Young People's Page


| May/June 1972



Joey at the throttle

Joey at the throttle. Courtesy of William E. Hall, 15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.

William E. Hall

Torque Power Live Steam Models Hyatts town, Box 144-D R. F. D., Ijamsville, Maryland 21 754.

Hi There Young Engineers!

At the present time, we who live in mid-Maryland are enjoying a bit of Spring-like weather. For the past three days the temperature has been in the lower seventies and this is on the first of March. It's hard to believe that just two weeks ago we had our first major show storm of this winter which brought transportation just about to a standstill. Since the first part of winter I had been eagerly awaiting the snow fall so that I could try out my new four wheel drive pick-up truck and snow plow, and my truck and plow really got a work out.

I thought it would be interesting to share with you some information which I found in some old encyclopedias about James Watt and the Steam Engine. James Watt was born 1730, died 1819 a native of Scotland. As a young man he was educated in the trade of making mathematical instruments. After working some time in London instrument shops, he returned to Glasgow, Scotland to open his own shop and later was appointed instrument maker for the University of Glasgow.

Although Watt is primarily known as the inventor of the steam engine, he had interests in other problems of his time. Watt worked on the development of a fuel-saving furnace, a letter copying press and researched the chemical composition of water. He also worked at one time as a surveyor, making studies for canal, river and port improvements. Even though Watt's steam engine is now considered a thing of the past, his name is still a household word. Pick up a light bulb and you will see that it is rated in watt, this electrical unit being named in his honor. Watt determined that a dray horse could work for a good length of time at the rate of 550 ft. lbs. per second which equals 33,000 ft. lbs. per minute. This being equal to one horsepower which is still the means of measuring power that we use today.

The idea of using steam as force is found as early as 130 BC. A manuscript in or about that year by a Greek scholar named Hero, which describes certain steam toys believed to be a combination boiler and turbine. The boiler being suspended over a fire in such a fashion that it can rotate on its own axis, on the outside of the boiler were jets set at right angles. When sufficient pressure was built up the jets of steam caused the entire unit to revolve. This is probably the first use of the action reaction principle. Hero's turbine also exhibited the first use of the expansive force of steam, and this was 1866 years before Watt was born. Oddly enough, James Watt never did discover the expansive force of steam as his engines were condensing engines. In the sixteen hundreds steam was used to improve the draft of chimneys. Also, a steam-powered device was used to turn a spit on which meat was being roasted.