his look into the driving force behind the organ...
to the website of the Rieger
in the Christchurch Town Hall,
Musings & Amusings
BLOWERS ~ 3
blowers gave excellent service: it is said that numbers are still
in use in parts of the USA where local water rates favour this.
It would be good to hear from anybody who has any information.
was that considerable quantities of water had to be piped close
to the organ. A burst pipe or even quite a small leak if undetected
could ruin all wood and leather components and result in a very
expensive rebuild. In some places, there was insufficient pressure
to operate the several hydraulic engines needed for a large instrument
and in others water companies tended to reduce or shut off supplies
for maintenance on Sundays when use of church and concert hall instruments
problems were seized on and probably exaggerated by those wishing
to sell alternative sources of power. In the late 1880s, Davis and
Oakes patented a rotating steam blower which achieved some sales.
is shown in figure 1, taken from The Engineer of 1890. The
large wheel was belt driven by a separate steam engine. It is not
clear from the picture or the description how it worked, but the central
shaft may have been provided with cams that alternately raised and
released the three puff bellows placed side by side on the cross member.
(There could be other bellows out of sight) These would normally be
closed by the coil springs shown which would not force wind beyond
the maximum pressure set. The lack of a tendency to overblow was claimed
as a feature of the device. Again, if any visitor has information
about the working of the system - please say!
most organs, an engine of 5 HP or so was adequate, though the large
4 manual instrument at London's Albert Hall, with its high pressure
reeds, was provided with two engines of 8 and 12 HP respectively.
space was limited a vertical engine
with an integral boiler was used (Figure 2).
presence of the boiler with its attendant heat and dust in the same
chamber as the blower was far from desirable, and the better alternative
of a horizontal engine powered by a boiler in another compartment
was used where space permitted. (Figure 3)
blowers were not widely used for obvious reasons: they were expensive
to install and run and required the attention of a suitably qualified
mechanic. Above all, raising steam took time so all use of the instrument
had to be planned well in advance and occasional practice was a
blowers have departed, one undesirable legacy remains in some places.
The noise made by such an installation was considerable with the
belt drive a contributor to this. Substantial chambers were constructed
outside the church or hall ~ perhaps in a lean-to shed ~ to house
the plant. Air was then drawn at outdoor or even boiler-house temperature
and humidity and fed to an organ in a markedly different environment.
The effect on tuning and on reliability could be disastrous.
blowers are sometimes housed in similar conditions even today with
the same effect.
the pictures and much of the information I am indebted to Richard
Adamek whose web site www.phoenixbooks.org
is well worth visiting.
in Views and Reviews:
free to email with questions