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  1. #1
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    Default Ashton Valve Company

    In 1871 my great great grandfather invented a pop safety valve, the first to really work properly. Starting the Ashton Valve Company with 3 other employees, he went on to establish the company as one of the most recognized producers of safety valves, relief valves, pressure gauges,and other steam related products for Locomotive, Marine, and stationary boilers the world over. The company lasted a little over 100 years and today is probably best known for their gauges which go for high prices on ebay.
    Through vintage photographs,advertisements,and articles I would like to tell the Ashton Valve story. They played an important part in Americas industrial revolution. I hope you enjoy it.

    I'll start with a history of the company,and the obituary of it's founder Henry G Ashton.


    Ashton Valve Co - Graces Guide


    Henry George Ashton - Graces Guide

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    The Pop safety valve was the item that put the company on the map. Here is some information about the valve taken from the 1896 catalog.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails img_20191030_124738.jpg   img_20191030_124718.jpg   img_20191025_115654.jpg   img_20191030_124955.jpg   img_20191030_125028.jpg  


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    Below are some adverts from the late 1800's as well as a picture of a circa 1874 safety valve I received as a gift and the patent for the original pop safety valve.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 1872-boston-directory.jpg   1893-mit-technique.jpg   1897-practical-running-ice-refridgeration-plant-1.jpg   img_20190814_142457.jpg   123-546-1872.jpg  


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    Some safety valve mechanical drawings and a couple of valve from my collection.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails img_20190503_115622.jpg   img_20190830_103531.jpg   img_20190503_115711.jpg   img_20190905_170321.jpg   img_20190710_153903.jpg  


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    Cool. When Steam was King. Men were men. Women were barefoot, Pregnant, and in the Kitchen.

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    Here are some old adverts promoting the benefits of using Ashton valves.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 1912-power.jpg   1909-horticulture.jpg   img_20190413_160118.jpg   img_20190412_172747.jpg   img_20190413_162052.jpg  


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    From the 1920 catalog,the Points Of Mechanical Superiority of an Ashton saftey valve.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 1920-11.jpg   1920-10.jpg   1920-9.jpg   1920-8.jpg   img_20190413_163450.jpg  


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    Repair parts were available for the valves.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 28-36.jpg   17-16.jpg   17-7.jpg   17-23.jpg   img_20190413_162817.jpg  


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    Quote Originally Posted by 1 Dandy Dave View Post
    Cool. When Steam was King. Men were men. Women were barefoot, Pregnant, and in the Kitchen.
    Dad used to say "When men were men, and women were glad of it!"

    This take is fun too.

    Joe in NH

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe in NH View Post
    Dad used to say "When men were men, and women were glad of it!"

    This take is fun too.

    Joe in NH
    I, uhh, I mean my friend, prefers "When men were men, and the sheep were nervous."

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    geetings Rick A54

    did Ashton Company manufacture advertised gages or were these sourced
    thru established vendors?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails ad.jpg  

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    Quote Originally Posted by JHOLLAND1 View Post
    geetings Rick A54

    did Ashton Company manufacture advertised gages or were these sourced
    thru established vendors?
    To the best of my knowledge, they did pretty much everything in house except for certain parts like any electric wiring, paper recording dials,lightbulbs,etc. I have no idea where they got those things.
    I do know they bought Jessop springs that were made in England for the safety valves, and clock mechanics were made by Seth Thomas, Chelsea Clock , and a couple of other companies.

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  21. #13
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    Rick:

    Thank you for posting the information about Ashton as well as your illustrious ancestry. I am a mechanical engineer who has worked most of his career in power plants, teaches a steam power course, and does engineering on repairs to steam locomotive boilers. I have always had an interest in the historic areas of steam power, and designed a re-creation of an ca. 1890 stationary steam plant for Hanford Mills Museum. Over the years, I accumulated odds and ends of fittings, gauges, and similar from old steam plants, as well as a few steam engine indicators.

    I was always impressed by the engineering as well as the skill the old-time New England firms showed in their pressure gauges, "pop" safety valves, steam engine indicators and other "steam specialties". It must have been quite a time in New England when Ashton was a growing company, and other firms in the surrounding area were building small precision machine tools. You have quite an ancestry !

    I always wondered what became of the Ashton firm, as I have a few Ashton pressure gauges in my pile of old gauges. One of the subjects I cover in the steam power course is the workings of a "pop" type safety valve, as well as how and why the ASME and the boiler code came into being. As you note correctly, Henry Ashton can truly be said to have saved countless lives. In the era when he was starting his firm, boiler explosions were a fairly regular occurance with resulting losses of lives and properties. While many of these boiler explosions were due to questionable design, construction, materials and repairs, quite a few were also due to either tampering with the old "weighted lever" safety valves, or malfunctioning safety valves. The introduction of a reliable and accurate "pop" type safety valve was a major step in protecting lives and property.

    The "locking" safety valves were most often used on home and low pressure heating boilers. Tampering with the settings on safety valves was a common occurance for reasons that included the fact the safety valves might not have re=seated after being lifted (due to exceeding "set" pressure), or people wanting to "get more work" out of an engine by jacking up the steam pressure. Homeowners and other heating boiler operations, for whatever reason, also occasionally tampered with the safety valves. The result was some municipalities enacted local ordinances requiring safety valves on heating boilers to be padlocked. The padlocks in some municipalities had a "common key", and this was sometimes held at the local police precinct.

    In 1981, I was working on the design and erecting of a steam powerplant at a sawmill in a remote part of Paraguay. Steam engines and boilers were in common use for powering sawmills due to the high cost of diesel fuel. Most of the steam engines and boilers I saw were self-contained units, known as "Locomobil" types. These werer new units, built in Brazil to a German design. They had boiler fittings of a German design, and had two pop type safety valves on the boiler for saturated steam, one on the superheater, and one on the reheater (steam exhausted by the high pressure cylinder was reheated before being admitted to the low pressure cylinder). I had no problem in walking up to these Locomobil type engines and boilers. On the other hand, we came upon an older steam sawmill and stopped to see what kind of engine and boiler they had. The boiler was an ancient Scotch marine boiler, with weighted-lever safety valves. The boiler looked to have been of British design and manufacture.
    The piping connected to the boiler was a mess of screwed black steel and galvanized pipe, with connections made by "stabbing" pipes into the shell of the boiler and ringing them with what we call birds--t welding. No "compensation" (reinforcement for the hole cut into the shell of a pressure vessel). As if that wasn't bad enough, there was all kinds of junk- old gears, shaft coupling flanges, etc- hung off the levers on the safety valves. The steam pressure gauge registered 200 psi. I did not wait around to find out if the gauge was accurate, and tippy-toed out of that boiler shed, taking care not to step down hard, sneeze, burp, or make any sort of undue disturbance. We jumped into our Jeep and got away from there FAST !

    In my career, as I am sure Joe in NH can also attest to, there was some debate as to whether a "safety valve" and a "relief valve" were one and the same. Mechanics and pipefitters used to ask me this question regularly. I'd explain the differences, and explain why a true "safety valve" is designed to open at a "set" or "popping pressure" and remain open until the pressure in the boiler or pressure vessel it is connected to drops to a pre-set lower pressure. I liken "relief valves" (as well as the "weighted lever" type of safety valve) to the weight on top of the tapered nozzle on a home pressure cooker.

    Truth to tell, I've always been quite impressed by the design of a "pop" type of safety valve, and how it can stay opened for a set "differential" in pressure.
    Working on steam locomotive boilers and other older historic boilers, I always appreciate the old boiler fittings. The safety valves on steam boilers nowadays are not what the old-time safety valves were. On the big high pressure powerplant boilers, the safety valves are designed and built for that service. However, on smaller historic boilers, or smaller boilers such as may be used in laundries or processing plants, getting good safety valves is sometimes a problem. New safety valves built to ASME code can be bought easily enough. The problem arises in the "reseating" of a lot of these newer safety valves. Some of these newer safety valves seem to be OK until they are lifted in service, then do not want to "reseat" and sit there spitting and sputtering due to steam leakage across the seat. The seat and disc get steam cut, and the boiler has to be taken off line (usually not a big deal on a historic boiler being steamed only occasionally). The safety valve then has to go to a service shop where it is ground in and "bench tested" on steam pressure. The writeup of the Ashton history mentions having a boiler capable of developing 400 psi for testing and setting safety valves.

    I've fired locomotive boilers, the stationary boiler at Hanford Mills, and a boiler on a steam crane. At Hanford Mills and on the steam crane, the state boiler inspectors have asked me to show them that the boiler level glass is functioning properly, show them that there are two independent working means of getting feedwater into the boiler, and then asked me to raise steam and lift the safety valves. One or two such "liftings" is about all some of the new smaller safety valves can handle before needing work. The manufacturers of safety valves in the USA have merged together in many cases, and the result is more limited product lines, as well as having problems finding a "real human being" who knows what they are talking about when these firms are called for information. You get told to call a "local distributor" or "factory authorized service facility". Being able to buy the types of safety valves Ashton made for use on "portable boilers" or on locomotives (muffled pop type safety valves) in smaller sizes as new safety valves is almost an impossibility. The brass-cased gauges with the ornate lettering and numbering on the dials is also a thing of the past. Back in the days when Ashton was going strong, a firm furnishing a boiler or erecting a steam plant would order the gauges with the dials engraved with their name and the function of each gauge, done in that ornate kind of lettering. A steam boiler or steam engine or similar was something to be proud of, and letterheads and pictures of factories and mills often showed the high smokestacks with black coal smoke coming off the top and some steam wafting off an exhaust head on the powerhouse or engine room building. Ashton was very much a part of that era, and went hand-in-hand with the inventiveness and precision work and fine craftsmanship that was pervasive in New England once upon a time. Thanks again for posting.

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    Fantastic post Joe. A bit of history, biography, travelogue....It's all there! Hanson Mills looks like a wonderful museum. How long have you been involved with it?
    When I started researching Ashton Valve I would constantly come across many mentions of boiler explosions. So many in saw mills. It sounds like some things had not changed too much when you were in Paraguay! Safety Valve magazine, a journal that Ashton Valve advertised in heavily over the years featured a page of explosion mentions every month! My favorite(if that's the correct word) was one instance when a boiler blew up, destroyed the boiler room as it tore through the roof , sailed over the town at around 70 feet in the air and took out 28 trees while landing in the woods nearby. Jeez.

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    In 1892 the company purchased the Boston Steam Gauge Company and entered the gauge market. It wasn't long before the gauges earned the same reputation for quality the safety valves had. Today the gauges on ebay go for good money.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails ashton-valve-gauge-notice-1892-1.jpg   1897-practical-running-ice-refridgeration-plant-2.jpg   1910-power-engineer.jpg   heine-boiler-gauge.jpg   1906-58.jpg  


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    .Here are some catalog pages from 1920 showing some of the different types of gauges the company produced
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 1920-87.jpg   1920-90.jpg   1920-132.jpg   1920-135.jpg   1920-117.jpg  


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    Advertisements from the old trade journals.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 1905-questions-answers-air-brake.jpg   1921-sweets-engineering-catalog-1.jpg   img_20190413_131241.jpg   img_20190413_162948.jpg   img_20190413_161759.jpg  


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    The gauges also could be repaired. No throwaway products back then.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 17-62.jpg   17-58.jpg   17-71.jpg   17-49.jpg   img_20190907_112557.jpg  


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    A few patents, drawings, and a couple of gauges from my collection.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails img_20190503_115109.jpg   1-480-684-1924.jpg   1-639-965-1-1927.jpg   img_20180621_112749.jpg   img_20191101_130656.jpg  


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  31. #20
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    Rick A54


    do you have in your collection or find reference to Ashton gages filled with mineral oil or glycerine?


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