The Kinning Park foundry, Glasgow, 1866

type: Technology - innovations

The Engineer
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The Kinning Park foundry, Glasgow

In our impression of the 22nd of June we published an illustration of the apparatus for the manufacture of coal oil erected for Lord Dudley, at Fence Houses, near Durham, by Messrs. James Bennie and Company, of Kinning Park Foundry, near Glasgow. The apparatus consists solely of retorts, the purifying stills not being yet erected. The purification of coal oil, however, forms an important branch of the trade, usually carried out on the spot by the manufacturers, although in certain cases the refining of the oil constitutes a totally distinct department of business. The process is very simple, and consists simply in mixing the crude oil with acids, alkalis, sulphate of iron, &c., placing it in a still, and condensing the products as they come over.

We are now enabled, by the courtesy of Messrs. Bennie, to place before our readers illustrations of retorts and stills erected at an establishment near Leeds for a gentleman well known in the railway world. When complete this concern will be of considerable magnitude; but in order to suit the space at our disposal we have omitted many of the retorts. As these are duplicates of each other, the omission is of no consequence. The stills are shown in front elevation in Fig. 1, and in side elevation, with the condensing worm and oil receivers, in Fig. 2. They are cast iron pot-shaped vessels, into which is passed a current of superheated steam, through the pipes by the dotted lines in Fig. 1. The stills are mounted above a very small furnace, the heat from which only suffices to equalise the temperature in the bottom of the still.

The furnace shown between each pair of stills is employed to superheat the steam. We have before alluded to the superheater invented by Mr. J. Bennie, which is efficient and ingenious. It consists of a cast iron block, cast over a serpentine wrought iron pipe. The block is maintained at a red heat, and effectually protects the wrought iron within from external corrosion or risk of fracture, besides adding strength, which at the very high temperature to which it is exposed it would otherwise lack. The arrangement of the superheating apparatus will be easily understood from the engraving. In Figs. 3 and 4 are shown the stills and receivers in plan, and the mixing tanks and engine employed in driving the stirrers.

Kinning Park Foundry is the largest establishment in the kingdom devoted exclusively to the manufacture of oil apparatus, and as such it possesses considerable interest. It is situated immediately to the west of the mineral branch railway that runs down to the harbour near Mavisbank, and is very near to Paisley-road. It was originally erected for, and almost exclusively occupied for some years with, the manufacture of large and heavy castings for marine engines and iron ships built on the Clyde by Robert Napier and Sons, Tod and Macgregor, and other eminent shipbuilding firms; but it has been for the last few years exclusively devoted to the production of the apparatus used in what is strictly a new industry, at least in this country.

The premises cover about two acres, and, considerable as this area is, it appears probable that in a short time it will prove insufficient for the requirements of the firm. The principal founding-shops are two in number, built at a right angle to each other, like the two arms of the letter L, and opening into each other. One of them is 150ft. long by 50 in breadth, and the other is 100ft. by 45ft.; and besides these there are, opening into them, two smaller ones for the light work. Leading off from the large workshops there are, in all, nine drying stoves, which vary from 24ft. to 30ft. in length, and from 8ft. to 20ft. in width. They are provided with rails and the requisite carriage frames for running the moulds and cores in and out, many of which weigh from 15 to 20 tons. In order to move the castings, six large timber foundry cranes up to 25 tons are employed. These were made on the premises by Mr. Bennie, at a cost somewhat less than the lowest tender he received for their construction—£350 each. The iron is melted in four large cupolas, the blast being supplied by a seven-foot Lloyd's fan, driven at over 1,000 revolutions by a 15-horse engine. In addition there is a large air furnace, capable of containing 50 tons of metal. The draught is provided by a handsome stack 100ft. high. This furnace is seldom used.

All the castings are made from a peculiar mixture known only to the firm. Mr. Bennie experienced much difficulty with stills at first from the cracking of the iron. Wrought iron has been tried, but will not answer, as even with the utmost attention and the best workmanship it is found impossible to prevent leakage. Thanks to the care employed in mixing and melting the iron, and to the system adopted of casting the stills bottom downward, all trouble has been overcome, and the Kinning Park stills possess a reputation which may be thus expressed, " They may be melted but they cannot be cracked." About twenty-five tons of castings are made per day, so that a very efficient staff and excellent plant is absolutely necessary.

Upright retorts are still made by Messrs. Bennie, but there is a growing preference for the horizontal retort, which now represents the principal manufacture of the firm. Those we illustrate are of the ordinary dimensions. They are of uniform section throughout, and are true ovals, the length being 114ft., and the transverse and vertical diameters being respectively 3ft. and 2ft. The weight of the iron is from 50 cwt. to 55 cwt., the core 30 cwt., the box about 6 tons, and the whole mass, including the sand, weighing upwards of 12 tons. At present from two to four of these retorts are made daily.

Over 600 of these retorts are now in use, while about 1,200 of the upright variety have been erected in Flintshire, Scotland, and England. Some of the earliest used at the celebrated Bathgate Works by Mr. J. Young were manufactured at Kinning Park. The stills are all of the same dimensions, the greatest of which can be transported by rail - very few, indeed, being transmitted by sea. They each contain about 1,500 gallons. Their form will be understood by a glance at the engraving.

Besides the retorts and stills, which together form the staple commodities manufactured at the Kinning Park Foundry, the firm is largely engaged in the manufacture of other forms of cast iron apparatus required by oil makers, including furnace doors and other fittings, condensing worms and tanks, steam superheaters, and treating vessels in which the oil is subjected to the purifying influence of sulphuric acid and caustic soda. Mr. Bennie has produced a form of treating vessel which is worth the attention of oil engineers. It consists of a tank 10ft. or 12ft. high, formed by cast iron plates bolted and jointed together. About midway up there is a false floor with numerous small openings in it. In the lower half the oil and acid, or soda, as the case may be, are mixed in the proper quantities by paddle action, and by means of a steam-power pump with which the vessel is fitted; the mixture can be raised to the upper part and allowed to strain through the perforated floor in fine currents, so that there is thorough incorporation of the oil with the chemicals. We are not aware whether the apparatus has as, yet been adopted in practice or not.

The business transacted by this firm gives a tolerably good idea of the growth and increase of the oil industry in Great Britain, an industry which had absolutely no existence but a few short years since. One of the earliest contracts entered into by Messrs. Bennie and Co., in the second phase of the oil trade, was made in 1861 or 1862, for the supply of retorts and stills for completely refining the oil made. Shale then came into notice as an oil-yielding material, and was run upon regardless of Mr. Young's patent. This contract was for works at Crofthead, first commenced by some members of the West Calder Company, but now in the possession of an eminent firm of East and West India merchants. Very soon afterwards the company was provided with complete distilling and refining plant at its new works at West Calder. Professor Sir James Simpson, Bart, and his partners of the Oakbank Chemical Works, Mid-Calder, followed suit some three years ago, and had stills and other refining plant supplied from Kinning Park Foundry. The Wareham Oil Company by and by settled down at Drumgray, near Airdrie, and had twenty upright and fifty horizontal retorts set up for the manufacture of crude oil, but as yet they have had no refining machinery erected. Messrs. Lester, Wyllie, and Com­pany had also works at Kirkintilloch and Drumcross. Refinery plant for works at Crownpoint, and retorts for crude oil works at Drumgray, were made for Messrs. James Palmer and Company, and during the incoming season one hundred retorts additional are to be erected. The Drumgray Coal Oil Company entered the field here, too, with some eighty retorts of both kinds. More recently still, retorts and stills for "once-run " oil have been erected at Kilwinning, Ayrshire, for the iron firm of Messrs. Baird, of Gartsherrie, and the Eglinton Iron Company. In Wales the services of Messrs. Bennie and Co. have likewise been in request during the last few years, notwithstanding its great distance from Glasgow.

Besides retorts of both kinds and superheaters, nine 1,500-gallon stills have been supplied to the North Wales Coal Oil Company (Limited). For the Padeswood Oil Company, in Flintshire, a complete refinery has been erected by Mr. Bennie's firm. Another large Welsh company, the British Oil and Cannel Company, thought it desirable to come to Glasgow likewise with a large order for all the necessary machinery appliances for the Meadowvale Crude Oil Works at Leeswood and a large refinery at Saltney, to which the crude oil is conveyed in tank wagons. Uddingston, again, has now an oil factory of a very complete character planned, one is in course of erection for the Bredisholm Oil Company, which has secured an unlimited supply of oil-yielding mineral. This establishment bids fair to become one of the largest in Scotland.

In the North of England we have Lord Durham's works, which we have already illustrated, and near Leeds, the works we illustrate on another page. If we go still further south we find retorts and stills in course of erection at Hucknall, near Nottingham, and within sight of the classic grounds of Byron's Newstead Abbey, for another English railway magnate, with whom is associated an eminent and noble member of the late Government. In Scotland, at Bathgate, New Cumnock, Gorebridge, and in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, for instance, are places which naturally excite much attention from Bennie and his partners, on account of contracts which have been concluded to supply large amounts of oil plant within a short period.

We may add that Russia contemplates the erection of two enormous establishments, one about twenty miles from St. Petersburg, the other on the shores of the Caspian, for which Messrs. Bennie have been invited to tender. The latter establishment will, if completed, be the largest of the kind in the world, and is intended to refine the natural petroleum found there in abundance. If Russia really embarks in the enterprise our own export trade will be materially affected. If, in addition to the catalogue we have laid before our readers, it is borne in mind that several other firms produce coal oil apparatus as well as Messrs. Bennie, it will be understood that we have had silently growing up around us a mighty industry the existence of which has hardly yet been known; indeed, the engineer has been the first scientific journal to bring it prominently before the public. Our readers may rest assured that we shall leave no improvements in the apparatus unnoticed.

The Engineer, 17th August 1866