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Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?

Posted by Kelly Anderson 
Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
March 16, 2010 08:46PM

I picked up this sweetheart at the Cabin Fever auction in January. I’m guessing that it is a steam car engine of some type in that it is meant to be mounted from trunnions just below the cylinder block, and it has a roller chain sprocket in the center of the crankshaft. It is 19-1/2” tall from the center of the crankshaft to the top of the cylinder block.

It is a compound with bores of 2-5/8” & 4-15/16” x 3-1/2” stroke. It is of very sophisticated design, with a cast in simpling valve, cast in receiver, and automatic cylinder drains that exhaust into the exhaust passages. The connecting rods have an I-beam cross section, the piston rods are bronze, and the rod packing glands have locking tabs to keep them from backing off. The ratio of cylinder sizes leads me to believe that it was designed to exhaust into a vacuum.

It was set up to run while standing vertically, with tiny oil lines to every bearing.

A previous owner slapped together a half assed stand to run or display it on. I don’t know if the flywheel is original or not.

It also has a flat belt pulley on the other end of the crankshaft, but it is too small be of much practical use, so I assume it is some hobbyist’s add on.

I started pulling heads today to see what was inside.

The simpling valve bushing has many rows of ports.

To work with the many pistons on the simpling valve.

The real surprise was waiting inside the valve chests. This engine is equipped with balanced, inside admission slide valves!

Here is the spring loaded balancing piston inside the HP valve chest cover.

Here you can see the steam inlet connection leading to the center of the valve, and one of the ports for the simpling valve in the background.

The LP valve is set up the same way as the HP. Note that the exhaust connection is even with the bottom of the steam chest.

The set up of the oil lines, connecting rods and valve gear are like those on a marine engine, but I doubt it was built as one. In my experience, all marine engines have some variation on a conventional vertical engine base to bolt down to the hull of the vessel. I have never heard of one hanging from trunnions near the cylinder block, with the crankshaft end floating free. Also, in my limited experience with steam cars, the engines have enclosed crankcases and splash lubrication, not marine style oil lines. Beats me!

It has been suggested that the engine is of British make, but I removed several bolts around the engine, and all are US course thread with the 60 degree thread form. The inlet flange is threaded for US 1/2" pipe.

So, does anyone have a clue as to its age, original use or builder?
Re: Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
March 17, 2010 08:28AM
Hi Kelly
I saw that engine as I was at the cabin fever show. Just looking it over from the outside it looked impressive. I did not registered for biding. Nice find. I have no Idea what car it is from. Yesterday I was visiting the steamboaters at Harry Card’s meet in Florida.
Are you thinking of getting into steam cars, or have you.
Re: Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
March 17, 2010 08:54AM

It will become a marine engine for the next boat. I was going to scratch build one to virtually this same size, but this one was so close and so well made it would have been foolish to pass it up. I'm just curious about its history.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/17/2010 09:42AM by Kelly Anderson.
Re: Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
March 17, 2010 09:09AM
For those on the board. You can see Kelly just registered a few days ago.
He has been a steamboater for many years. His work is top notch; the boat he built puts many to shame.
Welcome him to the group.
Kelly keep us up to date with your projects.
Re: Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
March 19, 2010 01:48PM

Do you have any pictures of the boat?

Best Regards, ---------- Bill G.
Re: Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
March 20, 2010 07:10AM

Here are a few more observations regarding this engine. The low pressure piston is hollow…

…presumably to save weight.

Here are the automatic cylinder drain valves I mentioned earlier. The main valve seats on the fillet on its outside diameter, and lifts when the pressure under it is great enough to compress the larger spring. Its pressure setting is adjustable like a safety valve.

The interesting feature is the secondary valve inside of the first. The face with the screwdriver slot is the top of a poppet valve normally held closed by the smaller spring. It would open when the pressure in the exhaust passage was higher than the pressure in the cylinder, acting as a vacuum break, why I don’t know.

Do any of these features look familiar to anyone? I sure would like to know who built this engine, and for what service.

Here is my current launch Reciproca under way on the Rideau Canal in Canada. She has a 20’ x 4’6” torpedo boat stern hull made of mahogany plywood that was designed and finished by me (I hired a boat builder to build the hull itself). Flank speed is 7.4 MPH.

She is powered by a Blackstaffe steeple compound engine which I built from a casting kit. The water tube boiler is also Blackstaffe’s design, which I built from scratch, including the gages. Each of the canvas bags holds about ten pounds of oak, which will drive her about nine miles.

The checkerboard floor is a style that was popular in steam launches of the 1890’s. It is made of mahogany, maple, and walnut.
Re: Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
March 20, 2010 09:18AM
Really really nice, I am envious.

Re: Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
March 29, 2010 02:54PM
A tip to go to the Steam Car Club of Great Britain may have opened a door. Since I first saw it, I have been impressed with how much details of the engine look like they belong to a steam launch engine, and how little they resemble other steam car engines. In the wanted section of the Steam Car Club of Great Britain’s web site, a Ms. Brockel advertised about Ofeldt steam cars. Ofeldt was a builder of steam launches in New York City.

In the book “Steam Propelled Vehicles” by James E. Homans, there is an lithograph of an Ofeldt car engine. It does resemble a launch engine in its general arrangement, and the caption describes its compound cylinder block as follows, “The cylinders are cast in one piece… and the valve chests are located at each side… The steam enters the H.P. valve chest through a ½” connection in the center of the valve chest…and exhausts around the cylinders to the L.P. valve chest… The steam exhausts… at the corner of the valve chest on the end of the cylinder.”

While there are many differences in the engine illustrated, such as it’s having an enclosed crankcase (called an “oil box” in the caption), a different style (though still common on marine engines) of valve gear, no simpling valve mentioned, and no sprocket in the center of the crankshaft, the general appearance of the cylinder block and its arrangement of having the receiver cast into the block surrounding the cylinders is certainly very similar to this engine.

Does anyone have any further information of Ofeldt steam cars?
Re: Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
March 30, 2010 10:00PM
I know of but one Ofeldt steam car and there are two photos of it, but they do not show the engine. The Ofeldt and other catalogs show engines. Ms Brockel may have to think about building a replica if she can find an engine.

Karl Petersen
Re: Can Anyone Identify This (Steam Car?) Engine?
June 02, 2010 05:51PM

While on vacation last month, we stopped at the Pioneer Village museum in Minden, NE. There, they had an 1897 Milwaukee steam car on display, as well as this Milwaukee engine.

At first glance, there are huge differences between the Milwaukee engine and my engine. But in details, there are definite family resemblances. Note how the valve gear is virtually identical, right down to the location and orientation of the reverse shaft, and its connection to a vertical actuating rod.

Note how the crankshafts are virtually identical.

Note how the Milwaukee engine is mounted snug against the front of the vertical boiler…

… and how the frame of my engine is concave on the back side as if to fit up against the side of a vertical boiler.

So, is my engine a compound prototype Milwaukee made? The reason I say “prototype” is due to the rather large automatic cylinder drains on the LP cylinder. They were missing on the HP cylinder, and I had assumed that someone had removed and lost them, until I cleaned up the engine, and found that no passages had ever been drilled into the HP cylinder from the large threaded bosses. They went to the trouble to cast and machine the bosses for the cylinder drains, but then decided not to use them.

An interior inspection of the cylinder block with a bore scope shows that its rather bulky proportions were for a good reason as well. The HP cylinder is equipped with a steam jacket surrounding it to keep it constantly hot, increasing its efficiency and removing the need for HP cylinder drains. I had never heard of a steam jacketed cylinder in such a small engine.

No though was given to interchangeability in this engine. Every part is machined a little off the nearest fraction, and a little different from any other of the same parts as though all of the measurement was done with spring calipers, each part being made one at a time.

More exhaust lap is allowed on the bottom ports in good vertical engine practice, and the cutoff is 55% on the HP and 60% on the LP.
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