Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Caloric Engine and Siren Fog-Signal Co

From Graces Guide
1883. Fog Signal apparatus.

Works: 24 Budge Road, Cannon Street, London, EC

Professor Frederick Hale Holmes had a leading role in the business.

Superintendent engineer Charles Ingrey.

A very interesting inspection of a Caloric Engine and Duplicate Siren Fog Signals, manufactured for the Russian Government, was afforded yesterday in Gravel-lane. Professor Holmes' remarkable Siren Signals, adopted and largely employed by the Trinity House, are very well known to and highly appreciated by scientific authorities ; but it will certainly be a surprise to engineers to hear of a successful caloric engine. Nevertheless, where Ericsen [John Ericsson] has twice failed [?], and his followers have equally fallen short of practical success, Mr. Buckett has succeeded and produced an engine of excellent qualities, working evenly and safely at 371b. pressure to the square inch, and very economically. Its special qualifications for lighthouse purposes are great and obvious. There is no boiler, no exposed fire, no stoking, nor constant attention required as with steam, the only attention being the feeding with fresh fuel about every one-and-a-half or two hours. The engine once started governs itself and controls its own fire. Holmes Siren, already introduced by the Trinity House to upwards of seventy of their stations, originally was, some thirty years ago, a toy which, when blown by the mouth, gave, by means of reeds, a musical sound, beginning with a low note and rising as one might say all through the gamut to an upper high one. Large Sirens, upon a similar model, blown by steam direct from the boiler or by compressed air, giving long and peculiar sounds, were long since employed in America and elsewhere as warning signals, and like as with everything that is good, or even only promising, have, in every stage of develop- ment, received the careful attention of the Elder Brethren, who, not content with what has been put before them, have induced Professor Holmes to produce a Siren of the highest power, and with special characteristics for the requirements of lighthouses. It was long since found by experiment that prolonged notes, however powerful, did not carry their sounds so far as sound signals produced suddenly. High notes were found also to be carried further than low notes. But even the shrill steam whistle was not to be put in comparison with the gun for range of audibility. Now, the present Holmes Siren starts a sound as suddenly as a gun, and the screeching note which follows is suggestive in itself of danger. The note can be varied to any extent, because it consists of a certain determined number of vibrations : and according to the numbers of vibrations per second ordered, so the Siren is constructed. The sound is effected by allowing a certain volume of highly compressed air, not less in practice than 60lb. to the square inch, to escape into the first cylinder of the Siren. This cylinder is perforated with a number of holes, and resolves by the power of the enclosed compressed air within a second cylinder, likewise perforated, the perforations being so adjusted, and so cutting off the escape of the air, that according to the speed of revolution corresponding vibrations of sound are produced in the atmospheres.
The Admiralty having subsequently adopted the Holmes Sirens for the Navy, complaints were made from the Mercantile Marine that captains of vessels could not distinguish between the Sirens of the men-of-war and those of the lighthouses. The sound signals of the Trinity Board have consequently been modified to the extent that each can blow a high note or a low note, a long one or a short one, and by various combinations of these, each lighthouse or station can sound its distinguishing name or its distinguishing notes or signals. Tbe suddenness of the Holmes Siren sound is of vast importance, for although distance cannot be directly estimated in a fog as between a vessel and a Siren, as in bright weather can be done between tbe flash of a gun or the hearing of the report of its discharge, yet in a somewhat similar way the distance of two objects apart can be estimated very accurately by the reflection of the Siren blast, and the means can be and has been turned to very useful account.
The novelties of the Buckett Caloric Engine are that the air is first forced into the fire, and is afterwards further expanded by the secondary combustion of the carbonic oxide formed by the fresh combustion of the oxygen of the air with the fuel itself. The furnace is a completely closed one, and consequently the air forced in when heated can only expand in the cylinder of the engine. There is no chimney required except at the first lighting of the fires, and even this may be dispensed with. The interior of the furnace is lined with fire-bricks, and the air forced in by the air-pumps passes over the fire when the engine is not working, and more or less through the fire when it is working, according to the work doing. The fire is fed from above by an inlet in the furnace jackets closed by a second valve of conical form. When the fuel is put in and the outer covering secured, the inner valve can be opened and the fuel allowed to fall into the furnaces. The engine for the Russian Government consists of a pair of 12 1/2-horse jiower cylinders, and consumes 2 1/2 lb. of ordinary gas coke per horse-power per hour, the cost per horse-power being thus under one farthing, or the total cost is three pennyworth of fuel per hour. Whilst taking into account that no stoking has to be done, and that the dozen blasts are effected automatically, the practical result is that the cost of the engine is reduced to about one-third of what would be the cost of the attention to a steam-engine of like power. Another noticeable novelty is the cut-off of the compressed air in the cylinder by its stroke, as in ordinary steam-engines. A little caloric engine, of like construction but of only 1 1/2-horse power, and burning but 4lb. of coke per hour at the cost of a halfpenny, was also shown. This had no chimney, and only an open exhaust pipe for the escape of the used-up air, which gave off no noisome effects in the factory that were noticeable. It was interesting to observe that this engine could be moved about to any other place or part ot the factory, there being no connections by it with any piping or local adjuncts.'[1]

1882, March: Prospectus offering shares in The Caloric Engine and "Siren" Fog Signals Company Limited. The company would acquire the established business and works in Southwark and the patents of Frederick Hale Holmes and John Buckett.

1885 Winding-up orders.

1887 Company dissolved.

The Pulsometer Engineering Co bought Holmes' patents and took on Charles Ingrey as their senior engineer.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. London Evening Standard, 11 November 1881
  • 'Lost Sounds' by Alan Renton, Whittles Publishing, 2001