In addition to the modes of transmission I have already mentioned, there is the transmission of power by means of gas. I think that there is a very large future indeed for gas engines. I do not know whether this may be the place to state it, but I believe the way in which we shall utilize our fuel hereafter will, in all probability, not be by the way of the steam-engine. Sir William Armstrong alluded to this probability in his address, and I entirely agree, if he will allow me to say so, that such a change in the production of power from fuel appears to be impending, if not in the immediate future, at all events in a time not very far remote; and however much the Mechanical Section of the British Association may to-day contemplate with regret, even the mere distant prospect of the steam-engine being a thing of the past, I very much doubt whether those who meet here fifty years hence will then speak of it as anything more than a curiosity to be found in a museum. With respect to the transmission of power electrically, I won’t venture to touch upon that; but will content myself by reminding you that while Sir William Armstrong did say that there were comparatively small streams which could be utilized, he did not inform you of that which he himself had done in this direction; let me say that Sir William Armstrong thus utilized a fall of water, situated about a mile from his house, to work a turbine, which drives a dynamo machine, generating electricity, for the illumination of the house. When I was last at Crag Side, that illumination was being effected by the arc light, but since then, as Sir William Armstrong has been good enough to write to me, he has replaced the arc light by the incandescent lamp (a form of electrical lighting far more applicable than the arc light to domestic purposes), and with the greatest possible success. Thus, in Sir William Armstrong’s own case, a small stream is made to afford light in a dwelling a mile away. Certainly nothing could have seemed more improbable fifty years ago than that the light of a house should be derived from a fall of water without the employment of any kind or description of fuel.
The next subject upon which I propose to touch is that of
In 1831, Neilson’s hot blast specification had been published for two and a half years only. The Butterly Company had tried the hot blast for the first time in the November preceding the meeting of the British Association. The heating of the blast was coming very slowly into use, and the temperature attained when it was employed was only some 600 degrees. The ordinary blast furnace of those days was 35 to 40 feet high, and about 12 feet diameter at the boshes, and turned out about 60 tons a week. It used about 21/2 tons of coal per ton of iron, and no attempt was made to utilize the waste gases, whether escaping in the form of gas or in the form of flame, the country being illuminated for miles around at night by these fires. The furnaces were also open at the hearth, and continuous fire poured out along with the slag.