A Curious Invention in England (1863)

October 18, 1863 found readers of the New York Times learning of a most interesting English traction engine then at work in a London dockyard.

It was a “… strange medley of half a dozen machines having apparently totally diverse functions.  Independently of its traction power- its main employment – it is fitted up as a steam derrick, as a fixed engine to turn the shafting in the workshops, as a capstan to haul the ships about the docks; and finally … as a very powerful steam fire engine.”

The article described the engine being used to move a boiler, move heavy timbers, lift propellers of ships for repair, and providing power to drive the machinery of the armor shop at times with the yard’s stationary engine was at rest.

The engine had special devices likened to cat’s claws on its wheels that helped it main traction when moving heavy guns up and down hill to an ordnance testing facility!


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