Saturday, December 22, 2018

Postblogging Technology, October 1948, II: The Dewey System

R_. C_.,
The Peninsula,
Hong Kong

Dear Father:

Happy Birthday and many happy returns to your wife! See you Friday! I am dashing this off because I am invited over for dinner with Professor K. and family. I think we're celebrating the fact that I'm in San Francisco on a Thursday, but it's a good trial run for the festive season. I am bringing a pumpkin pie that I am making myself, as advance practice for not having anything else to bring aside from a distinct shortage of relatives who will tolerate me at their Thanksgiving or Christmas table. Have you ever made one? I know you dabble. I will have --soon. The trick is the pastry as  usual, and at that, I say, hopefully, I am getting better. Practice makes perfect! Then it is to the train station to await the 4AM for Seattle, connections to Vancouver on those hard, narrow chairs. Reggie is flying. I'm sure that you've heard by now that he is held over in St. Louis by weather and so will miss his TCA connection, and won't be arriving at Vancouver until tomorrow afternoon. Between picking him up at the airport and me at the station, the dacoits will have a full day of chauffering and looking discreetly menacing. 

I've bought them gifts. In the future, it would be easier if I had sizes. Subtle hint. I hope that they're not too disappointed. I may have shaved some money off that cheque you sent last month, for which I am very grateful, even though I am pretty sure that "Thanksgiving Gifts" are not actually a Canadian tradition. 

Yours Sincerely,

Engineering, 15 October 1948

"Counterbalance Tests on American High Speed Locomotives (Continued from p. 174)" Since the Southern Pacific's big mountain locomotives are in the news thanks to being used on the Warren campaign train, I had a momentary panic at the thought that this article was actually relevant to something. However, the "Mountain" class in question are 1911 4-8-2s, not the funny ones being used on the Warren Train, which means that I get to skip this article after all.

 Locomotives are important, and this ought to be relevant. Now enjoy this two-year-old video of Southern Pacific Mountain locomotives that has garnered 217 views. 
"Report of the Astronomer Royal (Continued from p. 318)" This installment of the report is mostly about the Astronomer Royal's Earth-bound activities. Okay, I guess they're all Earth-based. What I mean is, doing things that people need, instead of looking at the stars . . . I'm really in the soup. It's about telling time, not observing distant  galaxies! There! It gets a bit complicated, though, because now that the Astronomer Royal has installed quartz crystal clocks at various observatories and worked out ways of synchronising them, accuracy is so good that the Earth's "polar motion" is a factor. (This is the Earth's motion within its crust, kind of like Ronnie after she's been to a nice meal thrown at the insistence of someone who sends a cheque to celebrate "Canadian Thanksgiving.")

Oh, golly, my foot's in my mouth again. Thanks, is what I meant to say. I guess the point is that you can only accurately measure polar motion by looking at the Moon and the Sun, which requires very accurate transits, which means that looking at stars, or one star in particular, is important. At least for those who need to know the time to the microsecond, and even more so those who need to know the time to the microsecond and aren't near one of the Astronomer Royal's observatories. Which requires a radio signal, which can be interfered with by solar flares, which the A.R. observes, so the Sun is relevant some more.

Breath, Ronnie, breath. Well, them's the risks when you read the articles before you start writing, and have some idea what they say. Don't worry, won't happen again.

After that they tried to flog off improvements on the Wellington formula
to very little success
Fair use,
"The War Effort of Vickers Armstrong Limited" Back in WWI, Vickers and Armstrong Whitworth were competitors. After the war, Armstrong Whitworh fell on bad times, and in a spirit of free enterprise competitiveness, Vickers bought out Armstrong. Rearmament was good for Vickers, which began to build new plant as early as 1937 to produce tanks, gun mountings, the giant turrets of the King George V-class, clockwork fuzes for shells, Spitfires, Wellingtons, and various other things at various subsidiaries. 

By 1943, the company employed 170,000 people.  The author reminds everyone that heavy wartime bombing made work difficult at the Tyne works, and nearly obliterated the Southampton Spitfire works with heavy loss of life. 

Resting face is a smile. Good sign in a boss.
Edwin Foden (1841--1911).
"Commercial Motor Transport Exhibit at Earl's Court (Continued from p. 316)" This installment is devoted to Foden and Commer heavy duty diesel engines for 5- and 10 ton trucks. Both are new designs using hollow-cast, heat treated aluminum pistons, air supercharging with Rootes-type blowers, fuel injection with high pressure scavenging, and forced lubrication using gear-driven pumps. In some, lots of developments that were either pioneered or at least became standard practice in WWII. It may destroy civilisation, but war is good for heavy transport. 

"Metal to Metal Bonding with Synthetic Resin Adhesive" A description of the use of Redux-class adhesives developed by the Aero Research Corporation and used, for example, on the De Havilland Hornet. The body of the article is devoted to the clamping and heating procedures required. 

"'Self-Cleaning' White Paint" The new paint developed at the London, Midland South Research Department isn't actually self-cleaning, but the surface gradually washes away in the rain, which means that it stays white and bright until it has to be replaced. Close enough!

"Oil-Engined Locomotive for Underground Haulage" Last year, when the coal shortage was at its height, everyone was worried about how there just aren't enough locomotives underground in Britain. The builders got to work, and now there are some nice new models that solve all the tricky problems of flame-and damp-proofing, but there's no coal shortage any more, so no-one cares.

Launches and Trial Trips

M.S. Kaitoke,, a single screw refrigerated and general cargo ship, Fulham X, a single screw collier, Cannanore, a single screw general cargo ship; SS Star VI, a single-screw whaler, Karanja, a single screw passenger liner with accommodation for 1200 unberthed passengers, Puck, a single-screw cargo vessel, and Princess Patricia, a passenger liner for the Canadian Pacific for British Columbia coastal service with room for 98 berthed and 1200 day passengers.
Raincoast oldtimers know this one, but she went out of regular service the year after I was born.

Regional Notes I'm beginning to think these reflect the authors more than the region. Scottish Notes is obsessed with scrap (good this week and 29 October, bad 22 October) Yorkshire Notes with different classes of steel production, which continue at the highest rate through the month without being able to meet customer demands, but show signs of weakness on the crucible steel front at the end of the month after American competition picks up. Southwest Notes worries about coal, doing well at the beginning of the month with steady French demand, as French industry doesn't seem to be aware that the country is about to collapse, but showing signs of its own catastrophe at the end of the month, because there aren't enough busses to carry all the coal miners to work, of all things. The bus charters aren't being paid enough, it seems. Northeast Notes is the one that always goes on about angles and bars, about which no-one cares this month, because customers want more of everything than can be supplied, and the Northeast is actually drawing on pig iron from the other regions as the industry cannibalises itself. 


"Engineering Means and Ends" The two big stories this week are the two subjects that T. G. N. Haldane wandered over in his presidential address to the Institute of Electrical Engineers. He had something interesting and concrete to say about the development of a new 275 kV grid that will be "superimposed" on the existing 132 kV National Grid. This will interconnect new power plants, to balance loads, as I understand it. Right now, power plants are located in estuary locations, for cooling water, I think. In the future, they will be located in the coal fields, as the cost of moving coal comes to be a greater operating burden than moving electricity. This dispersal will require the new grid. That out of the way, Haldane can blather on about how engineers need a more generalised education so that they can take more things into account, especially the way that all the modern comforts people can buy are making them --soft, I think? Honestly, I tend to tune out engineers when they get metaphysical. 

"Timber Exposed to Sea-Water" Timber is traditionally widely used in piers, sea defences and other situations where they are exposed to water. This may be changing in Britain due to the cost of replacing it, but in the mean time it is worth looking at ways of "curing it" with treatments with combinations of mineral salts like Celcure, instead of the traditional creosote. With the right applications, these show promise against various marine worms, which is especially important with the increasing use of Douglas fir timbers. These, from your neck of the woods, are readily available in the right sizes, but aren't particularly resistant to worms, in comparison to teak used in some British works, which have stood up to the sea for more than 61 years. 

Notes is about the various associations meeting this week. 


W. A. Tuplin gets into it with R. Opie about whether all of this newfangled scientific testing of locomotives is actually worth doing. (He thinks it is.) W. T. Wilkes comments at length on the Chepstow Bridge[? . . no], mainly to the effect that the hundred-year-old original design seems to be better than the new one, which seems strange, and may be due to the builders today being required to accept lower stressing. 

"The British Association Meeting at Brighton (Continued from p. 363)" This weeks installment covers a session on diesel-powered road transport that doesn't require comment, and on "Applicable Mathematics," which is the latest installment of the mathematicians-versus-engineers war. Mathematicians think engineers are dumb; engineers think mathematicians are too picky about methods. There's an interesting bit at the bottom about how, for sheer lack of labour, designers hired female (gasp!) mathematicians to do engineering work in WWI, and even though they said they knew nothing about engineering, most of them turned out to be better at engineering than the engineers, and went on to more important work. Wait till I tell Reggie! (I also wish I could mention this to Grace . . .)

Damage to treaty cruiser HMS London which hasn't happened yet. 
"The Institute of Naval Architects (Continued from p. 255)" A few talks are covered in this installment, and a lot of comments. The talks were about war damage to the Treaty cruisers ("County" class), it seems, and carriers. The cruisers were built with high-stress scantlings to make treaty displacement limits, and, no wonder, suffered from sea damage during the war. They were also badly victimised by mining, which has partly to do with machinery installations and not the scantlings at all. Aircraft carriers weren't lightly built, but the flight decks were hard to protect from sea damage, and the welding in the superstructures of the American aircraft carriers was poor quality, and this made it worse.

A. W. Swan, "Statistical Methods in the Iron and Steel Industry" Statistical methods of control are a big subject this month. They seem like something I should just nod along for, since it is obvious that they could be useful, and the devil is going to be in details I can't possibly understand.

I. W. Gross and C. F. Wagner, "Experimental High-Voltage Power-Transmission Lines" Ahead of plans to build these very high voltage lines, it seemed useful to do an experimental run to find out about the effects of atmosphere and coronal discharge, so that is what the American Gas and Electric Service Corporation and Ohio Power Company did with a sixty mile run west of Pittsburgh. The equipment was all specially manufactured, and nothing was found to shut down high tension line projects around the world. 

Lt. Colonel Harold Rudgard, "The Use of Locomotives for Earning Revenue" Running locomotives lots is good for economy? Less maintenance is cheaper? There must be more to this than that! Diesel-electric does seem to be the way to go, is the one thing I got from this. 

Time, 18 October 1948


Three letters are very upset that Oliver Twist won't show in America because of anti-Semitic content. David Sherwood, of Washington, DC, goes so far as to blame "minority groups."

K. C. Ingram of the Southern Pacific points out that the locomotives on the Governor Warren's train only seem to be running in reverse. Actually, they are 125ft, 6000hp 4-8-8-2s with smokestacks at the back to give a cab-foward effect so that the crew can see around corners on the mountain routes. Hermann Ships of some old alma mater, Edward DeCrosta of Renesselaer and Charles Morton of Delta Sigma at UCLA write to defend the Greek system. No Greeks at Stanford! Colonel Unni Nayer writes to point out that Time used a picture of Brigadier Dilip Chaudhuri for teh actual victor at Hyderabad, Major General J. N. Chaudhuri, his brother. F. O. Matthiessen didn't like the review of his book, and doesn't like Time, in general.A reader who can't afford $30.50 for a subscription to Time but borrows it and shares it around his community of beachcombers writes to say that they are poor but proud Time readers.  

It's not very clear here, but it was actually Group Captain Cook who told Ronnie that a
Russian test blast was imminent, and he got it through contacts in the RAF and MI6
who were overrreacting to Vishinky's speech.
National Affairs

"You Have To Do Something" Time is appalled that the President tried to send Fred Vinson to Moscow to talk atom bombs with Stalin. Everyone was against it, so I suppose we are just going to close our eyes and walk right into the Russian test. A Communist bomb for Christmas? The next story after that is about Dewey coasting to inevitable victory (although  the Chicago Tribune is sad that Dewey is far too soft on the New Deal) while the story after that is about the massive crowds greeting Truman's train at every stop. After that, the latest forecast of the Electoral College outcome is 29 states and 350 votes for Dewey, 9 states and 83 votes for Truman, 4 states and 38 votes for Thurmond, and six states with 60 votes doubtful. Georgia is teetering between Thurmond and Truman, Florida between Truman and Dewey. Ebony is for anyone but Thurmond, Harold Ickes is for Truman. However, a number of state governors' races are getting away from the GOP. Also, John L. Lewis is still doing that thing where he's a Republican at election time. 

"Arrest" Carl Bolton, a small time crook and UAW shop steward, has been charged with the attempted assassination of Walter Reuther, perhaps with someone in back of him with some money to spend, as Bolton tried to hire two former associates to do the deed for $15,000. Which, I'm told, is a five grand more than you need to spend if you have an ounce of credit with your local dacoits. Not that I'd know anything about that. 

"Creeping Death" Another story about the 57 ships irreversibly contaminated at Bikini by the underwater test. Seventy six ships were involved in the shot, and only 9 have been decontaminated, so far. The rest are too "hot" to touch. (But not to tow home, obviously.) 

"Not Worth Living" Tomoya Kawakita, a Japanese American who worked in a Japanese factory and acted as a translator for American prisoners working there, during the war, has been sentenced to death for treason after being caught in Los Angeles.  

Americana reports that Senator Taft thinks that former US Presidents should get a pension, that Helen Dozier Conant was voted Queen of Love and Beauty at St. Louis' annual Masked Prophet Ball, and that the Atlanta Police Department is requiring department stores to close the blinds when they undress dress dummies.


Winston Churchill gave a speech at the Tory part conference about how communism is bad. Lead story, right there! I knew there was a reason I'm reading Newsweek top-of-the-pile these days. Andrei Vishinsky was a very bad boy in the United Nations one day last week. Very bad. 

"Precision Operation" Time rides along in a C-54/DC-6/Skymaster flown out of Frankfurt by Captain Edward Hensch of Texas and 1st Lieutenant William Baker of Los Angeles. A cargo of 9 tons of flour and condensed soup took up "ridiculously little space" in the cargo hold. Time explains the altitude bands and corridors, beacon legs, the GCA in use at the receiving airports, and even "Little Vittles," the candy drop. And that's it for 700 flights every twenty four hours, enough to feed 2.5 million people. (Including what's coming in via the black market, but we don't mention that.) 

"Who Needs Franco?" Some people keep arguing that Franco should be brought into the Sixteen Nations, because communism is bad. Everyone else keeps telling them to shut their big traps before people notice that some of the gents on our side are complete spivs. Which doesn't work that well when you do in public.

"The Turn of the Screw" Trust Time to provide the best explainer of the screw standardisation treaty. I won't bother you about it, as you are a trans-Atlantic engineer, but it was interesting. 

"The Light of Landudno" You know what wasn't interesting? The Tory Party Conference. Nasty old men (and some women along to make them feel better about it) telling themselves that they need to get ready to rule Britain, because the country's not going back to the Middle Ages by itself. 

"Awake!" The Eighteenth Brumaire is. Just. Around. The. Corner. 

"Who's In Charge Here?" After the Bernadotte assassination, Ben Gurion's government put a bunch of Stern Gangsters in prison. This week, most of them strolled out of prison, though most will probably come back. 

"Failure?" A bribery scandal has caused the fall of Japan's government

In Latin America, Peru continues to clean up the aftermath of the Navy/Aprista attempted coup. Canada, meanwhile, is all agog over the attempted deportation of some Vichyites, but not a proposal to build a railway, port and dam to exploit iron ore deposits deep in the bush on the Quebec-Newfoundland border. No-one cares about that. 


"Healthy Pessimism" The price of livestock continues to drop, and meat prices have been cut anywhere from 19% to 35%. Everyone who is concerned with selling meat is hoping that the numbers turn around, but the fact that they all have different reasons that it might, isn't hopeful, as it looks more like grasping at straws than an argument. In steel, US Steel gave up on its fight for fob in a consent decree in Superior Court, admitting that it wasn't going to get passed the Supreme Court upholding what everyone, including now Senator Capehart's committee, their last hope, was saying. It's not pricing; it's price fixing. 
According to Wikipedia, NRC "invented" the high vacuum
evaporation process in 1945. No patent, strangely enough.

"Minute Maid's Man" John Hay Whitney, the man behind Vacuum Food Corporation, or, to put it another way, Minute Maid frozen concentrate orange juice, at least since buying the National Research Corporation method, originally for making penicillin, has signed Bing Crosby to plug the product in return for 20,000 shares. This seems like a good scheme for both, since Whiteney gets a celebrity spokesman for cheap, while Crosby books his earnings as stock profits, taxable as capital gains instead of income. Vacuum lost $450,000 in the first two years of operation, but made $180,000 this year, and is now thinking about expanding to a California plant, because it doesn't have the supply to meet the demand. It will be interesting to see if this saves the Santa Cruz orange groves.

Also of some interest, Nellie Donnelly's Donnelly Garment Corporation is doing well

"Small Town Big-Timer" A story from Arcata, where Southwest's DC-3s are doing most of the work of proving instrument landings on lit fields, showing that Southwest's formula of cheap feeder flights to small towns has profit written all over it.

State of Business reports that  the "big three" soap makers are in trouble with the FCC over a rebate system that effectively fixes wholesale prices, and GE is in it for fixing the price it paid for tungsten. Monsanto has reached an agreement with its insurers for a $17 million payout over the Texas City explosion. US exports were down $38 million to $988 million in August, while imports rose $40 million to $548 million, the smallest positive trade balance in nearly two years. US employment slipped for the second consecutive month to 60,312,000 in October due to college and high school students returning to school, but personal income edged up to $215 billion, up $2 billion.

Science, Medicine, Education

"Trial by Smoke" Brookhaven National Laboratory has built a 420ft smokestack, which it has tested with an oil fire in advance of incinerating radioactive material there, with the expectation that what they learn from the oil plume will teach them how to prevent radioactive material from reaching the ground in Brooklyn.

The Jupiter thing is weird even for Stapledon
"U.S.S." Time has a different take on Olaf Stapledon's talk than Flight. More details make Flight's case that the old dingbat is crazy. He wants to send rockets to Venus and Mars. He admits that we have no idea what the surface of Venus is like, but is pretty sure that there are no intelligent Martians or Venusians. Earth should definitely send colonists to Mars, and should start BREEDING them right now to get the right tall, broad-chested phenotype for breathing Martian air. Thank you for that, Dirty Old Scientist Man. Once there are heat-loving Venusians, thin-air breathing Martians, and whoever ends up living on Jupiter and Saturn, they can all get together and form the United Solar System.

"Diggers" The curator of Denmark's National Museum, Helge Larsen, was in Alaska digging up Ipiutak (ancient Eskimo) sites, and has determined that they had a highly advanced culture that looked more Siberian or Chinese than North American. Where most Bering Strait migrants were "of a low state of culture," the Ipiutak were not, and were, in fact, bearers of a "rich, if savage Siberian culture, with roots as far away as the Ural mountains." As they pushed into North America, they lost this culture, and became the savage Eskimos of today, but not before they spread it to the tribes they met, "diffusing" Asian culture to, presumably, Aztecs and Mayans and Incans.
Carter was on the right track, but if she wanted
credit, she should have stuck to women's work.

"Baby Saver?" "Rh" is the mysterious blood factor that can lead to infant death when people with and without the Rh factor have children. It seems to be something like the body's response to disease, in that it involves antibodies, which attack disease-causing agents. In this case, the blood of an Rh-positive baby in an Rh-negative womb will be attacked by antibodies. I should add here that I'm introducing the part about the antibodies fighting disease. Time doesn't go into these things, but I am an educated girl, and I didn't think I could explain it clearly if I didn't. I guess that means I'm accusing Time of being less than clear. Guilty!! To continue: Mrs. Bettina B. Carter, of Western Pennsylvania Hospital. Okay, since this is an entry for digressions, let me do it again. I'm giving you Carter's name as  Time gives it to acknowledge the way that Time keeps dropping the professional credentials of woman scientists, something I've noticed and which upsets me. Back on track: Carter has found a lipid in RH positive blood that distinguishes it from Rh-negative blood that can be injected into the Rh-negative woman to protect the baby's blood. I want to call this a vaccine, but I'm pretty sure it's not.

"The Bung and the Trough" Two stories about professors being dismissed, or not. Barton Akely, who taught political science at little Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan, was fired for being a pain in the neck and a bit pink, and rubbing the alumni the wrong way, because he doesn't like football. William Knickerbocker, of New York's City College, wasn't fired for being anti-Semitic, even though the students hate him and think he is. Goes to show . . something. Also, Raphael Demos, a Greek immigrant who worked his way up from being a janitor to being Harvard's Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Philosophy and Civil Polity, thinks that philosophy needs to make a bigger effort to teach failure; and Florence Iva Begay, a Navajo student on her way to enroll at Sarah Lawrence, was kicked off her bus in Amarillo, Texas for being not white, and has decided that she's learned her lesson about the white man's world, and is enrolling at Arizona State, instead. Although Amarillo did invite her out to the state fair, just to say that by-gones are by-gones, which is not actually up to Amarillo to say. Also again, James R. Killian is the new master of Reggie's fate.

"The Case of the Violet Paste" Abortionists who use "abortion paste" are in the news this month, coming up in both Time and Newsweek. The paste in question is "Metro-Vac," a metallic salt that can be topically applied (DON'T ASK!!!) and is quite effective if it doesn't reach the bloodstream. If it does, the poor girl dies, and the FDA is very upset about it, because it doesn't have the power to regulate the substance, although it can sentence abortionists who are known to apply it for shipping it across state lines! It's in the Constitution somewhere. The Newsweek story digs up a case of a dead girl in Minnesota, but Time is on a two-year sentence for an Arkansas doctor who, when cornered by the press, refused to be penitent, and instead said, "There's some pressure coming from somewhere, but I don't know where it's from." Seems about right. Finally, Kansas has a shortage of G.P.s again, and is doing that thing where the state pays a student's way through medical school on the condition that they spend a few years in the duckbergs doctoring.

Also, thanks to Uncle George for ruining my first, romantic take on the story with his awful but so very funny cynicism.

Radio, Press, Art, People

"On the Go" the Baltimore and Ohio took a trainload of reporters out on a jaunt from Washington to Jersey City to see the first television on a train. The receiver was a special Bendix number that eliminated landscape blocks, static and speed effects, and made do with a 15" antenna for tunnel clearance. Passengers on a Capital Airlines flight also got to see the show in question (a World Series game, if you were wondering), although the plane had to climb to regain the signal a few times. I can skip TV on a plane if it means aerobatics, thank you.

In the newspaper wars, John D'Alfonso of the San Diego Journal dressed up as a Russian colonel and wandered around a recent Navy/Marines field exercise for several hours before someone referred him to the provost's office, which shows that security is lax, or communism is bad, or that the Tribune-Sun is even worse. The LA Mirror's launch was quite the thing, and is just the start of what's likely to be a ding-dong circulation war in Los Angeles.

Two even more pointless stories cover some teeth-sucking about privacy and celebrity journalism (yes, the press can go through your garbage because the Public Has A Right To Know), and the fact that M. J. Bell  paid more than fifty grand to keep Sports Afield alive during the Depression, and now it's doing just grand, all due to Bill Hibbs and Ted Kesting, who, I'm thinking, are Henry Luce's poker buddies --You know, I was trying to avoid an "Uncle George" joke, and somehow I got there anyway. I guess once I decided to cover the abortion story, this letter went right into the trash to stay. At least L'il Abner is an honest man now --if he doesn't wiggle out of holy matrimony in the cliffhanger.

Elie Nadelman died two years ago, so it is time for him to be a great sculptor with a full page profile in Time and an exhibition at the Manhattan Museum of Modern Art. He's not like modern art today, which, Time reports Life thinks, is all overrated and made-up.
Abstract paintings are hard to criticise! Emperor''s new clothes! This stuff never gets old. 
Calvin Coolidge's widow is only 69, and the king of Siam is a 20 year old private school student in Switzerland who crashed his sports car the other day. Joseph Stanley Pennell hopes that his newest novel will be as popular as his last; because his last book was very popular, you see. News! Playwright Maxwell Anderson thinks that movies are terrible. William Saroyan wrote his last column drunk, I think. Betty Smith doesn't want to do film scripts any more, because revising A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was too much like work. ahbez, the Nature Boy who doesn't use capital letters, has had a son, tatha. Dominic DiMaggio, the youngest of the DiMaggio brothers, has married, as has William Franklin Talbert, the tennis champion. Ted Horn, Gladys Benjamin, Rene Benjamin (no connection, big coincidence), Richard Lawrence and Wilbur Lucius Cross have died.

Under Miscellany, I am going to break my usual silence and ask that just once will all the burglars who break into places and steal only the burglar alarm steal just one more thing --a pillow or a candlestick or something-- so there's some variety in the story?

The New Pictures

Another review of The Saxon Charm leads off. Time liked it. Cry of the City contrasts the life of a police detective and a crook, both Italian immigrants. Time had problems with "form, drive and pace," but loved everything else(!) Mostly, I think, the cinematography, although the review doesn't use such impressive language.


This week's cover story is Douglas Southall Freman's George Washington, Volumes I and II. What can I say? You knew the man, so you'd just correct me if I went into details. (Such a cheeky girl!) Freeman is a military historian who previously did a biography of Robert E. Lee, "the untouchable Galahad of the Confederacy," which doesn't seem to be tongue-in-cheek. If you care about the life of an author (He gets up at 2:30AM!!!), here's your story. As for the book: Washington was an even greater man than Lee.

Freeman was born in Lynchburg.

Flight, 21 October 1948


"Worth the Money" Is the Bristol Brabazon the future of aviation, or a white elephant? This week, the news that the total cost of the first Brabazon has hit £12 million made the argument for "white elephant" pretty strong. The average cost will go down if more are built, since the facilities at Filton are included in the price tag, but first the world has to need more Brabazons, when it isn't obvious that it needs any. Flight predictably is pro-Brabazon, and very relieved to hear from Peter Masefield that it actually has the lowest operating costs for stage lengths from 2,350 miles to its maximum of 3,920 miles, and that it is the only type that can flight London-New York against the average headwind and still make a profit.  

The graphics are good, but the commentary seems profoundly misguided.

I don't like it when Flight throws its credibility away like this. "Average" means that half the time, the Brabazon will lose money making the London-New York nonstop. Will it even fly the route, then? Also, there is the "elephant in the room," who will soon be President. (Dew-I crack wise, or not?) It has a sleeve valve engine, and no-one who has not been forced to do so (except maybe the Italians) has bought a sleeve valve engine for commercial use, because of (again and again and again), the cost of the special equipment needed to machine the sleeve valve in a situation that only calls for new valves on a conventional engine.

"Air Power" Everyone should join the Air League of the British Empire and pay dues, so that it can lobby the government to buy more planes.

"Departure of the Pioneer" The Science Museum is shipping its Wright Flyer to the Smithsonian, now that the Smithsonian has finally been bludgeoned into believing in the Wright brother's four years of secret flying beween Kitty Hawk and the first photographs of their European tour in 1908. Even people at Flight are grumpy about that, but at the same time they recognise that the 1908 tour was a pioneering moment, and that it is very sad that the Wright Flyer that did it has to go back to America, and the fact that it was in Kensington shows that air-minded British people who belong to the Royal Society and the Aero Club and such, are better than air-minded American people, who probably don't have any clubs at all.
By RuthAS - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

"Cierva Skeeter Flies: First Step Towards Cheaper Helicopters Combines Simple Components with Orthodox Layout and Unusual Engine"The Skeeter might go below  £3000 if enough are sold. So while, admittedly, you can have 4000 Skeeters for the cost of a single Brabazon, it's still far too expensive to be "cheap," in spite of having a very simple and cheap set of flapping and drag hinges, dampers and collective and cyclic pitch control. The unusual engine is the Jameson flat four, with its "heterodox induction theory," according to which, if you avoid all turbulence, you get perfectly stratified charges, with lots of air to carry away the heat, resulting in low running temperatures, low fuel consumption, and high power. Which even the writer thinks might be too good to be true. Since it's an anonymous story, presumably from the Cierva shop, that's pretty bad news for Jameson. 

"On the Level: A New Electrically-actuated Gyro Horizon by Sperry" Previous, vacuum-operated gyro horizons don't work when inverted, so they had to be caged before the pilot conducted aerobatics, or they would be useless during the trick, and unreliable for a while afterwards. This one still "topples" if it exceeds 85 degrees, but is damped back to normal operations much faster. It has the cutest little squirrel motor in a cage and gyro pitch and roll axes with "mercury liquid level switches."

In shorter news, it is still news that helicopters dust crops, if it happens in Trinidad, because Trinidad is very exotic and Irwin-Bell Helicopters sent in a press release, and what else are you going to put in to make up a page when you need to mention that Douglas Dennison Weightman, the ARB's chief test pilot, was just killed diving a Brigand into the ground while on loan to Bristol, which has run out of test pilots of its own due to holidays and sickness.  
Publicity . . . 

"Favonius," "American Piston-Engined Bombers" An RAF man is over here kicking the tires on American bombers. Since, "contrary to the colourful publicity which is such an engaging feature of the American scene," jet bombers are years away, he will talk about the Superfort, the B-50, the B-36 and also the B-45, because the title is just for looks. 

The 70 Group programme requires lots of bombers, so hundreds of B-29s that were "pickled" for post-war inactive status are now being "unpickled," which effectively means wiping off some grease. Boeing has reactivated its Wichita plant to put in "improved electronic equipment" (Yay!), pneumatic bomb bay doors, a fuel-injection system, and "provision for flight refuelling." With a gross weight of 120,000lbs, powered by 4 Wright R-3350s giving 2200hp takeoff, turbocharged to 25,000ft, the B-29's altitude performance is 350mph, pretty good, even today. Initial climb is over a thousand feet per minute, good enough for all the fuel and bombs that the 120,000lb all up weight implies. Average cruising speed is about 260mph at 25,000 to 30,000ft, hich is vague, but the plane climbs as it burns gas to steadily improve mileage. 

The B-50 is a B-29 with Pratt and Whitney Wasp Majors, a major gain in power requiring more rudder area, leading to it being 3ft taller, leading to it having a folding hinge to get into and out of existing hangars. Bigger engines and control surfaces adds up to another 15,000lbs in auw, but better performance, and Boeing took the engine nacelle-redesign as an opportunity to speed up the landing gear retraction. There are four major variants of the B-50 to accommodate Pratt and Whitney's monkeying with the engine, which can give up to 3500hp for the takeoff and a maximum speed of between 300 and 400mph at somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000ft, depending on things like the effectiveness of the ram induction effect on the air intakes, the profile of the screws, and the exact weight of the plane at any given time. Average speed is apt to be 285mph, and range with a single atom bomb ("10,000lbs of bombs") is 5800 miles. Landing speed empty is still 82mph, as larger weight has been balanced by bigger flaps, and the engines have Curtiss Electric reversibles. The B-36 is "the world's biggest bomber," which doesn't seem to require "quotes" to me. It is the biggest! It is in limited production at the Forth Worth, Kansas Consolidated Vultee plant, where an order of 95 may or may not be in production. The Air Force thinks it underpowered, as even six Wasp Majors aren't even close to enough to lift 300,000lbs overload. It is supposedly good for 8000 miles with a 10,000lb load, a "considerable drop from earlier claims of 10,000 miles." It is also very slow, hence vulnerable, even on a "short" range 3000 mile mission, in spite of eight turrets. 

I'm not sure why "Favonius" is so down on the B-36. I'm not saying that it is a good plane, but this is what happens to monster-sized planes. If the engines come up in the future to what the manufacturer promised, it won't be a bad plane, but anyone who seriously expects bombers to take off from Spokane and bomb Moscow had better be popping some really good pills, or I'm calling the guys with the butterfly nets. 

The Northrop B-35 is halfway between the B-50 and the B-36 at a normal gross weight of 165,000lbs, overload of 220,000. It also has four Wasp Majors, making it also underpowered, and it is a flying wing, which is "controversial." The engines have never worked with the promised contraprops, but the flying wing has won an order of a  jet-propelled successor. The B-35 is promised to deliver better range and bomb-carrying performance than the B-36; but then it is also promised that it will not fall out of the sky whenever the angle of incidence exceeds what the elevons can correct. "Favonius" is very high on the B-35 until it comes to details, at which point it emerges that he prefers a just-slightly different plane with a thickened fuselage extending forward of the wing for better visibility. Uncle George says that we now know the design of one of the new British jet bombers! Uncle George is often right about these things, and never fesses up when he was wrong. 
I don't get the impression that he was
particularly bright.

In shorter news below, A. V. Roe has joined his brother, H. V., at Gerrard and Co,world famous for Roe's Laminated Aluminum

 Here and There

The USAF has put out a recruiting call asking for 10,000 pilots, navigators and ground crew to return to the USAF, primarily to serve in the Airlift. Fairey has launched a Canadian branch. Douglas is testing the XF3D-1 Skynight, a two seater with two Westinghouse turbines with "considerable versatility." An "unusual feature" is an "escape hatch" in the floor to allow the crews to "exit" at "high speeds." Do naval aviators even try to get married?

One of the passengers on the Mercury Airlines DC-3 that crashed 175 miles south of Wadi Halfa last week was J. J. Gerritsen, of Tiltman Langley, who has been working on "problems connected with aircraft fires in flight and crash fires." Helicopters spraying crops is still news if it happens in Sudan, because it is exotic, and because the pilot wrote a nice letter about it. Boeing reports that Europe-based Superforts have been making routine training flights to an American base near Dharhan on the Persian Gulf to safeguard American interests in Saudi oil fields. The US Navy is testing rocket projectiles from ships, as this is the only way to launch them "horizontally." I did not know that! Two US warships that were bombed at Bikini are still radioactive, and will be taken out and sunk. Poor fishes! 

"Cirrus Bombardier" Since the Jameson engine doesn't work, and neither does the De Havilland Gipsy Queen factory, here is more about the Bombardier, and related Musketeer and Grenadier engines. The Bombardier is four-cylinders, normally aspirated, the Musketeer is 6 cylinders, and the Grenadier has a supercharger. Of these, only the 185hp Bombardier actually exists yet. It is, essentially, the Cirrus Major with fuel injection. It has a five page write-up, performance diagrams, a data table, and half-authorial credits. ((Signed "C. B. B.-W.") A girl! A girl engineer-author! I'm so proud for my gender, even though you have to have read a million Flights to know who Constance Bailey-Watson is. I just wish she hadn't been dragged out and made to pump up this sadsack Blackburn effort. I'm sure it's a fine engine; but everyone demands aero-engines in this power range, but no-one buys them. That's what happens with the hobby stuff! Or so the old buyers tell me. There's a space between what the customer says they want, and what they'll actually buy. You offer them a nice faux medieval gown at the lowest price you can get, and they look at it and say, "I'll make my own." They're hobbyists! It's what they do! 

Civil Aviation News

BOAC has put the Dakotas it was flying in its Cairo service into the Airlift and replaced them with Yorks. Captain Nigel Pelly, who flew Neville Chamberlain to Berchtesgaden, is in charge. BOAC flying boats have been kicked out of Cairo to a new maritime airport on Lake Mariut, near Alexandria. Hong Kong Airways has recently completed its thousandth round trip. 

Casual Commentary with Robert Carling asks, "What of the Next Generation of Transport Pilots? The Closing of Aldermaston: Why Not a Government-sponsored Training Scheme?"

I am just a silly girl, so of course I am puzzling away at why the RAF and FAA aren't a "Government-sponsored training scheme." Carling sees something sinister in the closing of the Airways Training Scheme at Aldermaston, but the obvious reason for closing it is that it isn't needed. Since he's an expert, and goes on at length, I suppose there are subtle factors that I have missed.

"Some Economic Factors in Civil Aviation: Comparative Transport Possiiblities: The Prospect for Helicopters: Performance Comparisons of Hypothetical Aircraft with Various Power Plants" The last installment of Flight's coverage of Masefield's lecture is the one that says that helicopters are too expensive for scheduled services, that the Brabazon is super-efficient, and that the Bristol Orion will be a fine replacement, when it comes. Just to remind everyone, the Orion is proposed in four versions, one with the "5000hp Orion Major" piston engine, one with the 5,750hp Orion Maximus turbocompound[?] engine, one with four 5,760ehp turboprops, and one with four 7500lb static thrust turbojets, which could be competitive granted better air traffic control that guarantees no stacking time. Orion II could make the westbound London-New York crossing with 99% reliability in even the worst season, the Orion III would have 90%, and the Orion I and IV would both need a single stop along the way, but with the IV going 66% faster. The Orion III would thus be only a few minutes slower than the IV, but with a larger payload. The turboprop would thus probably have long and profitable innings before being replaced by the turbojet, with the turbofan coming on as soon as, or if, the very serious technological and operational "headaches" are overcome.

This is all a bit perplexing to me. The last time I checked in, Bristol couldn't possibly develop a 5000hp piston engine in time to be competitive. Now we're contemplating not only it, but a turbocompound improvement?

By RuthAS - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
Olaf Stapledon's rambling lecture to the British Interplanetary Society was silly, except when he said that we had to have world government before we went off to explore the planets, for obvious reasons that don't need to be explained.


 J. Myles Brickton writes to advise small plane pilots who don't like the way they are treated at large airports, to try landing at small ones, instead. John Cunningham writes to protest that the Vampire isn't obsolescent, to which Flight replies that it never said it was. David Brice writes to point out that pilots shouldn't complain about automatic landings, since they will be responsible for monitoring the equipment, which they can do, and flying not following a radio guide beam, which they clearly can't do. Geoffrey Dorman thinks that the SBAC show didn't do enough for foreign aviation journalists, like buy them drinks and take them dancing. Instead, it seems to have skipped right to the part where it invited them up for a cup of coffee.

Flight, 28 October 1948


"Battleships to Carriers" Flight attends the unveiling of memorial busts to Lords Jellicoe and Beatty, listens to the Duke of Gloucester's speech, and comes away with breaking news about (See title: Attention ed: please add words until  you get to a column and a half.)

"High-tension Cables Again" "Mother-in-law called from station. Stop. In town 2 weeks. Stop. "No, wait, that's not it. Actually, and I feel terrible about joking with forty lives lost, but it is so numbing. It is a KLM plane again, if you hadn't heard, being brought in to Prestwick under GCA under Captain Parmentier, KLM's oldest and canniest. When he broke cloud cover at a very low altitude, he chose to make a circuit for a visual landing, and ran into some high tension cables, which Flight thinks simply must be buried when they run within five miles of an airport.

"Back to the Beginning: The Original Wright Returns to America: Reminiscences of the Early Flying Days"

It is amazing that this is the first photograph of the Wright Flyer in the air. 
Here and There

A. E. Lister replaces L. Satterthwaite, which is a real  name, as American air attache in London. According to the State Department, it is Joseph Satterthwaite, but "J" and "L" are both letters, so close enough. The Breda-Zappata 308 is getting Centaurus engines. The Acting Administrator of the Northern Territory of Australia believes that 60 gallons of water could not have got into Darwin's 10,000 gallon gas tank without sabotage. The Australians are borrowing the former US base on Manus Island for a few months.  A chartered BEA Viking recently flew Gregory Ratoff, Myrna Loy, Peggy Cummins, Roger Livesay and Richard Greene back from Rome, where they were shooting Private Angelo. This is news because Ratoff was polite about BEA, and Flight is so terribly insecure. The pilot and charter air service that took aerial photographs of the Olympics have been fined, mainly for flying less than 50ft above the stands during the opening ceremonies. G. N. Snarey, also a real name, has resigned as Auster's test pilot and left the company.  A Douglas XF-85 "Parasite" fighter recently detached from its parent B-29 in flight, and reattached after twenty minutes. The Tudor II will be renamed because no-one wants a Tudor any more. It's all four doors. I kill me! Mr. H. A. Price-Hughes is retiring from the publicity department of British Thomson Houston after 44 years. Did they even have publicity in 1904?

"Anglo-American Civil Air Relations: A Review by the U.S. Civil Air Attache of Developments in Civil Aviation in the Immediate Post-war Period" Blah! Blah blah blah! Blah! Also, we need better air traffic control.

Maurice Smith, "Fokker Today: Holland's Reconstructed Aircraft Industry: The New Combined Company: Four New Trainers" G. Geoffrey sent his son over to Amsterdam to look at trainers and bumpf up the Fokker plant. He also flew a new trainer, and thought it was quite nice. The way we're going through test pilots, I hope G. Geoffrey already has grandchildren!
In conclusion, the strategic air offensive was a waste because it always missed everything.

"Rocket Cameras Record Earth's Surface" A mosaic of photographs taken by Aerobee rockets and V2s at between 60 and 70 miles height are amazing. I'm not sure what to add, other than that the composite strip photograph manages to show 1400 miles of land. 

"Photographic Phenomenon" A picture of a de Havilland Vampire being flown by John Derry in high speed aerobatics shows a strange, ghostly double image ahead of the wing tip that might be refraction, or a double image of the wing bending. Flight invites comment. 

Civil Aviation News

The last geodetic plane.
The Baltic Exchange had a meeting of its charter airlines committee. Everyone agreed that the government would be able to charter aircraft more cheaply through the Baltic Exchange. There is a shortage of charter aircraft due to the Berlin Airlift, and Dakotas have had to be withdrawn from the Spanish fruit trade. Shippers wanting to fly fruit to London (I would say that that doesn't make sense to me if there weren't people making money flying Irish milk to London) have been offered Vikings flying deadhead back from Africa, and are so desperate that they might take up the offer. Poor Vikings. KLM's new Convair was in London the other day as part of its proving flying. It took 48 minutes for it to make the Amsterdam-London flight, as opposed to an hour and a half for the DC-4 and 1 hour forty minutes for the DC-3 it will be replacing, an especially good deal when it also has accommodation for 36 passengers, instead of 21 as in the DC-3. The improvement is much greater than the difference in cruising speeds would suggest because the 240 has "phenomenal" climb, becoming airborne within 15 seconds at an auw of 39,000lbs and "only a slight wind."

Reversible pitch gives an even shorter landing, and the 240's cylinder heads don't melt into a puddle of aluminum like the other reversible pitch installations, oops on that. It's because the thrust augmentors push some cooling air back over the cylinders. BOAC has a book out about the Highways of the Air. The KLM crash at Prestwick gets a bit more attention. It was the Amsterdam-Prestwick leg of an Amsterdam--New York flight (Jeepers! Too close for comfort!) Captain Parmentier asked for a GCA let-down with 4000yd visibility but the cloud base down to 300ft. When Captain Parmentier broke cloud, he told the tower that he would overshoot, do a circuit, and come in on visual. He hit high tension cables instead, and the plane caught fire, continuing on to crash in "desolate country." Thirty passengers and ten crew "did not survive the crash." I think that might be a bit evasive, as the dailies said that there were six people still alive when rescue crews arrived. Which is horrible. I'm sorry I made that joke at the head, but I can't erase it without putting a hole in the paper. The Constellation's auw has been increased by 3000lbs to 105,000lbs. BSAA has done trial Tudor IV landings at Nassau at 80,640lbs, only 640lbs under normal weight. Meanwhile, the KLM South Atlantic service has now moved 12,000 passengers and 170 tons of freight and mails to South America on DC-6s since 1946. Good old DC-6!

"Cold Weather Operation of Aircraft: Survey of Operating Conditions, Shortcomings and Requirements in Sub-Zero Temperatures" Various things freeze up, metal gets brittle, electrical resistance in circuits changes, cabin and cockpit heating sometimes isn't enough. Fuel tanks may leak due to contraction around rivets, oil has to be diluted, engines won't start, exposed lengths of hydraulic line are a no-no.

"Ground Attack Vampires: Features of Marks 5, 6, and 50: 548mph with Goblin 3: A 2000lb bomb Load" Remember how much Grace hated these articles about "ground attack." Funny from a woman as ruthless as she can be! The usual details of guns, rockets and bombs are given, and it is noted that the wings are "clipped." In shorter news, the Navy has been experimenting with rocket assist for Constitution. The Constitution is a bit underpowered with four Wasp Majors for its 180,000lbs auw, and the rockets add the equivalent of another engine's worth of lift. Lockheed points out that rocket assist would be useful on regular airline service, so don't reject it just yet!


"SBA Enthusiast" thinks that 500ft separation is fine for Standard Beam Approach, and if anyone thinks it isn't enough height in the stack, it is because instrument flying training standards have gone downhill since the war. Hilery Stanhope points out that while the Brabazon and SR45 may be too big and too expensive for economical airline operation, the cost of building the Filton field and hangar is now paid, and the experience gained in flying the Brabazon may lead to more successful big airliners in the future. "There is no shortage of money in the country," he says, "The problem is with the dollar exchange." Christopher Blackburn writes to second the idea of a "maritime aircraft corporation" to operate flying boats on all those "inter-Commonwealth" routes where the passengers are presumably held in the sterling area at gun point and made to fly enormously logical and useful London-Monbasa-Diego Garcia-Perth, and Sydney-Auckland-Fiji-Victoria routes.

Engineering, 22 October 1948

"Refacing Dam with Precast Concrete Slabs" The Barker Dam in Colorado was leaking, so the surface was recast with giant concrete slabs. It was kind of like redoing your shower tiles, only they have a giant grouting machine and giant whatnot and had to empty out an entire reservoir to do it. Which they did, because you can do anything in America!

. . . Except write a good book about atomic power, as the Books section demonstrates by giving E. S. C. Smith, et al, Applied Atomic Power a terrible review. It's just an assortment of articles by the authors, of which only the one about Oak Ridge is any good.

"The Institution of Naval Architects (Continued from 379)" This week we hear about an article on the Steam Gunboats, a barmy wartime scheme to build 115ft gunboats for coastal warfare with 8000hp steam turbine power plants. Cramming this much power into a hull this small was challenging, so the marine engineers involved threw out the rulebook. They eliminated auxiliaries, increased allowed stresses, and used the Foster-Wheeler and La Mont boilers that people have been offering as rivals to the boring old Admiralty-types for years. Did it work? Not as such. The La Montes didn't come up to power, and the Foster Wheelers were overweight. The boats suffered no particular disadvantages from either the high stresses, or the lack of auxiliaries, or even neglect of corrosion, but one boat did a cruise in the Irish Sea and basically stopped working the moment that it began pitching enough for a reservoir to go dry under a pump. (You know, like getting at the last of a milkshake. Whoops, talking to a marine engineer. Never mind!!!) It all sounds like what you get when you give a bunch of smart boys from the Institute their head.

But they'll turn out to be great testbeds for gas turbine engines.

D. J. Desmond, "The Accuracy of Automatic Lathes" Automatic lathes are popular, but they tend to get "un-zeroed" all too easily. Here are some tables to use to calculate the spread in allowed tolerances that you will get if you use a given automatic lathe.

"1600hp Diesel Electric Locomotive for Main Line Service" As we've heard, the British are testing out their first diesel electric in main line service, and everything is going so well that Engineering decided to tell us about it again. I guess it's interesting that a locomotive installation allows engineers to try out whiz-bang new ideas for supercharging that we will probably see on the roads or the seas or even the skies sometime soon.

Launches and Trial Trips

SS Makfjell, single screw passenger and cargo liner, Oris, ditto, Star VII, single screw whaler with ice-reinforced hull, St. Leander, single screw trawler, Golfito, banana boat, Clan MacTaggert, twin-screwed general cargo, Adams Beck, single screw collier, Oto Banck, single screw general cargo, MS Sussex, single screw refrigerated and general cargo liner. British Standards releases standards for cast-iron pipes for hydraulic power and alloy steel castings.

"Limits and Fits for Locomotive Work" Engineering has read the new guidelines issued by the Locomotives Manufacturers of Great Britain, and there being nothing else on the go, tells us about them.

"Electricity Supply in South Africa" Like other countries, South Africa is going over from private to public ownership, and is carrying forward with rural and local electrification across a very large and lightly populated country.

"Re-Development of the South Bank of the Thames" This area got hit hard by the war, which is why it has been selected for the ground of the 1951 Festival of Britain. In al, 27 acres are being redeveloped at a cost of £2 million. A new river wall, faced in granite, is part of the work. 

In shorter news, a memorial for Richard Trevithick, the old-time Cornish engineer who invented the high pressure steam engine for locomotives has gone up, which occasions Engineering to print a biography and be sad that he didn't get as rich as he deserved by virtue of being away in Peru working on draining a silver mine when the locomotive idea was taken up by others. A report on "The World's Shipbuilding" shows that demand is still high, building still higher than in the post WWI peak, and that sixty percent of it is still being done in Britain. Someone actually dared to say in print (this came up in Yorkshire Notes, too) that a lot of it has to do with the great skill and hard work of British workers. Take that, The Economist! Obituaries list Peter Brown (b. 1866), who died at home two years after retiring from the directorship of Hadfields, and F. E. Durham (b. 1871), former Chief Mechanical Engineer at the Durham Water Board before he had the good sense to retire early enough to enjoy it, in 1938, word to the wise. Mr. C. H. Woodfield , of Woodfield Hoisting and Mechanical Equipment, was of that generation, being born in 1873, but died in a car crash, which I find a bit terrifying, although there is no reason a 75-year-old can't be a fine driver. 


Sir Howard Grubb, of Parsons, writes to correct comments about the Astronomer Royal's Report to the effect that a contractor had been selected for a new telescope. H. E. Dall disagrees with a recent American report on progress with flow nozzles, defending the British Standards Association's conservative requirements on grounds of corrosion. 

"The Second International Conference on Soil Mechanics (Continued from p. 298)" The Conference heard fascinating papers on soil and construction on soil in the western Netherlands. Did you know that the oldest known road in the Netherlands is 4000 years old, and was a timber causeway? [barely relevant pdf] The soil in this area tends to be soft, saturated peat, with areas of firm subsoil being confined to natural berms along rivers that are already so built up that it is impossible to route roads through them. The ancient solution of laying timbers is a way of spreading the load. More recently, gravel has been laid on everything from fascines to concrete plates. but subsidence is an issue. One road, on re-excavation, was found to  have had its fascines subside 3.8 meters. That's a lot! Work focussing on Schiphol at Amsterdam dealt with the soft soil by laying the pavement as plates, either flexible or not. Using testing methods developed by the California Highways Department, these methods were evaluated under Dutch conditions, and depths of concrete needed for high pressure tyres on the runways developed. Schiphol has 12 inches of concrete overlaid with 14" of sand, then 10" of crushed stone, and finally a cap of 2" of asphalt. 

"Research on Cast Iron" An unsigned note of some length discusses the problems of dealing with slag and its tendency to react with the gases in cast iron.

"Statistical Methods and Engineering Processes" continues this week. I find it frankly a bit alarming that we have to use statistical "scatters" and averages and standard deviations to assess the accuracy of automatic machining methods. They're automatic. Everyone tells me the point of "robots" is that they don't make mistakes. They're accurate. Now you're telling me that they have to be "controlled" by great big, sloppy error bars. Brr. 


Grumpiness rules the letters column, as Ronnee Wasserman of Canton,Ohio, is upset that Newsweek describes Kay Thompson as wacky, while William O. Merritt hates the New Look. Which is at least better than the Dirty Old Men who write in about the pictures from last month. Well, DOMs and the gallant sorts who praise that awful picture of the "Peach Queen." Nice try, gents.

The Periscope reports that there's an election coming. Warren and Dewey seem to be fighting over the Governor's role in the new administration. HUAC is in trouble for favouring certain correspondents who give them good coverage. Dirty dealing at HUAC? Say it ain't so, Joe! Ominous signs of a Communist-led insurgency in East Africa, run out of the Soviet embassy in Addis Ababa, are growing. The Czechs are restless. This is not communist-inspired, and so is good. There's a little story about the Cominform training 2000 revolutionaries to distribute around the world, but especially to Southeast Asia, to foment world revolution and prevent America from stockpiling strategic materials. Dastardly! Certain people,  mainly in Latin America, are pushing for the recognition of the Franco government, and everyone else is still saying, "Shut up, the Communists are listening!" Otherwise, the Sixteen Nations are a giant lovefest. The Air Force is sending its best "green card" instrument-rated pilots to Berlin. I hope they don't get their hands on Reggie! There is trouble with pilferage on Russian collective farms again. The State Department has its fingers crossed over Korea. Will the Russians move in when the Americans move out? Smart money says no, because of all the American troops just across the strait in Japan. Signs are seen that B-36s may go to Alaska with the B-50s. The President's Economic Council thinks that the price of living will continue to rise next year. The Governor of the Federal Reserve has said that he will resign if Dewey is elected, allowing Dewey to put in his choice, Elliott Bell. Lumber prices are falling, and house prices lagging, in part due to tightening mortgage money market. Box office is lethargic, although there are hopes for Ma and Pa Kettle. Robert Q. Lewis may take over Arthur Godfrey's early morning broadcast from Washington. Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe will come out as a 26 episode series of two-hour films made for television, and not as a movie. Publishers are looking forward to Cheaper by the Dozen, which is about raising children scientifically. Thrilling. . .

Washington Trends reports that more aid for Europe, including military, and a Marshall Plan for Asia are in prospect next year, whoever wins, leading to a $45 billion Federal budget, with total foreign aid costs at $8 billion, up from $7 billion this year, and over $16 billion for defence, up $5 billion from this year. Some kind of materials allocation plan will be needed, and "agitation for price controls is certain to be revived." Truman will put through anti-poll tax legislation in the lame duck session, and it will probably pass next year. The next session will not do much with taxes, but it will probably scuttle German plant dismantling.

"Hope for a Chain Reaction" Dewey's going to win; and Truman continues to draw huge crowds for his "Give 'em Hell" speeches. Dewey's speeches draw smaller crowds, but who cares, he's going to win. Even Lady Wonder the Wonder Horse thinks so, although doubts set in when she called the Yankees to win the World Series. Newsweek reports Dewey's various "one liners," because the Man on the Wedding Cake is wacky!

An index card with bullet points for a speech that Ronnie gave to Carter volunteers in October of 1980 was pressed to this page. Grace being cheeky, I think. 
The Senate is a tougher race to call, and the next story looks at the GOP's chances of retaining the Senate. Not that good, all told, unless Dewey gains a landslide. The Democrats have to take four seats, and 10 of the 23 up for election (it's in our Constitution) are in play: 6 GOP-held, 4 Democrat.

"New South: A Political Phenomenon Grips Dixie's Voters" Newsweek's read is that Truman went head on for civil rights for fear of Wallace. Now, with Wallace petering out, Thurmond is coming on strong instead. The Dixiecrats are on the ballot in thirteen states, and pressing court cases to get on the ballot in Oklahoma. The Dixiecrats are certain they will take Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina, and are "confident" of Louisiana. They expect to be spoilers in Georgia and Florida, flipping those states from Truman to Dewey. They are fighting for segregation, full stop. All Southerners are for segregation, from college professors to cab drivers. Newsweek reports the rationalisations for this in full, and I could write them out for you, but I have to go heave things at the fireplace.

On a more congenial note, the labour movement is coming around to Truman.

"Man From Russia" We've hit p. 38, so it must be time for a story that's not about the election. How about communism? Would that be good for a change? Excellent! Communism it is! Constantine W. Boldyreff is an old White, son of "a liberal czarist general," sponsored by Common Cause, the "pro-democratic and anti-Communist" group that inserted itself in the Kasenkina story in the summer. Boldyreff claims to have 2000 freedom fighters in Russia, to have been behind the Kirov assassination, and that, with a hundred million in American dollars, he could start a revolution in Russia, forestalling atomic war. His movement has close connections with the Russians who defected to the Germans, and that his organisation is well known to "American intelligence." Please God, no! [ . . . ]

This all came out in a rambling New York press conference, hitting the papers ahead of any notice to the directors of Common Cause. They then looked up Boldyreff and discovered that his claims about an underground army in Russia do not add up, but that he was being too modest by half about his enthusiasm for Nazism. His call for the expulsion of Russia's Jews is less interesting to most Americans, Newsweek says (I'm sad) than his exaggerations about his underground movement.

Washington Tides, with Ernest K. Lindley Jumps The Bandwagon with "The Dewey Good Will Tour" Ernest sizes up Dewey's chances of taking Campaign Miss Congeniality: They're not very good. I guess he'll have to settle for being President.

An entire page on the United Nations has a bit about neutral powers being neutral together, or linking their neutrality to allies that are part of the Sixteen Nations or something something I'm sorry, this is stupid and boring. Also, everyone is making fun of Vishinsky's statement that the blockade doesn't exist, and someone cracked that peace could be secured if the Americans gave up the atom bomb and the Russians gave up "all means of producing Russian soldiers." Dirty Old Men Diplomats (DOMD).
Everything is sexy to a DOM. 

Foreign Affairs

"The Fateful Hour of Reds vs Plan" I am running out of French politicians to lampoon, so I'm giving "the Eighteenth Brumaire" a rest. It looks as though the strikes are petering out, but Newsweek hadn't heard when it commissioned this profile of Jules Moch.

"Underground Railway: How and Why Thousands of Russians Slip Beneath the Iron Curtain to Haven in the West" Somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 Russian officers and men have deserted the Red Army in Germany and made their way to the West since 1945. Ranging from bureaucrats and generals to simple soldiers, the defectors seem to be in it for the buck, for the most part. The Russians are appalled, because it reminds them of the Vlasoff Army, which hit a peak strength of 350,000. The Western Allies aren't sure what to do with them. They can't raise an army of exiles, because there's no war. It is hard to make head or tail of them as intelligence assets, especially when some might be Soviet spies. Many of them have mixed with the DPs and are hard to find at all.
Look who caught a ride to Europe with Paul Hoffman?
Averill Harriman! Throw in William Draper and I'll bloody
well go full Lyndon LaRouche

"Family Reunion" All the Commonwealth premiers met in London and talked about . . . well, as far as I can tell, talked about talking about talking.

A round of German news has it that dismantling has been halted, that Marshal Rundstedt is confined to a military hospital, and not touring London nightclubs with top brass, as Walter Winchell reports; that Ilse Koch didn't do all those terrible things. Germans! So nice! Meanwhile, some American aid to Greece has gone missing, and the Greeks are again said to be delaying the end of the Civil War to get more aid.

"Washington Now Plans to Lighten Japanese Occupation Load" You know who else isn't half-bad, after all? The Japanese, that's who! Under the new plan, the American occupation will be scaled back, Japanese police will get arms, the purge of government and business figures will be permanently ended, having been put on hold back in June, and the Asian Marshall Plan will help Japanese industry get back on its feet. You'd think they'd wait until after the Koumintang falls, but no . . .


"Normalcy 1948" I guess I don't have to tell you that "normalcy" was the Harding slogan. The story is about soft prices across the economy, but especially in mens wear, a sign, some think, of softening sales.

"The Bridges Blockade" The longshoremen's strike on the West Coast has stopped practically all freighter traffic for the last six weeks. Hawaii, which depends on exporting sugar and pineapples and importing tourists, is feeling the pinch, while Alaska is facing shortages of vital foods, so severe that Pan-American has flown in a hundred tons in an "Alaskan Airlift." The strike has now evolved into an attempt to get rid of Harry Bridges and other communist union leaders.

Two features on small auto makers: The smart money is on George Mason and Nash Motors to survive the shakeout in the next business downturn, while Tucker seems to be unable to deliver cars. The Supreme Court says that employers can't refuse to bargain collectively. The New York Times says that this is hazardous to free enterprise, but, Newsweek points out, if so, the body is long since cold. Meanwhile, even as the high and mighty justices unfairly hold back the hand of management, Mexican "wetbacks" line up to cross the Rio Grande and satisfy the Southwest's hunger for labour.

What's New reports that H. G. Ergstrom Engineering of Chicago is making aluminum candles filled with lighter fluid that will fit any candleholder and burn for hours. Monsanto is developing a new, non-flammable hydraulic fluid for planes. It is good down to minus 40, and acts as a lubricant, extending pump life. Loweb Co has a new paint for factory floors that won't peel or chip, and Armour and Company have a new toilet soap that kills bacteria that cause perspiration odours.

Business Tides, with Henry Hazlitt, "Cripptic Economics" Henry Hazlitt thinks that all of this 'hard money zone soft money zone"  stuff is flim-flam. The British should just devalue the pound, and terms of trade will even out in no time. Everyone will go unemployed and hungry, yes, but at least the American taxpayer won't be on the hook for Marshall aid any more!

Science, Medicine, Education

 "Elemental Man" Newsweek read Daniel Q. Posin's biography of Dmitri Mendeleev, and really, really liked it. So it tells us all about him. I'd like to hear more about the Russian-born physicist who teaches at North Dakota State College. Specifically, how does he stand it?

By Source, Fair use,
NDSU's national ranking varies between 178th and 361st, depending on the list.

"Cat-Cracker Powder" Catalytic cracking, the method that produced the war's high octane aviation gas, requires the oil to flow near molecules of catalyst, somehow. This week, Standard Oil Development Company released findings that show that the molecules are best used as a powder, while the petroleum is blown along as a vapour with the powder bobbing in it. The powder is then recovered when the last of the vapours are burnt off, and cycled back to the start. I'm not sure how new any of this is, but it is interesting.

"Can They See?" The National Society for the Prevention of Blindness ran a countrywide test of the eyesight of American schoolchildren and concluded that one-fifth of all schoolchildren, more than 4.5 million, have some form of defective vision. Meanwhile, the Eye and Ear Men (Academy of Opthamology and Otolaryngology) met and talked about exotropia (wall-eyedness), the discredited theory that nose blowing is bad for you, that curare has promise as an aid to throat surgery, and that while blindness strikes one in eight premature babies, and there is no known cure, high protein diets, large amounts of vitamins, transfusions of blood and plasma, and even hormone therapy might work.

"Longer Life for Doctors" A 1940 meeting of the Class of 1900 of the College of Physicians and Surgeons heard such an appalling list of members who had died the previous year that they struck a committee to investigate the causes. They found it was all in their imaginations. Actually, doctors live longer than average.

"Through Marxist Glasses" The Rockefeller Foundation has been funding translations of Russian scientific works since 1944. Seeing the world through Russian eyes sure is interesting! A Huntington was found to chair the project and make sure that no translators are infected . . .

Entertainment gets its own header for the sake of a long story about Sonja Henie, her million-dollar-a-year contract, and Ice Capades.  Since that seems a bit thin, Newsweek folds in the theatre coverage, but I don't do that, so on we go to--

Art, Radio-Television, Press, People

"Tops of the Year" The Pepsi-Cola "Painting of the Year" contest has been won by Mitchell Jamieson, second prize going to Nan Lurie, third prize to Margaret Tomkins, fourth to John W. Taylor, while the Carnegie "Painting of the Year" went to Raphael Gleitsmann's Medieval Shadows.

Television is now a billion dollar business. The new news, as Newsweek has it, is that Town Hall of the Air heard from Walter Abel on how television will affect movies. The Guild, he says, will want some form of additional payment. I hope that we didn't condemn future generations of "cinemactors" and "cinemactresses" to poverty by promoting RR as president of the SAG! The second story is that the Democrats are using radio to try to reach women voters, who are more likely to come out for them. Kent Cooper might finally resign at AP and be replaced by Frank Starzel.

"Good-by, everybody," shouts the governor, "Good-by," and the Victory Special pulls out --usually with a jerk," ends James B. Reston's story from the Dewey train. Ouch! In freedom of the press related stories, Reuben Maury has either been fired from Collier's or has quit, and Der Spiegel has been suspended for a week for offending Queen Juliana. The Greek government has identified two Communist hit men as the murderers of George Polk.
Kawakita was charged with treason; Monti
initially with desertion.  The charges this month
are an upgrade to treason, and he will be
sentenced to 25 years and a fine. Monti's
defence is that he was really, really anti-Commie.

Mr. and Mrs. S. Y. Loo, of Augusta, Georgia, were delivered by Doctor J. William Thurmond, and so naturally christened their child Dixie Thurmond Loo. Lewis Mumford is upset that modern parkways have no room for "lover's lanes," but the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' Journal defends itself, saying that new parks have planned rough areas for "courtship, a social need almost always forgotten." Dirty Old Men Chartered Surveyors heard from. Veronica Lake is fighting with her mother over money. Joe Strauch, formerly of Our Gang, is going on probation for three years for being a fence to a juvenile gang. General Clay has been involved in his wife having a baby; Randolph Churchill is engaged. Congressman Harless Democrat of Arizona, has married former showgirl Meredith Howard. Senator Wagner is wandering. Martin Monti has been indicted "as an American Lord Haw Haw." Mary Eaton and James Roper, son of Elmo Roper, have died.


Newsweek splashes a huge review of The Red Shoes, which the girls and I saw in the city on opening. We loved it. I have a hunch you won't, on account of you hating dancing and singing in movies with a loathing passion. What can I say? We agree to disagree.

Edward G. Robinson's latest, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes may be more to your taste. He's a soothsayer, not a gangster, but there's still bodies. Secret Land,  a documentary about Admiral Byrd's unexpectedly short visit to Antarctica in Operation High Jump is out. There is nothing about why it was cut short, but there are dancing penguins. Yay! Dancing penguins!

(More fun than the movie.)


Robert Sherwood's Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History is a book. It is about so big by so wide, and about this thick. (Ronnie holds up her hands twice, and then flings a heavy object into the fireplace with such resounding force that you can hear how many pages have been spent on two dead politicians of another age.) Esther Forbes' The Running of the Tide is a psychological study of the Salem witch trials, which are always on American minds because we can't stop running witch trials. Newsweek then rounds up lesser publications in a short blurb that I won't blurb. I also won't say anything about Raymond Moley talking about how the Truman lame duck administration will help Dewey take office with minimum fuss and bother, as usually happens, the Hoover-Roosevelt interregnum notwithstanding. Moley is so old he remembers before Roosevelt was President, and also dinosaurs and cavemen. (Specifically, Coolidge and Harding.) He has some definite ideas about how the transition will go, but around here we are still pretending that Truman might win, and not wasting everyone's time with the inevitable until it has happened.

Because we are lazy. That's why.

Engineering, 29 October 1948

"Counterbalance Tests on High Speed American Locomotives" continues this week.

Literature reviews Charles D. Corvell, et al, The Science and Engineering of Nuclear Power, which is based on a 1946 seminar at MIT. This book is as good as the one review last week was bad, full of fascinating details about the 'cross-sections' of various nuclear bits that zoom about alarmingly, and many other things, too.

The Illumination Engineering Society exists, and is sad that no-one has heard about it, so it is presenting us with Symposium on Searchlights, which is about how they won the war. Land-based searchlights are so boring that Engineering is as lazy as I am, and just spends a few words on how better mirrors achieved greater illumination from the same light. Then it goes on to those airborne searchlights that were used to hunt submarines on the surface at night, and really goes to town, because getting that much light out of an airborne gizmo is quite something. The searchlight's spread had to match the +/- 15 degree error of the radar, making for a large fan and even more "lumens," which were supplied from a big old lead acid battery that gave seven minutes of life. Tables of Coefficients for Obtaining the First Derivative Without Differences is very useful and worthy.

"The Second International Conference on Soil Mechanics (Continued from p. 403)" I've spoiled some of the best bits of this report, which is about the Netherland's sea defences, which are very important, because the drying out of the peat-bottomed land to make meadow and field has led to them shrinking well below sea level, requiring substantial defences across the outlets by which Europe's rivers break through the sand barriers thrown up by the North Sea. Sea water also tends to percolate up, and has to be removed by pumps --windmill driven in the old days, electrical, these days. I'm surprised to learn that much of the "modern" landscape, your Zuider Zee and all, only dates to the Eighth Century. While that was a long time ago, it was after the Romans, for example, so the Netherlands they encountered were quite different. Also, because of the difficulties of the landscape, the Dutch population is very densely concentrated, with 1000 inhabitants per square mile in the west, compared with 300 in the rest of the country.

"The Fountains in Trafalgar Square" It turns out that the technical press wasn't invited to the inauguration of the Beatty and Jellicoe statues at Trafalgar Square to hear the Minister tell them about the dawning of the Air Age. It was because putting them in, involved a substantial renovation of the fountains, which turns out to have been quite technical, since water doesn't just jet out of fonts like that on its own. (I did not know that.) Engineering was taken on a nice tour of the new pump room, while Flight was dreaming of the day when the RAF was treated like the Navy.

Launches and Trial Trips reports MS Ambrizette, a single-screw cargo liner with berths for twelve passengers, Arrialos, a sister ship, and SS Soestdyk, by another yard but to the same specification. Except for having a steam engine.

"1600hp Main-Line Diesel Electric Locomotive" continues. My mistake, as there are actually now two members of this class running on British Rails, former LNER.


"Wear and Lubrication" Engine wear is an increasingly important subject. Engineering directs us to several recent papers on the role of oil grades and engine design provisions for lubrication circulation in engine wear.

A Coal Tax Obelisk, although probably not the
one on the River Colne. I had no idea this was
a thing! Because overland transport of bulky
cargoes, I guess, gravel being both a cause and
"Sand and Gravel Supplies" Engineering takes a more reasoned approach to the gravel "shortage." Gravel is the second largest mineral output in Britain after coal. It is so bulky that it is not even worthwhile to move it by rail due to double handling costs. When it is moved, it is either by road form local quarries, or by water as a by-product of river dredging operations. Some gravel soils are very good for market gardening, and in the vicinity of London there is some worry that market gardens growing for London will be lost to gravel extraction. This has not happened yet. The available supplies of gravel near London are so abundant that even proposed workings in the Chiltern Hills are uneconomical. (Those are the hills at the headwaters of the Thames. I'm sure that you knew that, but I didn't, and I had to look it up, and I AM SHARING THE RESULTS OF MY DILIGENCE!!!!) Still, London uses 10 million cubic yards  a year, that number is going to increase, and that is why people are looking at the "Vale of St. Albans," which I looked up to no gain, whatsoever. It turns out to be the area from Rickmansworth to Hertford, mostly the valley of the River Colne, but the gravel there is of lower quality than on the river terraces, and the Town and Country Planning Act may exclude them, and other areas of particularly high agricultural value, from development as gravel sources.

Rickmansworth from the steeple of St. Mary's. By Elly3802 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Notes reviews the King's Speech on the parliamentary manouevres to get steel nationalisation through next year, explains how the Anglo-American Productivity Council will work (Britons will get two hours for tea; Americans will get up at 2:30 and be expected to be at work by 5am, when they will be expected to patent three new inventions before business lunch, 11:30--to whenever they carry you out and pour you in a cab.) The Minister of Transport gave a long talk on the influence of wind on suspension bridges while explaining why it is taking forever to get the Severn Bridge built. A giant wind tunnel is needed, or else careful study, and remember the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The new generating plant at Kingston-upon-Thames was opened by assorted worthies including the bishop and the King and Queen.



R. Opie writes to clarify why all that technical testing of locomotive tractive power is a big waste of time. Only higher steam pressure, as in American locomotives, is any help.

J. G. G. Hempson, "Engineer's Problems in the Measurement of Stress and Pressure" In spite of the vague title, this article is about using piezo-electrics (when you use materials like quartz, which respond to pressure with a definite electrical current proportional to the pressure). It discusses various kinds of  "transducers" that can be used for this, the problem of linking them to vacuum tube amplifiers, and, via the amplified circuit, to various kinds of cathode ray tubes that allow measurement of the results. The author is quite taken with the Skiatron, but thinks that new German two-gun tubes have promise.

"Ransburg Spraying and De-Tearing Processes" The Harper J. Ransburg  Company of Indianapolis, through its British licensee, Henry W. Peabody and Company, offers this novel method for spraying electrostatic coatings for various goods that is much better than existing hand-painting methods. A new plant in the London area is almost complete and looking for business.

"Fuel for Diesel Locomotives in the United States" is an excruciatingly long summary of a study by General Motors, published in Railway Age, which determines that diesel locomotives are not going to have any effect on the shortage of petroleum in America.

"Statistical Methods in Engineering" continues this week.

"Single-cylinder Diesel Engine, Messrs. Armstrong Siddeley Motors Limited, Coventry" This stationary diesel is good for running contractors' equipment such as compressed air pumps and auxiliaries on small vessels. Its main virtues are robust construction. The connecting rod is a single piece of forged, heat treated steel, the crankshaft is forged, heat-treated steel, the camshaft is hardened steel keyed to the extension shaft. The pieces are very wear and abuse resistant!

Dr. W. G. Newell and A. J. Langner, "New Methods of Ladle De-Sulphurising Pig Iron (Continued from p. 211)" This week's installment is about the methodology, which used small crucibles drawn off from the ladles to simulate what would happen if the new methods were employed on the cradle. This raise the question of whether laboratory crucibles are comparable to big ladles. The question was put to all five new methods, including bubbling nitrogen through and adding various additives such as lime; barium carbonate, calcium carbonate and fluorspar; calcium carbonate with soda and fluorspar; and "miscellaneous methods." It does get into some results, however. Barium carbonate isn't much good.

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