A Hundred Years of Engineering Craftsmanship

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Although Cornwall Works itself suffered no serious war damage, the firm’s town offices in Queen Victoria Street had been destroyed in the London air-raids. Soon after the war, to repair the loss of this valuable commercial centre, Tangyes acquired offices and showrooms at 6o Grosvenor Street, W. x. Not only were sales and service for the south of England re-established here, but the new premises made possible some reorganization of the sales department. At Grosvenor Street, conveniently situated for foreign buyers whose business trips cannot easily be extended to the industrial areas, was concentrated the important work of export sales — a move which has proved eminently satisfactory.
The end of hostilities brought no relaxation but rather a challenge and a stimulus to restore peacetime production and to recapture world markets. This has been no easy task. In a troubled post-war world all available technical and scientific resources have been needed to keep British industry abreast of foreign competitors. Tangyes have taken up the challenge and gone far in applying modern techniques and advances in knowledge to their own solid experience in hydraulic machinery, pumps and engines. As a result, in the last ten years they have successfully produced many Outstanding products which have done well both at home and overseas.
Without wishing to ‘blow its own trumpet’ the firm is justifiably proud of its Current products, and the story of the last hundred years would be incomplete without some account of them.

Since 1945, political considerations have so disturbed some international markets that many promising commercial developments have been unexpectedly frustrated. Tangyes have particularly faced this difficulty in the field of engines. Twelve years ago it seemed likely that a large demand for the horizontal diesel-engine would have built up in the Middle and Far East during the years when supplies had been completely cut off. This indeed proved to be the case, and the firm accordingly embarked upon an expanding programme of engine production involving some necessary retooling and redesigning. But there were immediate difficulties to contend with at home, chiefly the shortage of raw materials and the uncertainty of the labour market. Delivery was unavoidably slow, and often delayed, and the problem of supplying spares was almost as great as the supply of new engines. Long and extensive tours were therefore undertaken by members of the board to explain these difficulties and to discuss a system of allocations and priorities. This personal contact proved very successful.
In countries like India, which had advanced industrially during the war, delays and difficulties stimulated further local production, which in its turn rapidly sought tariff protection from the Indian Government. Although import restrictions were to be expected, the speed with which complete protection of the Indian industry was granted came as a considerable surprise. Since 1954 the Indian Government has virtually prohibited the import of the type of engine in which Tangyes Ltd. are interested.
Meanwhile Middle East markets have proved rewarding, and increased attention has been paid to them, with good results, until the setback of the Suez crisis in the autumn of 1956. Unfortunately those areas where the horizontal diesel-engine is likely to be most useful appear to be also those most likely to be upset by insurgent nationalism or political crises. With the loyal co-operation of old and new agents, however, other fresh markets have been opened up. Enterprising sales policy has also produced an agreement with the firm’s Spanish agents to manufacture Tangye diesel-engines under licence, so that Tangye engines may still help to irrigate the orange groves and vineyards of Spain despite the interruption of imports by restrictions imposed by the Spanish Government.


If the engine field has proved somewhat difficult, hydraulic machines have become more and more successful. The introduction of modern oil hydraulics and the development of a wide range of new materials have greatly extended the use of hydraulic power, so that the scope is no longer limited to familiar everyday tasks such as the lifting of large weights, but now covers the whole of industry wherever forces large or small have to be exerted. It may well be that the greatest opportunities for future development lie in this field.
Of particular interest is the place of hydraulics in the vast new atomic power development schemes upon which the country is embarking. At Calder Hall, for instance, Tangye cylinders and rams have been incorporated in the important charge and discharge equipment. When the uranium rods in the graphite core of the reactor have done their work they must be extracted and sent away to chemical processing plants for recovering the unused fuel and plutonium, and for removing fission products. These movements of radio-active material can only be carried out by men working behind thick concrete shields and relying upon remote control of the necessary machinery. The charge and discharge of the reactor takes place through the top shield and the stand-pipes rising from the dome of the pressure vessel. When the used elements are removed Tangye hydraulic power swings aside a two-ton door at the bottom of the discharge machine and the elements are lowered through a circular well into a massive cast-iron Container which a Tangye cylinder and ram loads, seals, and removes on to a waiting lorry for transport to the processing plant.


‘Hydralite Jacks’ A group of lightweight jacks, representative of the latest practice in industrial jacking equipment.


The safety and success of these operations depends on the quality and design of the whole machinery and Tangyes are proud to have their products incorporated in this important atomic field.
Hydraulic machinery is unsurpassed for testing the strength of materials, and Tangyes have been active in this field from their early production of machines for anchor-chain testing. Recently Tangye units have been included in the large test rig installed by the Admiralty at Rosyth dockyard. Complete sections of ship structures can here be tested to destruction in a massive steel chamber, and special jacking units were designed to apply accurately controlled loads of up to 500 tons to the section under test.
The spirit of Brunel doubtless stands approvingly by as Tangye pumps provide the driving force for the new Thames tunnel now being constructed from Dartford to Purfleet. More than a century after the Brunels, with many difficulties, drove the first tunnel under the river, the present scheme, originally planned before the war, is well under way. Eight Tangye hydraulic pumps, ordered and made as long ago as 1937, are now at work after careful overhaul and only a few minor replacements. Four of these pumps, working at a maximum pressure of 6,ooo lb. a square inch, push forward the tunnelling shields with their cutting edge. The main task of the other four, working at a maximum pressure of r,ooo lb. a square inch, is to lift the cast-iron segments of the tunnel lining into place as the work progresses.
As a contrast to burrowing under the earth, Tangye hydraulic climbing jacks can raise concrete Structures rapidly and inexpensively high above the ground. This type of building, known as the ‘moving form’ method, employs wood or metal forms as a mould for the final shape of the building. To Construct a circular tower, for example, the forms might consist of two concentric rings some 4 feet deep, which provide the inner and outer walls of the mould. Concrete is poured between the two forms, which are kept moving upwards little by little so that the concrete will not set and fix the moulds, yet is dry by the time it comes clear below the framework. Once building has begun it must be kept going day and night until it is completed. The moving form is lifted by the Tangye hydraulic climbing jacks placed on rods at regular intervals inside the Structure. A central power unit supplies the jacks with power simultaneously, which ensures that they all operate at the same time and climb the same amount. Only two men are needed to control the lifting operation.
An equally notable success has been scored at Cornwall Works by a modern version of the general purpose hydraulic jack. Breaking away from traditional methods of construction the designers employed the latest modern techniques including the use of high tensile light alloys. The result is the Hydralite, a jack which is not only less than a third of the weight of its predecessors but also possesses higher safety factors, so that its use has been greatly extended. Its appeal has been enhanced by an attractive modern appearance so that the jack is aesthetically as well as functionally pleasing.
Sales of the Hydralite have fully justified the enterprise of the design and particularly valuable is the high proportion of sales made to overseas customers. In competition with manufacturers from the Continent and America, the Hydralite has found its way into the markets of sixty-five countries and it promises to Create an even wider demand.
Hydraulic jacks have continued to be much in demand for lifting bridges and were used in the erection of the great Howrah Cantilever Bridge at Calcutta. Surely no better commemoration of the firm’s centenary could have been found than the contract which the firm obtained towards the end of 1956 for nearly 14,000 tons capacity of special jacks for raising the spans of the Jacques Cartier Bridge over the St. Lawrence River. This project is part of the Great Lakes navigation scheme, to enable larger vessels to sail direct to the head of the Great Lakes and thus avoid transhipment of every cargo at Quebec or Montreal. Tangyes have recently formed close links with Canada through the creation of a Canadian company, and they are particularly glad to take part in a scheme which will have such a profound effect on that country’s economy.


In a different section of Cornwall Works considerable development has taken place in pump production. Whereas fifty years ago the firm could base its reputation partly on the wide variety of pumps which it manufactured, now different economic conditions make it essential to specialize in some degree. Today the main trend is towards increasing use of centrifugal pumps, and Tangyes Ltd. have directed much of their attention to successful expansion in this range.
Reciprocating pumps, however, still offer wide scope in various fields, and the firm, far from neglecting them, is concentrating on development work by which it is hoped greatly to extend their use.
New centrifugal pumps produced at Cornwall Works are designed mainly to handle sewage or process liquids. As we have seen, Tangye products have over the years done sterling work in water and sewage works, and the new range enhances the
firm’s reputation in this field. Modern manufacturing techniques have vastly increased the use of industrial chemicals and corrosive process liquids. Tangye pumps designed to deal with these have proved very successful, many, for example, in recent years, having been supplied to handle the highly corrosive liquids used in the rayon industry.
The rapid growth of the oil industry has similarly produced a demand for special equipment. To meet the pump requirements of this market, Tangyes Ltd. have recently become associated with
Messrs. Ralph E. Smart (Hydraulics), a firm which has for some time specialized on process pumps for the oil industry. Production of these units is now well under way at Cornwall Works.
Another interesting and successful development has resulted from a pre-war
agreement with a Swedish firm for the manufacture in the British Commonwealth of their design of propeller pump. This pump handles very large volumes of water and other liquids against low ‘heads’ and is specially suitable, therefore, for land drainage and irrigation.


TANGYES – 1957 Under Smethwick’s industrial night sky the name Tangye shines out over ground trodden by Boulton, Watt and many lesser known contemporaries, inspiring hope and confidence in the future by its examples in the past.


From the days when the brothers made their own equipment for their first workshop, Tangyes have turned out first-class machine tools. They are made by craftsmen and designed to last, and a surprising number of those built several decades ago are still in service giving excellent results. In this department, as in the others, the modern emphasis is of necessity on certain special lines. Here the concentration has been mainly on heavy lathes for the machining of axles and wheels for railway rolling stock. The work they have to carry out is arduous and exacting and calls for the closest attention to the design of each application. To increase production rates modern lathes incorporate more automatic features, and a special study has been made of these details. Many orders from overseas, as well as

from home markets, have rewarded the efforts put into the production of these special lathes.
Two other types of machine tool which are proving most successful are large heavy-duty centre lathes, and ‘coil winders’. The ‘coil winder’ is a special type of lathe for winding the massive wire cores for electric transformers. These cores often weigh several tons each.


An unusual production line which has achieved great popularity is the Tangye industrial heater.
Produced originally for use at Cornwall Works to comply with the new factory regulations for heating industrial premises, the design proved to be so good that the heater was marketed and has rapidly become a top-selling line. The success of this slow-combustion coke, oil, or gas stove is a tribute to its intrinsically good design. Not only has it done well on the home market, but it has also been exported to South Africa and Australia, where problems of factory heating would not at first sight appear to be a major worry.
In all departments there are many other Tangye products, reliable and well-tried, which find a steady market. We have selected only a few of the latest or most interesting post-war developments to show how Tangyes, quick to appreciate the needs of present and future, have adapted old ideas and assimilated new ones to meet current trends. A flexible outlook, unhampered by traditional interest in particular groups of products, is essential in changing world conditions. Now in 1957 the problems and potentialities of the European Common Market offer a new challenge to those equipped and ready to meet it.


Throughout the industry the emphasis on research has considerably increased of recent years. At Cornwall Works the experimental

and development section is responsible for all the new design projects which involve extensive experiment and testing, and, of course, builds and tests prototypes. Besides making trials of new materials, the section also undertakes much of the work involved in the maintenance of quality standards in the factory.
For larger-scale work, and for fundamental research, Tangyes Ltd. have also been enthusiastic supporters of four trade research associations. These associations, which are financed partly by the members and partly by the Department of Industrial and Scientific Research, provide through their laboratories and specialist staffs, a valuable extension of the research resources of individual firms, and by their abstracting services maintain a steady flow of information on all basic problems. The first to be established was the British Cast-Iron Research Association, which has, over the years, furnished valuable information on the nature and production of cast-iron, and on methods of producing good castings, thus greatly extending the uses of the material. Castings made in the Tangye foundry are frequently subjected in use to intense hydraulic pressure, to heat and to wear, so that it has always been of the highest importance to produce castings of the first quality.
The other associations are younger though potentially no less important in focusing investigation into other specific aspects of engineering.
From their foundation they have gained support from Tangyes Ltd. and from time to time Tangye directors have served on the Councils of the British Internal Combustion Engine Research Association, the Production Engineering Research Association, and the British Hydromechanics Association.
In addition to the trade associations there are a number of national research units financed entirely by the Government. Their results are available to industry on request, and they have done much to keep British industry in the forefront of world markets. Though their value is probably greatest to the smaller firms, their contributions in pure and fundamental research provide a welcome extension to the facilities of each individual firm.


All plans for new products, new markets, and expanding output can be hampered by a shortage of trained and skilled men in the works. For this reason special attention has been paid since the war to the recruitment and training of apprentices — a work for which Tangyes have long been renowned. It is not always easy to prove to young men of the atomic and jet age that mechanical engineering is as important and offers as much scope as those apparently more glamorous fields which constantly hit the headlines. In fact, a training at Tangyes remains one of the best passports to higher jobs in an industry which must play an important part in atomic developments, in automation and in producing modern engines for every kind of work. Within the firm itself there is plenty of scope in these fields for ambitious and gifted designers and engineers.
Apprenticeship at Cornwall Works follows the pattern now widely accepted in the engineering industry whereby the firm provides time and encouragement for attendance at a Technical College so that a balanced training is achieved. The 89 apprentices now training at the works include those taking Craft, Commercial, and Technical courses.
Apprentices’ Day is the special highlight of the year, when parents come from far and near to see their sons’ progress, and to gain some appreciation of the type of work they are doing. Prizes and certificates are awarded at the prize-giving ceremony. In addition to the National Certificates and other awards won in examinations, two special cups are awarded each year — the Technical Apprentices’ Cup

and the Trade and Commercial Apprentices’ Cup — to the two apprentices with the best record for their year’s work.
The majority of the apprentices are Midland boys, but others come from all parts of the British Isles and the Commonwealth. An interesting connection has grown up with boys from St. Austell in Cornwall. Each year a party from West Hill Secondary Modern Boys’ School visits Cornwall Works and several have later returned to serve their apprenticeship. It is particularly pleasing to see this link retained with the native county of the Tangye family.
All apprentices are under the general guidance of the Personnel Manager. It is over thirty years since Tangyes Ltd. first appointed a Welfare Officer whose job was mainly to supervise problems of labour recruitment and welfare. The professional aspects of this work have expanded enormously since that time, and the department continues to be organized on the most modern lines.
The popularity of outside activities has been steadily maintained. The Recreation Club, run by committees elected by and from the members, now caters for interests which include archery, angling, and horticulture, as well as football, cricket, lawn tennis and table tennis. The Tangye Football Club has done exceptionally well in Division I of the Birmingham Works League to which it was promoted in 1948. In the spring of 1954 the club was only narrowly beaten in the final of the ‘Cup’ competition.
Some of the welfare schemes originally developed by Tangyes have, however, become unnecessary or unworkable in the original form. The National Health Act, for example, made it impracticable for the dispensary to do more than cope with industrial health and injuries. The Works doctor examines all new employees and apprentices and sees any patients referred to him by the fully-qualified nurse who is always on duty. The dressing-station is of course still fully equipped, and each day attention in the dispensary prevents many minor injuries from developing into serious disabilities.

Equipment is also provided in the dispensary for ultra-violet and infra-red treatment.
The Staff Pension Scheme, which began in October 1946, has been widely appreciated. This at once makes employment with the firm more attractive and removes that burden of insecurity in old age which hangs over all non-pensionable posts.

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