Water Engines: Page 6>
Left: A two-cylinder water engine, once used to the power the organ bellows of St George's church in Preston, Lancashire.
Since there was not, as far as I can discover, a high-pressure network in Preston, this engine must have run from the ordinary water mains. Since it would have been virtually silent in operation it looks like a good choice for working in a church.
Most organ engines worked from the normal mains, especially in areas like Yorkshire where water was plentiful. (An example is Keighley Parish Church) This could have pressures up to 40 psi. In some places, there was insufficient pressure to reliably operate the several hydraulic engines needed for a large organ- services on Monday could be problematical because this was the traditional washday and demand for water by housewives reduced the mains pressure. Some water companies tended to reduce pressure or shut off supplies for maintenance on Sundays just when the need of churches was greatest
Left: The Joy Organ Engine: 1856
The demand for hydraulic blowing was driven by advances in organ design, bringing in more pipes and higher operating air pressures. In 1837 William Hill introduced a "Grand Ophecleide" stop running at the then unheard-of pressure of 12 inches of water. (0.43 psi) The pressures needed were low compared with other technologies but large volumes of air had to be moved, and even if several men were employed to work the bellows, the work became excessive. At the same time water mains were being laid, working at up to 30 psi, so power was available.
Left: The Lascelles Organ Engine
Left: Details of the Lascelles Organ Engine
Left: The Bailey Patent Organ Engine
This engine was manufactured by W H Bailey & Co of Albion Works, Salford, Manchester; they were well-known hydraulic engineers, making hydraulic lifts and hoists. The organ engines were made in different sizes, from 1.75 to 8in cylinder bore. The smallest exerted a force of 120 lb when run from 50psi mains.
"Mr Gandy, Professor of Music, Cheetham-Hill, Manchester, has one of these at work. Messrs Metzler and Co, the great American organ builders of Great Marlborough St, London, have one working in their show-room."
Left: Vertical Hydraulic Organ Engine
Left: Church Organ Blowing Engine by Watkins & Wilson of Islington, London: 1905.
Here is an example of the rise and fall of hydraulic blowing at St Mary Magdalene church at Newark, Nottinghamshire:
When the organ was renovated in 1909, the options for providing blower power were considered. Electricity would have been ideal, but there was no public supply locally at the time. The cost of gas was thought to be too high, and a gas-engine would have been noisy. The organ builders recommended water power; however the ordinary water supply was at only 40 psi, which would have demanded the consumption of 1000 gallons per hour, so the Corporation was asked to lay a special pipe from a main on Muskham Road to the church, giving water at double the standard pressure. In 1927 the reduction in water pressure owing to industrial and domestic demands was starting to cause problems with the hydraulic machinery, and it was replaced by an electric blower.
This record of the Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church in Chicago suggests that water-wheels were sometimes used to blow organs, but the fact that the water pressure was important indicates that a turbine of the Pelton type, ie a water motor may have been employed. Possibly this is a misunderstanding and a positive-displacement motor was actually used:
Johnson & Son are credited with being one of the first organ builders in the USA to use a water motor to provide the organ's wind supply. This type of hydraulic motor depended on a reliable water supply of sufficient pressure to operate a water wheel which was connected to the bellows through a series of shafts, wheels and gears. The Lincoln Park organ was built with such a water motor. There was a recital in the church on June 15, 1888, and the church records note: "if all Lakeview will insist on sprinkling their flower beds just as Mr. W. sits down to the organ, he cannot be expected to get much volume of sound. A water motor may be a very good idea, but it's not as reliable as the old-fashioned pumping machine, i.e., a man."
Those who have seen the museum gallery of rotary steam engines will be wondering if there was such a thing as a rotary water motor. Whether one was actually built is currently uncertain but on 8 January 1878 the follwing patent was issued to two citizens of Brooklyn:
J.H. SWARTZ, assignor to himself and W.G. WINANS - Rotary water motor
Two USA manufacturers making water motors were the Backus Water Motor Co. of Newark, NJ, and the Colton company.