Hydraulic Power Network

A hydraulic power network is a system of interconnected pipes carrying pressurized liquid used to transmit mechanical power from a power source, like a pump, to hydraulic equipment like lifts or motors. The system is analogous to an electrical grid transmitting power from a generating station to end-users. Only a few hydraulic power transmission networks are still in use; modern hydraulic equipment has a pump built into the machine. In the late 19th century, a hydraulic network might have been used in a factory, with a central steam engine or water turbine driving a pump and a system of high-pressure pipes transmitting power to various machines.

The idea of a public hydraulic power network was suggested by Joseph Bramah in a patent obtained in 1812. William Armstrong began installing systems in England from the 1840s, using low-pressure water, but a breakthrough occurred in 1850 with the introduction of the hydraulic accumulator, which allowed much higher pressures to be used. The first public network, supplying many companies, was constructed in Kingston upon Hull, England. The Hull Hydraulic Power Company began operation in 1877, with Edward B. Ellington as its engineer. Ellington was involved in most of the British networks, and some further afield. Public networks were constructed in Britain at London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. There were similar networks in Antwerp, Melbourne, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Geneva. All of the public networks had ceased to operate by the mid-1970s, but Bristol Harbour still has an operational system, with an accumulator situated outside the main pumphouse, enabling its operation to be easily visualised.

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