An Engineering Life

Talk by Prof. Dr Peter A.E. Stewart
D Sc., F R A Eng., F R Ae S., F Inst P.,
January 9th 2008

It is a rarity these days in the lecturing circuit to hear first hand from an engineer with experience of early space age research, still rarer to share contemporary experiences of senior engineers involved in this field. It was therefore a great privilege to hear Prof. Dr Peter A.E. Stewart D Sc., F R A Eng., F R Ae S., F Inst P., speaking to us about his engineering life and in particular his involvement with rocket research - Jan. 9th at St Peters Church Hall.

Peter began his lecture describing how as a child of 10 in 1938 he listened to a Teacher reading H.G Wells classic 'War of the Worlds' and a Martian invasion of Earth. This fired his interest in Space Travel and led him to his first career as a Rocket Engineer. He learned of the engineering problems with the propellant combinations of the time. He then joined SARO as a Trials Team Leader UK and Woomera Australia where he described the launch of Black Knight BK05. He was also responsible for the UK Trials of the two stage vehicles BK08 and BK09.

Peter then joined Hawker Siddeley Astronautics Group in 1960 as a Rocket and Satellite systems engineer on Communications Satellites proposals. He made a detailed study of a Programme for the Surface Exploration of the Moon as part of which he designed a surface exploration vehicle and a lunar spacesuit.

On The Moon Moon Map Space Suit Design

Space Suit Moon Veh icles Moon Navigation

Moon Vehicle Navigation Space View

In 1968 he was invited to present a paper to the Academy of Astronautics at the International Astronautical Federation Congress in New York on 'Surface exploration vehicles in association with a proposed UN Lunar International Laboratory'.

Peter concluded his talk with a discussion of the engineering problems associated with an expedition to Mars, finishing with a quotation from the H.G. Wells film 'Things to Come'.

This talk unusually was backed up by two projectors and the audience was able to move from one screen to the other as the talk progressed.
A review of the January 2008 Meeting
Michael Clinch

Renewable Energy

Emergency Diesel Standby Generators' Contribution
to Dealing with Intermittency and Availability
of Generation by Renewables
Wednesday 13th February 2008

On the 13th of February 44 members and friends heard the views of David Andrews on how many standby diesel generators throughout the country could overcome the uncertainty of wind power and other forms of renewable energy generation.

He spoke from his 9 years experience until recently as Energy Manager at Wessex Water; He is now Senior Energy Strategist with Bywater International. He described how there are already arrangements in place for many small generators to support the National Grid if the largest single supplier, the 1.3 GW of Sizewell B nuclear Station fails.

With a number of the largest standby generators there are arrangements for low frequency to initiate automatic starting, synchronising and loading and some £25,000 per MW may be offered for this.

After his experience with Wessex Water he said their pumping stations and other plants have 550 standby diesel and gas turbine generators with a total capacity of 100 MW, the smallest units being 120 kW. The company has a central control room monitoring all these and there is communication with National Grid control. The companies policy is to test run each of these generators once a month and to run them up to full load on each occasion as damage could be caused by running them off load.

The company has a total demand of 27 MW and 4.5 MW of this is supplied continuously by biogas C.H.P generation.

Going on to the National situation with generation by renewables and in particular the government sponsored grant increase in wind turbines Mr Andrew pointed out that the uncertainty of wind conditions is such that the loss of this form of generation is gradual when considered over the country as a whole.

He estimates that nationally there are 20 GW of emergency generators in hospitals and as standby to industrial consumers and that if it is arranged to operate in parallel with the public supply they could give short-term back- up to wind generation.

To assist also there are a number of large industrial consumers such as arc furnaces and other steelworks on disconnectable tariffs where low frequency causes disconnection within 10 minutes or so.

We also have back-up of 2 GW interconnection to France and another 2 GW interconnection to Holland being built. Other links to Western Europe are also under consideration. There is also scope for peak lopping domestically by remote controlled postponement of switch-on of freezers, storage heaters etc.

Mr Andrews said all these factors support a great increase in wind-turbine generation.

Mr Andrews spoke for only half-an-hour but a lively discussion followed and this lasted another 40 minutes with some 15 contributors of questions and comments. Subjects covered ranged from the retention of old coal-fired stations as back-up, refuse incineration, the fact that the wind turbine generation is growing at 32% per annum, the past lack of energy policy by government, to the lack of scientific knowledge by Members of Parliament.
Don Vickers

Marine Engineer

Talk by Bill Richie
Wednesday 13th March 2008

Our member Bill Ritchie joined the British Merchant Navy as a junior engineering officer. He progressed through the ranks to Chief Engineer when he left Scotland to take up a position as Superintendent with Southern Shipping Line of Mombasa in Kenya. Southern Line had been appointed to create the New Merchant Navy for the Governments of Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda and Kenya.

After eight years in Kenya the political situation began to make working there difficult, and he joined the Kaiser Shipping Corporation of Oakland, California. He sailed for two years as Chief Engineer on 150,000 ton bulk carriers and tankers before taking up residence in Chile as Kaiser's Technical Representative.

When Kaiser terminated their contract with the Chileans, Bill joined Lloyds Register of Shipping in their Bristol Office and later moved to Brunei where he represented Lloyds Register and various other classification societies. His work was mainly concerned with the off shore oil industry. On returning to Bristol he was involved with the building of large refrigerated cold stores and also acted as liaison between Lloyds Register and the Ministry of Defence when the MoD decided to reclassify many vessels built to Lloyds requirements.

The  end of M/v Explorer Bill retired in 1996 as a Senior Ship and Engine Surveyor. After retirement he took up a position of project engineer in a Turkish shipyard who were building vessels for British and Dutch shipping companies. On completion of this contract he was engaged to supervise the major refurbishment of a large ferry at the Royal Naval Dockyard at Devonport.

Here is the end of the latter ship in the Antarctic. She was lost but all passengers and crew were saved. Bill Ritchie had long since departed and cannot be blamed for the event.

His talk was well received and extremely interesting to the audience. As the only retired marine engineer in the club the details of the ships and the events that he encountered during his service in abroad were related with slides in a much appreciated manner.
Marcus Palmén

Milford Haven Gas Connection Projects

Talk by Paul Cumpstone
Wednesday 9th April 2008

At our meeting on 9th April we heard a very comprehensive description of a current major engineering project that has very little national publicity - the construction of a pipeline from Milford Haven to bring natural gas to feed into the existing national gas grid at three points. Paul Cumpstone of the National Grid Company had been personally responsible for the first pumping station north of Swansea but clearly was knowledgeable about the whole project

Liquification of the natural gas involves cooling to -160 bringing the liquid volume to 1/600th of that of gas. The liquified gas is brought in by giant tankers from Tunisia and the Middle East to the deep water terminal at Milford Haven using two jetties formerly used by oil tankers. The gas thus supplied will be capable of providing 20% of the nations energy needs. Each tanker can bring 200,000 cubic metres and it will be possible for one ship to unload every day.

Pipeline The National Gas Transmission Grid that will be fed has over 7000 km of pipes and 150 pressure reduction installations. The new pipeline feeding into this has 317 km of 1200 mm diameter pipes with 3 major off takes, at Felindre (north of Swansea), Wormington (near Evesham) and Churchover (near Rugby).The route is 54 km longer than the shortest physically possible in order to avoid the Brecon Beacons National Park and heritage sites such as Blaenavon.

Challenges in selecting the route were the topography, the high rainfall area, environmental sensitivity and getting a gap through a built-up strip. It was necessary to tunnel under roads at 19 locations, taking in one case 7 months to sink access shafts without disturbing the locality by blasting.

Planning Approval by the Department of Trade and Industry was necessary and although that same department was pressing for the facility to reduce the need for importing gas from Northern Europe, approval for the various sections took between 9 & 17 months. Consultation prior to this included parties interested in preserving animal species such as bats.

There were a number of local objections and demonstrations which were reasonable but for a time a major hindrance was by gangs of "Eco Warriors" who were simply professional anarchists. They adopted tactics such as chaining themselves to cranes. They were highly organised and it was found that they were politically funded and receiving instructions over the internet from a website based abroad. The police were reluctant to intervene saying it was a civil matter unless actual damage occurred. Delays and other costs incurred by them are estimated at 10-12 £M.

Pipe for Pipeline The 317 km length involved 23000 lengths of pipe weighing 242,000 tonne,. There are 216 road crossings, 140 river and stream crossings and 19 railway crossings. Welds total 7600 km. A bending machine was available to make bends up to 4. The minimum depth of the pipe is 4 ft.

The pressure in this new pipeline is 94 bar which is reduced to the 70 bar of the existing grid at 3 pressure reduction stations.

Of these Felindre is new. It has one 30 MW compressor with electric drive backed up by two 15 MW compressors with gas turbine drives. It occupies a vast are and computer aided design was used. It is expected to come on stream October 2008.

Wormington and Churchover are existing pumping stations on the existing grid and at each of these a large extension is being built including an additional 15 MW compressor with electric drive.

Construction of the pipeline started in March 2006 and completion of the first section was in November 2007. Reinstatement of later sections is now under way.

In planning the scheme an alternative undersea route across the Bristol Channel was estimated to be £300 M more expensive.

Mr Cumpstone's talk inspired many questions fro his audience of 37 members and friends.
Don Vickers

Engineering Antiques

Presentation by John Bates
May 2008

Following the AGM John Bates Presented some items of interest that he acquired from antiques markets, car boot sales and sundry shops. After a short illustrated talk a lengthy session ensued during the tea break where members and friends had the opportunity to handle the goods and try to determine the uses of the many items. The prolonging of the meeting was ample evidence of the popularity of this talk and demonstration.

2 Mystery Objects  Same2 Different View  A closer opened view 
Here are two of the items with alternate views provided.

Visit to the Science Museum at Wroughton

John Green arranged a visit to The Science Museum at Wroughton. We were able to visit one hanger with a great many exhibits displayed. This after a slight mystery tour when our driver lost the way. It was fairly obvious that this site is being developed as a visitor site but that it still needs better labelling for quite a few exhibits and some organisation in the grouping of exhibits. However there were some quite interesting items on show and the visit was well worthwhile. Here are a few of the exhibits
Vertical Steam Engine 1891
Vertical Steam Engine 1891
Last Radial Engine
The prototype Alvis Leonides engine flew in 1939 in a Bristol Bulldog biplane fighter. It was the last radial engine to be produced in Britain, production ceased in 1966
Junkers Engine
Junkers Jumo 4A
A ca.1935 engine with cut away sections
Piccard Gondola
Auguste Piccard Gondola
This orb formed the gondola of the balloon which in 1932 achieved the record-breaking height of 51000 ft
Generating set with Williams Compound Engine 1887
1887 Generating Set with
Williams Compound Engine
Generator and Engine
Generator and Engine
AA Motorbike With Tool Box Sidecar
BSA AA Road Services outfit
Rolls Royce Silver Ghost
Rolls Royce "Silver Ghost" motor car

Pioneering work at ASWE 1945/55

Talk by Prof. Ralph Benjamin
CB, PhD, DSc, DEng, FIEE, FCGI, FREng.
Wednesday 10th September 2008

There was a good audience for this afternoon when Prof. Ralph Benjamin, a distinguished member of the club spoke to us on, "Pioneering work at ASWE 1945/55".

Unashamedly copying from the advance notice, "In the decade 1945-1955 the Admiralty Signals and Radar Establishment, in its various incarnations, was a hotbed of innovation and creativity. Ralph Benjamin, who shot through the ranks from temporary experimental assistant to Director of Research, is uniquely placed to give us the inside story."

Ralph opened by explaining the acronyms that the department had worked its way through from "Admiralty Signals Establishment, to Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment, via Admiralty Radar and Signals Establishment, quickly changed to Admiralty Signals and Radar Establishment.

It was a very exciting environment in which to work, being ahead of external research, both academic and industrial, yet at the same time being kept grounded by Naval Application Officers, who were there to remind one of the realism of being at sea, where the equipment was actually expected to work, and the need for technician training to operate the equipment and to ensure that it would continue to function in service.

He gave us some 'tasters' from a range of aspects of his work. Some were supported by more mathematics and electrical theory than many of us are now capable of handling on a Wednesday afternoon, but it is hoped that a series of notes will give a flavour of the talk.

From the general programmes he selected IFF (Identification: Friend or Foe) this was developed as joint research with the USA. A simulator was devised to cope with interference. Post-war, a civil marine radar was developed within three months - it was three years before industry could meet the standards set by the prototype. Its introduction increased captains' confidence and improved speed and efficiency.

Electronic Warfare was a battle of wits. ASWE produced the first radar jammers that generated a false target at a further range than the true one. This resulted in a very technical race. The ultimate "high power stand-off" led to the development of 'home-on-the-jammer' fighter/missile control systems. Radio 'Finger-printing' was used to determine what sort of equipment was transmitting the signals being received, and led to high frequency emitter locating equipment. Ostensibly this was being used to locate the positions of U-boats from their transmissions. Apparently the reality was that we were eventually in fact generally decoding the position reports, that were sent in a very compressed form of coding to minimise the time the aerial was above the surface to transmit, but obviously did not want to give any hint to the enemy that there codes were compromised.

Communications required many different transmitters and receivers, and here the difficulty that had to be overcome was the fact that they are all mounted on the same platform, a ship, and so had to be mutually compatible, on both the power supplies side as well as the signals side. The use of satellites for communications required specific on-board terminal equipment.

Weapons development work resulted in a low-cost gun designed to work alongside missiles. There would be circumstances where a round or two from a gun would be much more cost-effective than loosing off a missile.

Radars -general. Under this heading we heard about the auto-tracking to control anti-aircraft fire and the development of Radar Type 984, that underpinned a lot of future designs.

It was, for example, the basis of an Integrated Air Defence Control System. In this a high-pass filter was used to filter out the constant scale factor to enhance the signal:noise ratio. For this device, the antenna mount was created from that for a battle-tank turret. It was obviously a large antenna - in an amusing aside it was revealed that cocktails had been served on one occasion inside the antenna housing, which was mounted to compensate for the movement of the ship.

Comprehensive Display Systems were developed and were well ahead of the Americans, with digital plot transmissions, and carrier-controlled assisted approach with touchdown. Arising from this work was the design of simulators that speeded up development work and enabled trials of each component. Availability was another important design consideration - there was great emphasis on intrinsic reliability, fault tolerance etc, etc, with the outcome that the system was never unavailable in service. A direct impact of this work was that the system was adopted extensively as the basis for air traffic control etc, worldwide.

Ralph said that,"we had the opportunity for some real pioneering." The editors (Bud R and Gummett P) of the Science Museum publication "Cold War: Hot Science" concluded that "Ralph Benjamin and his colleagues were responsible for some of the fundamental technologies of the second half of the 20th century."

A lively question and answer session followed, from which it transpired that on more than one occasion we were well ahead of the Americans, who seemed to have little compunction in taking a commercial advantage from work done in the UK and freely passed on.

Andrew Smith

The Influence of Computers on Photography

Talk by Denzil Ellis ARPS DPAGB
Wednesday 14th January 2009

Denzil Ellis gave us a very interesting and inspiring presentation on the influences of computers on photography over the last 15 to 20 years. Denzil based his talk on his personal experience during his time in sales and marketing while at SWEB and his life time hobby of photography. He looked at his subject from two angles - firstly the advantages of digital photography over traditional film photography and secondly the advantages that the computer gives for the preparation of presentations.

Fifteen years ago photography was still based on the principles and processes pioneered by Fox Talbot in the mid-nineteenth century. This was a wet multi- stage process requiring a darkroom to process the film and produce prints. The processing took some time; the pictures captured could only be viewed after processing. Any rework or enhancement of the photographs so produced was an expert and time consuming process.

In contrast modern digital cameras both in Compact or SLR format can provide sufficient definition to provide large size images and prints without noticeable pixilation. Photographs captured can be previewed immediately and deleted and retaken whilst still at the scene. Digital photographs can be, if necessary, extensively reworked or rescued using a moderately priced image processing programme such as Photoshop Elements running on a home PC provided it has sufficient RAM and Disc Capacity.

The recent incorporation of cameras on mobile telephones is a major advance as we can now communicate with pictures as well the spoken word and text.

In the past presentations were produced either as a series of Overhead Projector slides or as 35mm slides. In either case such slides were produced manually using Letraset and photography; colour was manually applied afterwards by the addition of coloured film. As such it was a labour intensive and time consuming process. OHP slides were only suitable for simple presentations. 35mm slides could be built into more dynamic presentations by the use of two or more 35mm slide projectors fitted with fade and dissolve units to smooth the transitions between slides.

About 15 years ago Microsoft introduced Outlook which aimed at the production of over head projector slides. Today such presentation programs are often used to produce presentations either on the PC screen or via a digital projector. Using modern software such as PicturesToExe sophisticated audio-visual presentations, with fast picture transitions, can be produced in the spare bedroom

Denzil in his opening statement warned that as a photographer his talk would not primarily be technical but rather an excuse to show pictures and in that he did not disappoint. He liberally illustrated his talk with examples of just what can be done with a compact camera, a PC and some moderately priced software. This included demonstrations of some of the picture processing available using PhotoShop Elements and two audio-visual presentations prepared using PicturesToExe Software ( See for details of this software). His first presentation explored the terrain around a Welsh copper mine and his second was based on a day in the life of Bristol harbour. This second presentation used fast sequential picture changes which if it had been done in the days of 35mm slides would have taken a bank of up to 40 slide projectors to produce.

Our thanks go to Denzel for showing us his excellent photographs and audio-visual presentations and for a most interesting afternoon.
Julian Todman.