An essay on freak engines

New: 26 Oct 2009

Freaks and Fallacies in Steam-Engine Design
by Egbert P Watson

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This essay appeared as an article in "The Engineering Magazine" for January 1903. Vol XXIV (p509) This is not a well-known journal, and in fact I have never come across it before. It was published in London, and must have been going for some time to reach its 24th volume.

It is noticeable that Mr Watson, in his trenchant condemnations of "freak engines" never actually mentions rotary steam engines though one would have supposed that they would be the most common examples of what he was objecting to. The whole article is in fact frustratingly vague and short on hard facts.

A bit of research (ie Googling) reveals that Egbert Pomeroy Watson was the author of "A Manual Of The Hand Lathe", and that he was "Late Of The Scientific American, and Author Of "The Modern Practice Of American Machinists And Engineers." In 1891 he was editor of The Engineer in New York. He was present at the founding meeting of the ASME (the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) in 16 February 1880. It seems clear he had a wide experience of engineering.
In Stockbridge Cemetary, Stockbridge, MA is the grave of "Louise E. Thierry, wife of Egbert P. Watson, died Sept 14, 1901, aged 71 years."


Note the reference to the Ericsson vibratory engine.

p509 p510

I would very much like to be able to track down just who this inventor was who "had so much money he did not know what to do with it". The author, writing in 1903, says "it was but a few years ago" which would seem to imply that the events described happened in the period 1893 - 1903, though this is obviously not much better than guesswork. Since we are told nothing at all about the engine involved, which may not even have been a rotary engine, as Watson tells us "it was a machine quite unlike anything known before", the prospects for investigation are not promising.

p509 p510

Don't bother trying to look up the ingenious inventions of Richard Roe; this name is used as a placeholder name for a male party in a legal action, just like "John Doe".

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