Posted by: kathandroger | June 2, 2016

The Power of Horses.

Jimmy Watt started it all around 1800. The Steam Engine had been going for many years, but was not very efficient and the factory and mine owners were not keen to change from their reliable horses to these new fangled noisy and unknown contraptions. So old Jim, with his improved steam engine, worked out how much work a horse could do, and showed that his invention was far superior. He measured how far old Ned the horse traveled round its capstan when it was pulling up loads from the mine, and how much the load weighed, and how far the load had ascended. Clever Jim worked out a formula and showed that his machine could do the work of several Neds, even when one factory owner pitted it against his champion horse. So a horsepower, which was a very very rough estimation, became the standard measurement of power which still pertains today. It can even be converted to electricity and one horsepower is about three quarters of the heat of a one bar electric fire, though how a horse can heat the house or illuminate the telly escapes me. The Watt remains as a standard measurement, Jim got rich with his machines, and his name lives on forever. Well done old chap.

So today we have horsepower to measure the output of car engines. And how these have changed. As in so many things in life we have to have bigger and more powerful machines. To travel around our increasingly busy roads with speed limits everywhere, we have cars ever more powerful. We have seen this over the past couple of weeks with our guests arriving in some lovely machinesIMG_3380 (5)When Kaths’ little 2cv were first produced after the last war, the output was rated at 9 horsepower. The little engine was much smaller than on my lawnmower and performance was enough to get across plowed fields but not enough to go faster than about 40 mph on the road. Later models became more and more powerful, and the one above boasts 28 hp. The lovely Mercedes has about 300 horses. We thought that very impressive, but this week we have a beautiful Jaguar in the barn.IMG_3396This machine has over 500 horses.

I love driving powerful cars, but rarely have the chance. Power also often means comfort and silence from a big and quiet engine, and a magic carpet type ride to whisk us rapidly from one destination to another. Despite the improvements in engine efficiency they also usually mean more pollution and more drain on our finite fuel reserves. Perversely, it is a great pleasure to drive a little 2cv at 40 mph, hearing the engine, and seeing the flowers in the hedgerows, and for short trips on sunny days it is a joy. But I wouldn’t want to drive one to the UK, and would much rather drive one of the modern moving sitting rooms. I guess that is called horses for courses.


  1. We’ve been all over in ours, Holland, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria…. the Austria World Meeting was the furthest… never a problem….
    It takes 12 hours… including rests… to get down here in the ’89 Red Special…. or 14 hours in the grey ’56 AZ….

    The little red’un took the passes and climbs of Austria without problem…fully laden with camping gear….

    With electronic ignition we get 60mpg from the ’56 on a long run….45/50mpg from the red ’89… [425cc and 602cc respectively]

    Hot weather… flip open the hood….open up the front windows and flap… and you are there, in the French countryside… you can hear the birds… well, the loud ones….smell the smells…just avoid getting trapped behind a muckspreader on a hot summer’s day….and see the sights…

    No, a 2CV surpasses all else on the road…
    it’ll even pull away quicker from traffic lights than that Jag….
    OK, it doesn’t stay ahead for long… but it leaves the line faster!!
    It can be embarrasing, tho’, to be the one that gives the wheel squeal like a boy racer!!

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