Thursday, May 22, 2008

Just Short of Success


A Lazy Inventor's Experiment With a Wonderful Alligator Engine.

"My boy once had a pet alligator that was pretty fierce," observed Meekin, the lazy inventor. "When he teased this young saurian, the beast would swipe out with its powerful tail in an amazing fashion, without doing itself or anybody else any good. It occurred to me that here was a splendid example of wasted energy, and I set out to devise a means of conserving it and turning it to some useful purpose.

"I spent a winter in Florida, and after I had experimented with some of the small 'gators that are supplied to tourists for a consideration I ordered some big fellows. After some little trouble I secured ten 'gators, each about four feet in length and of about ten horsepower tail capacity. My scheme for utilizing their tail power was this: The 'gators were placed side by side in stalls which left their tails free to wag. I had upright beams set like pendulums, the swinging ends of the beams coming close enough to the 'gators' tails to be in a good position for action. Then I built a tank over the stalls and filled it with thundering big cannon balls. There was an inclined chute running from the tank to a power wheel made with hollow places in the rim, something like a water wheel. In the chute I had a valve to regulate the flow of cannon balls. Half the 'gators used to work the cannon ball part of the machine and the other half to run a conveyor contrivance to lift the balls back into the tank after they had done their work in turning the wheel. I connected a small dynamo by a belt to a pulley wheel on the power wheel shaft. My main circuit ran from the dynamo to a bank of incandescent lamps which were to be used in the test.

"When everything was ready, the wheels oiled up, main switch closed and the 'gators pretty mad, I hired four little colored boys to go in front of the stalls and crack the 'gators on the head with short clubs. This made 'em awful mad, and so they struck out with their tails. Then the old shebang commenced to run. A little coon would hit a 'gator on the head, he'd let out with his tail, strike a beam, open the valve, let out a cannon ball, which rolled down the chute and onto the wheel, turning it around. Then the ball rolled back to the conveyor and was hoisted up by one of the other 'gators. She was humming beautifully, but I had forgotten one thing — that was a governor. The little coons liked their work and lambasted the 'gators unmercifully. I stopped 'em, but the wild animals were beyond control. They lashed around until the speed got so high that the armature of the dynamo burned out with a flash. The 'gators running the conveyor got into a race with the other fellows and hoisted up cannon balls so fast that the tank got overweighted and broke down. The cannon balls fell on the 'gators' heads and killed every one of 'em. Fact, I assure you." — Electrical Review.

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