Improved Apparatus for Applying Motion Power

These are models of an “Improved Apparatus for Applying Motion Power” from an 1861 patent (no. 1112) by George Hayes. A diagram of the Hayes device and A.N. Other’s Meccano model are included in the photos.

The following descriptive text is from Donald Simanek’s website, The Museum of Unworkable Devices:

1861 [No. 1112] George Hayes of Elton, Huntingdon, millwright. “Improved Apparatus for Applying Motion Power."

From the lengthy description we learn that the rightmost large gear has no fixed is held in place by the constraints of the top and bottom gears on the right. The topmost gear’s axle (c) is on a pivoted arm (n) and has a hand crank (d) and extra disk weights (s, t) so that it bears down on the gear below it. This “completely floating” gear is supposed to have a “tendency” to roll down the slope of the lower gear, giving the entire gear train an extra power boost. The output is the lower left wheel, and the inventor assumes it will give greater power than one uses on the input crank (d). All other gears have fixed axes attached to the frame.

The inventor says that “the static pressure of a weight or weights applied to an axle of spindle is caused constantly to preponderate upon one and the same side of another axle, which is in gear by means of spur wheels with the axle or spindle to be turned, and has thus a constant tendency to assist the said last-named axle or shaft to turn in the direction required, whereby an additional power, in proportion to the weight used, is gained."

The helpful arrows show the result when the crank is turned clockwise. What would happen if the machine were operated in reverse? This is one of the most original ideas in the perpetual motion literature. Too bad it’s entirely ineffective.

It’s hard to resist thinking that this device is some clever engineer’s deliberate joke, designed to challenge people to figure out why it won’t work as claimed.

Some may think the defect in this device is that “floating” gear that has no axle. They think it will simply roll or fall out of place. That’s not necessarily so. This construction-set model has the floating gear constrained by guides (the chrome-plated strips) to remain in one plane, but is completely free to move in that plane. The upper lever may be lifted and that floating gear may be easily slid out and removed entirely. So long as one keeps load on the upper right gear (supplied here by a finger, but Hayes suggested weights on its axle), the floating gear remains in place, and the gear train may be rotated in either direction. The minimum angle between the axles of the floating gear and its neighbors must be chosen relative to the angle of the individual gear teeth. This is something they don’t tell you in engineering mechanics courses, probably because such floating gears have no conceivable use. (Some reader will probably inform me of a practical use.)

Your e-mail address will not be displayed in public and will not be added to mailing lists. Please see our privacy policy for further information.