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Gas lights in Victorian London

  1. Jul 27, 2008 #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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  3. Jul 27, 2008 #2

    tiny-tim

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    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.
    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:
     
  4. Jul 27, 2008 #3
    I didn't know it was that primitive. I thought that they might have been turned on via a switch like electric lights.



    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.
     
  5. Jul 27, 2008 #4

    tiny-tim

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    Yes! :smile:
     
  6. Jul 27, 2008 #5
  7. Jul 27, 2008 #6

    tiny-tim

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    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)
     
  8. Jul 27, 2008 #7

    arildno

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    Primitive?
    Nope, just British..
     
  9. Jul 27, 2008 #8

    mgb_phys

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    I think the electrical switching probbaly caused interference with WiFi

    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.
     
  10. Jul 27, 2008 #9

    tiny-tim

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    hi arildno! :smile:
    Primitive?

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_lighting#The_first_gas_lighting:
    Britain once again at the forefront of the technological revolution! :biggrin:
    :rofl: :rofl:
     
  11. Jul 27, 2008 #10
    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.
     
  12. Jan 5, 2009 #11
    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
     
  13. Jan 5, 2009 #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.
     
  14. Jan 5, 2009 #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?
     
  15. Jan 5, 2009 #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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    Last edited: Jan 5, 2009
  16. Jan 5, 2009 #15

    mgb_phys

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2009
  17. Jan 5, 2009 #16

    baywax

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    Thanks mgb_phys...

    Pretty simple. Can we run a car on that or will it weld the cylinders into immobility?
     
  18. Jan 5, 2009 #17

    mgb_phys

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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!
     
  19. Jan 5, 2009 #18

    baywax

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    No way!

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

    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.)
     
  20. Jan 5, 2009 #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.
     
  21. Jan 5, 2009 #20

    baywax

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    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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