Hot Oil, The drive that followed steam

Following on from last month regarding the mill and the demolition of the chimney, I thought I would follow on with the drive that followed steam! A Ruston Hornsby hot end oil engine. What a wonderful machine that was. At what point in time the steam engine was removed and the engine who's reminiscences I am about to cover was installed, I know not. If I were to guess, I would think it to be around 1910 to 1920. As the hot end oil engine is very much an unknown quantity in today's high tech world, I will try to give a run down of how it worked.For those interested enough and who have access to the Internet, a mobile version of this engine albeit half the size of ours, can be found on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6cuAzZglwU it being run for the first time in 20 years .To give some idea of the workings of what made our wonderful old lady tick over so magnificently; I must give a short account of how a hot oil engine worked .The hot-bulb engine shares its layout with nearly all other internal combustion, engines in that it had a piston inside a cylinder connected to a flywheel via a connecting rod and crank shaft The flow of gases through the engine was controlled by valves.

The majority operate on the standard 4-stroke cycle of an Induction Stroke, a Compression Stroke, a Power Stroke and an Exhaust Stroke.The main feature of the hot-bulb engine is the vaporiser or hot bulb a chamber cast into the engine block and attached to the main cylinder by a narrow opening. Prior to starting the engine from cold, this vaporiser is heated externally by a primus type blow lamp The engine was then turned over by pulling down the fly wheel.Air was drawn into the cylinder through the intake valve as the piston descends (Induction).

During the same stroke, fuel was injected into the hot-bulb by a mechanical jerk-pump through a nozzle. Through the action of the injector and the heat of the hot-bulb, the fuel instantly vapourises. The air in the cylinder then forced through the top of the cylinder as the piston rises ( Compression ), through the opening into the hot-bulb, where it is compressed and therefore its temperature rises. The vaporised fuel mixes with the compressed air and ignites due to the heat of the compressed air and the heat applied to the hot-bulb prior to starting. The fuel ignites, driving the piston down ( Power ).

The piston's action was converted to a rotary motion by the crankshaft which drives the flywheel. On the same shaft as the fly wheel and opposite to it was the pulley drive that went by a belt of about 9 inches in width from the engine house through to the mill drive.

The flywheel conserved momentum to turn the engine over the three strokes when power is not being produced. The piston rises again and the exhaust gases are expelled through the exhaust valve (The Exhaust Stroke). The cycle then starts again.Once the engine is running, the heat of compression and ignition maintains the hot-bulb at the necessary temperature and the primus blow-lamp was removed . From this point on the engine requires no external heat (no electrical ignition ) and requires only a supply of air, fuel oil and lubricating oil to run. The fact that the engine could be left unattended for long periods whilst running made hot bulb engines popular for powering water pumps and electrical generators etc.At the time the hot-bulb engine was invented, its great attractions were its economy, simplicity and ease of operation in comparison to the steam engine.

That I guess being why it replaced the steam engine, who's chimney's demolition I have just covered.The hot-bulb engine being much simpler than the steam engine to operate. Another attraction was safety. A steam engine, with its exposed fire and hot boiler, steam pipes and working cylinder could not be used in flammable conditions close to a wind mill where flour dust mixed with oxygen was a potential explosive risk, also the hot-bulb engine produced cleaner exhaust fumes. A big danger with the steam engine was that if the boiler pressure grew too high and the safety valve failed, a highly dangerous explosion could occur . A more common problem was that if the water level in the boiler of a steam engine was allowed to drop too low, the internal structure of the boiler would then collapse or melt, causing dangerous release of high pressure gas.

If a hot bulb engine ran out of fuel, it would simply stop. The cooling water was usually a closed circuit, ours at the mill being from a 1,000 gallon external water tank, hot water returning at the top and cold flowing from the bottom.As in a car radiator. As it was a closed circuit no water would be lost unless of course there was a leak in its system. If the cooling water were to run low, the engine would seize through overheating and thus creating a major problem, but at least it carried no danger of explosion ;unlike a steam engine.

Compared to both steam and petrol engines, hot-bulb engines were/ are simpler and therefore have less potential problems. There is no electrical system as found on a petrol engine, and no external boiler and steam system as on a steam engine.A big attraction of the hot-bulb engine was its ability to run on a wide range of fuels. We at the mill using T.V.O.; that for the uninitiated ,was Tractor Vaporising Oil.

However poor-burning fuels could be used since a combination of vaporiser- and compression-ignition meant that such fuels could be made to combust any way. The usual fuel used was known as fuel oil, but natural gas,, kerosene, paraffin, vegetable oil, creosote, and even coal dust was used in a hot-bulb engines. This made the hot-bulb engine very cheap to run, since it could be run on numerous available fuels. Some operators even ran engines on used engine oil, thus providing almost free power. Recently, this multi-fuel ability has led to an interest in using hot bulb engines in areas where they can be run on locally produced biofuel.

Due to the lengthy pre-heating time, hot-bulb engines were nearly always guaranteed to start quickly, even in extremely cold conditions. The reliability of the hot bulb engine and their ability to run on many types of fuel and that they could run for days at a time made them very popular.Who knows; perhaps in today's world with our concern for global warming and the environment;the time is night for them to make a come back My recollections of our Ruston Hornsby hot end oil engine , which was a 24 BHP model with a 5ft fly wheel weighing half a ton; concerns an incident when I was about 8 years old .

The fuel filtration system was very prone to getting clogged up with sand particles. I can but guess that in the 1920s,during the refining process the fuel was itself filtered through sand, and what came in to the engine filter, was the residual from the refining process .I seem to recall that the filtration system was not through an actual filter, but was by the sand through its weight .dropping to the bottom of a fuel reservior the size of a dust bin.

The supply pipe from it being high up in the container. As This was some 60 years ago ,and I then had no engineering background ;this may well be incorrect.However ; I recall telling dad one day , when the engine would not start; that the filter needed cleaning out.

After swinging his proverbial guts out hauling the fly wheel over to get it started, my mum called him in for a cup of tea.I taking it upon myself to clean the filter before he came back, which I did. He relight the primus type burner to bring the hot end up to dull cherry red , gave one pull on the fly wheel, and away the wonderful old lady went. I told him that I had cleaned out rather a lot of sand from the filter.

However to him, it was not running as well as it did with the sand in. So he promptly put the sand back in . At that , he called upon his friend Mr.Brian Bailey ( his family ran the well known Leamington furniture shop ) of Pendycke Street , who's farm was demolished to make way for Stowe Drive. Brian had a smaller but similar engine for water pumping. Brian did as I did; and once cleaned out, the old lady fired up without difficulty.

One last point to make ,is that in the Southam of the early 1950s; there were no houses or buildings from what was then Stockton turn, now the Rugby Road round about and the mill, just open fields.One day after a trip to Stockton tip to search for bicycle parts, I got to the RAC Box which stood on the corner of Stockton Road and the Southam Long Itchington road, at what point I could hear the old engine chugging merrily away.Time for me to chug on till next time. Regards to all. Bill Griff.


This article has been kindly written by Bill Griffin

> Return to articles

Previous Articles Published before 2010
Article Name Author
> Twentieth Century Defences in Warwickshire Nimrod
> Warwickshire Murders District Advertisers
> Clerical activities Mary Rock
> The bake house oven Bill Griff
> Warwickshire county links Mary Rock
> Hot Oil, the drive that followed steam Bill Griff
> How can I get a quality tenant in the shortest possible time Jordans Rentals
> The fifty five rung ladder Bill Griff
> The poor are always with us Mary Rock
> Ensure the garden can cope with the heat of summer Farnborough Garden Centre
> It can be very pleasant to walk along the towpath Mary Rock
> With muscle power and a big hammer Bill Griffin
> July, a time to relax and enjoy your garden. Farnborough Garden Centre
> Most peoples daily transport was the bicycle Bill Griffin
> Not a Liberty Mary Rock
> May: the garden approaching its most exciting period Farnborough Garden Centre
> Farms in Southam in the 1900's Irene Cardali
> A few facts about Southam’s past Mary Rock
> April is one of the most exciting months for gardeners Farnborough Garden Centre
> Remembering the Warneford Irene Cardall
> Notable events in our vacinity during the last war Bill Griff
> Where is Southam or the Country Heading? Peter Crosby
> Christmas seems top fly past so quickly District Advertisers
> Christmas has changed little since the pre-war days Bill Griff
> Midwinter in the garden: January Farnborough Garden Centre
> Going to the post Irene Cardall

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