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THE CLOCKWORK EXPLOSIVE BOAT: 1864
Robert Whitehead is well-known as the originator of that boon to mankind, the torpedo. He was born in Little Bolton in 1823, into a family of engineers. By 1864 he was manager of an engineering company in Fuime, near Trieste, which did work for the Austrian Navy. Whitehead and an Austrian Navy Captain, Giovanni de Luppis, collaborated on an unmanned self-propelled boat designed to blow up blockading warships. It was called the "Der Kustenbrander" ie The Coastal Fire Ship. Whitehead tried for several months to help Luppis with his invention but they failed to come up with a practical weapon, there being serious problems with the clockwork engine and the tiller steering.
Left: The Clockwork Kustenbrander.
Regrettably I have so far found no details of the engine, but I strongly suspect it was very short on both power and endurance. Whitehead later used compressed-air to power his torpedoes; as with the clockwork tram described below, clockwork was superseded by air as the latter proved to be a much more effective "spring" for energy storage, despite the losses inherent in compressing air and throwing away the heat generated by doing it.
THE CLOCKWORK TRAM: 1875
Unlikely as it may seem... it has at least once been seriously proposed to transport people by means of clockwork. Here is the only example I have found so far.
A clockwork tram was built by Thomas Middleton and Co, of Southwark, London, to the design of a Belgian, E H Leveaux. It was used to haul a tramcar at the Lillie Bridge depot of the Metropolitan and District Railway (London) in May 1875, reaching a maximum speed of 7 mph over a half-mile run. Experiments continued into 1876, but were then abandoned.
Unfortunately no technical details are available at present. Presumably there was something like an enormous clockspring, but how was it wound up? By a stationary steam engine?
The compressed-air trams used the same principle, in a sense, as the elasticity of the compressed air can be regarded as a sort of spring. They, however had a much greater range and were reasonably successful.
If anyone could shed more light on this murky corner of transportation history I would be most interested to hear about it.
THE MECCANO CLOCKWORK MOTORS
To engineers of a certain age, Meccano holds some poignant memories. Clockwork motors were available to power the models. Here are a couple that I have.
Left: The big Meccano motor.
Left: Inside the big Meccano motor.
B: Reversing mechanism
Left: The small Meccano motor.
For more on Meccano clockwork motors see here: