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  1. #1
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    Default Any repository of antique engineering drawings

    Are there any repositories for engineering drawings of older gizmos and such? I was curious if original prints for 20th century marvels such as adding machines, or typewriters, or old molds for products, engines, some such similar items—-anything really. Even maybe old tooling.

    Sort of like a VintageMachinery website, but for actual machinable prints for reproduction or just curious study.

    I am sure such prints were highly guarded in their day, but surely someone has taken an interest in digging up and preserving these relics of companies long defunct.

    I suppose a lot of them were dumped in back rooms as companies were traded and bought out, and eventually trashed

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    Valid point-drawings are often a very ephemeral thing,esp in development or experimental context. When I worked at Cooper Standard many years ago,I took home a few by the Chief Engineer. I felt a few should be kept as they were all tinted in Victorian style and all numbers and wording were in an Art Deco font!

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    During the last 40 years I amassed a huge collection of Lockheed drawings - of which I still have the electronic copies

    These are from 90 years ago and enable stuff like this 1931 Altair DL-2A to be recreated from scratch

    img_1994.jpg

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    If you want a project less challenging than a 1934 airplane, here is one that is very interesting. Many years ago, I bought a book in an antique shop titled Gas Engine Construction by Parsell and Weed. It was written by two young engineers who designed and built a 1/2 HP gas engine in the late 1890's and published a book about it in 1900, with a 2nd edition in 1902. They told the whole story, including how to make the casting patterns and special forged lathe tools and how to do all the machining on a lathe. The flywheels were 15 inch diameter. Further, they would sell the rough castings or even a finished engine. The book has all the drawings, photos, and all the information needed to build the engine. The book is free online or you can find reprints or possibly an original copy.

    These days, people have built 1/3 size models of the engine, and castings and drawings are available.

    Gas Engine Construction: A Pratical Treatise Describing the Theory and ... - Henry V. A. Parsell (Jr.), Arthur J. Weed - Google Books

    Parsell & Weed Engine

    Shop | Littlelocos Model Engineering

    Parsell & Weed Hit-n-Miss Gas Engine Model - Running Nicely - YouTube

    Henry Van Arsdale Parsell Jr. (one of the authors) was an electrical engineer who worked for Edison. He died at the age of 94 in 1962. Obituary: IEEE Xplore Full-Text PDF:

    Henry's father died in 1901 and his obituary in Electrical World reveals that Junior had an interesting upbringing.

    hva-parsell-obit-2-.jpg

    I got into the obits because there is a good chance that, somewhere in the 17th and 18th centuries, a Van Arsdalen married a Van Nuys in New Jersey, New York or New Amsterdam. I don't mind having the Parsell engineers as distant cousins. I did establish that Jane Van Arsdalen married a Parsell who was probably the father of Henry V. A. Parsell Sr.

    Larry

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    Alas I fear with few exceptions, drawings are destroyed rather than incur the cost of even transmittal.

    About 2002 my electric utility was in the pangs of conversion to a "wires utility." I didn't realize it at the time, but my transfer to the Construction Division was to use my engineering talent to "upgrade" the generation facilities before their final sell-off to Independent Power Producers. I in essence was kept on to "buff the chrome" and "wax the finish" of the power plants before sale. Like a used car dealer a selling utility CAN be held responsible for safety and other "issues" that come with the sale of assets. And my utility was all about "giving fair measure" for the sale - and minimizing legal exposure, of course. I was part of that measure.

    But in all the traveling and construction food and pressure, I had a heart attack and was "sidelined" for a period during my recuperation.

    The Cardiologist said it: You are now "employment fire proof" Joe - there is nothing you can do short of theft which will get you fired because no company wants to be accused of "hiring discrimination" and sever a person with a developed limitation possibly caused by the work. I was fortunate in my heart attack as there has been no long term effect (said now 25 years after - knock on wood.)

    I was transferred to the "records department" where I continued "buffing and waxing" of the recorded record: drawings, specifications, invoices, bills of lading, and design calculations required to build a power plant. Going back to the 1890s for the various company generation properties including Lawrence, MA, Lowell, smaller local utilities "absorbed" by New England Power in the 1930s or before. All this material had to be cataloged, boxed, and transmitted formally to the new owners. I had a staff of two clerks to assist in this.

    I am absolutely certain the utility rationalized this as "it needs to be done and he won't be able to hurt himself here." Still a little sour on this I am because I am an engineer who wants to do things - not simply "occupy employment space." One of the two clerks could have done the decision work himself. And I was bored and under-challenged, and away from home still - which is its own stress.

    MANY drawing from the early part of the 20th century passed through my hands, including the original Narragansett Electric Company power plants at South Street and Blackstone Street Station in Providence. One of those plants (Blackstone Street IIRC) was originally a reciprocating vertical steam engine plant much similar to what you can find on the Internet on Manhattan Transit plant



    The FULL set of drawings were there. All done on linen with ink, and various parts of the drawings "color tinted" to set off for easier viewing. One in particular showed a cross section of the plant - I made a copy of that one myself on the drawing size copy xerox in the office. Another showed the "heat balance" of that 1902 plant done in exquisite detail to show all the steam consumers, electrical output, coal input, and thermal output both at the condenser and released to the air as vapor. I kept a copy of that one too.

    I was very tempted to "borrow" both of these and "make them mine." The clerks seeing my interest in these suggested as much. But my continuing honesty is one of my secrets to getting a good night sleep which I value more. As it is I have a copy of the drawings which are not tinted, but still gives a good, albeit LARGE appearance should I frame it for my shop wall.

    So South and Blackstone Street plant documents get boxed up and "sit" waiting for the truck from the Power Generation Buyer.

    And I at least made the inquiry to a company vice-president. "Is not the Buyer interested in donating these HISTORICAL drawings to the New England Wireless & Steam Museum in East Greenwich, RI." It is right up their alley, historical, steam and technology, and local to their area. AND they have the capability to preserve the drawings, the space to do it right, and possibly even volunteer interest to take it on.

    The answer I got back from our company was "Not now, but it is under consideration."

    So I fired up my official capacity as "transmitter" of the drawings, and wrote the "receiver" of the drawings (whose name I knew) and sent her a letter to the same query pointing out their historical significance, their value to others, and a warning that drawings may "disappear" to those who value their night's sleep less, but ownership more.

    I never got an answer back.

    Last word I have from New England Wireless & Steam Museum is they've not been dropped there.

    And thus is today's view of "historical significance." "it is under consideration."

    All the way into the dumpster.

    Don't get me going on the GE Pittsfield (MA) Facility which I have described elsewhere on this forum. The Smithsonian said they could not take on original lab materials from Stanley, Steinmetz, and Tesla. And my acquaintance DID rescue a good portion of one dumpster - but there were at least two more that "disappeared" to the incinerators not examined.

    "Those who forget the past..."

    The Brits have this ball played MUCH better.

    Joe in NH

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    Such things are viewed as between a nuisance and an absolute liability. And generally promptly disposed of.

    General Radio apparently destroyed all information and parts for their older equipment decades ago.

    Whoever ended up owning Rivett is alleged to have dumped every bit of the stock and drawings into a landfill up east around 1970 or so.

    You are simply "not supposed to" be still using any of that equipment. And the easiest way to ensure that is to "abandon all support" for the equipment, which will often make industrial users rapidly discard it.

    And so it goes.

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    I started working for a large old company in 1963 in the engineering department , with the 1923 truck factory across the road. We had a vault where the drawings were kept. Big room with a combination lock safe door. New drawings were done on Mylar, but there were old drawings on linen. Over the years, they photographed the drawings and put the film in microfiche cards. Then they scanned the cards and converted to digital records. The old drawings got scrapped. I heard a rumor that the vault girls took the large linen drawings home, washed the starch out of them and made clothing. Don't know if that was true.

    Larry

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    Joe, it's funny that you should mention the British vs. US attitudes. Kodak had a department that was dedicated to photographically documenting the company, going back to 1880. Hundreds of thousands of prints, negatives, and glass plates. All completely indexed and cross referenced The British arm donated their entire archive to the British Museum. The US arm put them all into a lugger and sent them to a landfill.

    It always amazed me that someone who would have sufficient authority to make a decision like that didn't understand the historical significance of the archive. We even have the George Eastman Museum of Photography less than 2.5 miles from where the archive was housed.

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    I restored a 1896 H K Porter steam locomotive, the library of transportation in Ottawa Canada had all the H K Porter prints...Phil

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    Default Nklin

    Thanks for all the replies!

    I had feared as much—-companies fearing some sort of financial or legal liability or competition would just have kept them in a dark corner until no one who cared enough was left. It sure is a pity to think of all that hard work and painstaking detail just consumed by the rubbish heap. I guess that is the ever-present turbulence in the wake of progress.

    I tend to accumulate different early 1900s to 1950s machine work books for self edification and curiosity—-I love when they have examples of particular work being done. Modern Toolmaking Methods (ed. Franklin Jones, and which I am currently absorbing) had some examples of master-plate lathe work for the housing plates/castings of adding machines that I found of interest.

    Being a now-amateur mathematician, I had some passing interest in Babbage’s difference engines, of which construction can be gleaned from his papers and such—-until I dug a bit deeper and found the scale of the ones that have been reproduced: over 2 1/2 tons. I do not think the wife would appreciate that in the living room (for the shop is but full of machinery!). I may still tinker with a subsection.

    I suppose prints are made for business and not for posterity, but if only there was a niche for the machinist-historian!

    Maybe I will run across some stash of prints for something eventually and start my own website (in my *copious* spare time, ha-ha). Of course, Googling for such prints only comes up with ads for hipster tee-shirt designs and artsy wall hangings made from patent drawings that have all of the interesting details taken out. I suppose another instance of business (albeit different business) getting in the way.

    I will have to keep an eye out for some of the aforementioned books on gas engines. Any other recommendations are welcome, as well as any machining books also.

    -David

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    I did a Google image search for mechanical drawings and came up with many although non related drawings, you may find some drawings that interest you.

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    Being a now-amateur mathematician, I had some passing interest in Babbage’s difference engines, of which construction can be gleaned from his papers and such—-until I dug a bit deeper and found the scale of the ones that have been reproduced: over 2 1/2 tons. I do not think the wife would appreciate that in the living room (for the shop is but full of machinery!). I may still tinker with a subsection.
    Look up Grant's machine. He displayed it at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. It was probably the first widely available "calculating machine" pre-dating other machines of more "typewriter" origin by Burroughs and others.

    History of Computers and Computing, Mechanical calculators, 19th century, George Barnard Grant

    Grant also was a producer of gears and wrote a period treatise on the subject which was a "standard" for many many years. If you have a need to produce "epicyclic" gears (as opposed to involute) Grant is where you go even today.

    George Barnard Grant - Biography, History and Inventions

    A Treatise on Gear Wheels by Grant - AbeBooks

    George B. Grant - Wikipedia

    Joe in NH

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    Old books on Mechanical Drawing are often full of actual prints lent by various manufacturers. Rarely enough to build an entire machine, but many fascinating details.

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    Grant’s machine definitely looks like something that could be made without taking over various living spaces!

    Could be a perfect shakedown project once I get my Gorton pantograph up and running

    Thanks for the recommendation

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    While the following may be off topic, I have found it both useful and interesting. While researching the iron mine up in Lyon Mountain where we have been camping recently, I came across the Federal Mine Map Repository. Guess it is law that records be kept of abandoned workings. There was a reference I read of an incident in one of the port henry, NY mines, where they blasted into some unknown abandoned workings and the ensuing flood caused damage, and would have been fatal, but no one was in the mine during blasting. Anyway, the federal mine map repository has a website, and an email request. So I made a request, and got in the mail a thumb drive with several hundred maps of the workings of the Lyon Mountain iron mine, free of charge! Pretty interesting, and has made exploration of the old dangerous openings much safer!

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    These may not be the types of drawings that the O.P had in mind but here are some places that may have some drawings available even if they are not all on line.

    Archive.org was mentioned earlier and they have some but mostly old text books
    Internet Archive Search: Engineering Drawings

    The Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa has quite a library for railway and other topics
    Explore | Digital Archives

    Also Expo Rail near Montreal
    Archives Centre - Exporail - Le musee ferroviaire canadien

    Consult our archives - Exporail - Le musee ferroviaire canadien

    For those interested in aviation Benoit de Mulder's site has many aircraft manuals and related material
    Avialogs: Aviation Library - Avialogs: Welcome to the aviation library, online since 2010.
    Benoit's has been busy the last couple of years with as the former owner of the DC 3 that was returned to flight in Quebec in 2019 and author of the recent book Dakota 12253 from The Aviation Archives
    https://www.theaviationarchives.com/index.php
    Available here.
    https://www.theaviationarchives.com/...e-savers-story
    https://www.amazon.com/Dakota-12253-...dp/1999205308/
    I had posted some links about the project in this thread
    Douglas Aircraft-------------1938
    Some of the electrical drawings where obtained from Transport Canada on microfilm
    For those younger folks who weren't around when they were in more widespread use you can see the microfilm reader being shown in segments of the videos here.
    https://youtu.be/0s5pn0IsivI?t=1364

    https://youtu.be/gW1Tb3lHnzA?t=601
    In one of the Episodes they show a large quantity of drawings being retrieved by Benoit and some of the other Quebec aviation volunteers from an old aircraft facility .
    I Can't remember what episode it was in and haven't found it again yet .
    Benoit tells me,
    "It was from the ex Noorduyn factory and all drawings for the DC-3, C-47, C-54, DC-4, and DC-6. They were brought back by Canadair in two phases, the first one when they decided to convert C-47 into civilian DC-3 and later with the Northstar development. They also include several wartime Canadian Vickers blueprints (mainly aircraft repair and mods), and all Canadair, RCAF blueprints for the DC-3. We are talking about 12000+ drawings. Douglas C-47 drawings are copies from microfilm but everything else is original. "
    They are safely stored, pending for Benoit to have the time to digitalize them.
    Noorduyne was the maker of the famous Norseman and built many other types of aircraft during WW2
    Sounds like a rather large project to take on but good to know that they were saved and may at some point be available to see.
    Larry Milberry covers some of the Noorduyn and Norseman's history here and in some of his other books .
    Norseman + Air Canada 2020 Updates + USAF Assesses Its Arctic Stance | CANAV Books Blog (wordpress.com)
    Regards,
    Jim

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    I recently became in charge of the old Goodspeed Machine shop that made back knife lathes for woodworking, think all drum sticks and baseball bats ever made on one of these lathes. That said, the original owner left lots of stuff when he left, including at least 3 file cabinets of drawings. He also left a lot of casting forms if you want to make you own lathe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wheels17 View Post
    Joe, it's funny that you should mention the British vs. US attitudes. Kodak had a department that was dedicated to photographically documenting the company, going back to 1880. Hundreds of thousands of prints, negatives, and glass plates. All completely indexed and cross referenced The British arm donated their entire archive to the British Museum. The US arm put them all into a lugger and sent them to a landfill.

    It always amazed me that someone who would have sufficient authority to make a decision like that didn't understand the historical significance of the archive. We even have the George Eastman Museum of Photography less than 2.5 miles from where the archive was housed.


    Collapse of salt mine serves as cautionary tale on fracking | Latest Headlines | buffalonews.com

    The Stirling Salt mine collapsed in 1994 in Mumford NY.
    My father knew someone who worked there underground,
    and was able to go down into the mine for a tour.
    These salt mines go under lakes Erie and Ontario,
    and extend as far west as Ohio. He saw the mine
    a few years before it flooded. He said there was WW2
    Jeeps running around all over down there. All salt
    but no moisture to make them rust.
    He was shown a vault down in the mine. Was told it housed
    pictures from Kodak and films from Hollywood.
    All wet now.

    -Doozer

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    I found a link to the video about the Douglas Archive that I mentioned I was thinking of in Post # 16 .
    Peculiar Wings Episode 02: The Douglas Archive - YouTube
    I also noticed this video tonight about the drawings in the archives at the National Railway Museum in York England
    Railways - A History in Drawings - YouTube
    Lots of British railway videos on his channel
    Geoff Marshall - YouTube
    Jim

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    Drawings...... Here are some of a 1914 Wm. Todd 1000 ton slab shear drawings I have access to. Here's a video of it operating too. Photos should enlarge.

    edit, i forgot to mention this is a steam powered shear with intensifier. It's believed to be the last steam shear in the world.






    https://youtu.be/MzpEUvz8s_E
    Last edited by wrenchguy; 11-21-2021 at 09:13 AM.


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