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Steam Engines (Large) Existing in the USA


Many thanks, and apologies - I should search before I post!
The referenced article was fascinating. I don't know of any dramatic entertainment that compares with the making and shaping of hot metal.

Disappointing to learn that at 12,000 HP the River Don engine was just a toy (compared with the 30,000 HP German rolling mill engine mentioned). I was going to ask what was the most powerful known steam reciprocating engine, but I've learned that I should search first!
Its hard to say really what was the absolute most powerful stationary steam engine in the world. Certainly that German engine qualifies, but we had a few twin tandem cross compound engines here in the US that would give it a run for its money.

I suppose it is just a matter of taking cylinder sizes, steam pressures, stroke and RPM and calculating the power of these engines. Maybe someday I'll have time to do that!

As far as I know the trio of rolling mill engines are the only ones preserved. The trio includes the River Don engine, our Tod cross compound rolling mill engine and a two cylinder reversing engine in Homestead, PA that ran a plate mill.

Rick Rowlands
Tod Engine Foundation
Youngstown, OH
Thanks for that. Your reply sent me searching, and there appears to a 12,000 HP rolling mill engine preserved at Tobiashammer in Germany. Google would have got me there, but I went through a more interesting route, namely:-


That route also led me to a picture of what appears to be another rolling mill engine in Germany, at Maxhutte in Sulzbach-Rosenberg. The photo is taken in the steelworks, and looks fairly recent, but I don't know whether it's still there.
I guess you are talking about preserved engines, but what about the ones that are uncertain?

I wonder if you know the status of the Mesta engine at Republic Steel, Cleveland, Ohio. This was rated at 35,000 hp and the last report I read it was still in place in 1989.

I think there is one or more engines at the Volklingen ironworks? This site is on UNESCO's world heritage list, not sure if the engines were saved or just the blast furnaces.

Another mighty rolling mill engine that was used until 1982 was a 16,000 hp Galloway at Port Kembla, New South Wales, Australia. I know there were attempts made to save this engine, but I have never heard if it survived. It was a 3 cylinder engine, built in 1917.

Paul Stephens saw (in 1999, I think) a six cylinder triple expansion tandem at Saar Staal in south Germany. It was still working, and developing 12,000hp. Apparently they still had a 8000 hp single cylinder uniflow on site, but dismantled.
It would be nice to think that the 16,000 HP Galloway engine still exists. Galloway’s produced numerous magnificent steam and gas engines, but I don’t think there are many survivors, although there’s one in the excellent museum of science and industry in Manchester. Considering what a big player Galloway was in engines and boilers, I’ve seen very little recorded about the firm. I did find, from an old map, that a piece of derelict land where I occasionally park my car in the heart of Manchester once housed the Galloway factory. No blue plaque as a memorial, just a few twisted girders. A change from the usual shopping malls or warehouse complexes which mark the site of former engineering factories here, I suppose.
I have heard about that engine at Republic Steel, but I am doubtful of its existence. It is in the same situation sa the United Tod blooming mill engine at Weirton Steel. I saw that engine a few years ago but with ISG owning both plants they have been removing all inactive facilities and buildings to feed the furnaces.

So if they still exist today they will be gone before too long.
a steel mill consuming it's self? Think of the posibilities of a time lapse movie. first it builds it's self with its own steel then it consumes it's self with the steel disappearing in a tiny trickel of trucks out one door, finally the whole thing disappears only to be reborn as a Walmart,

[ 03-16-2005, 01:21 PM: Message edited by: surplusjohn ]
Peter: In the mid 1980's I worked for a machine shop in Indiana which specialized in rebuilding large recip industrial air compressors and when the opportunity arised, stationary steam engines. This firm, New Castle Engineering also wound up with many of the original Nordberg prints and rebuilt several Jamaican sugar plant engines. In the course of working for this firm, I became familiar with several sites in the midwest, in particular large vertical Ames engines driving Frick ammonia compressors in the Firestone plant in Decatur IL, and the very impressive and operating at the time, vertical Skinner and horizontal Corliss engines driving generators at the St. Louis Psychiatric hospital in St Louis MO. I also recall steam driven air compressors at AE Staley in Decatur. Any idea as to the fate of these machines?

I read that New Castle Engineering rebuilt the engines for the Maerican Queen paddlewheeler. Do you know if they are still in business?

I would also like to find out what happened to the Corliss in St. Louis.
Eric S.

Harold Corson owned Newcastle Engineering in the early 1980's. Corson was starting to get into working on recip steam engines and had called Skinner Enginer. Corson wanted a mechanical engineer to do some design work and look things over, so called Skinner for a referral. Richard Whiting, of Skinner Engine, referred Corson to me. Corson came to New York and we went around to see Conrad Milster at Pratt Institute, then over to Cascade laundry so he could see a vertical Skinner Unaflow in use. We spent a couple of days with Corson getting familair with steam engines. Corson then decided I ought to come out to his shop & do some engineering. Quite honestly, I thought I was going out there to do engineering related to recip steam engines. I went out to Newcastle, Indiana on two separate trips to do engineering work for Mr. Corson. Corson had only recently purchased the remains of the Nordberg steam engine division, and we spent quite a few hours just going over the old order books. There were an assortment of jigs and fixtures as well as a load of old drawings from Nordberg, but nothing was in any particular order as I recall. Corson had me do some design work on some recip-compressor jobs. One job was to design an intercooler shell for a big I-R angle-type two stage compressor. The original intercooler shell was an iron casting which had cracked and burst due to freezing. I-R wanted an arm and a leg and an extensive time wait for a new one. Corson, if nothing else, was of a mind to tangle up with anything. He was not an ASME Code pressure vessel shop right then. I designed the new intercooler shell as a weldment and we went thru the hoops getting weld procedures and weldors at Newcastle engineering qualified to build that intercooler shell. Other than that, Corson had me designing heat exchangers for some sort of process at a Koppers plant. His shop had never made a heat exchanger before, but we got things designed and built.

He also had me do some design work to replace a bunch of parts that got stolen and scrapped off a 3-cylinder Ames Unaflow at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. It was a sad tale, but Conrad Milster, of Pratt Insistute, had gotten a 3 cylinder Ames Unaflow with 150 Kw generator donated to Pratt. The Ames would have produced AC, and Conrad was planning to use it for cogeneration. The original Pratt engines produced DC power, and with no remaining demand for DC, sat there as museum pieces. In the meantime, Conrad was watching steam at 150 psig go thru reducing valves to knock it down for heating purposes. Wasted energy and the ideal place for a steam engine/generator in a cogeneration application. A steam laundry was getting rid of the three cylinder Ames with 150 Kw generator and donated it to Pratt. It was neatly dismantled, and trucked to the Pratt campus. A "dean of buildings and grounds" saw all the nice brass trim piping, lube lines, and the brass tubes that shrouded the damshaft gear drive shafts. I think this "dean" took the exciter and the electrical switchgear as well, since he saw plenty of copper there. He took a couple of his crew and made off with anything they could carry and throw into a truck. They took it to the nearest scrapyard and sold it for a few bucks, which were then spent on beer. Conrad Milster, discovering this theft, tried to get to the scrapyard to get the parts back. the scrapyard guys must've been in complicity with the "dean of buildings and grounds" as they would not let Conrad into their yard to try to find the missing parts. The Ames engine then sat, unable to be put back together.

Skinner Engine had absorbed Ames and had the Ames drawings. Conrad called richard Whiting at Skinner to try to get a price quote on replacement parts. I do not recal if Whiting gave Conrad a detailed quote, but even the estimate was astronomically high. No way would Pratt go for putting any money into that Unaflow engine. Conrad then called Harold Corson, and either Whiting or Corson called me to take a look at the job. I met Harold Corson at Pratt Institute to look over the remains of the Ames Engine. We took some dimensions and photos. When I got out to Newcastle, Indiana, we rough-designed the replacement parts. Corson worked up a price, and it was significantly lower than Skinner's. The job included cutting a couple of helical gears for the camshaft drive, so nothing was going to be easy. Still, Corson sharpened his pencil to try to make the job happen. Unfortunately, Pratt Institute's administration was having none of it.

I did hear that Corson's son had taken over the business. During the construction of the "Mississippi King" (I think that is the vessel's name), Newcastle Engineering reconditioned a pair of Nordberg engines out of an old US Army Engineer Corps dredge. These are, I think, poppet valve engines used to drive the sternwheel.

Mike Korol, in the process of retiring for the third time in his career, gave Harold Corson his portable boring bars. Mike had at least one if not two portable boring bars that he used to bore steam cylinders, tunnel crosshead guides and a smaller bar for boring Corliss valve passages. Corson had a heavier Underwood boring bar he had gotten from Nordberg which they drove with a small steam engine- run on compressed air.

As for the remains of the Ames engine down at Pratt Institute, I have no idea what happened to it. It was a shame as the major parts were all there. What was interesting about that particular Ames engine was it had originally been in Sing Sing Prison's powerplant. No telling if it powered the electric chair. After its career at Sing Sing, it was sold to a steam laundry out in Brooklyn or Queens. It ran there for a number of years, and had a major breakdown in service. One of the connecting rods came loose from the crosshead and busted out most of one side of the crank-case casting. This had been repaired years earlier by metal-stitching and new parts were furnished by Ames. Whether the crankshaft had been sprung and then striaghtened I never learned. Mike Korol, from Skinner, had done service work on that particular engine out at the laundry, and knew it's checkered past. It would be interesting to find out if the remains of the Ames engine at Pratt still reside there or were donated or scrapped. With the interest in stationary steam and several Ames vertical Unaflows being restored by various preservation groups, this engine might be useful even for parts.

When Mike Korol from Skinner Engine was moving our of his house in Dutchess County, NY, he called me and my wife over to visit. He proceeded to load my truck with some interesting odds and ends from his lifetime as a steam engine erector. Amongst the odds and ends was a brand-new Skinner admission valve, complete with stem. It was for one of the smaller frame horiztonal Unaflows. I brought it to Kent, Ct a few years back and handed it to one of the group there. Looking it over, I believe it would have fit the Skinner Unaflow engine setup at Connecticut Antique Machinery's museum.

The time I was there, I hooked up with Jim Mackessey and the gang from Camillus, NY. We had a great time. I wanted very much to see the Unaflow run. The last time I had started and run a Skinner unaflow had been in 1981. We got a few guys together and began starting the Skinner Unaflow, jacking it over, and warming it, & getting the lubrication started. Unfortunately, right about then, the packaged boiler supplying steam for the engines had to be shut down- problems with a fuel oil delivery pump, I think. I would hope to be able to get back to Connecticut Antique machinery association some day when the engines are in steam, as I would like very much to show my family and friends the kind of Unaflow engines I worked on.
John Ruth...
I also loved the Alexander Hamilton. We lived in Garrison, and I used to save my allowance to ride from Bear Mountain up the river and back. The purser was a wonderful guy named Dan Donovan, who noticed that there was this teenager always getting on at Bear Mountain all the time paying his fare with dimes and quarters.
So, one day Dan took me around to Chief Post in the engineroom, and down we went. I still have a picture or two of one of the boiler rooms, all oil fired scotch boilers, not even watertube from what I remember.
Later trips were spent all over the Hamilton, and finally in the wheelhouse, which in some ways was the best of all. Standing at the back of the two huge wooden emergency wheels, steaming south by Storm King into the Highlands... well now, what else could you ever want?
Some years later, on Mount Washington, I did similar things for others.
I also rode to New York in the engineroom of the Cornelius J. Koff, and back to San Pedro next to the twin triples on the Catalina.
Great memories thanks to some very generous people who understood that everyone was once a teenager with dreams.
It's also my understanding that the Alexander Hamilton's steam whistle still exists. I think Conrad Milster used to have it, or know who did. For many years it was the custom (and may still be) to hook it up to the Pratt Institute's steam plant and sound it off early New Year's day along with other whistles of note.
As for other steam engines, I think there are many. Please add to the tally the generating room of the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire. Actually, it may need some serious rescuing as I think the roof as nearly fallen in. It may not really be worth it as these are later unaflows, of which there are many.
Someone from New England may know about the peg mill in Bartlett, N.H. or the Wood Mill in Kingfield, Maine that had a lovely older engine on standby for years. They ran it now and again such as when the Stanley car enthusiasts came to town.
Charles Morrill, 49

I don't recall from memory reading about the engines you have mentioned, but they may have been in some of the old ISSES bulletins. Sounds like you saw some nice installations.

I have a plan.....to go through all my old ISSES bulletins (which contain quite alot of reports on engines in the US) and make an index so questions like this can be easily answered! I haven't started this yet, which is..well..a bad start.
In Seattle Wa., the Steamer Virginia V www.virginiav.org has a 4oo hp tripple expansion engine that was built in 1898. She is still in regular charter and excursion service, and I am proud to be one of her engine crew. Also, If you want to see big engines in action in their natural habitat, contact Brad Smith [email protected]. He has many corliss, uniflow, and others on DVD. they are powering sugar mills, saw mills, compressing stations etc. Many of the engines that he has filmed have since gone to scrap. His prices are reasonable, and there isn't a lot of blab in the films. Just old iron doing what it was made to do.
Joe Michaels: You have quite the memory, or Harold left quite the impression!. I worked there after he sold the firm to Phil during their peak years of the late 1980's. The company I believe went slowly into decline after that as their bread and butter was rebuilding of large recip air compressors, which combined with the decline of heavy industry in the US in general, became less economically feasible as opposed to replacement with new rotary screw types.

I believe the dredge you are referring to was the St. Genevieve now a museum in Davenport Iowa.

The St. Louis installs were truly amazing as, I mentioned, as recently as 1988, the Skinners were operating. The powerhouse itself was, even in it's somewhat neglected state, an early 20th century jewel, ceramic tile walls, huge windows, etc. I've tried to research this site some on the web and it doesn't look favorable as to if it has survived.
So what has happened to the Nordberg intellectual property? Does New Castle Engineering still exist and have this information safe? Thats quite a collection that should be preserved at the very least.