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THE CLOCKWORK EXPLOSIVE BOAT: 1864
Robert Whitehead is well-known as the originator of that boon to mankind, the torpedo. He was born in Little Bolton in 1823, into a family of engineers. By 1864 he was manager of an engineering company in Fuime, near Trieste, which did work for the Austrian Navy. Whitehead and an Austrian Navy Captain, Giovanni de Luppis, collaborated on an unmanned self-propelled boat designed to blow up blockading warships. It was called the "Der Kustenbrander" ie The Coastal Fire Ship. Whitehead tried for several months to help Luppis with his invention but they failed to come up with a practical weapon, there being serious problems with the clockwork engine and the tiller steering.
Left: The Clockwork Kustenbrander
Regrettably I have so far found no details of the engine, but I strongly suspect it was very short on both power and endurance. Whitehead later used compressed-air to power his torpedoes; as with the clockwork tram described below, clockwork was superseded by air as the latter proved to be a much more effective "spring" for energy storage, despite the losses inherent in compressing air and throwing away the heat generated by doing it.
THE CLOCKWORK TRAM: 1875
Unlikely as it may seem... it has at least once been seriously proposed to transport people by means of clockwork. Here is the only example I have found so far.
A clockwork tram was built by Thomas Middleton and Co, of Southwark, London, to the design of a Belgian, E H Leveaux. It was used to haul a tramcar at the Lillie Bridge depot of the Metropolitan and District Railway (London) in May 1875, reaching a maximum speed of 7 mph over a half-mile run. Experiments continued into 1876, but were then abandoned.
Unfortunately no technical details are available at present. Presumably there was something like an enormous clockspring, but how was it wound up? By a stationary steam engine?
The compressed-air trams used the same principle, in a sense, as the elasticity of the compressed air can be regarded as a sort of spring. They, however had a much greater range and were reasonably successful.
If anyone could shed more light on this murky corner of transportation history I would be most interested to hear about it.
Almost every conceivable form of power was used on early motor cars. Some stored energy rather than generating it (as in a petrol engine) and the most successful of these were electric cars, which carried around a heavy load of rechargeable batteries, as indeed they still do today. Less promising storage methods were carbonic acid (carbon dioxide) under pressure, and compressed air. Even less promising was the use of clockwork, where the power to be stored had to be applied in mechanical form rather than by filling a tank.
Left: Clockwork car: pre-1895
Left: Clockwork car: 1890
Attempts to track down Mr Ingersoll Moore threw up only this intriguing fragment:
"ON a cold November evening in 1895, I went to the country to bring in a young cow. As I was leading her along, she took a notion to run, dragging and throwing me head foremost into a barbed wire fence. When I reached home an hour later, I found my face was cut in several places, a piece of flesh torn out of one cheek by the barbed wire, and one ear torn so that the lower lobe was separated and hung down.
"My wife and daughter, not feeling competent to handle the case at that time, called a Scientist healer. We tied a cloth over the wound to cover it up, and Christian Science did the rest. Four days later I went to work and kept right on as usual, with but little inconvenience. The ear came together, the cheek filled out, and the scar has already disappeared. — Ingersoll Moore, Bloomington, Ill."
The name is absolutely correct, and the date fits, but unfortunately all we learn is that Mr Ingersoll Moore was a a farmer and a Christian Scientist.
THE MECCANO CLOCKWORK MOTORS
To engineers of a certain age, Meccano holds some poignant memories. Clockwork motors were available to power the models. Here are a couple that I have.
Left: The big Meccano motor
Left: Inside the big Meccano motor
B: Reversing mechanism
Left: The small Meccano motor
For more on Meccano clockwork motors see here: