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chaldron; so that your readers may be better able to form a judgment of the differences. In the Chartered Company, the whole rental is 125,9771.; the number of chaldrons of coals carbonised 20,678, giving a rental upon each chaldron of 67. 1s. 10d.
In the City of London Company, the whole rental is 30,8397. the number of chaldrons of coals used 8,840, yielding a rental upon each chaldron of 31. 10s.
In the South London, the rental is 14,9637.; the quantity of coals 3,640 chaldrons, producing a rental on each of 4l. 2s. 3d.
The cost of each chaldron of coal after deducting the profit on the coke, I reckon to be about 30s. The tar and ammonia may be considered an equivalent for the expence of lime. This will be the same with each Company.
The profit I calculate by the dividend which is paid on the capital advanced; in the Chartered Company the capital expended is 580,0007.; 8 per cent. on that, which is the amount of dividend, is 46,4007.: this is their profit. In the City of London Company, the dividend is 7 per cent. which, on a capital of 131,2501. gives for profit 10,2407.
In the South London Company, a dividend of 7 per cent. on 96,0007. gives 7,2001.
The cost of coals and the profit being deducted from the whole rental leave the remainder for expences of management, wear and tear, labour, and contingencies. In the Chartered Company, the rental upon each chaldron of coals which is 67. 1s. 10d. will be thus divided: cost of coals, 17. 10s.; labour, management, &c. 21. 7s. 11d.; profit, 21. 3s. 11d.
In the City of London Company, the rental upon each chaldron of coals, which is 37. 10s. will be thus divided: cost of coals, 17. 10s.; labour, management, &c. 17s. 9d.; profit, 17: 2s. 3d.
In the South London Company, the rental upon each chaldron of coals, which is 47. 2s. 3d. will be thus divided: coals, 17. 10s.; labour, &c. 12s. 9d.; profit, 17. 19s. 6d.
In the Chartered Company, the proportion of capital employed on each chaldron is 287.
In the City of London Company only 141. 16s.; and in the South London, 261. 7s.
It must excite very considerable surprise to those at all conversant with Gas Companies, that such a very great disparity should exist in the statements given by these three Companies; first, in the great difference in the quantities of gas produced, and the equally great difference in the waste; next, in the vast disproportion of expence in management, that of the Chartered Company, with all the great advantages it possesses, being more than three times as much in proportion to the City of London Company, and nearly four times that of the South London. Again, though it has such a much larger proportion of lights the length of main; though it employs a much less number
of retorts for the number of lights, which may be seen by a refer ence to the table, yet it is stated to employ nearly double the capital to the quantity of coals decomposed in comparison with the City of London Company, and only a very little more than the South London; and notwithstanding all which the amount of dividend varies but very little, and the premiums on the shares are nearly the same in all.
Without any design, the managers of a Company may often times be mistaken in estimating their profits, more partícularly when their funds exceed the capital employed, as many expences are charged to sunk capital which more particularly belong to wear and tear, &c.; for it is difficult to conceive that a gas establishment, like that of the City of London, with the wear and tear of 170 retorts, the average number in use with the labour necessary for working them-with the other expences in management of clerks-superintendants-inspectors-collectors-directors, for, I believe, there are no gratuitous services→→→ law expences, &c. &c. should not expend above 7,8391.; and it is still more difficult to believe that the South London could effect all this for 2,3021.; while the Chartered Company is expending 49,0607. Yet it is upon such documents as these that Sir W. Congreve proposes to found his restrictive enactments; to regulate the price at which gas ought to be charged; and to do away with competition. For some years past, the most enlightened part of our legislature have been using their strenuous endeavours to do away with the evils that have arisen from over legislation; and here Sir W. C. wishes to submit the Gas Companies to an infliction of all those evils; but, we trust, that Parliament at this present day is too well informed to attend to such suggestions. He proposes that no competition should be allowed, and that the mains of each Company should be restricted to particular districts, that one may not interfere with the other; and to prevent any evil resulting from such a procedure, he further suggests that the price of gas furnished by the Companies should be fixed independent of their controul; that liable to all contingencies of increased expenditure, they of course are not to be allowed to make an increased charge; that is to be left to some other direction. And how would the public be benefitted by this? They may be secured against an increase of price by legislative enactment instead of competition, but what security have they against a deteriorated article? against a scanty supply? a diminished time of burning? or a slovenly and careless mode of supplying it? for gas may be adulterated, and its illuminating powers diminished by various methods; the pressure on the gasometer may be diminished, the mains may be supplied for a less number of hours, and less care may be taken in the purification of the coal gas. The Company is secure from competition, and it may remunerate itself by such means for the restriction it lies under. The reason which Sir W.
Congreve assigns for doing away with competition is, because in certain districts, the mains of different Companies now cross each other, and when there is a leakage, the parties are unwilling to be the first to open the ground, each being desirous of throwing the trouble and expence upon the other; but is this likely to be the case? Would the manager of a Company whose business it is to watch over its interests, knowing that a valuable article was escaping which might be at the expence of his Company, hesitate a single moment ascertaining the fact, and that merely because it might be the loss of some rival establishment? I can only say if the manager of a Company over which I had any controul acted thus, he would not continue to fill that situation long. It is the interest of every Company that there should be no waste, and that interest will make them careful that there is no annoyance from leakage. Sir W. Congreve throws out a hint whether it may not be advisable to place Gas Companies under some licence, but would this measure be attended with any good result? Let the public be secured by such legislative enactments as Parliament may think fit against any possible danger that may arise, but do not let the Companies be fettered by licences, visitations, and other vexatious restrictions, which can answer no good end whatever, and will only tend to drive from the superintendence men of talent and respectability. If it be deemed advisable that an inspector be appointed to ascertain that the public are incurring no risks, let his powers be strictly defined; let him have no controul over the management, or any thing in which the safety of the public is not concerned; if he observes that they are risking that, let him remonstrate, and if not attended to, let him report to the higher powers, who will compel attention; that is all which the public have a right to expect from Gas Companies more than from any other institution.
Sir W. Congreve has given the result of some very interesting experiments on the explosive force of coal gas mixed with atmospheric air compared with gunpowder; surely he will not draw a comparison between the danger arising from the two. It is not enough to consider because 39,000 cubic feet of carburetted hydrogen mixed with four times its quantity of common air will explode with the same force as 135 barrels of gunpowder, that, therefore, the vicinity of one is as dangerous as the other: we are also to consider by what means their danger is called into action. Gunpowder is already in its explosive state, and a spark dropped among a few loose grains scattered about where there are several barrels filled with it, would most probably explode the whole; but what a combination of circumstances must exist to produce the same effect with a gasometer filled with carburetted hydrogen. In that state it is perfectly harmless; a candle may be taken into a gasometer-house with impunity, and no one would dream of any danger arising from it. If there should
be an escape, and a candle allowed to approach it, the gas would ignite, and burn like a gas light, and would be as readily extinguished. Long before an escape of gas would become of such magnitude as to be dangerous from its admixture with atmospheric air, the smell would have given such ample warning, that some method would be adopted for preventing its continuance. If a gasometer were to turn on one side, there would be but a partial escape, and even if it took place in a building in the vicinity of the Retort House, from the levity of the gas, it would have a tendency to make its way through the upper part of the building, and would be hardly disengaged in such quantities as to form an explosive mixture that could reach the retorts. If a gasometer were to burst, still the escape would be gradual, and there must be a combination of extraordinary circumstances in this as in the former instance, before explosion could take place: neither would lightning have any effect on a full gasometer. I can conceive that if a gasometer filled with a certain portion of carburetted hydrogen and air so as to form an explosive mixture, were suddenly to burst in the vicinity of fire, that explosion would take place; but I find it very difficult indeed to conceive, how even a very large escape of unmixed carburetted hydrogen should become of such magnitude, and remain so confined, as to render all the air in the gasometer-house, in the retort-house, &c. buildings of no very limited extent, explosive, to me it appears almost impossible. Sir W. Congreve also contemplates an escape in an unfrequented building, such as a church, or meeting-house, &c. which may become dangerous. This has been so ably and so amply considered by Mr. Brande, some few years ago, that it is quite unnecessary for me to say any thing upon that subject: he expresses too some apprehensions from the breaking of the chain of the gasometer, which, by enlarging the flame of each lamp, might occasion fire. I should be inclined to think that the sudden increase of pressure would rather tend to extinguish the lights: at all events, the increase of flame would sufficiently inform persons of their danger, which might be readily removed by the turning of a cock.
It is a matter of surprise to me, and no doubt is so to many others, that a gentleman who is identified with explosions, whose name, as the inventor of one of the most powerful explosive engines, is known all over the world; who is more familiarised with that subject, and who has had more to do with it than any other person, should express what to me appears so many groundless fears on the present occasion. It would be wrong for the encouragement of any improvement in science, however great, to shut our eyes to the dangers of it; but it is, I think, still more impolitic to excite useless alarm, and apprehend evils that do not exist. Excepting the accident at Woolwich, with the particulars of which I am wholly unacquainted, all the accidents which I have ever heard of have been trivial, and have arisen
from gas escaping in close confined places, under shop counters, in vaults, dry wells, and places of that description, where the explosion has been but trifling, and little mischief done. Indeed if the danger be at all adequate to what Sir W. Congreve has described, it is a matter of inconceivable surprise that so very few accidents should have occurred. It appears to me that more mischief is to be apprehended from the bursting of those tanks which stand out of the ground, and indeed when they were filled with coal tar, the most dreadful consequences would have ensued from their giving way: the latter risk is, however, happily removed. Sir W. Congreve's recommendations concerning the size of the gasometers, the limiting the number in a particular space, the constructing them in the open air, may be the very acme of prudence, but I should very much doubt their necessity, and I am very sure of the very great inconvenience and additional useless expence which their adoption would occasion. It might be a very prudent and effectual precaution for a person never to go on the water to secure himself from drowning; but there are few, I believe, who would not laugh at him for adopting it.
Sir W. Congreve gives a short account of the Oil Gas Works at Oldford, and speaks favourably of the adoption of oil for the purpose of gas lights. I was not aware that Sir W. Congreve had paid an official visit to those Works. Had I continued in the neighbourhood, I should have been most happy to have attended him on the occasion, and have afforded him every information he might have required. I think it necessary to make one or two corrections of the statement given in the Report. The capital advanced is 80007. instead of 60007. This of course includes every expenditure, law expences for obtaining the Act, meters, &c. &c. The charge for gas is stated to be 50s. per 1000 feet: from that, however, 5 per cent. has been deducted on account of the price of oil, so that the real charge is only 47s. 6d. instead of 50s. In drawing a comparison between the illuminating powers of oil and coal gas, he says it is about as one to three; that is, that one oil gas lamp will give as much light as three of coal gas. The difference between oil and coal gas is not estimated in that way, because it must be a very large lamp indeed that will consume an equal quantity of the former as the latter. The holes through which the oil gas passes are only the 60th part of an inch in diameter; while those of the coal gas are, I believe, the 30th part, being four times the area. Oil gas passing through a coal gas burner under the same pressure emits a great deal of smoke; and I have observed a very remarkable circumstance, which corroborates a former observation of Mr. P. Taylor, that in burning oil gas or coal gas through the large hole burners, more than double the quantity of the latter is consumed than the former. In the course of my experiments, I applied one of the common street