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Rotating Machinery Design

RM Design was the general term that included all departments that were involved in pump and motor design activity. Although I didn't spend any formal time there as an apprentice, I did start my permanent job there in the creaking wooden huts next to the staff canteen. The huts were old and were cold in the winter and hot in the summer. The floors were linoleum on wood: the lino had occasional holes in it and the wooden floorboards were springy in places. When it rained the waste paper bins were put to a supplementary use by catching the rain as it leaked through the roof. This was my home for several months working under the keen eye of Janet Thornton. To begin with she didn't like me because she thought I'd be like most of the other Special Apprentices, but I turned out to be perfectly normal and we got on very well, even to the extent that Ajit Kumar threatened to split us up if we didn't stop talking so much.

One of my first tasks was to calculate the head required to pump water through a complicated arrangement of pipes and fittings. The calculation was done entirely by hand and involved looking up the flow resistance parameters for specific fittings (elbows, T's, etc.) and working out a total resistance for the installation. It wasn't simply a matter of adding resistances together because some pipework was in parallel and so it was adding reciprocals of resistance.

RM Design moved to new offices that had been converted from the old Works Canteen and Janet moved to Sales. The new offices were both good and bad: good because they were air conditioned but bad because there were no windows. In the winter, you could arrive at work in the dark and leave in the dark without ever having seen light. That was what probably prompted me to go roaming with Eric Lloyd during lunchtimes. When I say air conditioned, it was, but control of the air flow was by changing the size of the pulleys on the motor and fan.

Design had its first dedicated minicomputer, a Computer Automation Naked Mini, located in a purpose-built office in the main DO. This was managed by Clive Grainger and used by the members of the design section for finite element analysis, vibration analysis and other general computing. Several users could edit programs and data but the system could only run one program at a time. The Naked Mini was eventually replaced in the early eighties by a DEC VAX 11/780. More about the VAX and other IT systems.

Back to Eric Lloyd and our walkabouts: we'd have a look in the skips to see what was being thrown away and have a general poke about. There were the usual good hunting grounds in the Works, Fire Engineering and Motor Assembly where you could find all sorts on interesting things lying around. Some of the rating plates pictured on this site were obtained from the scrap. But it wasn't just metal scrap that was of interest, it was paperwork too with all sorts of records and photographs being discarded.

Next department: Pattern Shop