Monday, 14 August 2017

R.J. Mitchell: Steam Revisited


Locomotive No.6 at Calshot, 1921 -1945
In my recent book I wrote that Mitchell’s Type 224 design was powered by a Rolls-Royce Goshawk evaporatively cooled engine – using  a new system, whereby the water in the engine was kept under pressure by pumps, allowing it to heat to 150 Celsius and then the superheated water was released to turn to steam in a suitable container, with sides exposed to the airflow – where it would condense, to be returned to the engine. Type 224 first flew in 1934 but it was found that the returning coolant water would often turn into steam again, the pump would cease to operate, and plumes of steam would be seen escaping from wing tip vents.
      This no doubt produced unwelcome memories in Mitchell of his apprenticeship at the locomotive works of  Kerr, Stuart and Co. but at least he must have had other, earlier memories (though possibly not nostalgic ones– see my Chapter One) of his time at the Fenton works during his frequent visits to the naval flying boat base at Calshot:  there, a narrow gauge loco ran between the base and the Eaglehurst camp, built to accommodate the ground staff and aircraft crews who worked at RNAS Calshot. (See photo above). It was not one of at least fifty Wren class engines built at Fenton whilst he was an apprentice there:
Wren class locomotive - Kerr,Stuart and Co.
but was built by Andrew Barclay & Co. Ltd., Kilmarnock to a very similar pattern. The photo below, courtesy of Talyllyn Railway Archives, gives a more close-up view of the Calshot locomotive in its earlier days.


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For reference sources, see my Blogpost: “Source Material and References" – an extended bibliography is included in my R.J.Mitchell at Supermarine; Schneider Trophy to Spitfire which also provides material for wider reading, grouped according to specific areas of interest.

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