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Old 04-19-2010, 06:50 PM   #1
Vulcanworks
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Good evening,
I wonder if someone might offer some advice relating to a propeller I recently ‘found’ at our local museum.
My ‘thing’ is WW1 biographies, but I also happen to live in Southport, which has an almost forgotten history of aircraft production dating back to 1916. I had been aware of a couple of batches of DH4, DH9 and DH9a aircraft produced at the Vulcan Motor and Engineering factory for some time and had made some tentative enquiries at both the museum and our local history unit within the library last year which were met with polite shrugs and a general lack of enthusiasm. More recently I became aware of two batches of BE2 aircraft which were produced there prior to the De Havilland aircraft and revisited the issue with the museum. Once again I was sent packing. Then by chance I found a picture of a DH9 on trestles in the factory which was credited to the museum collection. I sent an e-mail to the lady in charge of the local history unit and finally got a result. There was some material in a box file which I was welcome to review. This turned out to be a red herring, comprising of material from old classic car magazines and an article on the production of air portable motorbikes for paratroopers during WW2. To be fair to the staff they dug out a display board from years past with some photographs of the types produced, but these were not originals and were not of actual Vulcan machines. They admitted there might have been some photos, but due to staffing changes over the years their whereabouts were unknown. I tried to put a brave face on things, but was obviously disappointed.
It was at this point someone mentioned ‘the propeller in the cellar’. Would I be interested in seeing this? After obtaining permission to go into the storage area, I was taken to what turned out to be a storeroom with a corrugated roof – much as you would expect to see garden tooling kept in. Tied to the roof beams with coarse hessian rope was a four bladed wooden propeller. It had been there for years, and its history was unknown. The only way to get close to it was to stand on a white plastic garden chair, which left a bit to be desired. I took some photos and left, promising to return with some more appropriate inspection tooling.
A couple of weeks later I finally got an hour spare and returned with a set of folding steps, a mirror and torch. Despite the prop being tied with the front face of the hub uppermost, I managed to identify the part number and serial number.

T7448-RAF1A-100HP-BE2C-D2769MM-P2835MM G653N18

Now with a little digging on the internet and the application of logic I would guess this should be interpreted as;
• T7448 – the drawing number? Seems to be the standard 4 bladed prop fitted to BE2c/d/e models ref. Cross & Cockade.
• RAF1A – engine type.
• 100HP (this appears as a single symbol, the closest I can get on this keyboard is the Cyrillic letter Њ which should be inverted) – the power output of the engine sub type this prop is applicable to.
• BE2C – applicable airframe.
• D2769mm – diameter. This is pretty close to the measurement I took of 108¾inches.
• P2835mm – pitch.
This part number appears circumferentially around the hub – the second part (the serial number?) appears separately.
The prop itself is of laminated hardwood and is in good condition. It has clearly been mounted on a wall at some point and has four brass tags screwed to its rear face. The attendant tells me that it has been suspended from the roof beams for several years, and that he would be concerned it might warp if brought inside. At present it is subject to ‘outside’ humidity levels which I know from storing furniture in my garage for a short time can have a dramatic effect on wood.
Last week I became aware of sections of the old factory being demolished. Sadly this has been on the cards for some time as it has been empty for many years and is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. I hope that the whole thing isn’t going as it is a magnificent building which has changed remarkably little since 1906 when it was built. My daughter and I used to dream of turning it into a chocolate factory when she was little. As things stand, I can’t do much about ‘progress’, but I am determined that the propeller won’t go the same way as the old factory. I have promised to produce a display for the museum which will accurately record what happened there and additionally need some advice on what needs to be done to get the prop into a condition where it won’t deteriorate and can be put back on display.
I would also be grateful if anyone could advise me of the way the part number works. Does the T7448 indicate the material specification as well as the type? Does the serial number indicate the date of manufacture and do records exist which may link it to a particular batch produced at a specific location? Why is the diameter and pitch given in millimetres when the British Empire worked in inches?
Many thanks,
Vulcanworks
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Old 04-19-2010, 07:15 PM   #2
Dave
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Well, for starters the drawing number T7448 is listed for use on a BE2c/d/e AD, FK3 and RE7 all using an RAF1A or RAF1B engine. Interestingly in the Windsock Datafiles listings it shows the diameter of 2770mm and pitch of 3090mm, but the markings almost certainly confirm its design for the BE2. I can't answer the question about metric measurements used by the British, except that it may have followed the pattern by early French manufactuers like Chauviere, Ratmanoff, Eclair, Regy and many others.

Bob Gardner may be able to deciper the "G" and "N" numbers to narrow down a date of manufacture. It is a British designed prop, and most likely manufactured there. The "T" in the drawing was the designation for the Royal Aircraft Factory, although often they were sub-contracted to other manufacturers.

Are there decals on the blades?

Sounds like a nice find, and the first step in its preservation is to stop its decay, which means getting it out of there and into someplace where furniture could survive. I wouldn't worry about warpage, but the atmospheric cycles will certainly have an adverse effect on the varnish and overall appearance. Above all, don't try to "restore" it, as they almost universally are considerably more valuable and desirable in original condition.

I'd love to see some photos of it. Do you need any help?
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:57 PM   #3
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The Vulcan Motor & Engineering Co were subcontractors in aircraft manufacture from 1916 to 1918 when they made 100 DH4 aircraft, 100 DH9 aircraft, 225 DH9A aircraft and 300 BE2C, D and E aircraft and in some cases, possibly parts for them.

Waring & Gillow made DH9 wings and fuselages and were a major maker of aircraft props. These were made at Liverpool and Lancaster and all appear (there is some doubt) to have been distributed to the National Aircraft Factory at Aintree, the Vulcan works and the Alliance Aeroplane Co at Acton.

Although the Waring & Gillow company is well recorded as a prop maker, I have not so far discovered any direct evidence of their prop manufacture at all, and only circumstantial evidence that they made DH4 and DH9 props.

So who made your prop is of great interest. Research suggests that Waring & Gillow supplied the aircraft makers in the Liverpool area with props. If so this is the first W & G prop that I have heard of. The next possibility is that Vulcan made props themselves. And finally, it might be that other local prop makers supplied Vulcan before Waring & Gillow. The firm of Boulton & Paul in Norwich were a major maker and supplied props to firms throughout Britain. The only BE2C prop that I have recorded with identical dimensions to yours (which are particularly atypical) was made by them.

The answer might lie on your prop. The name of the maker might be there on the hub, a decal would also answer the question and finally there is likely to be a serial number on the prop which might also give the answer.

I look forward to your photographs with great interest. I shall describe it in my book on British WW1 props and I'd like to use your photographs. I live the other side of the Pennines so perhaps I can come and photograph it myself?

Don't worry too much about it being damp. Props are much more resilient than furniture because they are laminated. Consider that they were expected to sit on an aircraft out in the midday sun where they might attain a surface temperature above 100C, then power the aircraft through rain to 20,000 ft where the temperature might be -20C.

Millimetres are used to describe most props because the second birth of aviation took place in France. After 1903 the Wright Brothers rather took their eye off the ball and aviation did not flourish in the States until entry into the war in 1917. The first flight that involved an aircraft taking off under its own power, flying in a circle and landing at the same point (or any other point of choice) took place in France in 1908. Hitherto flying had been predominantly hopping. So French design then blossomed, and their aircraft, engines and propellers led the world from 1908 to around 1916. Hence British props were measured in mm.

With kind regards,

Bob
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Old 04-20-2010, 04:28 PM   #4
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Postscript.

The G number indicates a batch of 100 props, issued centrally by the Government. N is the serial number within that 100. Yours dates from early 1918. G652 was also for BE2C props which suggests that a contract for at least 200 props was let to one maker.

Bob
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Old 04-21-2010, 12:43 AM   #5
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Hello Bob,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Gardner View Post
.../...
Waring & Gillow made DH9 wings and fuselages and were a major maker of aircraft props. These were made at Liverpool and Lancaster and all appear (there is some doubt) to have been distributed to the National Aircraft Factory at Aintree, the Vulcan works and the Alliance Aeroplane Co at Acton.

Although the Waring & Gillow company is well recorded as a prop maker, I have not so far discovered any direct evidence of their prop manufacture at all, and only circumstantial evidence that they made DH4 and DH9 props.
.../...
You have on these woodenpropeller pages a Waring & Gillow decal (http://www.woodenpropeller.com/waringgillow.jpg): it is on a Régy propeller. Until now, I found more Régy propellers made by licensees as for any other propellers makers: Keisser, Jémont, Schmit, Selmersheim, Woirin. Jémont, Schmit and Selmersheim were cabinetmakers I found in Paris 1919 phonebook. Woirin was a propeller maker, but he didn't gain army approved propeller. I didn't find Keisser nor Waring & Gillow (Waring & Gillow decal shows "Paris") in phonebook (read from 1905 to 1939 for aviation and from 1914 to 1919 for cabinetmakers).

Keisser and Waring & Gillow decals writings are different from others : they don't show "Licence Régy", but "Hélice Régy" with same "font" as Régy one for "Hélice". Is this because Keisser and Waring & Gillow were not licensees but subcontractors?

It would be very interesting looking at markings of Waring & Gillow Régy propeller ... Has it French or English airworthy stamps?

Tony Selmersheim was a very active constructor : there are Chauvière, Ratier and Régy propellers made by him for sure and perhaps others. He was very well known in art world.

Best regards,
PM

Edit : link name correction
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Old 04-21-2010, 06:00 AM   #6
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Hello Pierre-Michel,

That Waring & Gillow decal in Dave's photographic collection is the only thing I have ever found that confirms that they made propellers; and it is French. I have no evidence yet that Waring & Gillow made propellers in Britain even though they are described frequently in adverts etc and other books as propeller makers. Perhaps the Vulcan Works propeller will be made by them. It would be a most interesting discovery. Even more interesting if made by Vulcan, who are not listed as a prop maker. But I don't think so.

You write: Keisser and Waring & Gillow decals writings are different from others : they don't show "Licence Régy", but "Hélice Régy." I may have misunderstood you but Dave's decal does show Licence Régy. In the centre under the word Helices, at the top, it reads Licence Régy, although not clearly.

When are you going to publish the results of your research? I did once intend to write a book on French props after I finished describing German props but English and German props will occupy me for some years to come.

With kind regards,

Bob
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Old 04-21-2010, 08:00 AM   #7
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I've still got that propeller (Waring and Gillow), and in fact still have most of the French props shown on the web site, so if you need any details from them please let me know.
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Old 04-21-2010, 12:22 PM   #8
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Hi,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Gardner View Post
.../... You write: Keisser and Waring & Gillow decals writings are different from others : they don't show "Licence Régy", but "Hélice Régy." I may have misunderstood you but Dave's decal does show Licence Régy. In the centre under the word Helices, at the top, it reads Licence Régy, although not clearly. .../...
Yes! You are right! Problem with translation in Word, wrong copy-paste and too late hour ... Both Waring & Gillow and Keisser have "Licence Régy" under "Helices", with the same font as true Régy decal. I thought it have perhaps a meaning, as I didn't find nor Waring & Gillow, nor Keisser in Paris phonebook...

For research publication, I have to read the air army archives (SHAA in Vincennes) : it is a big work, and I live very far from Paris. And I have not given up about seeing Musée de l'Air props ...

@ Dave : I will be very interested by pictures of four sides of the Waring & Gillow hub !
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Old 04-21-2010, 02:16 PM   #9
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Hi Dave,

I'm delighted to learn that you have the Waring & Gillow prop. I would be most grateful for photographs of the decal and of the complete prop and of the data on the hub. All for the book of course.

Waring & Gillows is something of a puzzle. Both were furniture makers. The firms of Waring and Gillows formed a loose alliance for years before becoming a company in its own right. They made props and aircraft during WW1. In addition Waring himself continued to make aircraft and props at the same time. We made some Waring decals recently for the DH9 now owned by the IWM.

With kind regards,

Bob
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Old 04-21-2010, 02:19 PM   #10
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Cher Pierre-Michel,

I have a proposal. When you write the definitive work on French WW1 props, I will translate it and publish the English language version, if you wish.

Salutations!

Bob
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