WHAT GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND!

After I opened this drawing’s image file to catalog it into our drawing database, I realized the tools the drawing defined were the antecedents of the tools my employer developed to produce what I consider the most accurate gyroscopes ever made in production quantities. These gyroscopes are, even today, the key components of the Inertial Guidance Systems (INS) used by our Ballistic Missile Submarines and land based Intercontinental ballistic Missiles. Think of it! The tools the OWR&N Co. railroad used to prepare the ends of steam locomotive super-heater tubes for installation are conceptually identical to the tools developed to produce spherical gyroscope parts that are required to be within several millionths of an inch for both size and roundness. Amazing! That is, until you realize the railroad learned the concept from the tools used by ancient gemstone artisans to make pretty balls.

The concept of the tools, ancient and modern alike, is that a soft, tubular lap, which is rotating and oscillating while being pressed against the rotating semi-round work-piece will eventually produce a spherical piece. A pretty bauble is easy using this concept, however, the making of a gyroscope part requires a great amount of time and money plus highly skilled craftsmen (and women). An examination of the drawing above and some idea of what to look for should suffice for you to learn how these tools work. First, I want to point out the upper tool is a cutting tool to produce the “semi-round work-piece”. The “tube” is hardened tool steel to maintain sharpness. The bottom tool is the “soft, tubular lap”. The tapered part of the tools is inserted into the rotating part of a drill-motor which is used to produce the  needed rotation of the tools. The rotation of the “dog-legged” part of the tool produces the oscillation of the tools. It must have been a sight to behold as the surfacing of the tube ends was carried out. Imagine this: A railroad machinist working hard to control the large, heavy, very loud, air powered drill-motor as it reacted to the strong vibrations emanating from the rotating tool. In spite of this ruckus, the machinist must produce tube ends capable of sealing against 200 psi steam that is being super-heated as it passes through the tubes. I suppose this is why, in part, I am so fascinated with steam locomotive technology, the old ways of the railroad machinist, and the history of it all.

I also want to acknowledge the craftsmanship of the draftsman who made this drawing  using pen, India ink, and fine linen drawing cloth. His initials (WV) can be found at the lower right-hand corner of the drawing. I helped scan these drawings, so I  have first hand knowledge of the originals. Thank you Mr. V..

About THE OLD MACHINIST

I am 82 years old and wed for 65 years. I am a retired engineer and spent 35 years developing INS gyroscopes. I am a High School mentor in physics, mountaineer, model builder, machinist and have a degree in Physics. My interests include railroad history and photography, science history, cosmology, interesting people, and old engineering drawings. I place a high value on my friendships. I enjoy life and am looking forward to the future with my usual sense of anticipation and curiosity.

Posted on January 23, 2012, in TRIVIA FROM THE UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD DRAWING COLLECTION, UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD HISTORY IN DRAWINGS, UNUSUAL DRAWINGS IN THE UPRR DRAWING COLLECTION and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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