Curiosities from 150 years of The Engineer archive

The surviving Fred Dibnahs of this world should consider themselves lucky that this device never really caught on.

January 14, 1876 Apparatus for climbing tall chimneys

The surviving Fred Dibnahs of this world should consider themselves lucky that this device never really caught on.

The ingenious chimney climbing machine (pictured below) was described to The Engineer by a ‘German contemporary’ who had seen it being used in his home country.

The system comprises ‘two double-geared crabs, mounted on a timber frame, and provided with two friction rollers and a tension clip arrangement. The two frames, mounted on opposite sides of the chimney, or other structure, are facsimiles. ‘If a columnar structure, such as a chimney, is to be mounted,’ reported the magazine, ‘the frames are laid on two opposite sides.’ According to the article, the machine is prevented from sliding back down or falling off the structure in question by the ‘adhesive’ effects of weights which are suspended by a rope wound around drums attached to a crossbar. This rope also connects both sides of the device forming a ‘pulley block arrangement’ so that the two 56lb (25kg) weights cause the frame’s upper parts to be pulled together.

The two operators then stand on the two opposing platforms and simultaneously turn a pair of crank handles which interact with a complicated system of pinions, worm wheels and wooden friction rollers and cause the machine to go up and down the chimney. ‘By turning the handles the machine ascends or descends the column or chimney.’ The article adds that as these movements are effected by a worm-wheel, no ratchet-and-catch is required to keep the device at rest.