MacAdam, Brothers and Co: Water Turbines
Note: This is a sub-section of MacAdam, Brothers and Co
MacAdam, Brothers and Co made water turbines of the Fourneyron-type.
William Cullen (of Armagh) had travelled to France to learn more about this type of machine. Benoit Fourneyron was uncooperative, but Cullen visited Fourneyron's model maker, the foundry which produced Fourneyron's castings, another turbine-manufacturing company, and a lecturer in hydraulics. He was able to glean sufficient information to build and test models, and this gave him the confidence to embark on the design of large scale turbines. Cullen and Robert MacAdam joined forces to produce the machines for sale. The first machine was installed in a linen bleach mill at Mullaghmore in 1850. .
1850 'THE IMPROVED TURBINES OR HORIZONTAL WATER-WHEELS.
THE SUBSCRIBERS ARE PREPARED to undertake the erection of Turbine Water Wheels of the improved construction, and for any height of fall. - Reference can be given to several powerful ones now at work in this neighbourhood, which they have lately erected. M'ADAM, BROTHERS, & Co., Engineers, Soho Foundry. Belfast, November, 1850.'
1857 'IMPROVEMENTS IN HYDRAULIC MACHINERY. "The remarkable horizontal water-wheel, or Turbine, lately erected at the Eggleston Smelt Mills, in connection with the saw mills, has drawn our attention to the improvements which have recently been introduced in the application of waterpower, as being a subject of much importance in this part of the country. We have taken some trouble to make inquiries, and hope tho result may not be uninteresting to our readers; more especially as the Tees and its tributary streams offer the very highest facilities for the application of water-power.
"About ten years ago the makers of this machine (Messrs. M'Adam Brothers & Co., a respectable engineering house at Belfast) introduced the first turbine into the north of Ireland, and such was the incredulity with regard to its success, that they were obliged to erect it on their own responsibility. It answered perfectly, and has been at constant work ever since in a large linen bleachwork, the proprietors of which subsequently had a second Turbine erected there by the same firm. From that time the value the Turbine became rapidly appreciated in Ireland; and Messrs. M'Adam have erected numbers of them in various part of that country, and in connexion with different kinds of machinery, such as grinding. spinning, sawing, bleaching, &c. For some time the opinion prevailed that these wheels were exclusively adapted for high water-falls, and that for low falls the ordinary water-wheel was preferable. This is now found to be altogether a mistake. Not only does the Turbine give a higher per centage of power on a low fall than the best constructed vertical wheel, but it has been ascertained that it possesses besides a remarkable and valuable property which fits especially for low falls. In such falls, in the majority of cases, great annoyance is experienced from floods and backwater, which have the effect of impeding and often stopping altogether the water-wheels working in them. Strange to say, the Turbine is scarcely affected in its motion by backwater; but, during the highest floods (so long any fall remains) it continues to drive the machinery attached to it. In one instance, in the north of Ireland, where a Turbine is erected on a 20-feet fall, there are every year floods rising in the tail-race to a height of 10 1/2 feet; and while this causes the stoppage of all the water-wheels in the neighbourhood, the Turbine works as usual, unaffected the back-water, except, of course, in so far as the reduction in the height of fall diminishes its power for the time. We have no doubt there are many localities in our own district where such a wheel would be of great importance.
"The experience of the makers has suggested to them an improvement of great consequence in the construction of the Turbine, which fits it for a still greater variety of situations. Many supplies of water are very variable, being abundant in winter and small in summer. By an ingenious arrangement the Turbine is made to adapt itself to any change of supply, and still preserve its high per centage of power. The motion of the wheel is beautifully regular, and found to suit for all manufacturing operations where great uniformity of motion is required, such as power-loom weaving, yarn spinning. &c. In several cases a "governor" has been applied to it, which renders it as steady as the best steam-engine.
"One great advantage attending this kind of water-wheel is the simplicity and cheapness of the gearing required for connecting it with the machinery to be driven. None of the ponderous wheels and fixtures are necessary which are indispensable with an ordinary vertical water wheel, a single pair of moderate sized wheels being usually sufficient. The same applies to the masonry, which is of a far less expensive kind than is required for a vertical wheel. As to the amount of power given by the Turbine, when compared with other numerous interesting experiments have been made and published, shewing that this machine gives out from 75 to 85 per cent. of the power of the water; a result much beyond anything yet accomplished by the best vertical wheels. These experiments were made by means of the friction-break.
"Although the Turbine has now been successfully used in Ireland for ten years, and in France and Germany for double that time, it is singular that it is yet hardly known England. The Turbine at Eggleston Mills is of small size, and erected on a fall of 48 feet; but its construction is similar to the larger machines erected elsewhere." 
Catteshall Mill Turbine
1869-70 A large low-head, low speed Fourneyron-type turbine was supplied to Catteshall Mill on the River Wey at Godalming. See photos. It developed approx 50 HP at 25 rpm. It ran until the 1960s, and when the site was redeveloped in 1981 the main components were saved for preservation. They were moved to Ironbridge, where they can be seen in the yard at the Enginuity Museum.
Photos 1 & 2: The turbine would have had its axis vertical in service. Water entered from the top and passed through the guide vanes (appearing as a 'grid' in the photos). The guide vanes turned the water so that it emerged at the optimum angle to enter the passages in the runner (the rotor) (see photo 3).The runner is 11 ft 9" outside diameter.
Photos 3 & 4 show the outlet side of the guide vanes and the runner. The guides and runner would have nested together in service, and the flat partitions in the guide and runner passages would have been aligned.
In photo 1 we see the sleeve with three tie threaded bars attached (these would have been vertical). The sleeve was raised to uncover guide vane passages to regulate the water flow.
Sources of Information
- 'Early water turbines in the British Isles' by Alan Crocker, Industrial Archaeology Review, XXII: 2, 2000
- 'Water and Wind Power' by Martin Watts, Shire Publications, 2000
- Northern Whig, 12 December 1850
- Cork Constitution, 5 December 1857