Friday, January 2, 2015

Why a mule?

Greetings and welcome to the Iron Mule. Like most people I'm fascinated by antiques and history. Some say the course of history is defined by military events, I've always found the evolution of technology more interesting. For untold millennium  the burden of work was carried by ox, mule, horse or man himself, then at the beginning  of the 18th century a monumental change occurred, the beginning of the age of the machine. In 1698 Thomas Savery patented a design for an engine that used steam pressure to pump water out of mine shafts and later collaborated with Thomas Newcomen of Dartmouth England on a refined engine that applied atmospheric pressure circa 1712. Fifty seven years passed before James Watt's condensing engine greatly improved efficiency by conserving heat in the steam cylinder. At this point the steam engine was still limited to stationary applications and it remained for Richard Trevithick  to use high pressure steam to power his Pen-Y-Daren locomotive, the first successful steam powered vehicle in 1802. In the United States inventors eagerly joined the rush to find new uses for steam power in agriculture and industry. It was an era that changed the way we live forever. If the locomotive was an iron horse the machines that replaced the beast of burden on the farm and in factories were surely an iron mule.
Today you occasionally find some of these visitors from the past sitting beside the road or displayed at a farm show or other event. For many years I traveled Highway 74 from Wilmington, NC. to Charlotte to visit family . On one trip not far from Rockingham, NC. I noticed an outlandish looking contraption sitting in a vacant lot and stopped for a better look. It turned out to be an A.B. Farquhar portable steam engine. I've been stopping whenever I see one since then. This blog will be a journal of discovery featuring steam engines, antique tractors and more. I welcome your comments and editorial contributions. If you have additional information about any item featured here please pass it along. Many hands and an engine or two make for light work.

Resources and sources:
Yonder Comes The Train by Lance Phillips.
An extract from the Miner's Friend by Thomas Savery (1702)

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