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Industrial history


Stallard12
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Saw the comments about the 'quiet' forum, so thought I'd throw something out there. It may only be of interest to Bill and Algy, but here goes.

This will indicate how close the '50's were to the Victorian age in industrial terms. When I started in the Tool Room at the Brit. Alum. in 1955, every machine was powered from a line shaft. Great rotating shafts driven by a central electric motor with 4" and 6" wide canvas belts 'slap, slapping' squealing power to each machine. Non of the lathes, shapers and grinders had gear boxes, just a stepped pulley block. To increase or decrease the chuck speed, the belt had to be moved to the appropriate pulley. Repairing those belts when they broke is a skill now lost in the mists of time. By 1958 it was all gone. Electric feeds had been laid to each machine and old belt drive machines had been replaced with modern equipment. The passing of an era.

Now, wasn't that fascinating?

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Stallard, only just read your post and it certainly brings back memories, as I have said on here I previously served my time in a small village smithy 1955 to 61 when my apprenticeship had been completed I went across into industry and joined British Ropes wire mill(ex-W.D.Houghtons) on Liverpool Rd at Sankey Bridges as a Fitter/Millwright and this was the first time I had come into contact with overhead lineshaft drives with plummer block bearings, this was in their fitting/machine shop, most of the equipment in the shop was run of individualy attached electric motors, however we had a large wire drawing block turning lathe, this was driven off a line shaft by a flat leather belt via step up/step down pulleys to either raise or lower the lathe turning speed. When the wire drawing block's tapered surface became worn and ridged they were brought from the wire drawing mill into the machine shop where they were rotated between the lathe headstock faceplate driving 'dog' and tailstock centers and we would machine the high parts of the ridges and skim them to a smooth even surface then return them to the mill for duty. To change the lathe running speed you would use either a wooden paddle shaped similar to a cricket bat and insert it between the belt above the lathe drive pulley and using the lathe headstock casting as a lever point ride the belt either up or down the step of the adjacent pulley or if the wooden 'bat' went missing you would carry out this operation with the palm of your hand, the lathe would always be running with the workpiece rotating while carrying out the operation, today Health & Safety would have shut us down. At that time in 1962 it was always said that this old block turning lathe had been installed in the late 19th century, and having used it many times I could have believed it, it was that worn that when the saddle was traversing along the bed you could move the tool post cross saddle in or out by 10 thou by simply pushing your thigh against it, but as you were not looking for a finished size but only requiring a smooth surface you could get away with it.

To my surprise I found a picture of the very same lathe in the same workshop that must have been taken no later than say, 1905, even the door of the foreman's office with old face plates and other engineering debris on it's roof, different staff but same attitude to work ethic. Picture below:

 

WDHoughtonsBritishRopesFittingShop.jpg

 

Just to relate an amusing although terrifying experience we young fellows of the fitting department had one Christmas Eve, all the fitting shop staff went for a pre Christmas drink to the Sloop at Sankey Bridges when a large number of the baling wire mill staff who were predominately married females of the, shall we say large variety of ladies, and of course as the ale flowed so did the banter, with us young 'bucks' making it quite clear what we would 'do' to these ladies if we could get our hands on them. after the extended lunch hour session and more than a few pints and shorts having been consumed we all returned to work, not that anyone intended to do any work in that afternoon. We had been sat on the benches in the workshop enjoying a bit of banter when one of the lads shouted 'Bloody Hell' or words to that effect there's a gang of baling mill women coming up the yard shouting and obviously 'tanked' up intent on calling our bluff or worse, the fitting shop was up a dead end with only one way in and out and there was no way on Gods earth that any one of us would try and get past that mob so to a man we climbed up on top of the foreman's office roof (the same one in the picture) and clambered on to the roof beams and there we stayed with these 'butch' women taunting us, also by this time word had travelled around the various departments and a jeering crowd had gathered, we only came down after Alf Goulden the works engineer dispersed everyone. Boy did those ladies call our bluff, for a long time after if I was given a job in the baling mill as soon as I entered the women would whistle and shout about the 'climbing monkeys' in the engineering shop running away and I blushed every time. :oops:

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Nice picture Algy, our line shaft was a bit busier with maybe a dozen machines running off it. The speed changing devises must have been universal - we did the same thing.

Time to come out of the closet! I wonder if the company ever knew? Every few months I was required to work three shifts on one of the milling or jig boring machines, to keep up a twentyfour hour production. The sad thing was that the 6am-2pm shift only started to produce work at 7:30 am when the dayshift supervision appeared. The 2pm - 10pm shift only produced up to 5:00pm when the supervision left. Both of those shifts secretly 'banked' enough work so that the night shift, 10pm - 6am were able to play dominos and sleep the entire shift. I wonder how great the country could have been if we had actually worked !!!

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Saw the comments about the 'quiet' forum, so thought I'd throw something out there. It may only be of interest to Bill and Algy, but here goes.

This will indicate how close the '50's were to the Victorian age in industrial terms. When I started in the Tool Room at the Brit. Alum. in 1955, every machine was powered from a line shaft. Great rotating shafts driven by a central electric motor with 4" and 6" wide canvas belts 'slap, slapping' squealing power to each machine. Non of the lathes, shapers and grinders had gear boxes, just a stepped pulley block. To increase or decrease the chuck speed, the belt had to be moved to the appropriate pulley. Repairing those belts when they broke is a skill now lost in the mists of time. By 1958 it was all gone. Electric feeds had been laid to each machine and old belt drive machines had been replaced with modern equipment. The passing of an era.

Now, wasn't that fascinating?

 

 

Would that be Bank Quay?

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