Book Reviews 8


By Precision Into Power
A Bicentennial Record of D. Napier & Son

by Alan Vessey

Soft Cover, 9-3/4” x 6-1/4”, 256 pages
ISBN: 978 0 7524 3888 7
Tempus Publishing Ltd
The Mill, Brimscombe Port
Stroud, Gloucestershire
GL5 2QG
United Kingdom

Recommended Retail Price: £19.99

Reviewed by Graham White

When we think of Napier the immortal Sabre immediately springs to mind. However, this long lived company has a rich history going back to 1808. Author Alan Vessey, who is also Secretary to the Napier Power Heritage Trust, has written other books on the products of Napier but never one that covers the company’s entire 200 year history, as this one does. And what a history it is.

The fledgling company cut its teeth on products such as printing presses and precision weighing machines for coins. However, the real meat of the book, at least for aircraft engine enthusiasts, starts with WWI and the Napier Lion. All previous documentation has indicted that Rowledge, who later moved on to Rolls-Royce after a dispute, was responsible for the Lion’s design. Although author Vessey credits Rowledge with much of the development most of the accolades go to Montague Napier for the Lion’s design – this came as a surprise to this reviewer.

Napier was among the early manufacturers of luxury automobiles plus commercial trucks. These and Napier’s other products of the period are well covered. Many land speed record cars were powered by Lions, the ultimate being the Railton Special driven by John Cobb to a world speed record in 1947, a record that held until the mid 1960s. Likewise, many water speed boats were powered by Lions. The dubious means by which Rolls-Royce captured control of the bankrupt Bentley is briefly covered. Reading between the lines one cannot help thinking what would have happened if Napier had been successful in their acquisition bid for Bentley… Schneider Trophy aircraft powered by Lions are also covered.

By the early 1930s we get into the Halford era whereby Frank Halford acted as a consultant and designed the Rapier, Dagger and Sabre. Having spent most (all?) of his career with Napier it is perhaps understandable, that the author did not go into great detail about the Sabre’s woes and glossed over the assistance that Bristol gave (was forced to give?) for Sabre sleeve production. Development of a two stage, intercooled Sabre driving contra-rotating propellers was a fascinating insight as to where development was heading. Of course this did not happen; instead Rolls-Royce developed their version known as the Eagle 22.

Post war developments include the incredible Deltic two-stroke Diesel. Although never intended for aircraft propulsion it was built to aircraft standards with regard to precision and light weight. Non starters, such as the Nomad turbo compounded two-stroke aircraft Diesel, are also described. Entering the gas turbine field late in the game made it a tough chore for Napier to catch up even though the company produced some excellent engines. Reading between the lines it was apparent that after about the late ‘50s a slow decline started. It was somewhat reminiscent of the decline of Wright Aeronautical. Finally in 1974 the name Napier disappeared and sadly these days few people have even heard of the name.

A few inevitable errors crept in such as describing George Eyston’s Thunderbolt car as being powered by Merlins. In fact this land speed record car was powered by a pair of “R” engines. However, this should not put off a potential purchase; this book represents an excellent read and is highly recommended.


A Pictorial A to Z of Vintage and Classic
Model Airplane Engines

From the collection of Mike Clanford

Soft Cover, 8-1/4” x 11-1/2”, 213 pages
ISBN: 0-9512524-0-2
Traplet Publications Limited
Traplet House, Pendragon Close, Malvern
Worcestershire WR14 1GA
United Kingdom

Recommended Retail Price: US $47.95

Reviewed by Graham White

Most, if not all of us enamored with aircraft engines started our infatuation with model aircraft engines. If you want to take a walk down memory lane then this book is for you. I was delighted to see engines such as the E.D. Competition Special, my first engine, featured. Even though the Competition Special was a pretty awful engine it has the distinction getting me started with my passion. Engines from all over the world are covered, many of which I had never heard of and many more were, and still are in many cases, household names. All the major manufacturers are covered along with unique and one-offs. Each engine is featured with a photograph and brief caption. The book has no text, however, it would have been nice to see a more extensive write-up on the engines. Understandably, little information is available on the more obscure engines but engines such as the ETA 29 (a favorite of mine for Class B Team Racing) and other more common ones could have benefited from better descriptions. If you are nostalgic about the model engines you played with as a youngster then this book is a recommended buy.


The Knife and Fork Man
The Life and Work of Charles Benjamin Redrup

by Bill Fairney

Hard Cover, 24cm x 16cm, 343 pages
IISBN: 978-0-9554455-0-7
Diesel Publishing
2, The Tithe Barn, Hawkesbury Upton
Badminton, South Glos
GL9 1AY
United Kingdom

Recommended Retail Price: £14.95

Many Illustrations, Colour and Black & White

Review by Jerry Wells

Charles Redrup enjoyed what most people would consider to be a very fortunate life. He was born in 1878 of wealthy parents who lived in South Wales, UK. Such was the availability of family money that all ten of the Redrup children (of which Charles was the first) were able to receive a good private education. Furthermore, at the age of just 16, Charles’ parents bought him a house near the family home in the coastal town of Barry. Money was provided to set up a workshop (including a lathe) for the boy to foster his growing engineering interests and, on top of all this, he was signed up as a Premium Engineering Apprentice (i.e., the parents pay the employer for the instruction) with the Great Western Railway for a five year period.

From this beginning, Charles Redrup was able to pursue his love of engineering for the whole of his life and he did this mostly in England working sometimes for established firms and sometimes with a few private partners.

In his time, he designed rotary, radial, and axial engines for motorbikes, cars and aircraft. He started his married life in the aforementioned parental-gifted house and by 1925 Charles and Jessie Redrup had a family of eight.

Professor Fairney does his best to describe the huge variety of Redrup engines but struggles a bit. For instance, the first Redrup engine was a small, 2-cylinder rotary for motorcycle use (known as the “Barry” engine). The author provides a drawing, a photo and a written description of the device but there are major discrepancies between the drawing and the picture and the description doesn’t do much to reconcile the two graphics. Fortunately, the patent (GB 1904 13314) can be easily downloaded from the Espacenet site to clarify the situation.

Redrup next turned his attention to engines for balloons and early aircraft. His first designs were described by him as “reactionless”, i.e., the radial cylinders (sometimes with a propeller attached; sometimes without) rotated in the opposite direction to the crankshaft and propeller. The first “reactionless” was a 2-cylinder development of the “Barry” engine with push-pull propellers, the next, according to Fairney was “a contra-rotating radial aero-engine which had three cylinders and an epicyclic gearbox” but the photograph provided shows this to be a five cylinder motor with bevel gears (much like the Siemens-Halske rotary). The author then claims this engine was later converted by Redrup to operate with 2-blade contra-props and he shows a photo of such an engine (3-cylinders, 2-props) to illustrate this but by now the reader is totally confused!

Those interested in aero-engines are probably familiar with a couple of axial, air-cooled Redrup engines known as the “Fury 1” and “Fury 2” developed in the late 1920s. They didn’t go into production but were flight-tested in Spartan aircraft. The full story is told in this book as is the saga of the Hart engine which was a 9-cylinder radial designed by Redrup in 1914. It showed some promise and was given some government encouragement regarding its further development. However, like so many of Redrup’s designs, problems and delays ensured that it never went into production which was regrettable because Great Britain was chronically short of home-grown engines for its WW1 aircraft. Fairney claims that Redup filed a patent for this engine on behalf of the Hart Engine Company but no number is quoted by the author and there are no appropriate patents listed on the Espacenet data base.

This book is characterized by many “asides” and “potted histories”, e.g., Redrup started making engines in his home town of Barry in Wales so a short expose of the coal exporting and brick manufacturing enterprises that made Barry a prosperous town is given. Similarly, brief accounts of the Royal Aircraft Factory, Crossley Motors and Bristol Tramways appear as background to Charles Redrup’s association with them as his career unfolded. However, on the strength of his work for the A. V. Roe Company, the author devotes no fewer than 15 pages to yet another recounting of the R.A.F 617 Squadron “Dambusters” and their modified ‘Lancaster’ aircraft which seems a little excessive!

As a presentation this book has pluses and minuses. The text, on good quality glossy paper, is clear and easy to read although some minor imperfections indicate computer compositing. Illustrations abound—almost every page has a picture or diagram on it. In the middle of the book there are 24 pages of colour pictures, which look great. What spoils the graphics is the huge variation in the reproduction quality of the black&white photos. Far too many have a washed-out, faded look to them. The scanning and printing of original document pages is particularly bad—most are indecipherable studies in shades of gray. All this is just another indication of the fact that the book publishing industry and computers have a long way to go before they can be regarded as compatible.

For all his lifetime of tinkering with engines and other devices, it appears that Redrup never produced a motor or a device that could be classified as a “winner”. Undoubtedly, he was a trier and an eternal optimist. His story is interesting and we are indebted to Professor Fariney for bringing it to us.