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A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine

And a model was constructed by Boulton


Boulton

had a remarkable talent for making valuable acquaintances, and for making the most of advantages accruing thereby. In 1758 he made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin, who then visited Soho; and in 1766 these distinguished men, who were then unaware of the existence of James Watt, were corresponding, and, in their letters, discussing the applicability of steam-power to various useful purposes. Between the two a new steam-engine was designed, and a model was constructed by Boulton, which was sent to Franklin and exhibited by him in London.

Dr. Darwin seems to have had something to do with this scheme, and the enthusiasm awakened by the promise of success given by this model may have been the origin of the now celebrated prophetic rhymes so often quoted from the works of that eccentric physician and poet. Franklin contributed, as his share in the plan, an idea of so arranging the grate as to prevent the production of smoke. He says: "All that is necessary is to make the smoke of fresh coals pass descending through those that are already ignited." His idea has been, by more recent schemers, repeatedly brought forward as new. Nothing resulted from these experiments of Boulton, Franklin, and Darwin, and the plan of Watt soon superseded all less well-developed plans.

In 1767, Watt visited Soho and carefully inspected Boulton's establishment. He was very favorably impressed by the admirable arrangement of the workshops

and the completeness of their outfit, as well as by the perfection of the organization and administration of the business. In the following year he again visited Soho, and this time met Boulton, who had been absent at the previous visit. The two great mechanics were mutually gratified by the meeting, and each at once acquired for the other the greatest respect and esteem. They discussed Watt's plans, and Boulton then definitely decided not to continue his own experiments, although he had actually commenced the construction of a pumping-engine. With Dr. Small, who was also at Soho, Watt discussed the possibility of applying his engine to the propulsion of carriages, and to other purposes. On his return home, Watt continued his desultory labors on his engines, as already described; and the final completion of the arrangement with Boulton, which immediately followed the failure of Dr. Roebuck, took place some time later.

Before Watt could leave Scotland to join his partner at Soho, it was necessary that he should finish the work which he had in hand, including the surveys of the Caledonian canal, and other smaller works, which he had had in progress some months. He reached Birmingham in the spring of 1774, and was at once domiciled at Soho, where he set at work upon the partly-made engines which had been sent from Scotland some time previously. They had laid, unused and exposed to the weather, at Kinneil three years, and were not in as good order as might have been desired. The _block-tin_ steam-cylinder was probably in good condition, but the iron parts were, as Watt said, "perishing," while he had been engaged in his civil engineering work. At leisure moments, during this period, Watt had not entirely neglected his plans for the utilization of steam. He had given much thought, and had expended some time, in experiments upon the plan of using it in a rotary or "wheel" engine. He did not succeed in contriving any plan which seemed to promise success.


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