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Thread: Antique steam engine

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    Chester, VA
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    435

    Default Antique steam engine

    While out riding by bike I heard the unmistakable sound of a steam engine. So I follow the sound down a gravel driveway and came upon a group of guys watching one run for the first time in years. The owner came by and welcomed me and showed me around, had no problem with a stranger in cycling cloths (yes, brightly colored spandex no less!) because he understood how seductive the sound could be.
    04 Disco, Gone-Disco died & so did mine
    '72 S3 88 - Leakey & Squeaky

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Dudley, Mass.
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    When I was very young, I had a neighbor who used to restore those, I can remember being maybe 4 or 5 years old and not knowing what the sound was on a hot summer day and it scared the crap out of me until my father brought me over to the neighbor's house so I could see. The video you posted brings back a lot of memories. Thanks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
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    Bloomfield, CT
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    Not to put too fine a point on it, but that isn't a steam engine, but a gas engine. In fact, my guess, from the distance you kept, is that it's a small Bessemer oil field engine. Bessemer was one of the earliest oil field engines, commonly used in western New York, PA and Ohio. The larger ones can still be found, in situ, because of their size and weight. Oil field engines, which were throttle governed, ran on well gas, either natural gas or methane. These engine show up regularly at engine shows, running on bottled propane. Smaller gas engines, used around the farm, ran on oil or gasoline, and their speed was governed by holding the intake valve open till they slowed (Hit & Miss) and later were throttle governed. The term 'make & break' refered to the ignition, have a mechanical set of points inside the cylinder, which, when opened, caused a spark. This was low tension ignition, replace by high tension, spark plug ignition later on. These engines were the original' internal combustion engines.
    Steam engines, technically known as external combustion, got their power from steam, generated in a separate boiler, fired by wood, coal, and in the case of some threshing engines, straw. The characteristic sound of a steam engine, when exhausted to the air, is more of a quiet whoosh, as opposed to the bark of a gas engine. I've owned, and still own many steam engines. I had lots of the little table-top engines when I was a kid, but traded them off for my first full sized working engine when I was about 12.
    One saturday morning, after my wife suggested we needed a tractor, jumped on a flight to St. Charles, MO and bought a 28,000 pound steam traction engine (well, it was sort of a tractor) That required I buy a MAck Tractor and lowboy trailer to take the engine to the shows. It would take about a 1/4 chord of slab wood just to get it up to pressure, and I ran a dynamo, mounted up on the smokebox and driven by a belt from the flywheel, to light 250 light bulbs strung around the fairgrounds. The fanciest versions of these engines, in England, are called Showmans Engines, with loads of polished brass. American traction engines were more basic, and were very common in the plains states for plowing and threshing wheat.
    My favorite was my 32', 1892 Fantail steam launch. It was originally built as a tender to a 310' steam yacht built by Bath Iron Works, for a New York Banker. I found the launch in a chicken coop in RI, and spent 5 years restoring it. It was featured in Wooden Boat magazine back in the '80s as well as the 1985 Wooden Boat Calender. I kept it at Mystic Seaport durig the summer months for many years. With the kids grown, I finally sold it to the Ruger family (Ruger Firearms) and it now resides on Lake Sunnapee in New Hampshire. With the coal and water carried aboard, I could steam for about 3 days. The nice part of that steam arrangement was that the 2 cylinder compound engine exhausted into a keel condensor, so there was virtually NO noise at all. The keel condensor was to bring the exhausted steam back to water, to be pumped back into the boiler, by engine driven wet air and boiler feed pumps.
    My favorite steam engine is an 1871 Watertown, made in Watertown New York. I rescued it from a blown down cider mill in Kingston NY. The building had blown down in the hurricane of 1938, and the engine sat there quietly waiting for 45 years for me to come along. I still fire it up and run a cordwood saw, though I probably burn half the wood just feeding the boiler.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Chester, VA
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    TerryS, good information, would love to see some pics of your treasures. Obviously I don't know much about these things but I'm realy drawn to them...kinda like my Series!
    04 Disco, Gone-Disco died & so did mine
    '72 S3 88 - Leakey & Squeaky

  5. #5
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    May 2007
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    Bloomfield, CT
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    This was my steam launch, the "Walter & Edgar" named after my father and his cousin; two men who used to sit on the end of the dock each morning with their coffee, and solve the world's problems. They 've both been gone for 30 years, hence the state of affairs we're in.

  6. #6
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    May 2007
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    Bloomfield, CT
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    These are a couple of the stationary engines around the place. The first is the 1871 Watertown, the second is a Frick portable that followed me home, and the last is a a Donnegan & Swift vertical that does it's share of pressing apples, sawing wood and generally looking handsome. I take all the fittings off the boilers for winter, and the D&S hasn't been used in a few years. I have many more in the barn and my wife even lets me keep one in the house; a lovely old Edward S Clark marine engine,ca. 1875

  7. #7
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    Sep 2008
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    Chester, VA
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    Thank you!

    when I saw your steam launch my first thought was of The African Queen.
    04 Disco, Gone-Disco died & so did mine
    '72 S3 88 - Leakey & Squeaky

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2007
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    Bloomfield, CT
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmohan55 View Post
    Thank you!

    when I saw your steam launch my first thought was of The African Queen.
    It' funny, That used to be one of my all time favorite movies. The Hepburn family is an old time Hartford (CT) family. A friend of my dad's was married to Kate's sister and always promised he would bring her up from Saybrook some day to go for a ride on the launch. It never happened.
    I used to keep an old wooden gin box next to the boiler that held a few hours worth of coal.
    My boat was finished with beautiful joinery, cypress decks, mahogany cockpit sole and seats. Lots of varnished white oak. The African Queen was a metal, squared stern scow, and very crude in comparison, though both were about the same size. In fact it wasn't even originally a steam boat, and in the movie, was powered by a diesel, smothered beneath blankets to keep the noise down.

  9. #9
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    Nov 2007
    Location
    New Britain,CT
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    191

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    Terry, Are you going to Kent in a few weeks?
    72 SIII

  10. #10
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    Oct 2006
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    Brewer, Maine
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    Terry,
    You don't happen to know Adrian Atkins by any chance?
    Jim

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