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Steam Engines

The pumping of mines needed a steady amount of power and therefore harnessing the forces of wind or water would not suffice. In 1712, Thomas Newcomen constructed the first steam engine near Dudley. Since then other people had built steam engines of increasing power and now it was Brindley's turn! It appears that he made his first one in 1756 for Mr Thomas Broad of Little Fenton for a colliery there. He was following established practices and it can therefore be assumed that it worked well just like the other engines of the time.

Brindley proceeded to attempt to build a steam engine at Fenton Vivian (commissioned by Miss Broad) that lost less heat and was therefore more efficient. He did this by constructing the cylinder out of wood, which is a non-conductor. This engine began its working life on the 19th March 1758 and was supposedly successful in that coal consumption was down by half of that of other engines. However, on the 21st April 1758, about a month after being in use there was a complete breakdown as the wood could not stand up to live steam. We are not exactly sure what happened to this engine, but seeing as it was still in use two years later, the wooden cylinder and piston were probably replaced by cast-iron ones.

Brindley also carried out other experiments on boilers. One of these experiments was to construct the boiler out of wood with an internal cast-iron fire-box. This did not work and he then went on to build a boiler made on the arched principal of brick or stone, with the internal fire-box. This was patented on 26 December 1758.

Amongst Brindley's engines are the ones that he made in 1759 at Bedworth, Cheadle and Little Wyrley.

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