THE TRANS' PROBLEM.
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The Coke-fired Steam Chassis ; 'ossible and Practicable Solution.
AS REGARDS certain foodstuffs, it would almost appear that the problem of ttansport is about to solve itself, inasmuch as those foodstuffs are rapidly becoming non-existent. HowevEr, happily perhaps, there are alternatives to meat and margarine, .and in the way of efficient transportation of these substitutes are still grave difficulties. As we have shown in previous articles on the subject of transport, there are two main causes for the lack of facilities. One of these is an actual shortage of vehicles. The other is a scarcity-of suitable fuel.
With regard to coke, however, it is evident that, if there is not actually a surplus of this valuable material, there is undoubtedly a plentiful supply. The tendency, at the present moment, appears to be rather to increase the scale of those operations which result in the liberation of coke as a by-product. One hears still of various new processes, with different .object s as their aim, which have this effect. Quite recently, it was stated that factories are to be established for the manufacture of artificial manure, and
it is expected that no less than 4000 tons of coke per day will be available as a by-product from these factories alone.
There is a type of chassis of comparatively recent origin which would appear to have been particularly designed to meet the circumstances now existing with regard to fuel. We refer to the Clarkson cokefired steam chassis. As most of our readers are aware, the name of Mr. Thos. Clarkson, M.I.C.E., has long been closely associated with a successful type of steam-engined chassis. It is familiar to Londoners in the National Co.'s omnibuses, and its success cannot be gainsaid. A lesser number are no doubt aware that while the fuel used on these buses is paraffin, Mr. Clarkson has been investigating the problem of using coke as a fuel for some time, which investigation came to a head. in 1914, during which year the first of the new type of coke-fired steamers was placed upon the road.
In the course of a two days official trial by the Royal Automobile Club, during which period the
vehicle ran 219 miles under official observation, it proved *Self to be remarkably efficient in all respects, and particularly with regard' to fuel consumption. SG much were the Club Committee impressed with the performance of this chassis, that it was awarded the Dewar Trophy on account of its fine showing in respect of fuel economy. During the two days, the actual coke consumption per mile averaged 3.88 lb. The water for the boiler of this chassis is, of course, condensed and used over and over again, so that during the whole of each day's running of 1094 miles no reolacement of water was necessary, and the same holds good for the fuel supply. One filling of the coke reservoir sufficed for the day, and the fuel is automatically fed from the hunker to the fire. Space will not permit of our going further into the details of this vehicle. It was fully described in the pages of this journal, issue 23rd July, 1914, whilst the boiler was described as recently as in the issue of 3rd January last. Taking the essential facts into account, it is clear that we have an ample supply of coke
fuel, and we have a chassis which has proved itself capable of utilizing that fuel very economically. The question arises, are any steps being taken at this" critical time of shortage to take advantage of the facilities thus afforded i Obviously, the most likely person to be able to afford reliable information on this point is Mr. Clarkson himself, and to him we betook ourselves recently and put the question. As might be expected, we found him fully alive to the necessities of the case, nor were we surprised to find that he had already risen to the occasion in no uncertain manner.
"In 1914," he told us, "I had already decided that the time was rapidly. approaching when the fleet of National omnibuses in London would have to be replaced by others more modern in construction. The design of those chassis, you must remember," he added, "is ten years old.
"I had already in view the desirability of using a cheaper fuel, and the coke-fired three-ton wagon with which you are acquainted was but a step toward the attainment of that object. Since then I have been consistently grappling with the same problem so far as my time and energies—largely, as you know, engaged upon direct war work—would allow. These efforts have, of course, been accelerated of late owing to the acute condition of the fuel market, and I am now busily engaged in two directions upon the final stages of a solution.
" On the one hand, arrangements are being made to convert the existing London buses to use coke, instead of paraffin, as a fuel. On the other, I have completed an entirely new design of chassis, of which I have an example in process of being assembled, and of which I should prefer to, tell you in detail later.
"As regards the former. work—the conversion of -existing buses—I have a couple in Chelmsford already converted. One of them is actually in service here.
"As regards the new chassis, I set myself, in its design, the task of going one better in every direction than anything that had been done before. The boiler is already well known to your readers; you have made one or two references concerning it in your pages recently. It is of ethe water tube type, the tubes having blind ends, and projecting into the firebox.
"The engine is a four-cylinder compound, having one crank, and the cylinders together -form a rightangled V,' high and low pressure of each pair being in line, the low pressure nearest the crankshaft. "In -power, ease of acceleration, torque and balance it has exceeded all my expectations,
" I have, however, made an important departure from the accepted practice in regard to steam chassis design, as the new Clarkson is fitted with a gearbox. I have come to the conclusion that one of the factors which has materially delayed the development of the steamer is the insistanee that a gearbox -should not be provided.
"Clearly, the effort of starting up, particularly when stationed in soft ground or on an incline, is a great and, in some cases, a prodigious one. This effort, and the absence of a gearbox call for the provisionof an engine and transmission much larger, heavier, and stronger than would otherwise be needed.
"Without a gearbox, it is essential, in many cases, to eall for the exertion of the maximum pressure over the whole piston area to move a loaded vehicle. All the parts of the engine are necessarily designed, therefore, to stand this maximum pressure.
"If, however, a -simple two-speed gearbox be provided, the reduction available by the use of the first speed eliminates the need for this excessive strength. 'Having a gearbox, the addition of it reverse gear becomes a small matter, and at once we 'eliminate another trouble of the steam engine designer—the reversing motion.
n34 "As at present designed. the engine of every steam chassis is fitted with some device by which the dire* tion of rotation may be reversed. This gear is, as you well know, in use for Only a minute fraction of the life of the wagon. Actually, however, the pins and joints of a reversing motion are subject to wear all the time the engine is running. " The fitting of the reverse gear in a gearbox, therefore, eliminates this gear, and serves an another contributing factor in the production of a lighter and more efficient power unit.
"Another useful purpose is also thereby achieved. The control of the new Clarkson chassis will be on precisely the same lines as that of the usual petrol chassis. .There is a ehange-speea !ever aaer a handbrake lever ; a clutch pedal, brake pedal, and accelerator pedal, all of which serve exactly the same purpose as 9-n the more popular internal-combustiona en,gined vehicle.. • . • ' I think by this means I: shall have eliminated another important factor. which has to a great extent operated to the 'detriment af the steamer. The driver of a petrol wagon willThe able to take his place at
the steering wheel of the new Clarkson, and will be at once at home."
"What could you effect in the way of production of this eha..asis if, in view of the shortage of transport, you were invited to suspend for a time any activities other than those of making commercial vehicles, and have any steps been taken with that object in view?"
" It-is difficult to make a direct reply to that question. The chief tendency of officialdom seems, to be to baulk, rather than to assist the manufacturer, in some respects at least. Permission to erect a. new factory has been refused, the-reason given being that the material was not available,whereas (really) there is acontractor who informs me that he has all the necessary material and could commence the work at once were the permission obtained.
"But looking at the matter from a broad national standpoint., it seems to be that, in view of the fact that no fuel is so readily available as coke,encouragement should be given for the manufacture of this chassis here, there and everywhere. "The engines, and boiler only are special. The chassis differs in no respect from any petrol:engined machine. It could be built in any established works whose main activities are the manufacture of petrol ebassis," It is obviously impossible at this stage to give accurate figures showing the comparison of running costs of the two types of chassis—the existing paraffin-fired .omnibus as against the existing type converted to use coke. There can be no harm, however, in stating that a minimum economy of 75 per cent, of the existing fuel costs is likely to be improved upon.