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1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van

Posted by Kelly 
1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 28, 2014 09:26PM
Hadn't seen this vehicle before. [www.ebay.com] The grille is intriguingly similar to the one pictured on page 167 of Floyd Clymer's Scrapbook, on what is presumably a Thomas Derr "American" sedan, .

Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 29, 2014 07:36AM
Niiiiicccceeeee. OK, I admit, I half expect to see a cow on that grille but that's probably fitting for a "steam road locomotive"! smiling bouncing smiley
Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 29, 2014 12:44PM
Very interesting for sure and it opens a lot of new questions.
Is someone saying this truck had the ALMA engine in it?? The only other 8 cylinder steam engine that comes to mind is the International Harvester engine that went into their railcar, way too big for any truck.
We know that Lamken did that beautifully simple valve gear in the ALMA engine, I photographed it and it is in our Bulletin. I had the engine and sold it to Al Blazick who still has it. What part did Delling play and who is Stevensen, the moneybags?

1938 suggests that one of the attempted revivals then of the Stanley Company and their bus might be mixed up in this, or perhaps the old facility was used. There was a lot of steam truck and bus work going on at that time and everyone of note was in on it including Abner.
Seems realistic to ask the seller where he got this photo and prove the linage and if it really is a steam truck at all. There just might be a link here to the ALMA-Delling story that ought to be researched. Like was there some photo album of this development that somebody is selling off piecemeal and where was the market for such a truck?

Just for fun, anyone know any real facts about the Fagol steam truck that Waterman designed and that was built in San Leandro, CA?? My race car mechanic helped build it at the Fagol plant and Jack said it ran really fast and well and I still have the conical coil winding form for it..
Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 29, 2014 02:20PM
Hi Jim,

Reading down to the bottom of the E-bay ad, I see they have a copy of the note typed on the back of the photo. It says the photo should be attributed to ACME of New York, Boston and Chicago. ACME was a photographic new service that was later absorbed by UPI. Some folks have been buying up collections of old press service photos and selling copies of historical interest, this appears to be one of these. The truck is a test vehicle for "Steam Motors, Inc."

I only found one patent assigned to Lamken and Delling, it was a couple of years previous to the photo and was for a steam lubricator and assigned to Steam Motors:


I found a link to an article in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette circa July 38 that shows Lamken and Delling inspecting an engine and gives details on their 8 cylinder engine that matches that shown on the back of the press photo, including the money man behind it, Gilbert Stevenson. The website link drops you to the middle of the page, you need to scroll to the upper right hand corner to see the small article and pictures. The quality of the photo showing the engine is poor, but it sure looks like it is a 2 cylinder Alma engine. I guessing Steam Motors Inc was another name for Alma.

Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 29, 2014 03:49PM
The Bulletin Vol. 25, No. 3 notes mention of the engine in the S.P.U.D.S newsletter from Australia: "Next there were some photos of the Alma engine made by Gilbert Stevenson, although built by Delling and Lamken in Stevenson’s shop in 1939. It had 75 c.i.d. and ran well. This engine is presently in California and photos are on John Woodson’s website." There was more in the Bulletin article later on Gilbert Stevenson's developments.

Karl Petersen
Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 29, 2014 08:32PM
I think you are right, Steam Motors Inc was the one who did that flat eight Alma engine that Blazick has now.
Now, was Stevenson the owner of a machine shop where the engine was made, or was he the source of funding?
We do know that Lamken did the valve gear; but who did the rest of the engine, Delling? Or was he responsible for the rest of the steam system?

Ok, I tried every trick in the book That worked before to attach my photos of the Lampken valve gear and nothing works any more. To hell with this.
Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 30, 2014 06:44AM
Hi Jim,

All I have to go on is a few press reports, and I think they all originate from the back of that photo on E-bay, the press service made the story available and papers picked it up as a filler. It said that Stevenson was financing the operation, other sources said he built the engine. It is generally agreed upon that in 1938 he was a 24 year old Yale graduate. There aren't a lot of 24 year olds that can graduate from the Ivy League and still have had time to become a machinist of sufficient technical competence to have built that engine; it's more likely to be an either/or proposition. During the Depression, a freshly minted Yale grad was going to have a pretty well to do background, so I think it isn't a huge stretch that Stevenson was working with family money. I'd think he probably had the engine components fabricated to Delling and Lamken's prints or assembled a shop for them to work out of. The reports that he "built the engine" may have just been put out to massage his ego or something, he seems to have gone out of his way to let people know he was a Yale grad.

I have sort of hypothesized that Delling and Lamken started out as a team, incorporated under the name Steam Motors and attracted Stevenson later. They had a patent two years earlier than the press clipping under Steam Motors, Inc. and given filing periods and such this would indicate that they were quite possibly working together in some manner during 1935....which would make Stevenson about 21, very likely still at Yale and not likely that he was yet involved in this kind of business. OK, I can think of other scenarios, but this one seems the least incredible. Ain't it fun to try to fit a scenario to the known facts?

Only stuff I can find on Stevenson was that he was born in Maryland during 1914, son of Grace Wright (b 1888, MA) and Holland Newton Stevenson (b. Pittsfield, MA 24 MAR 1886)...NOT to be confused with Commodore Holland Newton Stevenson USN whose papers and biography were well published around that time.

I'd love to see what Waterman was working on in his later years. He had a number of patents but always seemed to have some bank or patent attorney as the assignee, have to hypothesize that he was a good salesman and got them to buy into his projects. From what I can tell, he seemed to make a decent living off of oil field steam systems, so maybe his backers did alright. That Fagol truck would be a great find; problem is I can't figure out how to determine if it was scrapped out 50 years ago or is sitting in the corner of some shed under a tarp. Would probably have to go to Waterman's last few known addresses and check courthouse records to see if there is a copy of his will or estate distribution on record. Only other idea I have would be to track down the descendants of his last patent attorney; as always, Waterman made him the assignee in his last patents, so possibly there was some kind of arrangement in that regards as well.

It's almost frustratingly hard to find much of anything about most of these folks. Not sure if being interested in steam makes you anti social or what, but seems like they leave less trace than the average.


Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 30, 2014 07:18AM
Yes, please look up Waterman and put it on another thread. His work deserves a book. I would like to know what Carl Guth was going to tell me about his engine "when it was time."
On the Alma and this project, see the Bulletin. Vol. 25, No. 6, p. 16-17 for the bio and pics I did on Gil Stevenson. Most of the answers are there and a pretty extensive list of sources for the intrepid researcher.

Karl Petersen
Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 30, 2014 07:24AM
About the eBay photo. I put in the minimum bid. I will publish it full size in the Bulletin with all the notes on the back and an article made out of these posts, so be careful with those cuss words. If you buy it, please be kind enough to send me a high rez scan of both sides.

Karl Petersen
Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 30, 2014 11:37AM
Because my talents lie more in the area of book collecting than in accomplishing something tangible here is the listing of six books by Gilbert Stevenson that are in my library: 1974 "Whitecaps in the Meadow" 1979 "Before the Wind" 1969 "World and Word" 1972 "Ah, But in Casper" 1992 "One More Time" 1972 "For You, With Love". What little biographical information there is on Gil Stevenson comes from the notes on the book covers. There are several references to Gil in the Australian publication S.P.U.D.S. and a few mentions in the older Bolsover publications. I have copies of a few letters that he wrote while in the army in WWII. It appears that he did some steam work after the war again before moving to Wyoming to teach linguistics and write poetry and raise four children. There is one photo of him that came from Byron Spence's collection that is part of the SACA Archives. His photo is also on the front of a Bolsover publication standing with two other fellows in front of the 1938 Oldsmobile (although some say Pontiac) that went coast to coast with the Leslie engine in it. Speaking of collecting things, the Leslie engine, an in-line six of very clever design, is in my collection. Richard Dickey tells me that at one time he knew the name of the MIT professor who designed the Leslie engine. That memory is still being recalled. The engine has a beautifully crafted cast aluminum crankcase and oil pan. People tell me that lots of cast aluminum is a Derr phenomena. Between the Depression and WWII a lot of steam work got interrupted and messed up. Tom Kimmel
Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 31, 2014 02:40PM
A most wonderfull find, it is not in my Clymers book however. I believe that Delling and Lamken did work together and another magnificent
attempt to bring steam back with the Alma 4 two cylinder engines mounted on a single crankcase. The cost of the mainshaft with possibly four helical gears could have been expensive but once the gear ratio chosen for the purpose the four engines bolted on would have been very smooth torque. Jim, is Blasicks engine the only one in existence?? Plus if one 2cyl engine needed repair it could easily be removed and another put in place--it didn't need all four engines working in order to work. The Dellings did so much good work in steam, possibly a very early SACA
article on Eric Delling could be reprinted when he was working as an elderly engineer at Grumman on Long Island living with his daughter.

Thanks everyone, GeorgeN
Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 31, 2014 05:45PM
George-n Wrote:
> A most wonderfull find,

Hi George:

I agree with you, this is a great piece of steam power history to put into the puzzle--so to speak.

Now, even more intriguingly were there any records of the performance of the vehicle with its steam power?

All kinds of data which could create a better picture of the vehicle performance and the steam power installation:

1. Startup time.
2. Boiler configuration.
3. Firing rate.
4. Operating parameters, i.e., steam pressure and temps.
5. On-road performance, including acceleration rates (zero to ? figures), fuel mileage, top speed, etc., etc.

Whether this kind of data was ever published will remain an important question mark--and a red flag to others in our current generation. Without this kind of data the performance of any steam power system becomes highly conjectural.

Just a FWIW

Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
January 31, 2014 06:44PM

Depending on how you phased the four engines on their driven gears, you could maximize smooth starting and running for sure; but also the torque. Complex, perhaps; but a brilliant effort by Delling and Lamken.
That valve gear is the simplest I ever saw for a piston valved engine and gives cutoff of 100%-0-100%, harmonic too and yes, there is a simple way to adapt it to a poppet valve.
I am quite sure this is the one and only engine. Blazick bought it from me, I bought it from Mel Howell, he got it from Roland Giroux, I think and Roland said he got it from Roy Hunt in L. A. and that Hunt got it from Delling. Question: Did anyone rescue the drawings??

Considering the serious burst of automotive steam technology going on in the 1930s, I find the lack of serious material of depth in our SACA publications regarding it to be deplorable. Almost every question on our forum has not only been answered; but so often had been reduced to practice in that decade. If we don't document this, no one else is going to. The British don't know and our "I was there" sources are dying off. Seems to me this should be a vital SACA function, not just supporting collecting stuff and squirreling it away, or fluff pieces on worthless technology.
People and firms embraced steam like: Stanley, Doble, Delling, American, Leslie, Clever-Brooks, Derr, Bryan, Besler, Sentinel, Price, Henschel, Borsig, Greyhound, Blakeborough, Bugatti, Ballard, Spence, Moulton, Nordberg, Voisin, Gar Wood, Clarkson, God knows how many others too, not to forget the serious railcar work that was done. Almost as big or even really a bigger a collection of real effort than in the previous decade.

G, Sigrug's answer was enlarged, more needed to be said for clarity.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/31/2014 06:50PM by Jim Crank.
Re: 1938 Delling, Lamken, Stevenson 8-cylinder van
February 13, 2014 01:40PM
Got the photo at auction. It will be seen in the Bulletin. The blurb says the people in the cab are the builders, so we will get out the photo enhancement kit the NSA dropped off since they're not doing that kind of stuff anymore, and see what they look like.

Karl Petersen
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