By Mr. P. W. Willans, M.I.C.E.

The author described a series of economy trials, non-condensing, made with one of his central valve triple expansion engines, with one crank, having three cylinders in line. By removing one or both of the upper pistons, the engine could be easily changed into a compound or into a simple engine at pleasure. Distinct groups of trials were thus carried out under conditions very favorable to a satisfactory comparison of results.

No jackets were used, and no addition had, therefore, to be made to the figures given for feed water consumption on that account. Most of the trials were conducted by the author, but check trials were made by Mr. MacFarlane Gray, Prof. Kennedy, Mr. Druitt Halpin, Professor Unwin, and Mr. Wilson Hartnell. The work theoretically due from a given quantity of steam at given pressure, exhausting into the atmosphere, was first considered.

By a formula deduced from the θ φ diagram of Mr. MacFarlane Gray, which agreed in results with the less simple formulas of Rankine and Clausius, the pound weight of steam of various pressures required theoretically per indicated horse power were ascertained. (See annexed table.)

A description was then given of the main series of trials, all at four hundred revolutions per minute, of the appliances used, and of the means taken to insure accuracy. A few of the results were embodied in the table. The missing quantity of feed water at cut off, which, in the simple trials, rose from 11.7 per cent. at 40 lb. absolute pressure to nearly 30 per cent. at 110 lb. and at 90 lb. was 24.8 per cent., was at 90 lb. only 5 per cent. in the compound trials. In the latter, at 160 lb., it increased to 17 per cent., but, on repeating the trial with triple expansion, it fell to 5.46 per cent. or to 4.43 per cent. in another trial not included in the table.

On the other hand, from the greater loss in passages, etc., the compound engine must always give a smaller diagram, considered with reference to the steam present at cut-off, than a simple engine, and a triple a smaller diagram than a compound engine. Nevertheless, even at 80 lb. absolute pressure, the compound engine had considerable advantage, not only from lessened initial condensation, but from smaller loss from clearances, and from reducing both the amount of leakage and the loss resulting from it. These gains became more apparent with increasing wear. The greater surface in a compound engine had not the injurious effect sometimes attributed to it, and the author showed how much less the theoretical diagram was reduced by the two small areas taken out of it in a compound engine than by the single large area abstracted in a simple engine. The trials completely confirmed the view that the compound engine owed its superiority to reduced range of temperature. At the unavoidably restricted pressures of the triple trials, the losses due to the new set of passages, etc., almost neutralized the saving in initial condensation, but with increased pressure - say to 200 lb. absolute - there would evidently be considerable economy.

The figures of these trials showed that the loss of pressure due to passages was far greater with high than with low pressure steam, and that pipes and passages should be proportioned with reference to the weight of steam passing, and not for a particular velocity merely.

The author described a series of calorimetric tests upon a large scale (usually with over two tons of water), the results of which were stated to be very consistent. After comparing the dates of initial condensation in cases where the density of steam, the area of exposed surface, and the range of temperature were all variables, with other cases (1) where the density was constant and (2) where the surface was constant, the author concluded that, at four hundred revolutions per minute, the amount of initial condensation depended chiefly on the range of temperature in the cylinder, and not upon the density of the steam or upon the extent of surface, and that its cause was probably the alternate heating and cooling of a small body of water retained in the cylinder. The effect of water, intentionally introduced into the air cushion cylinder, corroborated the author's views, and he showed how small a quantity of water retained in the cylinder would account for the effects observed. At lower speeds surface might have more influence.

The favorable economical effect of high rotative speed, per se, was very apparent.

In a trial with a compound engine, with 130 lb. absolute pressure, the missing quantity at cut-off rose from 11.7 per cent. at 405 revolutions to 29.66 per cent. at 130 revolutions, the consumption of feed water increasing from 20.35 lb. to 23.67 lb. This saving of 14 per cent. was due solely to increase of speed. Similar trials had been made with a simple engine. In one simple trial at slow speed the missing quantity rose to 44.5 per cent. of the whole feed water.

Intended mean admission pressure (Lb.)4090110130150160170
Simple, Compound, or Triple.S.S.C.S.C.C.C.T.C.T.T.
Actual mean admission pressure (Lb.)40.8892.6587.54106.3109.3130.6149.9151.9158.5158.1172.5
Percentage ratio of actual mean pressure,
referred to low pressure piston,
to theoretical mean pressure
Indicated horse power16.5131.6128.1433.53336.3138.5935.6939.5535.5638.45
Feed water actually used per indicated H.P.H. -
Simple (Lb.)
Compound (Lb.)
Triple (Lb.)











Steam required theoretically per 1 H.P.H. (Lb.)34.6719.2419.8617.917.6516.2515.2315.1614.8714.914.36
Percentage efficiency81.171.582.268.882.58078.37777.477.677.8
Percentage of feed water missing at cut off in high pressure cylinder..................... 5.33... 6.84 5.01
Ditto high pressure cylinder...... 5... 9.511.715.114.841712.0615.33
Ditto low pressure cylinder11.724.815.229.5616.2519.120.622.1221.322.1124.21
Percentage of feed water missing at end of stroke in low pressure cylinder10.418.8314.2521.5316.5917.5520.6918.0119.5518.8119.25

The author compared a series of compound trials, at different powers, with 130 lb. absolute pressure, and various ratios of expansion, with a series giving approximately the same powers at a constant ratio of expansion, but with varying pressures, being practically a trial of automatic expansion against throttling. Starting with 40 indicated horse power, 130 lb. absolute pressure, four expansions, and a consumption of 20.75 lb. of water, the plan of varying the expansion, as compared with throttling, showed a gain of about 7 per cent. at 30 indicated horse power, but of a very small percentage when below half power. If the engine had an ordinary slide valve, the greater friction, added to irregular motion, would probably neutralize the saving, while if the engine were one in which initial condensation assumed more usual proportions, the gain would be probably on the side of variable pressure. Even as it was, the diagrams showed that the missing quantity became enormously large as the expansion increased. Judging only by the feed water accounted for by the indicator, the automatic engine appeared greatly the more economical, but actual measurement of the feed water disproved this.

The position of the automatic engine was, however, relatively more favorable when simple than when compound.

In conclusion, the author referred to a trial with a condensing engine, at 170 lb. absolute pressure, in which the feed water used was 15.1 lb., a result evidently capable of further improvement, and to an efficiency trial of a combined central valve engine and Siemens' dynamo, made for the Admiralty, at various powers. At the highest power the ratio of external electrical horse power to indicated horse power in the engine was 82.3 per cent. Taking the thermo-dynamic efficiency of the engine at 80 per cent., that of the combined apparatus would be nearly 66 per cent.


Abstract of paper read before the Institution of Civil Engineers, March 13.