I have said that the steam pile-driver was in my mind's eye long before I saw it in action. It is one of the most delightful results of the possession of the constructive faculty, that one can build up in the mind mechanical structures and set them to work in imagination, and observe beforehand the various details performing their respective functions, as if they were in absolute material form and action. Unless this happy faculty exists ab initio in the brain of the mechanical engineer, he will have a hard and disappointing life before him. It is the early cultivation of the imagination which gives the right flexibility to the thinking faculties. Thus business, commerce, and mechanics are all the better for a little healthy imagination.

So soon as I had returned home, I set to work and prepared the working drawings of the steam pile- drivers. They were soon completed, conveyed to Devonport, and erected on the spot where they were to be used. They were ready on the 3d of July 1845. Some preliminary pile-driving had been done in the usual way, in order to make a stage or elevated way for my pile-driver to travel along the space where the permanent piles were to be driven. I arranged my machines so that they might travel by their own locomotive powers along the whole length of the coffer dam, and also that they should hoist up the great logs of Baltic timber which formed the Piles into their proper places before being driven.

The entire apparatus of the machine was erected on a strong timber platform, and was placed on wheels, so that it might move along the rails laid down upon the timber way. The same boiler that supplied the steam hammer part of the apparatus served to work the small steam-engine fixed to the platform for its locomotion, and also to perform the duty of rearing the next pile which had to be driven. The steam was conveyed to the hammer cylinder by the jointed pipe seen in the annexed engraving. The pipe accommodated itself to any elevation or descent of the hammer. The whole weight of the cylinder, hammer-block, and guide box, supported by the shoulders of the pile, amounting to seven tons in all, rested upon the shoulders of the pile as a "persuader;" and the eighty blows per minute of the four-ton hammer came down with tremendous energy upon the top of the pile head. No soil, that piles could penetrate, could resist such effective agencies.

Diagram of the Steam Pile-Driver

Explanation of the Diagram of the Steam Pile-Driver. -- The chief feature of novelty of this pile-driving machine consists in the employment of the direct action of the Steam Hammer as the blow giving agent, and also in the manner in which the dead weight of the entire apparatus, consisting of the hammer-block C, the steam cylinder A, and its guide-case B, is employed to importantly aid the effect of the rapid and energetic blows of the steam hammer. These ponderous parts rest on the shoulders of the pile H all the while it is being driven, the pile in this respect being the only support of the apparatus A B C. So that, besides the eighty blows per minute that the four-ton steam hammer energetically deals out to the head of the pile from a four foot fall the dead weight of the apparatus constantly acts as a most effective "predisposer" to the sinking of the pile into the ground; the hoisting chain D being let slack the while, so as to allow A. B C to "follow down" the pile H, while the eighty blows per minute are incessantly showered on its head. The upward stroke of the piston, with its attached hammer-block C, is arrested at the proper height not only by allowing the steam that raised it to escape, but as soon as the piston passes the escape holes X X, the confined air above the piston at O rebounds, and so aids most effectively in increasing the energy of the fall of the hammer-block C on the pile head.

There was a great deal of curiosity in the dockyard as to the action of the new machine. The pile-driving machine-men gave me a good-natured challenge to vie with them in driving down a pile. They adopted the old method, while I adopted the new one. The resident managers sought out two great pile logs of equal size and length -- 70 feet long and 18 inches square. At a given signal we started together. I let in the steam, and the hammer at once began to work. The four-ton block showered down blows at the rate of eighty a minute; and in the course of four and a half minutes my pile was driven down to the required depth. The men working at the ordinary machine had only begun to drive. It took them upwards of twelve hours to complete the driving of their pile!

  By PanEris using Melati.

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