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Doble-Detroit Series C Replica

Posted by SeaMarine1917 
Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 21, 2017 05:05AM
Hello All,

I am pleased to finally announce that starting the first week of January, 2018 myself and a couple knowledgeable experts in fabrication and automotive industry are going to start on building a full blown replica of the extinct Doble-Detroit Series C using the few blueprints remaining, copies of the Abner Doble performance records from 1916 and other technical data collected over the past couple years. We are pushing to have this car complete by August of 2018 for the big reveal. Sadly we tried getting help from Jim Crank a couple years back on this, but seemed he was completely against providing any info on the cars as if it was a huge secret, so we had to go to other sources like National Archives and other collections to obtain our information. Some of our plans had to be done the same way O'Conner Engineering Laboratory did back in the 1970s when making the replica locomotives for Promontory Point in Utah by using the few dimensions they had on hand and scaling them up with a micrometer. Lund Machine Works and possibly Merrick Light Railway Works will be commissioned to make the steam generator, steam gauges, pumps, and the 240 lb uniflow steam engine with Joy reverse valve gear. Stay tuned for periodic updates on this amazing project as we bring a car back from the dead.


Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 21, 2017 09:00AM
Neat! It wouldn't be hard at all if someone had access to a car and could just take measurements and CAD it up.
Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 21, 2017 02:41PM
I know the Doble Detroit, not sure about the changes in the model C, make sure the D valves can lift of the seats to clear the cylinders of water on startup like the original engine. I kind of thought the boiler was on the small side for that engine.
Great project.
Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 21, 2017 02:58PM

Yes I was completely surprised at the size of the steam generator, a little over 28 1/2 inches in length. The engine actually had piston slide valves in the C series, but the prior A and B series from 1913 and 1914 did indeed have the D valves. Abner Doble said this about his steam generator to the vice president of the General Engineering Company on October 20th, 1916, "The boiler is designed for a working pressure of 600 lb. The safety valve is set for 1000 lb. The boilers are all tested to 5000 lb. They will rupture at about 8500 to 9000 lb. At this pressure the tubing ruptures at a place remote from the welds. My own car has been in service since December, 1913. The safety valve has never blown. This means that the maximum pressure has never reached 1000 lb."

He was also asked about water hammer when E.L Clark asked, "Is there any possibility of knocking off the cylinder head because of water in the cylinder when starting?"

Abner Doble replied with this, "We use ordinary slide valves, placed under the cylinders. Water that condenses in the cylinder drains into the steam chest, because the valves fall away from their seats. The car can stand for days and the throttle then be opened suddenly without injuring the engine."

The Doble-Detroit also seems to have a water automatic similar to the later Stanley steam cars of that era too. We are going to copy as much detail as possible on this right down to making the General Engineering Company nameplate on the condenser shell.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 21, 2017 09:55PM
Having corresponded with Jim Crank for a number of years, I know of some serious flaws in the Doble-Detroit power plant that really need addressing. I'm sure his lack of enthusiasm was due to the fact that the car was so problematic. Let's put it this way, General Engineering merged with Amalgamated in Chicago and the cars were to be produced under the Amalgamated name. While Amalgamated was advertising this heavily they also bought Winslow into the fold and prepared to market the Winslow steam truck. News reports talked of developing further cars in the future and the brief descriptions make it pretty clear they would not use the Doble boiler. I wrote a pretty extensive article on the subject for Tom Kimmel and it winds around to include the Phoenix steam tractor, McKeen rail cars, the Duesenbergs and the attempts to rejuvenate the Stanley cars...the same people got around quite a bit.

The more easily addressed is the valve gear. Abner simplified the Joy valve gear and this almost always worked well. Unfortunately, under just the right circumstances, the engine would lurch the car into reverse from a standing start while the cutoff lever was set to forward. This could cause some exciting moments if another vehicle was parked close behind at a stop light. Adopting the more traditional Joy linkage configuration would still keep the engine very close to the Doble design but eliminate the occasional surprise.

The bigger issue is the boiler. There is a reason the Series D, E and F Doble cars went with monotube boilers, the Doble-Detroit is why. The unit was very susceptible to excessive carryover and also highly prone to tube burnout. The same design element is responsible for both problems. The Doble-Detroit (from hereon called the DD) boiler was a grid style water tube boiler. There's nothing wrong with that, Babcock and Wilcox conquered the world with that sort of thing. Where it gets hinky is that Abner made it a once-through design. As we all know, boilers work better when the velocity inside the tube is pretty high. What he did was split the flow of a monotube into dozens of flow paths that were all parallel AND he made no provision for recirculation. Basically, it was a bunch of highly heated vertical standpipes. With such slow vertical flow of water and the burner on the bottom, it created a position where the steam could be generated well beneath the water level and percolate the water up through the tube. This isn't a bad thing in an Ofeldt, because the Ofeldt brothers arranged to recirculate the fluid back to the bottom of the boiler. The water didn't head out to the engine. The recirculation also provided for a greater mass of water flowing for the tubes for the amount of steam generated ... ie, the boiler has much higher circulation velocity.

Between the very low velocity, lack of recirculation and massive parallel flow, the DD boiler could find itself producing thermal shorts fairly easily. The nasty thing about thermal shorts is that it is a sort of positive feedback situation ... once it starts it just gets worse .... fast. Unfortunately, thermal shorts, if left untreated for very long, tend to produce tube burnout. The aforementioned Winslow boiler was, like the Doble, of grid design. It did, however, allow for recirculation and steam separation. Reports in the SAE Journal indicated that at least one unit was run for a period of (I think) 50,000 miles and was then sawn up for examination. It was reported that the boiler was still good for quite a bit more driving despite the fact it had been deliberately run dry a few times.

The last big problem with the DD was the uniflow engine design. Engine operation was quite "lumpy" at low speeds due to the high recompression inherent in the uniflow design. The slide valve is also not a very good choice for use in uniflows, generally a shorter cutoff is desired and slide valves tend to run into wire drawing issues at those higher degrees of expansion.

It should be noted that following Doble cars differed greatly from the DD. The uniflow engines in the Doble Simplex and Ultimax were of poppet valve construction. They never again tried a grid boiler. For slide or piston valves they abandonded Abner's simplification of the Joy gear.

Honestly, if looking for an absolutely accurate replica, the Series D Doble might be a much better choice. Of course, there is a lot to be said about the Scott-Newcomb including it's double acting, semi uniflow, poppet valve engine.



Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 22, 2017 12:31PM
Rick the only thing I liked about the car was the engine, and I think today it could be made much improved.
The reciprocating parts, piston and cross head need to be much lighter.
I don’t think much of the boiler, no natural circulation, he should have stayed at MIT a little longer. You just don’t inject oil into the feed water as he did. The Derr boiler would make a great improvement, good location for a superheater, great circulation. Make the car as light as you can all Al body
Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 23, 2017 09:32PM
please forgive me for asking, but why this model car to replicate? there are much better designs are there not? nearly all Doble's work was development, I have a hand written letter from Abner to J N Walton, when John asked him to comment on his cars for the preface, his response was that with each new design the previous became obsolete and therefor not worth discussing.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 24, 2017 06:57AM
Hi Chris,

Why build a Doble-Detroit replica? Well, to quote the humorously ironic lyrics in a song from "The Wizard Of Oz" (1939), "Because of the wonderful things he does". "He", in this case, being "the Wonderful Wizard Of Steam", Abner Doble. There is something timelessly splendid about Abner's claims for the Doble-Detroit, or "DD" as Ken tidily dubs it. No wonder at all that somebody would wish to build and test it for themselves.

I, for one, applaud Rick/SeaMarine's project, and hope that his team build an absolutely original/authentic DD replica, and run it with the closest to original/Doble-specified oil, which would be petroleum-base non-detergent [ND] SAE40W motor oil, available today under Coastal, Chalet, Golden State, AeroShell ND, and other labels. Running it with compounded "steam cylinder oil" would utterly contradict everything Doble was trying to do with the DD; you might as well pour a mix of liquid epoxy and sulphuric acid straight into the boiler, and claim that the results were what Doble would have gotten.

I see this as a worthy exercise in "technological archaeology". Build and run it as authentically as possible, and see/demonstrate what the results are, for good or ill. If nothing else, the resulting vehicle would make an excellent museum display piece, and running results would replace hearsay and conjecture about these much-maligned machines. It seems a sort of historical injustice that no DD's have survived to our time; a fully-authentic re-creation of the vehicle could somewhat correct this.

Of course, I can not resist suggesting the idea of building a second vehicle at the same time, and incorporating in it a number of improvements & modifications dictated by running experiments with the first/perfectly-authentic-replica vehicle. Improvements/corrections which, perhaps, Abner Doble himself could have tried, if his approach to development had been somewhat different from what it actually was. But can a modern team replicate what Doble "would have done", under slightly different circumstances? Indeed, how accurately can any modern team duplicate the DD's which Doble actually did build and run? Could Abner Doble have made a few changes, perhaps unsuspectedly modest ones, to the DD, and could he thereby have actually produced "The Ultimate Car"? Was Abner "so incredibly close" to a practical and economical replacement for the IC car with his DD, but simply distracted into ultimate failure by a few bits of faulty information or flawed reasoning? As with the number of licks needed to reach the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, "the world may never know",

I would recommend that the current team read Jerry Peoples' paper "Evolution Of The Doble E", which despite the title is actually about the Doble-Detroit. Jerry Peoples was a friend and confidant of pre-eminent Doble expert/historian Jim Crank, and privy to many details about the DD which are not generally known. Speaking of which, Jim Crank stated that almost all of the detailed technical information on the DD was lost or destroyed long ago. In one private e-mail discussion with him, I asked what process was used to weld the tubular "grids" in the DD boiler, and Jim's reply was "no one knows".


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/24/2017 07:19AM by Peter Brow.
Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 24, 2017 11:14AM
I agree that it is interesting project as one has not survived, however it was not a good design.according to the man himself, so the results will be an interesting but not very good car. Abner decided at that point a uniflow was not suited for a car, its economy was less than a compound, uncertain in manoeuvring and it blocked on hills due to the long compression and undesirable for high speeds due to the heavy long pistons, the early cut off necessary to give the expansion in one cylinder produced irregular torque unsuitable for a motor vehicle and the torsional vibrations were difficult to damp out and annoying ......................................
but interesting

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 25, 2017 03:37AM
Hello All,

Chris Wedgewood, why build a Doble-Detroit you ask. Well primarily because just like Peter Brow as said and is correct it would be to primarily test out the design based on what Abner Doble may have claimed to have said and secondly for daily use as a driver along with use at WWI era events since I personally reenact the US Navy during World War I as the unit's chief petty officer. I would love to see a copy of the document you say you have from Abner Doble to J N Walton. The recorded interview with General Engineering Company's vice president says quite a different story by October 20th, 1916 and you can personally read it yourself at the below link:


With the suggestions from Rolly and Ken, we may modify the steam generator and engine slightly to perform better than the original car itself, but still maintain the appearance of the originals externally. The engine cylinders themselves were not very long as one may think. It had a 4 inch stroke and a 5 inch bore and was made of cast iron which used more thermal lubrication and very little lubrication oil or grease. Reversing link was of the Joy type, but as I personally know as well (as do others), a piston slide valve is not very suitable for a uniflow engine. They run more efficiently with an adjustable camshaft rolling poppet valves. An efficient example of such an engine as been running since 1953 and is of the compound type on the last steam car ferry SS Badger which runs from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. One of my friends works aboard her and the engines under power is amazing! For altering the engine design we may still go with the piston slide valve, but have the exhaust return back into the slide valve chamber just as a double acting steam engine. This would also mean drain cocks would need to be added unlike the uniflow design which had none because the exhaust was in the center of the cylinder and under the engine itself for natural drainage.

One thing to know about Abner Doble is he was what was considered to be an eccentric, always working to improve upon the next design. That can be seen on the later Murphy Body Doble steam cars of the D, E, and F series. The last Doble steam car was built in 1930 and has a body claimed to be based on the Buick Model 60 called the F34 and was built after all steam car companies had either folded up or gone to internal combustion engines. Building steam cars that could compete with the Duesenberg cars of the era is something to be noted.

Peter Brow, I will definitely look into your suggestion of Jerry People's "Evolution of the Doble E" for some good reading and knowledge to help along the way. We do definitely appreciate the applause and positive outlook we've had on replicating the extinct steam car and look forward to starting the first week of January. Any suggestions on any possible improvements to help her run a little more smoothly are always appreciated. We've gotten others that have treated us as if we are absolutely nuts and don't believe we can do it, or bash our idea on it, but be it known, it only helps us become more determined to get it done and prove those wrong that we can actually accomplish this.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 25, 2017 04:41AM
its not the length of the stroke that is the issue, its the length of the piston, this has to be long because of the porting, you must remember that the 1916 document is Abner proudly presenting his new design so what do you expect him to say?
Just take all this with a pinch of salt, we all have opinions and ideas, you have justified yours as wanting a pre 1920 car, so you cant build an E or an F, for what it is worth, if it were me making the car as a replica, it would be a replica, the engine would be as per the design, otherwise it is not a replica.
so I do applaud you efforts to replicate an extinct vehicle, I have done several projects along these lines and think that they are important to history and to see the development, this is why to me a replica has to be warts and all..............
My point was that this is not the best car to replicate, however I see your reasoning from the date point of view.
Regarding the boat, Uniflows work very well at constant speeds and loads, this is a good application, no traffic lights or intersections at sea, and long periods of time at steady power levels to allow the temperature gradient to establish its self along the bore, and become operating in its economic state.
F34 was built on a Buick chassis, front axle everything not just a Buick body as were others, F30 was basicly an E chassis an E engine but the F generator, the next two F31 and F32 were both Buick 60 conversions (nobody has ever told me if these were brand new cars converted or the first car that drove past the factory) F33 was in fact a Cadillac V16, F34 as you say a Buick , F35 was a rebuilt E (E12) and F36 was a La Salle, a real mixed bag!
Abner was a genius and probably the best of the best, serpollet and white too, in their time, but in this era the 1930's Doble was the one, there is some question as to weather Warren was the brains certainly lots of the patents have warrens name not Abners.
So please do it, with my support, my comments are only my opinion and not meant to criticise

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 25, 2017 07:40AM
Hi Rick,

Be warned, Jerry Peoples' paper is highly critical of the DD design. Approached with an open mind, though, criticism is beneficial. Personally I have come to view outside criticism of my design ideas, no matter how negative, non-constructive, or "devastating", as invaluable.

A classic bit of advice is "keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out". However, I no longer worry about my brain falling out. It happens all the time. I just put it back in. smiling smiley

IMO, the "thermal short" trouble with the DD steam generator could be minimized by adding a perforated flameholder/grate plate between the fuel/air inlet and the combustion chamber, with max 0.055" holes or 0.023" linear slots, to more evenly distribute the flames under the boiler/steam-generator tube grids. Doble's unevenly-heating "free-flame" burner, combined with the grid tube stack, caused most of the "thermal short" trouble.

I agree with Rolly; keep the original flat slide valves. When starting out with cold engine, the throttle can be closed, and the valves drop away from their seats/platforms, and the pistons push any initial cylinder condensate out of cylinders. Ignoring this, and using nice steam-tight piston valves instead, could lead to hydro-lock engine breakage. Also look into cylinder clearance volumes; road-successful steam car engines tend to have higher ratios, up to 10% or so, than "superior efficiency" experimental engines, which in many instances have hydro-locked.

I agree with Ken on using standard Joy valve gear instead of Doble's modification. IE, use a _curved_ rocking/slotted link instead of the unconventional straight rocking link that Doble used. Like adding a perforated plate to burner, this is a very tiny modification to Doble's original DD design, and could solve the occasional-unexpected-reversing problem without making the replica car fundamentally "un-original".

Lumpy uniflow running. The 1960s/70s Pritchard steam car used a V-twin uniflow engine with double-acting cylinders phased 90 degrees apart. Functionally identical to the straight-twin DAUF DD. Pritchard claimed smooth running and good hill climbing, despite the uniflow compression, by designing valve gear with an 80% admission mode -- IE, steam inlet shut off at 80% of piston stroke. I suspect that Doble did not do that; latest-cutoff mode was less than 80% of cylinder stroke. "Pritchardize" it with 80%-stroke-admission capability, and problem solved? Of course "simple solutions" often introduce unsuspected complicating factors...

Oil in boiler. Doble claimed that connecting the condenser outlet to bottom of water tank caused uncondensed exhaust steam to bubble/turbulate the tank contents, mixing his non-compounded ND motor oil into the feedwater, thus eliminating need for allegedly troublesome cylinder-oil pump. My experiments with petroleum-base ND oil suggest that the oil goes straight to the top of tank and away from feedwater pump inlet, even with considerable tank turbulence. If you really want oil to mix with water and get pumped into boiler in large amounts in a condensing system, then use compounded or detergent oil, or something like "Smithium". With non-compounded ND oil, like Doble used in the DD, only a microscopic trace of oil gets to the boiler and beyond. Which is the amount needed for cylinder lubrication in a "wet cylinder" saturated-steam uniflow engine like the DD used.

How much oil in boiler gives the controversial corrosion-prevention, scale-non-stick, and scale-into-easy-blow-out-soft-"mud" effects which Doble described? Wipe a finger tip across your forehead, then wipe that skin-oiled finger tip on a piece of clean sheet metal. That microscopic film is what he's talking about. Not boiler internal surfaces densely coated with thick refractory goo, a la Dick Smith, or condensing Stanleys run, contrary to manufacturer recommendations, with compounded cylinder oil.

Rolly has noted that Mobil One SHC634 ND/non-compounded synthetic oil in his condensing steam car separated to the top of the water tank, well away from feedwater pump inlet, thus keeping oil out of boiler, with excellent results. In my oil/water experiments, non-detergent petroleum-based SAE30/40W motor oils, like Doble used in the DD -- and also in his later Series E cars -- actually separated better from water than SHC634, which left a very faint "haze" in the water below the oil layer. The Doble-style petro-based ND motor oil left the water clearer below the layer of oil floating on top of it. Experiments very easily duplicated by anyone; buy a quart of ND petroleum oil and a quart of SHC634, shake/mix with hot water in clear glass jars, and watch/time the separation. Then try it with some compounded steam cylinder oil or modern-standard detergent motor oil; gloopy blecch. To separate the detergent motor oil from water, you have to boil the water out of it; another simple but informative experiment. Foams like crazy while boiling; leave lots of expansion room in the top of the boil pot, unless you dig overflows and flame-explosions, like dum-dums who deep-fry _wet_ turkeys... sorry, holiday turkey cooking on my mind... mmm, turkey...

Was Doble right when he was publicly touting the DD to the SAE, or afterwards, when he listed its problems in his private notebooks? Yet another "Tootsie Pop conundrum". The same guy said both things. Maybe he was just flagrantly BS'ing the SAE, or maybe, it has been suggested, in private discussions, Big Money guys screwed him out of the DD deal, and then he pulled an elaborate "I can invent something better than that anyway", sweet-lemons psychology thing on himself afterwards.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 25, 2017 08:47AM
In today's modern world, just about anything can be replicated in one's home shop. Replicating an extinct model of a Doble-Detroit would be well worth the effort. Having already built a couple of Stanley steam cars, and other cars from scratch too, I am speaking from experience. Build them correctly in every way, but do improve on them with the modern metallurgy available, safety issues, and common sense. Their reciprocating long and heavy pistons has my concern as to being an engine imbalance problem. We built up a couple 30 HP Stanleys that we had to address this engine imbalance issue. At 500+ rpm, the 30 hp engines were hopping down the road like a frog. We were eventually victorious. I wish you the best, and I give you my full encouragement in replicating the Doble-Detroit. Merry Christmas this fine morning.
Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 25, 2017 01:27PM
Quote: "How much oil in boiler gives the controversial corrosion-prevention, scale-non-stick, and scale-into-easy-blow-out-soft-"mud" effects which Doble described?"

I would say, nonesmiling smiley The water level in a fired boiler is anything but constant. Just driving it and the weight of the water and the inertia, water is being sloshed back and forth on the inner walls of the boiler. At high demand, bubbles in the water increase the volume and cause the water level to rise rapidly, a known cause of carry-over. Oil in the water on a completely full heated expansion element might be ok IF it could be kept full of water (which is about impossible, steam is made where the temperature/pressure conditions are right for it to be made) and the temperature below the cracking point of the oil, but in the areas above the water level, that see heat are really superheated surfaces, (the reason it is wise to fire a boiler full, up to operating temperature and then top-blow down to operating level, per Sylvester Roper) that is where the oil is going to get cooked on in to thick layer of shale as the temperature rises to the point of cracking the oil and turning it to carbon, same thing that happens with gas and oil in our vaporizers. Low water conditions will do the same to the lower areas of the boiler as well. The danger is, once these areas are insulated from the water, it will allow the boiler material to overheat and fail. One tenth of an inch of carbon is equal to one half inch of asbestos. Five times better, and I've read other claims as well, some much higher.

To quote one notable steam person running experiments "we ran oil in a monotube, but it will stop up with carbon shale and the end of the coil has to be cut off occasionally"

The Water or "Day" tank suffers the same fluctuations in water level in normal driving, baffles, dams etc are only going to be helpful but not a 100% cure to prevent any oil reaching the boiler.

To remove oil from feedwater, some type of water/oil separator, centrifugal etc is needed.

Good luck on the Doble Detroit build, it sounds like a fascinating project. Please keep us informed of the progress.

SSSssteamer, I agree on the replica materials philosophy. When I built my Loco from scratch, I used the best materials I could get. I tried to keep it as close to the original as possible, body-chassis appearance, but I built it to drive, so went with a Ofeldt boiler and burner as many of them were retrofitted with anyway, Cromoly chassis instead of the old mild steel "gas pipe" that was easily damaged. People at the shows don't care, they just want a ride smiling smiley


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/25/2017 05:01PM by IronChief.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 26, 2017 03:50AM
Hi Pat,

The DD engine balance worries me too. Maybe with late cutoff it could run somewhat smoothly at low rpms, like 30mph or below, but at higher speeds the long/heavy uniflow pistons look like trouble, as Doble noted in his "hindsight 20/20" comments on the design. Then again, I have seen reports like yours with the Mountain Wagon engines -- acceptable balancing of "hopelessly" or "inherently" shakey engines. It has even been reported that a Doble "F" engine was balanced for acceptable results -- and that was an inline 2-cylinder compound with the 2 pistons being of different sizes and masses, very tricky balance problem. So maybe the DD engine can be balanced acceptably for higher RPM running -- contrary to Doble's conclusions. It will be interesting to see what Rick and his team come up with.

Hi Ron,

Another possibility is that some of Doble's earlier claims for the DD were "forward looking" rather than intentionally deceptive. Maybe he was "absolutely sure" that the problems would be fixed very soon, so he opted to speak as if they had already been fixed. Perhaps this explains his oily-boiler and other claims. Then again, he claimed that prototype/test boilers had been run for extremely long distances on the road, then cut open and inspected, with no deposits or scale on the insides of the tube walls. Could the priming, bubbling, swell, spray, and carry-over inside the DD boiler have kept the upper tube walls constantly wet and close to the boiling temperature, thus avoiding carbon deposits? Overall, I don't know exactly what to think about it, except that I would not personally want a "non-circulating grid" boiler like the DD, for exactly the reasons that you mentioned. Except for the superheater, boiler tubes give best results with flowing liquid water. Again, it will be very interesting to see how close to the original the DD replica turns out, and what running results will be obtained.

At the risk of going off-topic, I like the oil-separation approach used in the Delling steam car. Oily condensate went to the top of a small tank, and the bottom of that tank was plumbed to the bottom of the main water tank. The small tank, at the same level as the main water tank, acted as an oil trap; oil was flushed out of it periodically. To really get all of the oil out of the water, while still catching most of it (for recycling/re-use) in the "trap tank", one of those hollow-fiber polyethylene oil filters could be added in an easy-change canister in the water line between the oil-trap tank and main tank. A setup like that, plus a cylinder oil lubricating pump to replace the "carry-over lubrication" method which Doble was trying for, might be worth considering for the DD replica -- and other steam cars.

But it would be interesting to see how the DD's original oily-boiler setup would work out on the road... tubes could be checked frequently for carbon, and if necessary cleaned with that "Piston-Kleen" carbon-removing liquid which Jim Crank recommended...


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/27/2017 12:03AM by Peter Brow.
Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 26, 2017 09:54PM
Hello All,

Should there be a concern with the 240 lb uniflow engine shaking at higher speeds even with the counterbalance crankshaft seen in the attached photos? I would love to hear any advice on that if it is foreseen to be a concern especially since I'd want to test this up to 80 mph as Abner Doble claimed it could run at. From what I've been reading the engine cylinders are cast iron, but the remainder of the engine appear to have been made of cast and machine finished steel. Again I want to make it look exactly like the original, but also am up for advice on how you think it should be improved where Abner Doble left off and went straight to the D series compound instead.



Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 26, 2017 11:53PM
Hi Rick,

Abner didn't like the DD/series C engine... _afterward_... but I can't figure out why he didn't like the piston weight, or under what conditions the engine shook. Maybe it was OK up to 60mph, but only got nasty when he pushed it to 70 or 80mph... or maybe he was [later?] aiming for even higher engine/car speed, and 80 was the DD's limit? Eyeballing it, it does not obviously have substantially more reciprocating mass than a Stanley engine; I have seen other DD engine illustrations, and the long pistons were hollow. The big end bearings look bigger than those in a comparable Stanley, but then again that is relatively easily balanced, ideally with counterweights flanking each crank, if possible (but flanking weights might not be possible without completely re-designing the engine).

Around 2008, I did a static balance analysis on the Model 740 Stanley engine, based on the dimensions in the Herb Schick blueprints. Fascinating exercise in complex solid geometry, but very time consuming, for me at least. The goal was to give my scaled-down engine the same balance -- or, more precisely, the same imbalance. If factory DD engine blueprints were available, or at least blueprints taken from a factory-condition engine [as with the Schick prints], then one could find the reciprocating and rotary masses, plus the centers of gravity of the masses and the relative imbalances, which could then be used to generate a dynamic balance analysis. That, in turn, could be used to find a starting point for counterweight modifications. A number of mods might have to be built and tested/tuned to get optimal results.

Then again, the original design might already have been balanced about as well as possible, and too much analysis might end up being a waste of time. If the engine can be scaled & blueprinted from surviving photos, drawings, and specifications, then it might be best to build it and give it an initial run, to see if there is a problem, and what the problem is. Who knows, it might be acceptable up to 60 or 80mph. If not, extra balancing work can be done. If it were desired to keep the engine as original as possible, yet go the extra mile to improve the engine balance, then perhaps 1-2 external/bolt-on balance shafts could be fitted?

Just a few ideas to kick around.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 27, 2017 01:38AM
The best balance you are going to get is to counterweight each crankpin to the rotating mass plus half the reciprocating mass attached to that pin. This does NOT balance a cylinder....you can't balance a single cylinder with a counterweight. What it does is to cancel out the reciprocating unbalance force in favor of a rotating force. This rotating force is constant but half the peak magnitude of the reciprocating force which has a sinusoidal magnitude. Actually, I am only talking about the primary unbalance force. Counterweights have no effect whatsoever on secondary unbalance. We can get rid of secondary unbalance with dual counter-rotating balance shafts or correct arrangement of cylinders in some multicylinder engine designs.

It's also worth remembering that unbalance force goes up as the square of rpm. An engine with a relatively small unbalance at 25 mph is going to be 9 times worse at 75.

The big problem with 2 cylinder, DA engines is that the cylinder and crank configuration is far from ideal. What you get is a shake with a rocking couple superimposed on top of it. It's not a bad starting point for a paint shaker.

I balance prototype and pre-production engines for GM, probably balanced over 10,000 cranks so far. It's simple if you know what you are doing, a real trial by fire if you don't.

Let me know if I can help.

The one thing to keep in mind regarding Abner Doble is that he claimed all kinds of things when hired by various companies....and typically was let go when he didn't deliver. I assume he said what he needed to say to get the jobs under the assumption he could make good; but that didn't happen too much.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 27, 2017 01:49AM
Hi Rick and all,

One more idea to kick around, and that's it for tonight. Brainstorming, not "suggesting". One idea which I have considered a number of times, which could easily be incorporated in the DD replica, is turning the DD grid boiler into a modified type of rapid-natural-circulation "Field" boiler. Abner Doble apparently did not understand the advantages of boiler circulation, but in some alternative universe somebody who did, might have unintentionally put a bug in his ear, a la the famous off-hand comment from one chauffeur who speculated about "pissing some water into the tube" to control steam temperature -- which turned into the random inspiration for the famous Doble "Normalizer" monotube control. According to steam car legend and lore, anyway.

OK, wavy-screen "dream sequence" movie special effects and Twilight-Zone music as Mr. Pete gets a glitch in the Wayback Machine -- Mr. Peabody told him not to mess with it -- and ends up on a street in Detroit, Michigan, in 1916, just as Abner Doble happens to be walking by, in Jay-Ward-style [Mr. Peabody & Sherman] coincidence, grumbling to an assistant about tube burnouts and poor heat-transfer in his Doble-Detroit boiler.

Overhearing this, and resisting his steam-car fan-boy tendencies to ask for an autograph and blurt out that he was born the same day Doble died, Mr. Pete says "Mr. Doble, why don't you just add some thin-wall concentric tubes in the centers of your vertical boiler tubes, with spacers to maintain an annular gap between the walls of the tubes? The open tops of the central tubes would be just below the water level at its lowest, and the bottoms of the tubes would be closed, with water-exit holes in the side walls of the tubes at their bottoms. Steam generated in the bottom horizontal tubes of the grids would flow up around the central tubes and up the gaps between the inner and outer vertical tubes, along with steam generated on the inner surfaces of the outer tubes. At the top of the central tubes, the steam would flow upward and out, but the liquid water flowing upward with the steam bubbles would be displaced into the tops of the central tubes, flowing downward and exiting the side-holes in bottoms of tubes to recirculate upward. The circulatory flow would vastly improve the heat-transfer of the vertical tubes in your Doble-Detroit boiler grids, along with eliminating thermal shorts and tube burnouts and giving other advantages. It would work exactly like the finger-tubes in the successful Field Boiler."

Shocked into listening to this entire out-of-the-blue unsolicited dissertation, Abner Doble waves it off and walks away. Later that evening, though, he thinks about it, and the next day starts construction work on a modified Doble-Detroit boiler with Field-like coaxial circulating tubes. Which, Hollywood-style, turns into a fantastic success, and automotive history turns out very different. Music swells; roll credits.

OK, that's a pretty snarky way to communicate the idea -- chalk it up to residual Christmas cheer -- but I think that coaxial downcomers inside the vertical tubes would be a very simple way to greatly increase the steam output and service life of the Doble-Detroit grid boiler. Everything else in the boiler, including the external appearance of the grids, could be identical, or nearly identical, to the original boilers. I would also add a slotted or perforated flameholder between fuel/air inlet and firebox, for even flame distribution under the "tube stack".

One way to make the coaxial downcomer tubes would be to press strips of sheet metal into a cross-sectional shape similar to the greek letter omega. The horizontal side legs (flanges) of the letter would act as integral spacers to keep the tube centered in the outer tube. 2 such pressings, put together and inserted, would form the central tube. The bottoms of these could be pressed into a cone or hemispherical shape, and water-exit holes near the bottoms could be die-cut, possibly with some pressed-in contours around the holes to help keep rising steam bubbles from entering the downcomers, and to help the rising steam bubbles pull the water out of the tubes and up the gap between the inner and outer tubes. There are many ways that these coaxial downcomers could be made. Maybe just take a piece of thin-wall metal tubing and flatten the bottom end closed, then drill sideways thru the bottom for the water-exit holes, dimpling-inward the top edges of the holes.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 27, 2017 04:04AM
Hi Rick,
you said
"but also am up for advice on how you think it should be improved where Abner Doble left off and went straight to the D series compound instead."
the reason Abner did not continue improving this car was because he had concluded that it was not the right thing at all and designed a completely new car, in other words, in his mind the design was flawed, therefor a new design was called for.
Lots of people go on about the genius of Doble, they are in awe of the name rather than anything specific, the "genius" is not in this car, it starts first, when brother John invented the quarts control box for the monotube boiler, the second was the compensator and normaliser (which is not a de-superheater) and of course the draft boster.
Leon Serpollet had feed and fuel pumps driven direct from the engine up until 1903, he realised in 1904 that when crawling up a hill with the engine barely turning, was when you needed these pumps the most and invented the pettit cheval ,separate steam powered pumps, that were independent to engine speed, it took till the F model for Doble to come to the same conclusion, the man was a genius, but so were John and Warren, the Doble Detroit is a worthy replica car to build, it has its place in history, and it is part of the Doble brothers learning curve, they spent every hour of every day on this learning curve and we have too much other stuff going on in our lives nowadays to catch up with them, even now, with how clever we all think we are, the best running White steam cars are configured as they left the factory and any modification I have seen has been a step backwards.
I am sure the Detroit, as built will be better than a Stanley, so don't worry, get on with it, as near to original as possible, and remember that Abner, the genius, was one hell of a critic, so this car may not be so bad.............

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 27, 2017 08:50AM
Hi Peter,

You needn't go to an alternate universe to get someone who could have straightened Abner out. General Engineering actually hired Allen C. Staley to get the Doble Detroit into production. He was a professor of mechanical and gas engineering who by that time had authored a book on boilers after taking a sabbatical to get practical experience on the subject in industry. To say Abner ignored him is an understatement .... Jim Crank knew who Staley was yet refused to believe he had worked on the Doble car until I sent him copies of the industry trade notice. Apparently the HQ in Detroit sent Staley to get the car on track and Abner absolutely refused to listen since Jim had never seen a single mention of his name. Significantly, Staley issued a press release about a year later stating he had "severed" his relationship with DD. He then moved to Stanley and commented VERY unfavorably about the "modern" steam car in one SAE journal article. Given his comments, he can only be talking about the Doble Detroit car. We could shrug this off as sour grapes if it weren't for the fact that his comments cover the negative comments others also levelled at the car.

As an interesting aside, about the time he left the Dobles took their prototype monotube boiler from the Detroit works and drove it cross country to California. The boiler was probably legally the property of General Engineering but that firm had pretty forcibly fired Abner and was probably happy to see him go and not willing to finangle over details. One can wonder if, perhaps, Staley had some input into that boiler design. It was awfully similar to the Scott Newcomb unit as well as the boiler he built for his experimental steam car at Purdue University ... that car being a prototype for a second Coats model.

After about a year with Stanley, he was working on the Scott-Newcomb (where his input was apparently taken given that they actually acknowledge his existence and put his name on patent literature); we can assume his objection to modern steam cars wasn't based on general principles. The Scott-Newcomb was generally more advanced than the Doble Model D and E....it wasn't meant to have the same performance,but the projected cost was far more rational. Much the same with the Staley and French machines, they were trying to get into competition with Buicks rather than Rolls Royce.

Anyhow, Abner had access to a top flight engineer who later had very impressive track record. Among other things he went to Chrysler and helped to develop automotive air conditioning, aircraft supercharging in WW2 and gas turbine technology. He was also one of a very tiny group tasked with developing the Chrysler technical school by Walter Chrysler.

By all accounts John and Warren Doble were better engineers than Abner, but they were also cut out of the loop much of the time. The talent was there, it just wasn't utilized.


Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 27, 2017 09:49AM
Wow, not a lot of love for the Abner here smiling smiley

Keep in mind fellas, he was attempting to inject an alternative automobile type into an already degrading automobile industry due to the Great Depression and automobile manufacturers were dropping like flies. Not only was he attempting to threaten the already thin sales margins of the auto superpowers, he was doing it in their hometown! Of course he received a lot of flack, remember "pioneers get the arrows". Read the Tucker story, the same disparaging remarks were made about him - also tried to get his foot in the door of Detroit.

The Dobles, built arguably some of the best steam vehicles ever produced, their worst offering was still better than others being sold or recently sold.

I don't think he's receiving the credit he deserves here, build it accurately to his specifications, then critique it if warranted. The results may be surprising. He drove a "failed design" from Detroit to the west coast, that's no small feat even for a modern day vehicle.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 27, 2017 03:25PM
The Stanley steam car's pistons are made up of two pistons that are hollowed out on their back sides. They are screwed onto the piston rods back to back and are tightly jammed against each other to keep them from unscrewing. Peaning over the end of the piston rods was done by the Stanleys, but nowadays we used a better approach in keeping the pistons locked on their piston rods. Anyway, I am pretty sure that the hollow Stanley pistons are lighter in weigh than the longer Doble D hollow pistons that were shown in the above photos. I was able to cancel out my 30 HP Stanley engine imbalance by doubling up on the crankshaft counter weights. When the Stanleys were new, they probably never had a road worthy speed of anything in excess of 30 MPH. Nowadays, we drive our Stanleys at 60+ mph and we need better engine balance than what they had used in early 1900.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/27/2017 09:42PM by SSsssteamer.
Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 27, 2017 05:03PM
Fascinating information and insights, guys! I agree with everybody in this thread. OK, except for a few fine points here and there, but nothing major enough to be worth going over. I like the idea of building the Doble-Detroit replica as original as possible, and then consider whether to modify it, after it is built and running in its original form. I need to take a break from all this way-too-interesting stuff, and focus on my blueprinting and build/test work for a while. Back soon...

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 28, 2017 01:37AM
Thanks all for the helpful insight and suggestions here. For the fenders and body itself what gauge steel should we perhaps use since I'm not really able to find info on that and it's been more guesswork? I was thinking somewhere close to what the Model T Ford has which was around 21 gauge and to avoid all the wood inside the body and to avoid a lot of rot and potential rust problems down the line, we were thinking on using corrugated steel that would be tack welded in place for added strength inside the doors and panels. The door latches we might use are altered Model T Ford latches that can be opened from the inside since there were no external handles on the doors.

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 28, 2017 12:36PM
Most shops that recreate body panels use 18 gauge. But if there is a lot of hammering out as in deep curves they use 16 gauge as the more working it gets thinner. My son has a shop in Organ VA, he builds a lot of body panels. [www.rollyscustoms.net]

I used 18 gauge making my Stanley hood.
16 gauge is .0625
18 gauge is .0500
20 gauge is .0375

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
December 29, 2017 02:00AM
Anyone able to identify the shock absorbers on this photo of a C series Doble-Detroit back in 1916? Are those Westinghouse hydraulic or air shock absorbers?


Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
January 02, 2018 04:19AM
Starting this week! Selecting materials so get ready folks! Bringing the extinct car back from the dead, literally!

Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
January 03, 2018 12:19PM
Hi Rick
Please be careful, the plan seams to jump around from car body parts to engine parts. This will lead to analysis paralysis.

A humble suggestion, start with the engine. Decide whether to acquire an engine or build the engine of your choice. To acquire an engine will save years off the project time. To build the duplicate engine is a large task. I have a running clean sheet engine design and it took 9 years to get there (see pictures of my steam scooter on this web page under Rick Heinig). My current project is to build a replica Stanley H. It is a slightly scaled version using a 10 Hp Stanley Engine, same as the engine in Rolly's EX. Prove out the engine on compressed air. Consider Pat's albeit advice on using the hollow piston idea like a Stanley. Weight is a large factor in performance and also with engine balance. I might recommend a 30 Hp Stanley Engine, a proven design and easy to duplicate. The choice is yours and hope this thread gives good food for thought.

I have currently posted my Ofeldt Burner that is for this H car I'm building. With respect, develop your own boiler/burner or duplicate the DD. Test them out together, one supplying steam to the other.

With an Engine/Boiler combo in hand, then consider the drivetrain/body. Again, weight is a major concern to performance. Perhaps use aluminum body or even use wood. The early Stanley's perform very well, made with wooden bodies.

As an aside, I know of a replicated Doble triple where the person died before completion. Not sure if its available. I do have a lot of respect for the family that inherited it. My reason for mentioning it is that it is risky to improvise, design and build a not so prominent engine, full size. This person took some risk abatement by performing some piston valve modeling. Suffice it to say, it has not run on air or steam as of yet.

Please don't get discourage with this build and keep on keeping on. You sound enthused now...this is good! Please keep it going when you have some set backs.

This type of car does not show what is on the inside. No one will know except you and some of us exocentric folks. What's important is giving the rides along with the noise (or lack of) like what Ron suggests. Hope this advice helps and do keep us posted.

Kind regards,
Rick H.
Re: Doble-Detroit Series C Replica
January 03, 2018 12:35PM
Quote: "Please be careful, the plan seams to jump around from car body parts to engine parts. This will lead to analysis paralysis. "

"Analysis Paralysis" I like that smiling smiley Or my adage on difficult to start projects

"Like scraping the paint off of an old garage, at some point, the scraping has to stop and painting commence"

Having built replicas, it is a bit disappointing when some aspect has been guesstimated only to find out a short while later the correct information. If all info is sought on any of these early steamers prior to replication, especially those of which no examples have survived, refer to my adage above.

When I built my Locomobile, I spent longer researching it than I did building it and it's not 100% accurate. Nor did I intend for it to be.

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Doble Detroit Advertisement Electronically Fired.jpg 79.7 KB open | download SeaMarine1917 12/21/2017 Read message
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Doble-Detroit Shock Absorbers.jpg 170.2 KB open | download SeaMarine1917 12/29/2017 Read message
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