The black and dirty smoke given off everywhere by the steam fires disgraces the front of our capital, and inspires M. Haussmann with ideas of proscription that are sufficiently explicable. If you pass on the Pont de l'Alma, you see the two chimneys of the Chaillot pumps smoking at full blast, opposite you. If you pass over the Pont d'Iéna, the smoke from the boats of Billancourt envelops you as you pass as if in a shroud. As you descend the slopes of the Trocadero, numerous columns of smoke indicate where the various generators of the Champ de Mars are and the steam engines that serve the various industries of the Park. This thick black smoke dirties everything it licks and burns everything it touches.
There are, I believe, twelve or fourteen fumivores exposed at the Champ de Mars. How is it that no one has thought of experimenting with them one after the other? The only one that works has been completely successful: it is the A. Thierry fumivore. Thierry; it can be seen in action at the inventor's pavilion, behind the church, and at the Friedland machines on the bank. Not only is the fumivority complete, but it is instantaneous. You open the tap of the apparatus, the chimney does not smoke any more; you close it, the smoke reappears more intense. There is no denying the fact: everyone has seen it, or can see it; it is indisputable.
Since the decree of January 25, 1865, which obliges steam fires to burn their smoke, I have often heard it claimed that smoke is impossible to obtain. Nothing is easier, on the contrary, than to achieve smokiness: I believe that all known appliances succeed. All that is needed is to inject outside air into the fireplace: this outside air, when brought into contact with the smoke gases, inevitably causes them to burn. However, by this operation, the calorific intensity of the fireplace decreases, and the remedy is worse than the evil.
It was concluded from this that the best smoker was a good fire; and that everything depended on the driver.
There is certainly no lack of good drivers in Paris: how is it that all the chimneys smoke?
The main thing is that smoke from steam fires should be banned in the towns as well as in the countryside, and that the decree of 25 January 1865 should at last be enforced in France, as the law against smoking is enforced in England. You say that you cannot find a sufficient smoker, so be it! burn coke, which does not smoke.
It is not only because smoke is unhealthy and dirty that it must be burnt, it is also because it is ruinous.
A man for whom I had a deep esteem, a modest scientist whom death has robbed of glory, M. Silbermann, who had made complete studies on the laws of combustion, told me that industrialists, out of a hundred million tons of coal consumed, threw twenty of them down their chimneys. He added that Mr. A. Thierry's fumivore, by bringing to incandescence the gases that went up in smoke, gave back to the steam fires a part of these twenty millions, that is to say thirteen out of twenty.
Mr. Silbermann's testimony would suffice for me; but it is confirmed by the companies of the Lyon, the Orleans and the East, and by the Imperial Navy, which use the fumivore recommended by Mr. Silbermann, and seem to find it very convenient.
It is of little consequence to a railway company to project smoke on its route, if it finds an economy in it: the complaints of the local residents will not stop it. If it employs a fumivator, preventing the effects of a compulsory decree, it is because it finds a profit in it. As I have already said, the savings are 13 per cent, and even 20 per cent with the smokiest coals.
What distinguishes Mr. A. Thierry's device from other smokers is that it achieves smokiness by activating the incandescence of the furnace, instead of reducing it. He uses the steam from the boiler itself to obtain the combustion of the gases released from the furnace. A steam tap is placed on the dome of the boiler, regardless of the shape and use of the boiler. A wrought and reinforced iron inlet pipe, 8 to 10 millimetres thick and of variable diameter, leads the steam to the end of a second T-shaped superheater tube, straight or serpentine, horizontal or curved vertically at its ends, one of which is fitted with a drain cock. The siphon pipe, which is intended to introduce the steam into the firebox, is connected to the superheater at the head of the firebox, in front of the grate bars, by means of a regulating tap which is used to direct the injections of steam through small holes drilled in the tube in front of the firebox altar. This blower pipe, heated to a temperature of 200 to 500 degrees, releases completely dry steam at a variable temperature into the hearth through the aforementioned projection holes.
As soon as the regulating valve is opened to let the steam enter the furnace, a noisy eddy takes place in the incandescent mass. We see the stream of steam pick up, so to speak, all the smoke gases over the whole surface of the burning furnace, mixing them, in the proportions of its physical and chemical affinity, with the gas-fuluminous products which are born and released in the live combustion of the coal. This air, stirred by the current and the eddy of the dry steam, projected within the gases and the flame which form the ignition source, decomposes instantaneously to arrive at a perfect mixture of carbonic acid, oxygen and nitrogen, forming completely colourless and essentially calorific gases.
The apparatus of M. A. Thierry, whose mechanism and procedures I have just described, can be seen by everyone working every day in the pavilion whose drawing we have given, and in the machines of the Friedland" on the bank. One can still see it applied to a machine exhibited by the Lyon company, which has already supplied 200,000 kilometres with this device. Before the steam injection tap is opened, the coals will be seen burning in the furnace, and the flame will be obscured at the top, as if overcome by the smoky gases which it gives off. As soon as the tap is opened, these blackish egrets of flame disappear and form an igneous vortex, a sort of burning atmosphere. The coal layer instantly becomes luminous and dazzlingly incandescent over the entire hearth. This transformation of incandescence is, I repeat, instantaneous and therefore undeniable.
The A. Thierry device increases the calorific power of the fireplace by the sum of the combustion of all the gases it ignites, which until then had escaped in smoke.
In addition to its effectiveness as a smoker and saver, Mr. A. Thierry's device has two major advantages. Firstly, it regulates the fire, and dispenses with the need for a good driver or a skilled mechanic. It is enough to open the spraying tap and to consult the manometer according to the degree of temperature that one wishes to obtain. This does not depend on good or bad driving of the fires, but simply on a calculation on the manometer.
Secondly, the use of the A. Thierry fumivator allows a considerable saving in the installation costs of the chimneys of all steam generators. Indeed, as soon as it is no longer a question of releasing
in the atmosphere of sooty gases, since they are burnt in the furnace itself, one can dispense with giving the chimneys the height they have today; it is sufficient to raise them 0.5 metres above the roof of the fireplaces, whether fixed or mobile.
Many applications have been made of the A. Thierry: and I do not believe that any have failed. Eight railway companies have adopted this device, and have fitted it on top of twelve hundred passenger and goods machines: a good number of administrations and industrialists have followed this example both in France and abroad, not so much because of the smokiness, I must say, as because of the economy of combustion that this device provides. Finally, on the reasoned report of Messrs Tresca and Silbermann, the Société d'encouragement awarded the author of the device a large platinum medal.
The imperial navy, both on board warships and on land in its arsenals, also uses the A. Thierry fumigator.
It is above all in the name of public hygiene and salubrity, and also in the name of the Paris municipality, that I have spoken about fumivores and their application. I wish, along with the majority of French people whose lungs are increasingly threatened by the progress of urban industry, that the decree of 25 January 1865 be executed. Let us take the fumivore A. Thierry; - I have shown that this one at least was good, - or any other, I do not care! But let the industrialists make up their minds; if they do not make up their minds, let them at least burn coke, and no longer smoky coal.
Paris must not deserve the reputation that London has already repudiated: that of a city of fogs and smoke. I do not know whether there are any fumivores in London, but what I do know is that there is a law which obliges all industrialists who use steam to burn their smoke, and that this law is ruthlessly enforced. The atmosphere of London is now purified, and the sun's rays sometimes shine through it, which we shall soon envy.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée