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  1. #1
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    Default Model Steam Engine

    Ran across this model steam engine the other day and was hoping that somebody here might be able to help identifying it or perhaps a guess at the age. You can see the ruler in two photo's (one a little blurry) and the bore is about 1 3/16 with about a 2 inch stroke. It has been outside it looks like as it is pitted but free moving. A lot of brass that should clean up nicely.

    The head has some decorations (see the closeup shot) but don't see any other markings. Think it is "home made" as the holes are not all spaced the same on the head plate so it only goes on one way. The person I got it from said he got it from an old man that had it in a storage shed.

    The casting where not pitted is fairly smooth when compared to what we get today.

    Also any thoughts on how to restore it, how to run it in air?? Or anything anyone has to share about her!! Always wanted something like this!!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails side-view-2-resized.jpg   side-view-3-resized.jpg   side-view-resized.jpg  

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    My first impulse would be to clean it and then CAREFULLY disassemble, clean the parts, inspect for wear, adjust the valve timing and reassemble. Check it out with air and everything looks good, paint and decorate. Make a display cabinet?

    Tom

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    There was some use of small steam engines for dedicated fractional HP use, the same as we'd install a 1/4 HP electric motor today. It may have been a working engine, is that possible?

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    Pinging Lester Bowman! Parts production is right, that little engine probably had an appropriately sized job to do. Lester restored one slightly larger a year or so ago. and knows small engines quite well.

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    The piston and valve rods have packing glands (aka stuffing boxes) which to me puts the engine out of the model or student project categories, although it doesn't have oil holes where I would expect to see them. I agree with tdmidget, Lester Bowman should weigh in on this.

    Brian Smith

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    I've been looking at this little engine. Odd the way the ports are laid out. Can we have a few more pics showing steam inlet and outlet..and the big end of the connecting rod ? Thanks !

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    Default Steam Engine

    Here are a few more shots of the engine.

    Lester, appreciate you jumping in here. It looks like the exhaust goes out from under the cylinder and through a small hole in that round base. Looks like some timing marks on the large brass flywheel. Still soaking some screws that are rusted. Any help, thoughts, info, etc., will be very much appreciated!!

    My main focus is on foot powered machinery so this is a little out of my league but I love most all old things, especially mechanical. Thanks Ed


    20190626_093232-resized.jpg20190626_093322-resized.jpg20190626_093203-resized.jpg20190626_093148-resized.jpg20190626_093058-resized.jpg

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    Couple more shots. A little soaking and all the screws have come out. Hope to get some more information on this little lady!!

    Thanks Edbox-2-resized.jpgbox-resized.jpg

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    Thanks Ed for posting the additional pictures. I've been thinking about this engine and those thoughts reminded me how much our technical world has changed and how difficult it is to put together the thoughts of men and boys long since lain beneath the sod of time and memory.

    But there was a time..some say better,some say worse..when every boy dreamed of owning a steam engine. Look in the old Sear's Roebuck or Montgomery Ward Catalog's and see the pages of "toy" steam engines meant to fulfill this yearning. Other outlets listed larger steam engines complete in every detail which even included boiler feed pumps and governors. Meant for the wealthier classes these little steam plants often originated in Germany or Italy or our own East Coast. Beautiful little operating plants made for boys who had that peculiar but almost universal desire to own their own little steam plant.

    In these Victorian times everything was about bigger and better, more power and purpose. These little steam plants whether tinny and cheap or beautifully crafted made every boy a Steam Engineer and fueled that desire..that magical thing deep in their DNA which caused every boy alive to stop and wonder why that flywheel goes round and round. Every boy who ever lived in those days of steam found it impossible to resist the Steam Locomotive rushing by with polished whistle and blast pipe pulsing with living beating cylinders. These were the days of steam and early power in our Country. These are the days I think of when I see such engines as yours..engines made by these same boys who grew up to be men and never lost that wonder of why the wheel turns..how fire and water could make power.

    I'm with Brian Smith on this one..no oil holes on critical component's usually indicate an engine built more for fun than work. However this little engine seems to be a lot in a small package so to speak. I have never seen an engine made quite like this one. It appears the " riser block" beneath the cylinder serves two purposes. It raises the cylinder allowing it to be used on such a small base plate and serves ( I think ) to exhaust the spent steam. The riser would have been done to utilize a larger steam cylinder keeping the engine smaller and more compact. I am still a bit unclear how the exhaust port is routed although it appears to exhaust into the riser..probably a piece of heavy gauge pipe then exiting from the side of this component.

    I like this engine. It is built like the proverbial outhouse. Everything is well done and proportioned correctly. I'm impressed by the main bearings and Crosshead. It is an engine capable of real work on a small scale. Most engines of this size had drain cocks to clear the condensation from the cylinder. However these smaller engines can be cleared of condensation simply by turning over the flywheel. The condensation will find its way out through the ports and eventually the engine will take off sputtering and spitting water.

    I have often heard the term "workshop" engine which I understand to be any small engine used for practical purposes..such as our small fractional electrical motors of today. A "workshop" engine could drive a small lathe or a sewing machine, run a small electrical generator or run a water pump.In fact your engine could have been a Workshop engine. We will probably never know its history or purpose.

    Almost all small steam engines capable of real work are called "Workshop" engines. So I put together a couple of these steam plants using period engines and pumps to test the Theory. I found these little plants to be extremely fiddly and thought consuming in their operation. In other words..doing a complicated operation on a lathe and maintaining a small steam plant in operation to run that lathe took every bit of concentration I could muster.A steam plant no matter how small or large is a complicated thing to operate safely. Point is..Lots of " Workshop " engines were never used in that environment.

    Saying that..Joe Michaels may be able to tell us a bit more having grown up near Brooklyn and being intimately knowledgeable of steam engines used in NY industry. I have read that many of the buildings had city maintained steam lines available for use ? Joe? I can see where these " Workshop " engines could be very useful if one didn't need to worry about firing and maintaining a high pressure steam boiler. Large manufacturing shops using steam as a primary source of power could and DID..use these small steam engines as drivers for small machines. Not every machine could be driven by Line Shaft but could be run by a small portable engine. Newton Pickles used a little vertical Work Shop type engine to run his boring bar when re-boring the cylinders in Barlick. The Lancashire Textile Project 2013 • View topic - Newton PicklesThe Lancashire Textile Project 2013 • View topic - Newton Pickles

    Nice little Engine Ed. I would say it is a working engine built by a very capable engineer who was probably inspired by those early "toy" steam engines from the long ago past. I think it is fairly old too..probably built in the early part of the twentieth century. It is odd..the way it is made..sort of a "bits and pieces" engine but very nicely done. The way the valve chest cover attaches and secures the steam chest has its origins in the small "boy type" engines but your engine is no toy.

    What you have is a very nicely made small steam engine capable of real work. Unknown maker..more than likely one of a kind. I sure wish the builder would have stamped his name somewhere. Whatever you do..don't paint it. Just clean it up removing the rust. Do a mechanical restoration..new packing and gaskets. Put it on a nice old piece of wood..something that matches its age. Put a Tee on the inlet and plumb in a small brass oil cup so you can give it a squirt before a run. A real engineer made this engine and this little engine may be the last vestige of his moment on earth. Treasure it as a memory of great men and bygone days. Perhaps someday..someone will do the same for us

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    Lester,

    What a marvelous and insightful reply!! Would venture to say others will enjoy it and can equate to the real meaning in all of this!!

    As a kid in the 1950's, my dad was an engineer and had a workshop out behind the house. Remember when he got a Sears metal lathe!! The Sears catalog was something I always looked forward to - well after kits and parts for steam engines. Just love old machinery and figuring out how to do something is sometimes more fun than the end product. In engineering school they still had an old machine shop that I loved to work in. Got into computers early and spent my career there but now retired!

    I have always had building a small steam engine about this size on my To Do list. Have an Atlas lathe and Clausing mill. Just got into collecting and restoring foot powered machinery (Home Page - Foot Powered Machinery). When I saw this little engine, felt it would be a great start and perhaps an enticement to build one. Would love to have had this back when my dad was still around. Shared it with my son and his reaction was WOW. He just got finished with a little engine he made from aluminum.

    Great points on the restore process. Have some nice old oak and pine. Will get some pictures up when I get into that.

    Assume some compressed air from a tank will work to run her for demo's. Have seen a lot of boilers at tractor/engine shows so understand the overall concept. Perhaps one day.

    Thanks again so very much!! you sound like the kind of person it would be great to hang out with and swap stories. To bad NC is so far from CA.

    ED

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    Ed, if and when you get serious about a boiler, make sure you understand COMPLETELY how to make/use one. They seem simple but can be deadly if you don't handle them correctly.

    Tom

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    Ed:

    My guess for this engine is that it was not built as a model. It was built with "real work" in mind, and was built in the quickest and easiest way available to the builder. Model engines usually had a bit more detail and finish and were based on typical full-sized engines of similar design. This engine is built solely to run, not to be a scaled down version of some larger engine. The fact there is a pulley with a round groove suggests the engine may well have been intended to drive something like a sewing machine, or possibly it was used to drive ceiling fans.

    Lester Bowman references the use of stationary steam engines in New York. In New York City, in the borough of Manhattan, there were many stationary steam engines and steam pumps in use in the older buildings, especially in the old hospitals. Initially, these buildings had their own boiler plants. As time went on, the Consolidated Edison Company (known in NY City as "Con Ed") installed steam mains under the streets of Manhattan and supplied steam as well as electricity to many customers. Newere building were often built without any boilers, and simply used Con Ed-supplied steam for heating and hot water needs. In many of the older buildings, there were steam engines and generators producing direct current, which was quite common in the older in-house generating systems. As the boilers in these older buildings became uneconomical to repair, or the operating costs were weighed against purchased steam, the boilers were shut down. Con Ed supplied steam was used to run the steam engines and other steam driven machinery such as steam elevator hoists, steam pumps for fire and hydraulic elevators, and in a few case, engines for line-shaft drive.

    Many of the older buildings in NYC had steam elevator hoists, and looking at old photos of NYC, even in summer, there are plumes of exhaust steam coming off exhaust heads on top of the buildings. These were elevator engine exhausts, and some steam was always bled thru the elevator hoist engines to keep the cylinders warmed and ready to go right into motion.

    The last stationary steam engine to run in Manhattan was in a small candy factory. It was a small horizontal engine, and was belted up to lineshafting. The boilers were long gone, and it was being supplied with steam from the Con Ed mains in the street. There was an ancient hospital in lower Manhattan called Gouverneur Hospital. It always had a plume of steam trailing off an exhaust stack on the roof. Gouverneur Hospital had a number of steam engines producing Direct Current, and ran them into the 1970's when the old buildings were shut down. The boiler plant in that hospital had been condemned years earlier, and those engines ran on Con Ed steam for quite some years until the hospital was closed down.

    The small engine in this thread looks like it was used for "real work" rather than being built as a model or as a hobby type of steam engine. The use of square nuts and round head screws speaks of something built either out of whatever hardware was at hand. Square nuts on machinery were replaced with hex nuts probably in the late 19th century, but survived a bit longer on things like farm machinery. The cylinder, unless I missed something in the photos, appears to be a solid casting without a jacketing. It looks like the marks of a bastard cut file are still visible on the cylinder body.

    The engine's parts are mounted on a piece of plate. I doubt this plate was machined, and I doubt it is really flat. What this means is the engine had to have been built with the fits and clearances of things like the crosshead in the guides, or the crankshaft in the main bearings, on the looser side. It was not meant to be a finely machined engine with close fits, but was something that someone needed for a real purpose. It is too big, given the bore and stroke, to have been a "toy" or "model" engine.

    Years ago, before electricity was in common use, ceiling fans in businesses and places like restaurants, hotel lobbies, saloons and similar were driven by round belting such as is used on sewing machines. In cities where there was a constant supply of water from the mains, the ceiling fans were sometimes driven by a "water motor"- a small impulse turbine, or some sort of vane or piston type of machine. Water, being incompressible, does not lend itself to working something like a steam engine, which relies on steam being compressible (and utilizes its expansion). In places where there was no water from the mains, or there was steam in the building, small steam engines were often used to run the ceiling fans.

    The engine, assuming the piston is still a reasonably close fit in the cylinder and the slide valve and port face are not too "saddled" (with wear), should run fine on compressed air. A little turbine oil (ISO 46 or 68) in the air going to the engine will help seal things as well as lubricating them. Many times, people have attempted to run things like steam cranes on compressed air and discovered that, while the air is at the same pressure the boiler might have supplied steam at, the steam hoisting engines do not develop the same power. The reason for this is saturated steam ( steam at just the temperature needed to cause water at that pressure to become steam) will contain some condensate (water) once it starts cooling in the steam lines from the boiler. This water acts as a lubricant for the valves and cylinders, and also tends to help seal them. Add the heat of the steam and the resulting expansion of the working parts and the result is a worn engine will always "pull better" on steam than compressed air.

    For demonstration purposes, I am sure the engine will run on air, albeit somewhat wheezily, perhaps. A buddy of mine has an ancient horizontal steam engine of 6" bore x 8" stroke. He tried running it on shop air and the thing barely turned over. He then decided to use this vertical firetube boiler that came with the engine. Giving it a quick hydro and inspection, he decided the boiler was OK for lower pressure steaming. He fired it on wood, and was running it on maybe 25-30 psig steam and had it belted to a buzz saw. He was able to buck up cordwood if he took it easy on feeding the wood into the buzz saw. Taking the head off the cylinder, my buddy discovered there was actually some clearance between the piston rings and the cylinder wall, enough clearance to be clearly visible. Despite this, that engine ran on steam and actually pulled the buzz saw. The engine ran somewhat jerkily due to the leakage across the rings, and the exhaust of that engine also told the tale. My buddy asked me to take a look-see. Miking the cylinder, we were surprised to find it was round within about 0.005" top-to-bottom (horizontal engine). The bore did not look bad, no scoring. I took the piston and rod and took a cut on the piston, taking off maybe 0.050" per side (0.100" total cut). I then built up the piston with bronze brazing. My buddy had ordered new rings from Niagara Piston Ring Company, and I re-cut the ring grooves for them. I figured the clearance on the piston a little on the tight side, so my buddy, having his own lathe, skimmed a few thousandths off. His engine now runs so much better, smoother, and the exhaust sounds healthy. The engine now pulls the buzz saw a whole lot better.

    Your engine may well have seen some real use, and starting off built to looser fits and clearances, may not run like the proverbial "Swiss Watch", let alone on compressed air. That it will run on air is almost a certainty.

    Boilers are a whole other subject of which we've had many discussions on this 'board. Lester Bowman returned a vertical firetube boiler to steam service to run his engines. He had to do an ultrasonic thickness gauging of the boiler barrel and tube sheets, and furnished me with the as-built dimensions, including of the riveted seams. I then ran a set of boiler calculations to determine maximum allowable working pressure. Lester had to retube his boiler as well as equip it with working/new ASME code safety valve, working water level (gauge) glass and try cocks, and with a means of getting feedwater into the boiler. He did a first class job of it and produced a museum quality restoration and the resulting working steam plant is exemplary. Lester went through quite a process to get his boiler from an unknown old boiler barrel to a working boiler fit for steam service. There was no guess work, and we figured things very conservatively.

    I am currently in the engineering and project management stages of replacing the original riveted firebox with a welded one on a steam locomotive's boiler. I ran the boiler calculations and filed the Form 4 (boiler registration document) with the US Federal RR Administration on that boiler about 15 years ago. Now, the firebox (original, 1920) is beyond any repair. Too many undocumented repairs, repairs-on-repairs, new cracks... In doing engineering on this sort of job, I found that the ASME boiler codes (Section I, parts PG, PFT, and PW) pretty well provide simple formulas and rules for design of firetube boilers. I also found a wonderful reprint of a text on boiler design" The design of Steam Boilers and Pressure Vessels" by Haven. It is a text from the early 20th century, written by mechanical engineering professors and based on riveted boiler design. It goes a lot further than the ASME code as far as determining things like space needed for "releasing" of steam from the water in a boiler, grate areas, and much more.

    I teach a course at Hanford Mills Museum called "Steam Power 101", and aside from the principals and hands-on portions of the course, I do spend a bit of time on boilers and boilermaker's work. A point I make is "Boiler Codes are written in blood". Nowadays, with people having access to MIG welders, one of my fears is that people will think that because they can "lay down a bead" with a MIG welder, they are "real welders". Bad enough when a MIG weld fails for lack of penetration on something like a trailer frame or similar. Far worse if a MIG weld, improperly run, fails on a home-made boiler under steam- maybe fatal. As an engineer who has spent 47 years in the power industry and been around all sorts of welding and related work, as well as being a Certified Welding Inspector, I take a very cautious, if not dim view of most people's ideas of welding, let alone applied to boiler work. Designing a boiler, however small it may be, is something not to be done "by the seat of your pants", or with the idea that a chunk of pipe, some old steel plate and similar can be cut, fit and welded to build a steam boiler.

    My 2 cents is to get the engine cleaned up, check the cylinder bore for scoring or excessive wear, and similarly check the slide valve and port face on the cylinder. The port face and slide valve can be brought back to flatness and a good seal by rubbing them against abrasive paper or emery cloth on a flat surface. Finishing with something like 600 grit wet-dry paper wet with penetrating oil (to avoid rusting a flat surface like an iron surface plate or machined table on a miller or table saw) will restore a good steam-tight seal to the slide valve and port face. The cylinder, if scored, could be cleaned up with a hone, and the piston built up with brazing and turned to fit the bore. For running on air, a good close fit on the piston with some small grooves to hold oil would work if the rings are too far gone for re-use.

  20. #13
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    I’m wondering if there might be plans for this engine that were published some where in a old magazine or if it might be a variation of a published plan that was modified to suit the tools and materials available to the builder at the time.
    While I imagine the engine in the O.P. is older than this I have attached some pictures of pages from the 1924 Popular Mechaincs Shop Notes reprint that I have of a similar style engine that is about twice the size that had been used to power a small shop as an example.
    I have an index volume and found the page looking for “steam engine”.
    There are 5 pages of text with drawings
    I got my books through Lee Valley Tools several years ago but last I looked they were no longer available there.
    I can’t find this volume on on the Hathi Trust or Archive.org sites however there are other volumes there.
    Catalog Record: Popular mechanics shop notes | HathiTrust Digital Library
    Popular mechanics shop notes .. : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
    Maybe it will be on Google Books but I can’t usually access all their pages as easily on my setup for some reason .

    P.S.I tried to up load pictures of individual pages but I couldn't get them to rotate properly .
    I can send them by email if someone wants them.
    Regards,
    Jim
    Edit .
    I have reposted the pictures that are at least readable when enlarged on my computer .

    Email to be sent to Ed.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails dscf8753.jpg   dscf8754.jpg   dscf8755.jpg   dscf8757.jpg   dscf8758.jpg  

    Last edited by Jim Christie; 06-30-2019 at 06:31 PM.

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    On an episode of American pickers they picked up a similar sized unit for cheap.

    Was used in popcorn cart of the day.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

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    Yes, I would love to get copies of the plans to just learn more about this subject! Think you can click on names and there is an option to email from there.

    Joe, appreciate your reply as it adds so much to what Lester started. Never thought about how it might have been steam wise in NY City being originally from rural SC.

    Am also curious about how the person that built my engine might have gone about it. From restoring missing foot powered machinery parts, have made patterns and had items cast in gray iron and then machined them. Need to take a close look to see which parts might have been cast, assume the cylinder, and which were cut from steel plate. In today's world, it would have been easier to cut the plate to shape and a hacksaw will do a lot if you work at it long enough.

    Wonder if any of these "how to" articles give you any idea as to how to go about making the parts or was that just something you had to learn from the master via an apprenticeship or from trial and error..

    Know this may be straying a little from the original question(s), however still relevant.

    Thanks for all the insight and sharing of information!!

    Ed

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    Ed:

    The subject of steam supplied from the local utility is quite interesting and was not limited to NYC. Typically, the utility companies had steam generating stations using steam turbines to drive the generators. These turbines had a number of stages to allow the steam to expand fully. At the throttles of the turbines, the steam came from the boilers at higher pressures and temperatures. By the 'teens, superheated steam was in use. The steam turbines had many stages (each stage being a "wheel" of blading, size determined by the pressure and specific volume of the steam). On some of the stages, steam was tapped off at lower pressures. This is known as "extraction steam". It is most often used for feedwater heating. At some point, some engineers realized this extraction steam was a saleable product and the result was mains int he streets for "sendout steam".

    I called an old forge shop in Buffalo, NY called something like Buffalo Steam Forging Company. They now use compressed air to run their forge hammers. The fellow I spoke to said the shop had used steam purchased from the local utility to run the hammers years ago. In Cheyenne, Wyoming, the old Cheyenne Light, Fuel, and Power powerplant on 16th street sold steam to buildings in the business district for a few blocks around the powerplant.

    ConEd had quite a system for providing sendout steam to the buildings in Manhattan. Things reached the point that the generating plants on Manhattan Island could not meet the power and steam demands. ConEd had some large generating stations across the East River in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn. A little known fact is that ConEd has their own tunnel under the East River solely for steam sendout piping and for power distribution lines. We had some men at the hydroelectric plant I retired from who had started their careers with NYC Transit and with Con Ed. They told me about the tunnels between Brooklyn and Manhattan solely for steam and power transmission. The tunnels were not overly large, and the fellows told me they used to drive a battery powered shop vehicle thru the tunnels to make inspections and take readings.

    As for how the person who built your engine went about it, the short answer is: "with whatever they had at hand". Without benefit of a machine shop, they did the best they could with what they had. The base, being a piece of steel plate, was likely drilled using a hand drill (such as a "breast drill" or "eggbeater" drill, or maybe a hand cranked "post" or "wall" drill). The cylinder block was likely hogged out of a chunk of solid stock. The various surfaces on it may well have been chipped out with a hammer and chisel for hogging off metal, and finished by filing. The cylinder bore could well have been done using a post drill and finished with a hone such as a brake cylinder or small engine cylinder hone. Or, it may have been finish reamed and then honed with a home made hone using a piece of wood spread with a wedge and charged with grinding compound.

    When you get the cylinder head off and the steam chest opened up, you will learn a lot as to how your engine was made. If you see drilled steam passages, then the cylinder was hogged out of a chunk of solid stock.

    Another thing to look for is how the crankshaft was made. A person could make a "built-up" crankshaft using simple tools, making the two crank discs (or throws) as a pair, drilling and reaming them together to insure no difference in the center-to-center distance of the crankpin to crankshaft centerline. Pressing the crankshaft together and drilling and pinning the crank webs or discs to the crankpin and shafts would then follow to insure the crankshaft stayed in alignment.

    With very simple tools, some imagination, skill, and patience, a person could have built your engine with little more than a vise, hand tools, files, and maybe a post drill. A simple lathe, not needing to be a screw cutting lathe would be all that would have been needed to machine parts like the eccentric, eccentric strap, packing glands and rods and piston.

    These old engines tell tales to those of us who look at them and see little clues. Lester Bowman's engines and boilers told quite a tale which was a lot of fun to piece together. Your engine speaks of someone who had limited shop resources and probably limited financial resources, but was "bound and determined" to build a working steam engine to meet some need. If old steam engine advertisements from the late 1800's-early 1900's are studied, there are ads for "safety steam engines". Often, these were small "packaged" steam plants consisting of small watertube or monotube (coil of tubing, one continuous pass, like a "Steam Jenny" steam cleaner), along with a small steam engine. These boilers were fired on kerosene or naptha. The engines were usually quite small, and the idea was that the entire plant could be moved easily as a self-contained unit and used for driving light loads. Some were marketed to run sewing machines in small tailor shops, or to run light woodworking machinery, butter churns, and anything that required small amounts of mechanical energy. Remember that in the 1800's, light mechanical power was sometimes supplied by dogs on treadmills. Getting a large dog with the temperment to work a treadmill for long enough to churn butter or sew some clothing was not always easy or practical.
    At Hanford Mills Museum, there are some of the original dog-treadmills used by the Hanford family for these sorts of things. Diaries kept by the Hanfords tell of difficulties in obtaining dogs suited to working the treadmills. In the basement of the old feed mill at the Hanford Mills Museum, there is one of those small "safety steam engines". It is tiny, maybe 1 1/2" x 2", and has the self-contained tubular boiler, encased in sheet iron. No one knows a thing about it, and it has been sitting in the same spot for ages. Those types of engines represented what a person with money could do to obtain a means of driving light loads. Your engine represents-at least to me- what a resourceful person of limited means did to meet that same need.

    Popcorn engines were usually quite ornate, designed to captivate passersby. Curved spoke flywheels, nickel plated governors, and ornate castings and a fine finish on the engine parts were what was found in the popcorn engines. What is intriguing is that, during the time period that popcorn engines were in common use, steam engines in all manner of applications- in buildings, mills and factories and breweries, aboard anything from launches to ferries and tugs and liners, and as road rollers, hoisting engines on jobsites, elevator engines in buildings, and locomotives, were all over the place. Despite steam engines being commonplace, a neat little ornate steam engine on a popcorn vendor's cart could and did attract attention and helped sell popcorn. Perhaps men who knew what a stationary or marine engine was got a kick out of seeing the little ornate engines, or it was simply the spinning and moving parts caught people's eyes. Your little engine was a small workhorse, I think. Not a showpiece like a popcorn engine, but similar to a "pit pony" working in a coal mine vs a fancy high stepping and well groomed pony pulling a cart to give children rides.

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    Joe.. your replies are some of the most fascinating insights I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Thank you. To add just a shade more to what Joe has written.. today we feel that building "from scratch" these small engines were a wonderful achievement with the tools available to most people back then. It WAS a wonderful achievement and as Joe has written amazing things can be accomplished with the most rudimentary tools.

    If one goes back to many of the old books most of them present designs of steam engines with beautiful line drawings and dimensions. Of course these original drawings existed usually drawn on a type of Linen ( I think ) which took ink well. These drawings were all shaded in using different colors to indicate type of material. Beautiful printing and dimension's was all done by hand.When done these were masterpieces of mechanical drawing..an art almost lost today although Joe Michael's does a bit of it Point is..these drawings were very clear and lo and behold, Boys went to school to learn how to duplicate this standard and how to read these mechanical drawings.

    Not only this but schools in those days as a matter of course taught Pattern Making, Machine Shop, Forging, Blacksmithing and other practical trades. Most young men left school with the knowledge to enter a Trade of choice already having the fundamental's under their belt. It would not have been unusual for one of these students to have built a working steam engine beginning with drawings, building the wooden patterns, casting his own castings and doing the machine work ending up with a working engine. This was not unusual but the standard of the day..something we lost along the way and desperately need now in our education system.

    In the early days these young men entered into the machining trade either with or without this "schooled" education. It was always start at the bottom and earn your way up so many became apprentices and paid their dues the hard way. There are many stories about these early apprentice's here on PM if you search for them. What some of them had to go through to step up from apprenticeship was incredible and sometimes to me..hilariously funny. Like..ok..you think you Machinist? Take a file and make this round stock a perfect square. After a week of filing away and it looks good..you take it to the boss and he checks it. Now..take this cube and file it into a perfect sphere. Exactly to size..hilarious to me but a very real test for them. Oh the good old days !

    Anyway some of these men were required to build some sort of "masterpiece" to show their skills learned during their apprenticeship before they were promoted to Master Machinist. Some chose to build these marvelously beautiful small working steam engines. Gorgeous things treasured by their builder as the masterpiece it was. Sadly men die and most of these engines went the way of all men, their children void of the understanding of just how much they meant to their original builder.

    In those early days all men wanted to build a steam engine. I think it was almost rite of passage into manhood for men of mechanical bent. Unlike gas engines, steam engines could be built badly and still run. I had one totally cast in lead using wooden patterns and built with the basic tools Joe mentioned. Thousands of different plans have been published for building small steam engines over the years. Their popularity was based on their simplicity and the fact that in those days..most men had enough skills to build one..good or bad it was a rite of passage.

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    I have attached some pictures of a small model engine that I have that looks like it was made to run on low pressure compressed air perhaps as a demonstration piece .
    I got it at an auction when a friend was moving to an apartment .
    I presume he made it but I’m not certain.
    I know he made many other fine tools and models .
    I put a small bid on it and probably because it was just a whimsical item and not one of his other fine models as I remember correctly no one else bid on it so it came home with me and sat here for several years.
    It’s another example of something being put together probably just for the fun of it with material that was on hand.
    If my friend made it he may have only had a lathe with a milling attachment and a drill press at the time since I know he got a milling machine later on.
    The crank shaft appears to have been built up and pinned before cutting the main shaft to allow the clearance for the throw .
    The oscillating cylinder looks like it was one of the Bimba non repairable air cylinders as shown here.
    Original Line(R) Air Cylinder | Bimba
    While quite basic the parts are will fitted and the action is smooth and free with out being sloppy .
    Regards,
    Jim
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails dscf8759.jpg   dscf8760.jpg   dscf8764.jpg   dscf8762.jpg  

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    Ed..take some paint thinner and wipe the grunge of the wooden lagging on the cylinder. These are formed very nicely and I wouldn't remove them. After they dry out give them a couple of coats on Mineral oil rubbed in with a cloth.

    It is possible the connecting rod is installed "up side" down and the oil hole for the small and big ends are hidden on the underside of the rod. Worth a check.

    If you can't source a small brass simple lubricator I probably have one which would look period. What size pipe threads are on the steam chest? If you are going to run it on air I would just use a good grade of Non Detergent 30W motor oil. Steam oil can be discussed when you get to that point.

    Also when you take the piston out it may well be packed with Graphited Yarn or may have a piston ring of some type. If the ring (s) are worn I always repack with the old Graphited impregnated Packing material used for packing glands on full size steam engines. I may have some if you go this route. We want to see it running
    Last edited by Lester Bowman; 07-04-2019 at 09:14 AM.

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    Lester,

    Will do!!

    Am almost finished with the restoration of a first model, two piece Crescent badged Silver foot powered band saw and have things all over my shop. Want to finish that and then the little engine will be next.

    Will take pictures and some video when I get on it. Yes, I too want to see her run!!

    Again, thanks so much for your thoughts and info. Can tell you have a passion for this. Have a great July 4th!! Ed


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