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Rankin & Blackmore



The Eagle Foundry was purchased by Messrs Daniel Rankin and Edward Blackmore in 1862, from Messrs Johnstone & Leitch, makers of machinery for sugar-houses, etc. The new firm erected a boilershop on the opposite side of Baker Street and engaged also in the manufacture of ship machinery, in which they were soon so successful that they enjoyed a long series of engine contracts for river and channel service. In 1874 Mr Rankin invented a disconnecting compound engine for twin-screw and paddle steamers, for which the firm booked many important orders; while in 1884 his two sons, John and Matthew (who had been assumed as partners) invented several types of triple and quadruple expansion engines. The twin-screw steamer Arabian, the first to be fitted with triple-expansion engines, was given machinery by this firm, and naturally attracted a good deal of attention. Mr Rankin died in 1885, Mr Blackmore retired soon after, and the business was carried on by Mr Rankin's sons. In 1890 the firm was fortunate enough to secure with a set of their patent triple-expansion paddle engines a world's record speed for such craft from the passenger steamer Hygeia, for Huddart, Parker & Co., Melbourne, the hull constructed by Napier, Shanks & Bell, Yoker. This contract had resulted from the splendid performance in 1886 of the paddle steamer Ozone, for the Bay Excursion Co. of Melbourne, the hull of which was built by the Yoker firm. The compound engines were supplied by Rankin & Blackmore, and for the first time in such steamers the navy boilers used worked under forced draught on the closed stokehold principle. This had the effect of greatly lightening the weight of the boilers, and enabled the shipbuilders to make the lines so fine that the guaranteed speed was easily surpassed. A lively newspaper correspondence followed on the result, the chief protagonists Dr John Inglis and Mr John Rankin. The success of this bold departure from orthodox practice was so manifest that in spite of strong opposition it soon became the standard on the Clyde and    elsewhere. The Melbourne firm had asked Rankin & Blackmore to supply them with a clipper to beat the Ozone, but pressure of business stood in the way of delivery, and Swan & Hunter, Tyne, produced the screw steamer Courier. There was intense rivalry between the two vessels, the forced draught being worked for all it was worth, sometimes more. While the screw was rather faster in deep water, the paddle was the better inshore and decidedly more popular, and the issue was an order for a paddle steamer to beat both rivals. This the Hygeia did so handsomely that the " ashes " were recovered for the Clyde, where they still remain. This class of work, coupled with engines for tugboats, did not always suffice to keep the Eagle Foundry fully employed, and in later years a specialty was made of cargo steamer machinery, and of passenger steamers as well, of which the Transatlantic Liner Martha Washington, called the greyhound of the Adriatic, was a notable example. The town and harbours were reaping substantial benefit from this source for these many years, and will most probably continue to do for a long time to come. Before the war the firm was constituted a limited liability company, and Mr Hugh Ferrier was assumed as a director. At a time when British marine engineers are being reproached for lagging behind their Continental rivals with oil motors, it is interesting to note that in 1892 John and Matthew Rankin patented and made an internal combustion engine to work with either gas or petroleum, but after spending a good deal of time and money on pioneer experimenting they could not find a market for motors of that kind, and have since confined themselves to further improvements on the steam engine. In addition to their records for speed and economy of fuel, Rankin & Blackmore probably hold the blue ribbon on the Clyde for the variety of the types of engines turned out by them, which led to their apprentices dubbing the Eagle Foundry " the College." The types of engines made by Rankin & Blackmore number over thirty.

RM Smith

The works were badly damaged during the Blitz of 1941. Rankin & Blackmores became a subsidiary of Lithgow's in 1952. The foundry closed in 1954 with castings being bought from GM Hay & Co. The firm closed in 1964.

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