Howden in the early 1900s


Howden in the early 1900s

- Summarised from 'A Hundred Years of Howden Engineering'

This article is one in a series of articles exploring the history of some of Howden’s world famous product brands. Recently we had a copy of A Hundred Years of Howden Engineering sent into our office, and it is from this that the following article has been written.

Howden was formed in 1854 by James Howden, with a focus on the main boilers and engines of sea going vessels. By 1862, a factory on Scotland Street in Glasgow had been purchased, and in 1882 a patent had been granted for his forced draught system which significantly increased the power of a ship. At the turn of the century, Howden began to look landwards creating high speed engines and becoming early pioneers in steam turbine manufacture. By 1914, James Howden & Co had produced the largest turbo-generator in the UK (a 15MW unit for Manchester Corporation). But then of course things were to change.


The outbreak of war

An immediate impact of the war was that Howden immediately faced a huge amount of cancellations in marine orders, and the work that Howden had been doing on water tube boilers was hit particularly hard. As the war progressed it was found that ships fitted with the Howden forced draught system had an important speed advantage and this resulted in numerous jobs from the Ministry of Shipping. In fact so significant was the demand for the powerful forced draught equipment, that in 1918 a factory was acquired in Wellsville, New York in order to satisfy the demand from the United States.


A Howden-Ljungstrom Air Preheater drawing

Post war and the air preheater

Once the war was over, Howden now faced another challenge as economic hardships around the world, impacted the order book once again. Another opportunity was presented to Howden at this time; the Swedish firm A/B Ljungstroms Angturbin thought that Howden might be the ideal partner for the air preheater that they had designed. It was recognised that the air preheater provided the solution to those large water tube boilers that had been of interest at the start of the war. The two companies formed a joint venture (Howden-Ljungstrom Preheaters (Land) Ltd.) both in the UK and America, and the new air preheaters were developed and manufactured. The air preheaters were a great success and Howden became very busy with orders for them. 1931 marked the end of the joint partnership, with the Ljungstrom side of the partnership taking the US market (forming the Air Preheater Corporation), while the manufacture of air preheaters for the British Empire was under the sole control of James Howden & Co.

Howden by 1930

With the air preheater now well established, it became clear that there was the potential for Howden to get involved in the fans that are associated with an air preheater installation, these will be covered in part 2 of this series when we view the changes that happened at Howden up to 1954.