Avro Rota / Cierva C30 ready for take-off: left to right – Reggie Brie, Alan Marsh, Cyril Pullin (people's identity speculative) © Crown Copyright

Welcome to the Newcomen Newsletter – Edition 3

Newcomen On Lock-Down

Newsletters and virtual meetings are no substitute for real meetings, workshops, tours and picnics. In the meantime, thank you for the excellent feedback on Richard Williams’ talk, broadcast online to those of you who missed his earlier real talk in London in January. Also, a special thank you to all those who forwarded the first two e-newsletters. As a result, each issue of the newsletter reached another 500 people. Thanks to those who re-tweeted us on social media: it was highly appropriate that George Tetin’s 50 canaries were trending on twitter! Please continue to spread the word . . .

A Health Warning: Phillip Ingram’s Saltscape is seriously time consuming and will make you prone to wanderlust! But not as time consuming as all those websites, so please keep sending your suggestions in.

Jonathan Aylen: President

Cierva C30A Autogyro

Autogyros – Calibrating Radar in WW2

Second World War Chain Home radar was set up with the help of autogyro pilots vulnerable to enemy action.  Squadron Leader Mike Dean and Dr Phil Judkins explain the technical role of these unknown heroes of the Battle of Britain.

Fiddlers Ferry Power Station - Aerial View of The Cooling Towers

Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station Plays Out

On March 31st 2020 Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station finally shut down its turbines. Bob Bowden shows the sun is setting on coal fired thermal power stations, once supplied by the coalfields of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Saltscape Anderton Boat Lift

Saltscape – landscape of subsidence

Philip Ingram’s tour of the Saltscape of Cheshire – a virtual tour of the area for those in lockdown. A follow on to the Newcomen Society’s one-day Symposium on “Salt” at the Lion Salt Works in October 2018.

Desktop & Mobile Graphic

Time For The Web

A website which cherishes the history of Associated Octel’s Amlwch chemical plant on Anglesey, which shut in 2004. It used sulphuric acid (once a by-product of local copper refining) and seawater to make bromine products – notably anti-knock agents for petrol.

Andrew Cunningham writes “the story covers a wide range of subjects such as internal combustion engine knock, the chemical processes involved in producing antiknock, their contribution in WW2, the road/rail transport flows to support the processes and the impact of the Britannia Bridge Fire. It’s obviously a labour of love by an ex-manager and he seems to have nailed it very well”.

The large number of online hits on our gas catastrophe stories shows you like a disaster. The Newcomen Society is planning a post-lockdown workshop on lessons from engineering failure. Here is a trailer for the workshop – an expensive failure of a crane hook on the vessel Orion.

The Friends of the Stockton and Darlington Railway have gone all-out to maintain public interest in the line during lockdown. They have produced two introductory films on the railway. Beautifully illustrated and very well narrated. Their website has no links to these films, so go straight to the YouTube sites (via the title link above).

Following on from their introductory film The Railway That Got The World On Track!, the Friends of the Stockton and Darlington Railway have also produced a 2nd film What Survives?

The Women’s Engineering Society is a charity and network of women engineers and technologists, now a hundred years old.

In addition to the Women’s Engineering Society, this website celebrates the long history of women engineers with a set of blogs and activity packs. Read a blog by Emily Rees on the Victorian marine engineer Henrietta Vansittart who held US and UK patents on propeller design.

But, for readability it would be hard to beat Deborah Jaffé and Stephen Van Dulken’s blog on Ingenious Women. It includes such gems as a male inventor called Mildred, a long deceased female inventor who managed to set up a Facebook page from beyond the grave, and a spiritualist inventor in San Francisco. Deborah Jaffé is Editor of Newcomen Links and Stephen Van Dulken is a patent expert who worked at the British Library. But, your President must declare an interest: Stephen Van Dulken has advised me in the past on hot water bottle manufacturers.

Much more than steam, a valuable resource for anyone interested in some of the less well -known engineers connected with the railway story. Includes those who played a key role in rail development, but have no biographer yet. Navigate with the search function or the links. (The only shortcoming – the site is unaware that all the Newcomen Society Transactions (The Journal) are readily available on line to members!)

Books Graphic


Two books justifiably celebrating British Railways remarkable post-war design achievements, many of which we take for granted. Know of a book that may be of interest to members? Please send ideas to: editor.links@newcomen.com

David Lawrence - British Rail Designed 1948-97

David Lawrence / British Rail Design 1948-97

The design successes and failures of Britain’s most extensive state-sponsored industry. Includes the re-branding to British Rail, the novel and consistent typography, new brand names such as Inter-City and Sealink, improved uniforms and system built stations.

David Lawrence - British Rail Architecture 1948-97

David Lawrence / British Rail Architecture 1948-97

The Architecture volume is more controversial – decide for yourself

A big thank you to Andrew Cunningham, Professor David EatonDeborah Jaffé , Jonathan Aylen and Bob Gwynne for the above sites, and especially Phillip Ingram for earlier contributions.


We’re looking for material for future newsletters during the lockdown. Do you have any interesting stories or some great websites that you’d like to show other members? Please send to editor.links@newcomen.com

Newcomen Links - Edition 254 June 2020 | front cover

Edition 254 (June 2020) is now out in hard copy and soon available for members to download from the website. Copy date for September issue is 1st Aug. Please send contributions to: editor.links@newcomen.com

The Journal - Vol 88 No2

The Journal and Archive

As usual, we welcome articles and papers for future editions of The Journal. Please don’t forget our own archive of past papers going back to 1920 which members can access here. Please send submissions to: editor.journal@newcomen.com

Are you a member of the Newcomen Society?

Having just celebrated its Centenary Year, the society has published over a 1000 papers in The Journal – an invaluable archive of original research material published twice a year, covering all aspects of engineering from ancient times to the present, plus available to browse and download in our FREE TO MEMBERS Archive.

Full Membership includes:

  • Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology (two issues, one volume per year)
  • Printed and/or PDF versions of LINKS, Newcomens’ newsletter (published 4 times a year)
  • Free access and download facilities to the Society’s Archive of past papers back to 1920 (The Journal)
  • Membership of local branches and subject groups
  • Access to the website’s Member Area offering access to research sources & access to other members (subject to privacy permissions)
  • Attendance at summer meetings, conferences, lectures and study days.