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Engineers and Mechanics Encyclopedia 1839: Railways: Murdoch, Aitken and Co

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Mr. Gordon, in his Treatise on Locomotion, page 58, states, that in the beginning of the year 1831, the directors of the Monkland and Kirkintilloch Railway, near Glasgow, directed their engineer to make out a plan and specification of two locomotive engines, able to drag 60 tons gross weight at the rate of 4 or 5 miles an hour.

This was done accordingly, and the engines contracted for by Murdoch, Aitken and Co engineers, Hill-street Glasgow, who brought the first upon the railway the 10th of May, and the second upon the 10th of September the same year.

Both engines travelled several miles upon the railway, the first day they were brought out of the yard at Glasgow, and have since, during a course of eighteen months' trial, proved themselves the most efficient engines of the kind ever made in the kingdom, being capable of taking 10 tons more on a level railway, than any engine yet made of the same size of cylinder with a pressure of 501bs. to the square inch upon the boiler.

The line of railway on which these engines daily travel is one of the very worst description for the effectual working of such engines, being 8.5 miles in length, with numerous abrupt curves and descents. The descents are 1 in 50, 1 in 116, 1 in 120, &c.; the curves are of a radius of 344, the arch 335 feet; radius 400 feet, arch 650; radius 700 feet, arch 545 feet, &c.

The descents being in favour of the load, the bringing up the empty waggon is considered the heaviest work, yet one of these engines has frequently returned from Kirkintilloch, where the railway ends, with 50 empty waggons, in the ordinary course of trade, the weight of which being about 60 tons; but when loaded, they carry a gross weight of about 200 tons. The daily load of engine, is from 20 to 50 loaded waggons, according to the circumstances, and trade occurring on the road.

One of the great improvements on these engines is, the metallic packing of the pistons, which are the first of the kind ever used, and of such a description, that the 2 engines have not cost one shilling in 18 months for packing, and use neither grease nor any other unctuous substance whatever for the cylinders, since their commencement: another, and perhaps the greatest advantage of these pistons, is the economy of labour, the reduction of friction, and the saving of fuel thereby effected, the area of the fireplace being just 4 feet, or one-half of the size of that in the Liverpool engines. These pistons are each formed of two iron rings in three segments; a wedge between each segment is pressed by a spiral spring.

In the report by the directors of the Monkland and Kirkintilloch railway, to the proprietors at their general meeting on the 1st of February, 1832, these engines are noticed in the following manner:-

"Your committee have, as mentioned in last year's report, built two locomotive engines, which have been in employment on the railway for nearly six months, and the whole of the trade from the collieries to Kirkintilloch is now drawn by these machines. The committee, after much consideration, devolved the whole form and plan of these engines to Mr. Dodds, the superintendant.

“It was strongly urged by some of the proprietors that these engines should be got from England, and that the improvements of the engines adopted on the Liverpool railway should be introduced in constructing those for the Company. On inquiry, however, no certain data could be obtained whereby to calculate what would be the expense of maintaining in repair such improved engines; and it was also ascertained that they were very liable to be deranged, when working at the high speeds for which., they are calculated. For these reasons, the committee devolved on Mr. Dodds the entire responsibility of the planning of the engine, and the result of their confidence has been in the highest degree satisfactory.

“Mr. Dodds, in his plan and specification, adopted none of the recent improvements, except that of the copper tubes, suggested by Mr. Booth, giving however a great additional strength to these tubes. The contract for making the engines was taken by Messrs. Murdoch and Aitken, Hill-street, Glasgow, and the committee are satisfied with their performance, except as to the time taken by them in furnishing the second engine. This is no small praise, considering they were the first locomotive engines constructed in Glasgow.

"The excellence of Mr. Dodds' plan and specification, so far as several months' trial can be considered a proof, is most satisfactory, as the engines have never been one day off work, except on two occasions, when injured by the malice or carelessness of certain waggoners on the road.

“On the other hand, the engines procured frosts England, by an adjoining railway company, (the Garnkirk,) have been repeatedly taken off the road, on account of needing repairs, &c. Since the date of this report, these engines have done all the trade to Kirkintilloch, and other places, for another year, and have not been off one day, or employed a single horse to assist them. These are facts, and the best criterion whereby to judge of their real performance, or to make comparison between them and other railway locomotive engines.

The cut is a view of this engine, with the tender attached. The connecting-rod between the two wheels has a ball and socket-joint at each end, making universal joints. The wheels have a play of about one inch, to allow for turning in the above curve. The cylinders are 10.5 inches diameter each, and the stroke is 2 feet; pressure of steam, 50 lbs. The average speed of these locomotive engines is now 6 miles per hour; the regulation is 5 miles per hour, but they sometimes even double the regulated speed.

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