, on meeting us in the Park, personally took us through some of the beautiful grounds, and showed us his princely mansion of Carton.

On Thursday we again set forth — again in the midst of heavy rain — and immediately on leaving Maynooth had to pass through the flood, which extended along the road for about 300 yards, and about a foot deep. This was effected gallantly, and curious and interesting in the extreme was the effect of the carriage proceeding through the water. Hundreds of persons, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, came down to witness this feat, and expressed their gratification at the successful issue by deafening cheers. The impression was, that the fire would be extinguished, and it is only right that I should mention that young Lord Otho Fitzgerald, who came down early to see us off, rode into every part of the water to show us the depth, and to be ready to ride back for horses, which, entirely from himself, he kindly and most considerately proposed to do, in case of the fire being put out.

The floods being out to this extent furnishes some notion of the state of the roads, but it is almost impossible to describe the trying condition of the whole line. It is, indeed, lamentable to see corn, hay, potatoes, and every description of agricultural and garden produce floating about. The residents of Maynooth say that for eighteen years they have not known the floods so high, or the country in such a saturated state.

From Maynooth the carriage proceeded to Kinnegad, through Kilcock and Seafield, passing over two bridges of a rise of one in fifteen, and one in ten feet. At the latter the mud was so deep, and the ground beneath so soft, that the carmen were unable to go on, and were compelled to put up altogether. These were surmounted without check or hindrance, although in the latter there was a very sharp turn, independent of the great rise.

From Kinnegad to Tyrelspass was the most difficult part of the line, from the softness of the roads (newly macadamised) and continuous rise, independent of the great hill of Gillabonine, about three quarters of a mile long, with a rise in parts of one in ten, one in fifteen, and averaging one in twenty-two feet. On the summit hundreds of persons assembled to witness what could be done, and fully impressed with a belief that the carriage could never get up. To their evident astonishment, however, the carriage ran up at about four or five miles an hour, taking a direct line from bottom to top. It was received at the summit with immense cheering, and commenced the descent — which is even more precipitate than the rise on the other side — in a quiet walk, to show the power of withholding the speed at pleasure, no matter how sudden the fall may be.

Below the middle of the hill the speed was increased, and we ran into Tyrelspass at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour, and drew up short at the inn door. Coming down the hill an incident occurred which may be mentioned as showing the command of the conductor over the carriage: when at the greatest speed, a pig dashed across the road. Mr Rogers, who was conducting, instantaneously checked the speed, and, altering the direction of the carriage, avoided the animal with the utmost ease. This astonished the people above all things.

A similar circumstance occurred at Rochfort Bridge, where a greyhound ran close to the wheel. Mr Rogers immediately stopped, and the whole population (for every body was out) expressed their astonishment and admiration by an unanimous cheer.

A letter

The following letter, from Mr Rogers, has been received since the above was in type:—

The rain continued incessantly the next day, we were stormstaid at Kinnegad, but ceased the following; we started for Tyrelspass, having to ascend the famed hill of Guineabawn, a mile long, and varying from one in twenty to one in ten. As usual, this hill was also crowded by the inhabitants, who cheered us as we passed it, at a speed of four to five miles per hour, descending the opposite side at a walk, and subsequently entering the town on its flat and firm road, at a speed of at least fifteen miles an hour.

Here the excitement was so considerable that we were obliged to remain some time to gratify the people, and in consequence darkness came on before we reached Kilbeggan, at the entrance of which the steersman, not seeing his way, ran one of the wheels off the road, when the wheels sunk, but after some little delay, the carriage was backed out and steamed into the town, accompanied by almost all the inhabitants. Every window was illuminated to welcome us in, and, amidst the most joyous cheers, we reached the yard of Messrs Mullins, brewers, who kindly came to offer it for our use, and to whom our entire party are much indebted for their warm-hearted hospitality and attention.

But here I fear my narrative must end, for here we found the first supply of Ballinasloe coke. Being desirous to show the powers and command of the engine to the inhabitants who had so kindly received us, we delayed a day, but on getting in our fire, found at once its total inefficiency. We, however, ran through the town at a slow speed, proving the management and power up a stiff hill in the Main-street, but it was impossible to proceed on our journey.

Steam can no more be had from bad fuel, than condition and mettle from bad oats. A steam-carriage may as well attempt a journey to Galway and keep time, without relays of coke and pure water on the road, as a mail-coach attempt it without relays of horses, oats, and pure water too; but still I may, perhaps not too proudly, say, that more has been done to prove the undoubted capability and durability of steam carriages than ever has yet been accomplished.

We have journeyed here amidst incessant rain — the roads saturated till the carriers’ traffic was stopped — the whole line to this, covered so much with broken stones, that one wheel of the carriage was rarely, if ever off it, while the other ploughed its way through mud some inches deep; hills met us at elevations pronounced impossible of ascent, and which in the present age may be considered barbarisms; barbarisms, indeed, where horses are made I may say, to pant out their very lives in ascending them.

“Pure water” we had none, for the elements conspired to give us mud; and I need scarcely say in this enlightened age that pure water is an essential to the proper working of the locomotive engine — at least every engineer well knows that without it the most injurious effects arise. Since we started we have not had it half a dozen times; and yet our engine and boiler are at this hour as perfect as the day we set out.

It has been said of common road locomotives, “they come out with the butterflies and go in with them”. We have come out in the storm, and passed over the heaviest and worst roads in the country, when not a vehicle was to be met — and yet we are uninjured one particle, and are “driven in” alone by want of proper fuel.

Pardon the length of what I have called “a short narrative”; but I think I am not wrong in believing that the advancement of any science will find amongst your readers an interest sufficient to excuse my perhaps too minute description. Let me add, that, although the weather would have driven most men to their houses, the party of directors &c who accompanied our expedition, remained to prove and test the carriage to the last moment, suffering every hardship from the weather. If, in naming Messrs Mansell, Reardon, and Williams; also Mr Maunsell, the Company’s solicitor, and Mr Motley, an English engineer, who accompanied them, I may be thought to have needlessly eulogised what I believe they considered to be their duty, they will, I think, excuse it, when I give their names also as witnesses of what I have thus stated for the information of the public.

I have the honour to be, sir, your faithful servant,

Jasper W Rogers

Dublin University Magazine November 1841

I outlined the company’s November 1841 Plan [Jasper W Rogers Plan proposed by Sir James C Anderson Bart and Jasper W Rogers CE for establishing Steam Carriages for the conveyance of goods and passengers on the mail coach roads of Ireland; also a proposed system for repair of the roads by means of a Road Police, and for telegraphing Nicholas Walsh, Dublin 1841] here. In the same month the Dublin University Magazine had a two-page ad for the new company, headed

Steam Carriage and Waggon Company,
for the conveyance of goods and passengers
on the mail-coach roads of Ireland.

There were ten Patrons and Honorary Directors: four marquises [Downshire, Donegal, Sligo, Ely, all KPs], two earls [Mountcashell, Bandon] and four barons [Arden, Muskerry, Riversdale, Cremorne]. The Directors were:

  • the Hon Major Massy, Upper Fitzwilliam Street
  • the Hon Robert Le Poer Trench RN, Garbally
  • Sir Valentine Blake Bart MP DL, Menlo Castle
  • Sir William Chatterton Bart DL, Castle Mahon
  • Sir James C Anderson Bart, Buttevant Castle
  • Colonel Richard England KH
  • Captain Hamilton T Johnston JP, Holly Park
  • Captain John Irvine DL, Rockfield and Fitzgibbon Street
  • Captain Fitzgerald Higgins JP, Westport
  • Arthur Hume Esq, Dawson Street
  • Crofton Moore Vandaleur Esq DL, Kilrush House and Rutland Square
  • H K Grogan Morgan Esq DL, Johnstown Castle
  • Robert Guinness Esq, South Frederick Street
  • William H Reardan Esq, Cor Mem Council Coll C En
  • George Newton Esq, Upper Buckingham Street
  • Henry Williams Esq, Essex Bridge
  • William W Mansell Esq FSA, Kildare Street Club.

The Managing Director was John Jemison Esq, Drumcondra Hill, and the Directing Engineer Jasper W Rogers Esq CE, Nottingham Street. The auditors were George Hatchell Esq, The Priory, Rathfarnham, and Henry Dwyer Esq, Upper Mount Street. Counsel were Richard Wilson Green, Christopher Copinger and Charles Granby Burke; solicitor was Robert Maunsell, London law Agent W Mosson Kearns, Secretary J Grey Porter Atthill (Barrister) and bankers Messrs Ball & Co in Dublin and Messrs Coutts & Co in London. The company had local directors and agents in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Wexford, Belfast, Londonderry, Enniskillen, Dundalk, Athlone, Westport and Ennis.

The ad said:

The practicability of running Steam Carriages upon common roads, with a degree of rapidity far beyond the utmost speed of horses in draught, and at one-half to a third less cost, has long since been made evident by the report of a Committee of the House of Commons, after a most minute and searching inquiry; and has now been confirmed by the Carriage built at Manchester by Sir James C Anderson Bart, for the Steam Carriage and Waggon Company of England, and those built at Newcomen Bridge Works, upon the same principle for this Company, by Jasper W Rogers Esq, the partner of Sir James Anderson, which for some time past have been publicly shown and tested in every way in the streets and neighbourhood of Dublin, as well as by the late experimental trip of about sixty English miles along the Galway road, against heavy hills, through even floods, in rains unprecedented.

It quoted from the account given in the Galway Vindicator and from that paper’s laudatory comment, concluding with an invitation to buy shares.

The company’s report November 1841

On 2 November 1841 the company issued its Report of the Steam Carriage and Waggon Company of Ireland, another short document. This showed William W Mansell as Managing Director and John Jemison as an ordinary director. It also listed 32 local agents.

It is a report from Mansell about the setting up of the company. It said that two drags had been built and tested: one was for goods and luggage, the other for passenger carriages. It reported the favourable impressions of Mr Motley, the Liverpool engineer, and described the trip to Tyrrellspass. Some additional information:

From the time we left Dublin not a single horse took fright, nor did any accident even of the most trivial nature occur […].

Independent of the unusually severe and unseasonable weather, about 76,000 sheep, 13,300 horned cattle, besides a great number of horses, independent of the regular traffic, have passed over this line of road, going and returning from the [Ballinasloe] fair, which it is needless to say tended greatly to render the roads more difficult for the Steam Carriage.

None of the persons in charge of turnpikes asked us to pay any thing excepting at Kilbeggan; but when we begged to know what we were drawn by, the man soon shrunk back.

Mansell recommended opening the Galway road as soon as possible, with enough vehicles “to supply the wants of communication”. He had been corresponding with people along the line and, with Mr Reardon, had inspected it as far as Ballinasloe, to which a new, shorter and more level road from Athlone was planned; a new road of 1½ miles had already been made between Horseleap and Moate. Thomas Bermingham, who had favoured a railway to Galway, now supported the company’s plans and had agreed to become a director.

Mansell gave an interesting sidelight on the reaction of the mail-coach operators:

The Nenagh Guardian is the only paper which has attacked us; but the nature of its remarks is strong evidence indeed of the manner this undertaking is making way, and arise wholly from interested persons. A gentleman from Nenagh voluntarily wrote to our Secretary on this subject, saying: ‘It so happens that the only Reporter and chief Editor the Guardian has, is the Stage Coach Agent of Messrs Bourne, the owners of the turnpikes and coaches on the Limerick and Dublin line of road; and as the Messrs Bourne have already been most illiberal monopolists, and as they apprehend serious consequences to themselves, and advantage to the public, from the success of the Company — after, I presume, trying their feelers elsewhere — they could not succeed in enlisting any Journal in their dirty work but an obscure venal publication.’

I should mention that the writer who thus apprises us of the management of the Messrs Bourne is not a Shareholder, nor, indeed, acquainted with any person connected with the Company, further than being a gentleman of standing and high character. The monopoly of Messrs Bourne expires in about three years and a-half.

[Note: Bournes had been partners with John Anderson [Sir James’s father] on the Dublin to Cork mail coaches.]

Various nobles and gentlemen had supported the idea. Coach-operators wanted to buy or lease steam carriages; they included Mr W Staunton of Killiney, who

[…] is desirous of having a Carriage to draw ten tons for supplying Limerick with pure water.

There had been applications for 5179 shares, but few from Galway, Cork or Limerick, all of which would benefit from the operation.

Mansell said that six steam carriages would be enough to work 100 miles of road, whereas on a railway the same distance would require 100 engines: there were over 40 on the 32 miles between Liverpool and Manchester and over 120 on the 110 miles between London and Birmingham.

The Company had expected to sell 3000 shares and to supply 7 carriages for the Dublin to Limerick route and the same for each of the lines from Dublin to Galway, Sligo and Londonderry; 2,500 shares and 6 carriages would serve Dublin to Belfast and 2000 shares and five carriages each for Dublin to Waterford and Dublin to Wexford. It had not yet issued its prospectus in England but expected extensive support there.

Anderson and Rogers had spent over £60,000 perfecting Locomotive Carriages.

The Galway Vindicator 8 December 1841

The Galway Vindicator had two relevant items on 8 December 1841: both of them written by the indefatigable Thomas Bermingham of Caramana, Kilconnel, Co Galway. The shorter was a letter to the editor; it permitted him to print the longer, a letter to the Guardians of the [Poor Law] Unions of Galway, Loughrea, Tuam, Athlone and Ballinasloe and to the other inhabitants of counties Roscommon and Galway.

It seems that Bermingham was less than completely convinced of the virtues of the Steam Carriage and Waggon Company’s locomotive carriages. He felt that they should run on a line of their own, a level road from Athlone via Ballinasloe to Galway, with branches to Tuam and Loughrea. Then, if the venture failed, the line could be converted to a railway, using either horse or steam power. The building of the road would provide employment to the poor and its completion would assist the prosperity of the port of Galway.

Bermingham reckoned the cost of the road at £1000 a mile for 80 miles; he allowed £6000 to connect Mutton Island to the mainland and rounded it up to £100000 to provide for station-houses. He thought that the Board of Works should provide 40% of the cost as a free grant and the rest as a loan at 5%.

What good came of it at last?

Canal, road and rail were, it seems, vying for Ballinasloe’s traffic. The canal got there first but the railway took over from 1851 (and the line to Galway passed just south of Thomas Bermingham’s house). Did road-going locomotive carriages ever successfully serve that, or any other, town?

In 1902 Rhys Jenkins, in Motor cars and the application of mechanical power to road vehicles [T Fisher Unwin, London; J Pott & Company, New York], wrote [pp68–69]:

Anderson, however, nine years later [1838], came out as an inventor himself with a new boiler. The Steam Carriage and Waggon Company was formed to build carriages on his plans, and a number were made in the years 1839 and 1840 in Dublin and Manchester, and carriages were to be seen at work in both places. There are glowing accounts of the success obtained at experimental runs, but the scheme very soon fell through.

I would be glad to hear from anyone who can fill in the details or point to a source that does so.

Roads, steam and the alleviation of poverty

I mentioned here Sir James Anderson‘s contract with the Irish Post Office for carrying the mails at 12 mph in steam-powered road-going coaches. I don’t know how that worked out [anyone who observed the coaches between Howth and Dublin is encouraged to leave a Comment below] but in 1841 Sir James was back with a new idea for the use of steam power on Irish roads.

He was joined this time by Jasper W Rogers CE. They produced a pamphlet outlining their idea: Jasper W Rogers Plan proposed by Sir James C Anderson Bart and Jasper W Rogers CE for establishing Steam Carriages for the conveyance of goods and passengers on the mail coach roads of Ireland; also a proposed system for repair of the roads by means of a Road Police, and for telegraphing [Nicholas Walsh, Dublin 1841], which pretty well says it all. The pamphlet is only fifteen pages, so it’s not much longer than its title, and [thanks to Messrs Google] you can read the whole thing here, free of charge.

Essentially, they thought railways would never pay, but that Locomotive Steam Carriages, capable of carrying twenty people, could be used on the roads. They also suggest the use of  “drags” (tractor units): as far as I can gather, they were to be an interim measure until the roads had reached the required standard. The roads would be divided in two: one section for steam and the other for “the general purposes of the country”.

At every mile, a “convenient lodge or cottage” would be built to house three “road police”, with a “chief officer” every ten miles. Their main function would be to repair the roads but they could keep order in their spare time. The cottages would be furnished with [non-electric] telegraphs, each using a “ten-sided hollow revolving figure”.

My favourite bit is this:

In order to give every facility for repair of roads, and at the same time to benefit the labouring population — particularly the aged, decrepid and young, who at all times find difficulty in obtaining occupation — we would recommend that the peasantry be invited to supply broken stone in accordance to sample; delivering same in any quantity not less than 1 cwt at any station on the line.

That could help to solve this problem.

Here is a longer piece about Anderson’s Steam Carriage and Waggon Company of Ireland.

Scottish canal developments

Application of locomotive steam power to the navigation of canals

On Monday and Tuesday the following novel experiment of locomotive steam-power was tried on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Mr John M’Neil, the civil engineer of the Clyde navigation, has had constructed on the banks of the canal a railway upon blocks, on which a locomotive engine has been put, which was used on the above named days instead of horses, to draw the canal passage-boats, and succeeded in taking them the whole distance of the line at the rate of eight miles an hour. The company having ascertained the full success of the experiment, will construct a tramway along the canal bank, and will be able to take their passage-boats in future at the rate of 18 miles an hour.

Bradford Observer quoting the Stirling Journal 5 September 1839