Horsepower By Steve Denis
Well it was all advertising you see...
James Watt, remember him? Worked as a repairman at some obscure university in some obscure country...where the obscure students hand broken a working display model of the Newcomen pumping engine...he fixed it and they compared him to the brightness of the not yet invented light bulb...I always wondered when Edison had the idea for the light bulb whether a Hurricane Lamp appeared over his head...and further more before lamps were invented did all great ideas happen inside to prevent the candle from being blown out? Oh, yes.... Well. it seems that being a very *bad* repairman he did not fix the device as the maker had intended, no, he used whatever scrap was about and the thing started working *much* better than it had before...Whereas the startled Watt exclaimed"Huh!?". The university, who was making such a good living from the old dusty ideas locked in the basement of the library and the heads of a few tweedy professors with thick glasses and coffee stains on their ties, could not stand to have *new* ideas on campus, simply fired the bewildered repairman.
Watt was cleaning out his desk in the presence of a fairly disgusted dean when he came to the repaired engine. He held it up and asked "You want"? The dean unfolded his arms and with a turn of his head, he waved the back of his hand as to scoot it along and said "Take the bloody thing...". Now, out of work in god forsaken place, Watt trudged down the street watching the local boys chasing barrel hoops down the street with "T" shaped sticks and he had a idea it was so simple that he wondered why he hadn't though of it before! He needs a drink!
Nipping into the local pub he ordered up a stout and dropped his belongings on the floor. The draft was served up and he took a deep draught...Now, *that* was more like it! Only trouble was that he kept kicking the model as he turned for a refill... He bent down and fetched the thing up to the bartop. .'Wot cha got there, mate?" asked a bleery eyed sot in a dingy pullover and a 3 day stubble. 'Well, umm, I'm not sure" he said. The sot squinted at the device with his good eye...."It looks like a thermo-mechanical conversion device if you ask me" he sputtered, seemingly happy with his deft analysis. Err well, no. it's a.sort of a. ummm.... (A pony with shay clattered by the window) replacement for the...horse! Actually..." . He was hoping that he'd now be left to enjoy his drink in peace.
Human nature, being what it is, of course, prevented this completely. As the conversation swelled around the new device so did the claims of its abilities. Finally some drunken day laborer from the local mine shouted "Prove it!" A grunt of agreement rumbled around the room. He's done it now... the crowd now retired to the side lot of the building where they soon produced a sorry example of the equine race. A whole new discussion broke out about what, in simple terms, defined a "Horse". There where those that insisted that this beast was actually a "Pony" and would be unsuitable for the test...A real ruckus arose over this and Watt was suddenly thinking he might just get to forget all this foolishness (which he was more and more convinced it was) and get back to the business of introducing beverage to belly. "CLOSE ENOUGH" bellowed someone from the back of the crowd "HOOK 'EM UP"! "Drat" thought Watt... The pub was a converted hip roof barn, hence the name "The Cow and Straw'. And as a converted barn, it had an end beam with a rusty pulley on its end. A rope passed over the wheel and both ends were coiled on the ground. The hapless horse (or pony, depending on what side you'd taken earlier) was duly hitched to the end of the rope. Then they looked about for a suitable weight. They settled on one of the large beer casks standing about. They rolled it into position and tied it to the other end of the rope. No mean task as it was round and they were drunk.... A new discussion arose over the size of the cask. It was clearly marked "600 lbs.". This time the two sides were fighting over the lifting capacity of the horse (or pony, if you please). Some said 600 was no problem, others said no more than 500, tops... An agreement was reached when 50 lbs. was drained off in to the waiting tankards. "Five fifty it *is*" they shouted. The pony's (or horse's, if you are so inclined) rump was smacked and the beast pulled forward. However, due to the miscalculations of the "soggy" crowd, the tangle of rope jammed as the cask got no more than 1 foot off the ground. "That's no test!" some one shouted."It didn't take more than a second"! "Good enough!" another voice hollered. The cask was lowered and the pony-horse unhitched (which suited his horse-pony brain just fine) and Watts folly was wedged into place...the rope was wrapped around the wheel and the thing started... "Whump!. Up came the keg and hit the same knot in the rope and stalled... Yea! The crowd roared its approval. Some forgetting that they were on the losing end of the wagers and side bets that had run through the group (the pony thing was let to drop and no money changed hands).
"Well then. One horsepower equals 550 foot pounds per second!" shouted Watt "PONYPOWER" some diehard in the back offered, but he was quickly shouted down. So there you go. You may have notice that a huge beer wagon needs only but a few large horses to pull it, while your Land Rover requires 77 or more to make it go down the road... mystery? Not hardly... You see while the horse (pony) was removed and the steam engine was hooked up and brought up to temperature, the crowd had slowly, but surely *drained the keg*. So the little engine was lifting a barrel of air. 550 ft/lbs./sec or 22,000 ft/lbs./min.
It was measured with a device called a "Brake" which simply took and stopped the wheel and measured the force required to do that...When it was hooked up and running one of the "pony" faction tried to get in his last licks by carving "PONY" in the wooden base. He was in a rush and the knife was dull so it looked like "PRONY" when he was finished... and the name stuck...
From the OVLR Newsletter, August 98
For the more numbers inclined, there is this comparison between horsepower and torque - "What's the difference between horsepower and torque?"