Willie Kidd – The Steam and Stirling Engine – 7 May 2019

Our guest speaker, Willie Kidd, wowed the members with his exhibition of wonderful working models of steam engines and the amazing Stirling engine. These are Willie’s passion, as was evident in his talk, and his interest was kindled many years ago by a Sunday Post article on the Stirling engine. Being a Kilmarnock man himself, he was taken by the story of the Rev Robert Stirling who began attending Edinburgh University in 1805 at the age of fifteen to study divinity in hopes of becoming a minister. His brother James, who would play a major role in Stirling’s future engineering endeavours, also attended Edinburgh at the age of 14. Robert concluded his studies at Edinburgh and continued to study at Glasgow University in November 1809. In 1814, he returned to Edinburgh University studying divinity for a final time before being appointed minister of Galston Parish Church where he continued his ministry until 1878.

For the benefit of the technically minded, Willie explained that a Stirling engine is a heat engine that is operated by a cyclic compression and expansion of air or other gas (the working fluid) at different temperatures, such that there is a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work. Even those less technically minded in the audience were nonetheless intrigued by the simplicity and effectiveness of Willie’s working model.

Kenneth Dickie complimented Willie on his amazing technical knowledge which was more than matched by his model-making skills. He also confessed that despite being a mechanical engineer himself, he had never heard of the Stirling engine.