I applied myself diligently in the workshops, as my father told me if I became a good
workman I might rise some day to be a foreman. If he had said it was only a preliminary to professional practice I might have shirked, as the premium pupiis did,
but fortunately I stuck to the work. It was intensely interesting, and I was keen on labour-saving dodges, so that I appeared to have a good deal of leisure. I remember that at one time I was in a piece-work gang where the money was pooled and divided out in proportion to our fixed rates of pay. I was then working at a lathe and by means of special devices was able to make it to some extent automatic, and am afraid that in consequence I spent more time “larking about” than was desirable; at any rate, the foreman of the gang said they were “keeping me” and complained to the office. The consequence was that a full investigation was made, when it was found that I had earned more than anyone else in the gang, including the foreman, and I was honourably acquitted. While in the shops I thought out a new form of locomotive blast pipe, which should eject the steam through an annulus instead of as a solid jet, and thereby provide a greater frictional surface, inside and outside, for creating a draught through the tubes. I could not persuade my uncle to adopt it, as he thought it was only a juvenile idea, but twenty years afterwards when I had the opportunity to apply it for myself and prove its value, he was glad to join with me in taking out patents for it all over the world. He would not agree to form a small company of locomotive engineers to work the patents, so we soon had a dozen other patents taken out by them in opposition to us and we missed a fortune. The London and South Western Railway Company, to whom my uncle was then locomotive engineer, allowed it to be tried on several of their engines for a start, and the official return showed by its use a total saving of £60,000 in seven years. It was adopted on some other railways, but not to any great extent by reason of the subsequent patents. It was called the “ Vortex ”
blast pipe, as the outlet from the cylinders carried up to the annulus formed a great scoopshaped opening opposite the tube ends in the smoke-box and thus caused a rush of hot gases to the inside of the annulus while the outside acted as an ordinary blast pipe. The economy consisted in making the lower tubes equally efficient with the upper ones, steaming easier and with a reduced back pressure in the cylinders.
Professor Henry Adams