Gas lights in Victorian London

  • #1
I know that the streets of London were illuminated by gas lights in the 1880s. The gas that powered the gas lights of London was coal gas. How was the chemical energy of coal gas transfered into light energy to light up the lamps?
 

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  • #2
tiny-tim
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I know that the streets of London were illuminated by gas lights in the 1880s.
The Temple, just off Fleet Street, in the City of London, is still lit by gaslights.

A gaslighter goes round every evening to light them.
The gas that powered the gas lights of London was coal gas. How was the chemical energy of coal gas transfered into light energy to light up the lamps?
erm … it's called a flame … the gas combines with oxygen in the air, and chemical energy is released as heat and light.

You can get the same effect from a Bunsen burner. :smile:
 
  • #3
The Temple, just off Fleet Street, in the City of London, is still lit by gaslights.

A gaslighter goes round every evening to light them.
I didn't know it was that primitive. I thought that they might have been turned on via a switch like electric lights.



erm … it's called a flame … the gas combines with oxygen in the air, and chemical energy is released as heat and light.

You can get the same effect from a Bunsen burner. :smile:
Oh...I thought that maybe the gas lights operated by the principle of incandescence or something more than just the simple light of a flame. So basically a gas light is a just a torch that is powered by gas.
 
  • #4
tiny-tim
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So basically a gas light is a just a torch that is powered by gas.
Yes! :smile:
 
  • #6
tiny-tim
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A gas light in Victorian London was a torch that was often enclosed in a glass box.
Yes … partly to stop the wind blowing the light out, and partly to stop the light setting adjacent trees on fire! :smile:

(of course, the glass box wasn't air-tight, since a continuous supply of oxygen from the air was needed)
 
  • #7
arildno
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I didn't know it was that primitive. I thought that they might have been turned on via a switch like electric lights
Primitive?
Nope, just British..
 
  • #8
mgb_phys
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I thought that they might have been turned on via a switch like electric lights
I think the electrical switching probbaly caused interference with WiFi

Primitive?
Nope, just British..
But it was Y2K proof.

By late Victorian times most indoor gas lights used mantles which were much more efficent, streetlights were still just flames because mantles were expensive and fragile.
 
  • #9
tiny-tim
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hi arildno! :smile:
Primitive?
Nope, just British..
Primitive?

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_lighting#The_first_gas_lighting:
The first public street lighting with gas took place in Pall Mall, London on January 28, 1807. In 1812, Parliament granted a charter to the London and Westminster Gas Light and Coke Company, and the first gas company in the world came into being. A few years later, on December 31, 1813, the Westminster Bridge was lit by gas.
Britain once again at the forefront of the technological revolution! :biggrin:
But it was Y2K proof.
:rofl: :rofl:
 
  • #10
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Antique Gaseliers, chandeliers lit by gas, are just so beautiful to look at. Most of the antique ones have been re-wired for electric, which was easy to do because of the hollow tubes needed for the gas, made wiring a cinch.
 
  • #11
gouletdl
I have two brass street lights purchased in the 1950's in Kent, England, and would love now to be able to restore them and then have them operate as they were originally intended with gas lines.

The lights utilized mantles, which I know that I can buy, but I need to locate a craftsman who could repair the copper, and I need to specs for the gas, i.e. at what pressure is the gas? I am assuming that liquid propane gas would work, but I am no physics major, so that assumption may be flawed. I there anyone out there who can direct me??

Many thanks

Diana
 
  • #12
mgb_phys
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Before the North sea oil fields gas in Britain was town-gas a mixture of Hydrogen + carbon monoxide. Not sure what pressure was used or even how well it was controlled. Methane (natural gas) or LPG burns at a different temperature and there was a huge engineering effort to switch everyones household heating/cooking over to methane in the 60s.

You can certainly run a modern mantle from propane/butane.
You might be best refitting it with a nozzle+mantle assembly from a modern camping lamp - it would probably be dangerous to run the original burner on LPG/methane.
 
  • #13
brewnog
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Diana, this sounds very interesting. There's an old sewer gas lamp near my old home which is still burning, gives off a lovely light.

You'd have no problem finding someone able to re gasify the lamps, it's essentially a job for a plumber, but make sure they're CORGI registered, and if you intend to use LPG make sure they have the necessary certificates for this too. Depending on where you want to use the lamps, I'd be more tempted to try natural gas (it's much safer!), but we'd have to have a look at the burner assembly.

Whereabouts are you?
 
  • #14
baywax
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There's an old hotel from around 1850 in the interior of British Columbia that still has its acetylene fixtures in each room and the pipes for this system run throughout the hotel. Where were they getting acetylene to run these lamps? Is it a byproduct of a process that was used in those days?

I think the beds are from the same era...:yuck:

Its the old Quilchena Hotel... pictured below... on the Quilchena Ranch which still raises cattle on a large parcel of land.

PS. There are bullet holes in the bar where some cowboys from the near-by Douglas Lake Ranch had a disagreement about one of the Barpersons (PC for "waitress"):!!)

PPS. They import a French chef every tourist season. The original owners were French and the restaurant and the Diner for the hands are tops... in the region.
 

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  • #15
mgb_phys
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Where were they getting acetylene to run these lamps? Is it a byproduct of a process that was used in those days?
You make it in the lamp, they are also called carbide lamps.
You drip water onto calcium carbide (CaC2) powder and you get C2H2 (acetylene) and CaOH2 (slaked lime) - it used to be used for miners lamps and even bicycle lamps, you get a lot of very bright light.
 
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  • #16
baywax
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Yiu make it in the lamp, they are also called carbide lamps.
You drip water onto calcium carbide (CaC2) powder and you get C2H2 (acetylene) and CaOH2 (slaked lime) - it used to be used for miners lamps and even bicycle lamps, you get a lot of very bright light.
Thanks mgb_phys...

Pretty simple. Can we run a car on that or will it weld the cylinders into immobility?
 
  • #17
mgb_phys
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Pretty simple. Can we run a car on that or will it weld the cylinders into immobility?
Acetylene is a bit sensitive to shocks. You can ignite a welding mixture accidentally just hooking up the pipes. I think I would stick to propane for LPG powered cars.

Apparently they used to use oxy-acetylene as an anesthetic, it's less toxic than nitrous oxide, but they had a few patients go bang!
 
  • #18
baywax
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Acetylene is a bit sensitive to shocks. You can ignite a welding mixture accidentally just hooking up the pipes. I think I would stick to propane for LPG powered cars.

Apparently they used to use oxy-acetylene as an anesthetic, it's less toxic than nitrous oxide, but they had a few patients go bang!
No way!

Here's someone who has almost worked it into his automotive routine...

Naturally, any flammable gas is potentially dangerous, and acetylene is certainly no exception. But the violent nature that's been attributed to "welder's ether" has come about as a result of that substance's being compressed for convenient storage and transport. When the gas is merely allowed to form in a regulated fashion-and is then immediately drawn off for a specific use-it's not nearly as touchy as when under pressure .. . and the fact that acetylene generators were used by regular folks all over America and abroad is proof that the gas can be safe when handled with due caution.

(snip) I started rather crudely in an attempt to get the engine to run without driving the car. After locating a calcium carbide generator-and a good supply of the fuel-in Vermont, I began tinkering with the carburetion system. Figuring that a propane carburetor would work best, since it was designed to use a gaseous-rather than a liquid-fuel, I welded up a metal duct pipe to serve two purposes: [1] It provided a mount for the propane (soon to be acetylene) carb that allowed the flammable gas to enter the throat of the original carburetor, and [2] it furnished a convenient dual-fuel capability . . . because I had fabricated an air inlet valve on its upper surface that could be opened when the car was burning gasoline and the acetylene system was shut down.

Then, after I had connected a length of single-strand acetylene hose from the stationary gas generator to the propane carburetor and made a few "guesstimated" adjustments to the latter piece of equipment, I filled my miniature acetylene "factory" with the proper amounts of water and calcium carbide (according to the manufacturer's recommendations) and opened the control valve slightly. As I fully expected, a hissing sound indicated that gas was being produced . . . and the moment of truth was upon me. When I turned the ignition key, the engine came to life . . . my system worked!

My next step was to try to fabricate a calcium carbide generator that would fit in the trunk of my vehicle . .. and-even more important-a unit that was safe enough to use on a regular transportation basis. An automobile can be forced to perform some pretty wild maneuvers in traffic, and I had to be sure that there was no danger of excess gas being produced because of water inadvertently splashing on my supply of fuel pebbles. After several months of work, I've recently come up with a generating unit that works perfectly . . . so well, in fact, that I'm conducting a patent search on its design.
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Transportation/1980-03-01/I-Run-My-Car-on-Acetylene.aspx?page=2

(I'm sure this publication is peer reviewed... but they do so by channeled conference calls.)
 
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  • #19
mgb_phys
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I'm sure you can do it, you can run an ICE on pretty much anything that will vapourise and burns, I'm just not sure you would want to!
Converting a car to LPG isn't too hard - it was quite common in europe.
 
  • #20
baywax
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I'm sure you can do it, you can run an ICE on pretty much anything that will vapourise and burns, I'm just not sure you would want to!
Converting a car to LPG isn't too hard - it was quite common in europe.
Yeah, this guy has 30 years welding experience and he keeps mentioning blowing yourself up with this kind of fiddling around.:smile:
 

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