Early Steam-engines.

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Early Steam-engines.

The revolution in textiles and metallurgy, roads and canals, took, as we have seen, some sixty or seventy years.

For the first half of this period either hand power or water power was the rule; as, indeed, they always had been.

But all the while inventors here and there were experimenting with the new and untried force of steam, and in the late seventies and eighties of the eighteenth century it began to come into its own.

Far back in 1697 a Frenchman, Papin, had already harnessed steam to drive a piston; but the principle he worked on was really that of atmospheric pressure, the steam only forming the necessary vacuum, and he never constructed a practical machine.

In 1712 Neweomen invented the steam pump, whose adoption was to go a long way towards solving the difficulties of the mining industry; indeed, by 1778 the practicable depth for a mine was calculated to have doubled.

This pump, too, worked on the vacuum principle, and was enormously costly in fuel.

What next? The Age Of Bad Roads.


The earliest machines were made of wood, and wood indeed was quite suitable for appliances to be worked by hand or by water power.

The movement towards mechanization did not, as it would nowadays, cause an immediate expansion in the metal trades.

But the army had always needed cannon, and the threatened exhaustion of timber supplies had already prompted at least one attempt, partially successful, to use coal for ironfounding. During the first twenty years of the eighteenth century two founders, Abraham Darby and his son, used coke at their works at Coalbrookdale; but they kept the process... see: Ironfounding

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