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Engineering Wonders
The machines of the heavy industry which powered Britain forward were engineering wonders. Steam breathing giants consuming tons of coal.
Wills, Engineering Wonders [1927]
Wills, Engineering Wonders
...if a film wants a menacing machine it has to vent steam...

So far the things discussed are very nice but they do not speak of engineering wonder to me. For me the factory floor containing monstrous belching machines beating about impossible quantities of something at the sort of decibel level which make a Black Sabbath concert seem quaint are things to live in awe of.

The manufacture of iron and steel seems ideally suited to this thunderous process, the blast furnace sits next to the electric furnace on cards 13 & 14. Then there is the slab charger. That name is powerful, I've read the reverse of the card and it seems its job was to move 12 ton slabs of metal in and out of blast furnaces. Just imagine the heat and noise.

Details from Card
Blast Furnace, Manchester
The old style blast furnace was extremely picturesque, especially at night when illuminated by the flames of the burning gases. Some idea of the value of these furnace gases may be gathered from the following figures :- For every ton of iron made about six tons of gases evolved, containing 25% of carbon monoxide; the actual heat value varying from 90 to 115 British Thermal Units per cubic foot. In a modern blast furnace this gas, instead of being wasted, is utilized to supply power, after being thoroughly cleaned and cooled. Large installations run on blast furnace gas have recently been laid down at Gt Britain with single engines developing 3000 hp.

As ever Wills have been busy giving you the facts and figures. Just imagine, they say, and then tell you the composition of the gases emitted. Forget all that, just imagine a dark skyline lit by 1000 fires belching unbreathable gases as jack hammers make the earth shake beneath your feet. Hell without the pitchforks.

Electric appears on a number of the cards, electric this and electric that really bringing on a new age where machines are never quite the living objects they once were. Even today if a film wants a menacing machine it has to vent steam from some orifice or another. Although in the 1930-1940's the mad scientist always had to have electricity arc's aplenty and wild eyes with hair that looked charged with electricity itself.

A number of cards are devoted to the generation of this electricity with a generating station an electric motor and automatic substation all drawn in wonderful detail and beautiful colour (do you get the impression I like this set? Well it would be a wrong impression, I love cigarette cards and that is the end of that.)

Card 30 is a modern aqueduct. The card illustrates the great Jawbone Siphon of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, USA which varies from 7 to 10 feet in diameter and was obviously designed to look like a huge millipede.

Various dams are shown which don't interest me a great deal (although that moment in The Fugitive was pretty cool)

Card 36 deals with the fast evolving science of aircraft carriers and illustrates the flat deck of the Argus. I only mention this because of the significance such developments were to (and have) had over the coming decades.

Card 22 deals with the engineering wonder of the skyscraper. The 'cage' construction enabling buildings to rise to forty or even fifty stories high (imagine that).

So there you have it. I have not actually done this set the justice it deserves. Heavy old machinery is a tricky subject but the set looks good on the walls of any manufacturing plant with a heavy machine history and that is where many a set have ended up over the years.

Related pages
Modern Wonders
World Wonders

Set Details:




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Monday, 5th January 2009