A "SOUND" TOUR

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52

A “SOUND” TOUR A NOVEL VISIT TO THE ROLLS-ROYCE FACTORY

AN interesting experiment was carried out recently on the Midland Regional Wireless programme, consisting of a” sound” tour of the Rolls-Royce factory at Derby. The ” tour ” was personally conducted by Mr. A. F. Sidgreaves, the Managing Director of the company, who discussed the evolution of the modem motor car from a new angle, that of the quest for silence. “Man must be the master of the machine,” said Mr. Sidgreaves, ” and most of us are consequently a great deal more interested in how it works than why it works or even how it is made. I am speaking from a factory that bears the name of a great motoring and flying pioneer. The Hon. C. S. Rolls, who lost his life in a flying accident in 1910, was at the wheel of a self-propelled carriage in Britain when the laws of this country forbade its use, unless it was preceded by a pedestrian armed with a red flag. But Mr. Rolls lived to see some of his great ideas realised. Of course, there is no real beginning of anything — something of the modem motor car may go back as far as the Babylonian era, but I think it is to the invention of a famous Irish surgeon—the pneumatic tyre—that we owe modem transport. Hence, it is to cycling that we really owe the tremendous advancement in human communications. Through what troubles this progress was made you can judge by turning up the files of ancient comic papers. For years the motor car was an inexhaustible mine for the humorist. The modem humorist, if only moderately successful, has a car of his own, and this at least makes him more accurate in his drawings: The Hon. C. S. Rolls was a vitalising force in the development of the technique of motor car construction. He and Sir Henry Royce foresaw that some day the real motor car would be silent in action, controllable with the little finger, indifferent to road surfaces and gradients, and as comfortable as the magic carpet. The life of the modem automobile engineer is not a happy one. You still hear something of motor noises. In our early days they raised outcries from all sides. We set about making the exhausts more quiet. Immediately, our ears were assaulted by a clatter of valves. For years we worked to reduce the valve to quietness, whereupon the gearing was exposed in all its loudness, the gearbox became a screeching sisterhood of pinions. About the time the ladies got the vote, the gearbox was more or less silent. This seemed merely to show that the back axle made far too much fuss. When this was put right the brakes made their squeaky voices heard, and the technician knew no peace until that trouble had been put right. The car-owning public were calling, and are still calling, for a higher and higher performance. And so the hunt goes on ! The quest of a perfect motor car is

not less difficult than that of the Elixir of Life and of the Philosopher’s Stone. Sir Henry Royce 25 years ago determined upon a policy of quality in manufacture that was then considered impossible of attainment. Contributors of components could not give the results he demanded. ‘Very well,’ was his laconic reply, ‘we will make them ourselves.’ He established experimental departments to deal with the scientific problems, employing a large number of highly skilled workers. This knowledge was turned to military advantage in 1915, when we supplied our first aero engine to the British Government. Snortly afterwards the whole of our Derby factory was devoted to its production. As a result of never ceasing testing and research, Sir John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitten Brown made the first flight across the Atlantic in the summer of 1919. Ten years later Great Britain won the Schneider Trophy with a speed of over 328 m.p.h. and last year the prize was won outright at a speed of 340 m.p.h. Later, Flight Lieut. Stain

forth captured the world’s speed record at 407 m.p.h. in a similar machine. We are naturally proud of what we have done, but we are never satisfied, and the sounds you will hear can hardly convey the picture of the Works from which I am speaking. Raw material enters at one end to undergo multitudinous processes until it emerges as the finished product at the other. The tests it passes through we regard as of the highest importance. Motor cars and aircraft engines are submitted to stresses many times greater than they could conceivably suffer in normal use.”

Listeners were then taken over to hear the sound of certain operations from various Shops. Steel drop hammers were heard forging billets of steel into shape. Very strenuous

chassis tests were heard being carried out, tests which are equivalent to 10,000 miles of running over the roughest of roads. Then one was able to compare the running-up of a car engine with that of an aero engine. With the car engine, although the microphone was placed quite close to the engine it was comparatively silent, whilst

with the aero engine, listeners again had the thrill, as in the last Schneider Trophy race, of hearing the fullthroated roar of the highest-powered engine in the world.