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Williams ws. Rankin

Posted by Howard Langdon 
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 01, 2008 01:32AM
Could we go over a few things in more detail
Why would a uniflow run in reverse under load? I know exhaust is symmetric but inlet is not and I can't visualize how this reversal could be.
Who produced a Uniflow tractor? I've been collecting steam tractor stuff and would like to add this to my files.
Reversal of a tractor engine I've heard of but that was a Lanz Bulldog 2 stroke single cylinder hot bulb and a different kettle of kerosene.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 01, 2008 10:31AM

A good unaflow shouldn't start trying to run in reverse under load.
While the exhaust timing is symmetrical the inlet is certainly not, most likely starting a tiny bit after TDC. None of the stationary and marine Skinner unaflow engines I have seen running never had this tendency at all. The Besler Kaiser never did this either and it was single acting too.

I have a suspicion that a lot of this nonsense about automotive unaflow engines started way back with the Doble-Detroit car. There are stories that it often balked and tried to run in reverse when starting from rest. While going through all the notebooks and factory documents, I suspect that it is really operator error at the bottom of this. Starting with the engine hooked up and not in full stroke. Then they can be nasty, especially when starting the car and going up hill at the same time and leaving the engine fully hooked up.
In retrospect, if Abner had added one more cylinder then that engine would have been a lot smoother than the two cylinder one he used. Then dump those slide valves and bottom mount piston valves. Then he might have succeeded with this car.
Their water tube boiler was the real problem with this car, and while Abner and John did make a monotube replacement, General Engineering by then had enough of the Dobles and their experiments and closed the operation.
All this is in the Doble book.

The tractor you are asking about is the Baker Automatic of about 1921. There is one in the Ford Museum and I spent a lot of time going all over it. Very impressive design, unaflow engine (I think), big monster condenser with a huge fan, and fully automatic control for water and fuel feed.
I too would love to read their brochure on this tractor, and hope if anyone has one he would post it.
With Google, what else!, go to Baker steam tractor. There is quite a bit on it, pictures too.

Sorry, I am wrong, that Baker was a compound engine.
OK, I called a friend of mine who is an absolute guru on steam tractors, and he said indeed it was Baker who made lots of unaflow engined steam tractors. Apparently quite a few still exist and are run.


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/01/2008 11:02AM by James D. Crank.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 01, 2008 12:54PM
Link to youtube video of 1925 Baker steam tractor. This doesn't look like it's fitted with a Bryan engine that I've seen on ebay.


The following link looks like a similar tractor, but better write up - telling us it's unaflow / uniflow.


Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 01, 2008 02:55PM
How did we get from a Baker to a Bryan.
Attached photo of Bryan tractor and engine.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 01, 2008 05:34PM
I have found the original Sturgess articled spoken of by Peter Brown earlier, NOT at Google, err. . . at Google books.grin


In it there are also articles by Doble on his Doble Detroit car and Warren about the history and need for steam cars.

The article on Woodsens site authored by Doble is also in another SAE transactions book at google books.


It is interesting reading through all of those 80 some year old articles by the SAE and seeing that the curent fuel crisis(1910-20s) was being "solved" by trying to use different fuels in the IC engines, which even with their low compression was proving to be a bit difficult to say the least, the tractor engines were the only real success with the alternative fuels, kerosine etc.


I remember a rough quote from Abner Doble saying that his unaflow engine would have been O.K. if he had used a "-multiplicity of cylinders, however the added cost of manufacture would have made the prospect unprofitable".

Then he went on to make more and more complex, heavy and expensive compound engines, eventually getting to a fourstage compound(unbuilt if I recall correctly).

Was it a mania or political issue that kept him from reviving the unaflow principle(with but one more cylinder solving the non-issue, issues) or did he have a more mechanical reason for going with the multi stage expansion engine?

Caleb Ramsby
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 01, 2008 07:50PM
I have seen IC (4-stoke) engines run backwards, granted the throttle is not there, but bear in mind, the difference of spark-advance, when running backwards. It does happen.

In the photos above, the piston-conecting rod failure was do to an overhead poppet valve that did not open @BDC. You dont have this problem on any 'side-ported engine'.

Yes, it was the intake valve that failed to open upon reverse rotation. Since the engine type a 'hit-n-miss' traction engine used no mechanical lift for intake valve actuation, and this is fine, if the engine is running in a forward direction. Subsequently I did rebuild the engine and ran it approx 8 more times, at an eccess of 30 minutes duration for each run. No-one was ever hurt in any of the experiments/runs.

I have found that assisted/electric start with injection/pressurization starting(after) upon forward rotation is pretty reliable. However, if the engine stalls at low rpm, you should have a Compression Release Mechanism if pressure can be trapped an 'any' condition while at(@) Bottom Dead Center.

We had the tranformer connected to our building lose a phase today just before noon. Things were back up by around 1.

Ive put off 'Tom-cat's vet app. till tommorow at noon, this is one of the toughest Ive had to do in recent memory. Again, thanks for the kind words.


Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 01, 2008 08:46PM
International Harvester also built a prototype uniflow tractor with a forced recirculation boiler.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 01, 2008 08:55PM

Many years back my brother and I had to replace the head on his Honda Civic. After a few hours we had her back together and fired her up. Well, she was smoking and WAY under powered, could barley get her moving, with full throttle she still ran O.K., lots of smoke though, never did that before. Well, after a bit of investigation, spark, fuel, distributor timing etc. we were still at a loss. Then I thought of the only thing that it could be, which it couldn't be becuase it wouldn't run. The valve timing belt had to be on 180 deg off! My brother and I both laughed at the idea, since there is NO way it would run with the intake and exhaust valves 180 deg off of the spark etc. Well, after going through it all again we decided to try setting the valve timing 180 deg off of where we had put it. HOLY BRAIN FART!!! It ran perfectly! Full power, smooth running and NO SMOKE! Yet again, this just goes to prove my saying, "The impossible is always possible!"

Try to focus on the good times you and the Tom Cat have had, remember that the cesation of pain and torment is mercy. . . why this is only available to our loved ones from the animal kingdom and not. . .

Caleb Ramsby
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 01, 2008 08:56PM

Can you remember what year?

Caleb Ramsby
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 05:06AM
Hi Jim,

Didn't Jerry Peoples, in "Evolution of the Doble E", attribute the self-reversing tendency of the Doble-Detroit to a flaw in the modified Joy valve gear? As I recall, he said it was because the rocking link was straight rather than curved. Stanleys can reverse on a hill if starting out in short cutoff too, definitely operator error there. I have designed a number of gizmos to automatically unhook when the engine stops or gets below a certain speed, but that's kinda like designing something to keep drivers of a manual-tranny car from operating the clutch pedal at the wrong time, or putting it in the wrong gear (EG, shifting to low or reverse at highway speed). Any powerplant can be screwed up or lead to severe hazards with improper operation. At some point the only technical change needed to compensate for idiocy is to remove "the nut behind the steering wheel".

The self-reversing problem, and the comment about superheat "instead of" unaflow, lead me to suspect that they tested a Doble-Detroit. Then again, maybe by "we", Sturgess meant "SAE" rather than "Stanley", and was referring to the test Caleb mentions. That would fit the time frame mentioned. It is also possible that the engine they tested didn't have an overlapping-cutoff self-start mode, which would also help explain Sturgess' comment about increased complication to eliminate the problem.

Caleb, Doble didn't dump unaflows with the Doble-Detroit. He still had one more unaflow disaster ahead of him, the 1950s Ultimax/Paxton Phoenix engine. Maybe if he'd had more projects after that, they wouldn't have been unaflows. Who knows what else might have changed in later projects. Still, he worked on some interesting ideas in the Ultimax project, including steam car engine braking.

My bet is that Doble went to compound and multi-expansion engines to get lower expansion ratios per cylinder, to counteract increased surface losses arising from increased surface-area/volume ratios in small (car-sized) multi-cylinder engines. A pretty standard design strategy. Even his unaflow Ultimax was still a compound.

Ken, I agree on continuously-variable sliding cams. I don't like the round-faced "donut" rollers used with that type of cam. Sliding cams are better with discrete stages and transition surfaces between them. I have seen IC cams ground at a slight angle so that lifters have point contact to spin them and distribute lifter wear, which complicates the issue. I noticed in the latest SACA Bulletin that Peter Pellandine's latest engine uses roller cams. Those need a slightly different grind for a given "lift profile". Doing cams right is a very tricky business.

I was one of the "3 people" who you said read your article on evaporator & superheater tubes. Who were the other 2? LOL. Anyway, good article. Typical natural-circulation boilers have parallel gas & water/steam flow in the evaporating section, Stanleys too. Nice to see monotube designs finally catching up. LOL. But seriously, it does look like a good design feature for monotubes. On radiant, convective, and combined superheaters, I have read different perspectives. Some say that it is better to have constant superheat under all conditions, others that higher superheat at lower steaming rates(/rpms) is better for efficiency (compensating for longer cutoff & higher leakage & heat losses), and a Stanley Dealer Bulletin said that higher superheat at higher steam rates/speeds gives "more power". I have also read that lower superheat at lower steam rates/speeds is beneficial for engine lubrication, to control metal/oil temp under late-cutoff and longer steam/metal exposure conditions. A radiant superheater can also be much shorter/cheaper. I have room for a radiant and/or convective superheater in my boiler, and can experiment.

BTW, the superheat/firing rate charts for radiant & convective superheaters accompanying the article are mis-labeled. I did some head-scratching over that until I realized that typographical errors do occur in this universe. Wonder if the other 2 guys who read the article noticed that? LOL


The latest Bulletin mentions some IC engineer quoting Abner Doble to the effect that the problem with steam cars is simply that "water freezes". Supposedly this impressive insight was handed down "in the 1960s", when Doble was "in his 90s". Walton gives Doble's years as 1891-1961. Hmm.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 05:56AM
I have read different perspectives. Some say that it is better to have constant superheat under all conditions,

I have found from personal experience that constant superheat is a always better at 200F over the saturated temperature / pressure you’re using for good performance.

In the Stanley boiler the superheater is located under the tub sheet just over the fire (very hot) and the temperature varies depending on the throttle position and the water height in the boiler.

On the Derr boiler the superheater is in a space two rows up from the combustion chamber, a much cooler location but the superheater has much more tubing and a constant temperature output of around 700F

See the location of the superheat coil in the model boiler I built of the original Derr boiler.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 12:27PM
Thanks Jim and Greg for the Baker uniflow information and video. Much appreciated

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 12:31PM

I thought I was the only one dumb enough to get a timing belt 180 off and still get the engine to run. And I did it on a Honda, too.


I've lost pets to cancer, too. It's a tough thing to handle. Your Tomcat looks just like my Caesar. He's 16 and I sometimes wonder how much longer I will have him around. Like Caleb said, concentrate on the good memories.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 01:43PM
Hi Caleb:

I'm not absolutely sure about the year on the IH tractor. It was a V-4, SA uniflow with poppet admission.

The project appears to have started in 1919 but the tractor looks to have been running in the 1921-1922 time frame.

The same basic propulsion system appears to have been installed in rail cars and used in limited service.

I'll see if I can get some drawings appended.

Hi Peter:

I'd heard there were three readers, but before this I'd only known who two were. Now the mystery is cleared up! Glad you liked the article, anyhow, makes me feel less guilty about club monies being spent on that much paper and ink.


Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 02:25PM
Hi Guys,

I am one of the three who read Kens article but forgot a lot of it. LOL

I like the concept of balancing the radiant and convective heating of the super heater. Wouldn't a thunk it myself.

I am wondering if there would be a good way to control super heater temperature if the burner had a high turn down ratio? I am again planning an SES type layout with a burner that goes variably from a high pilot (like a propane torch size) to full on. I am thinking of maybe a temperature variable shielding for the superheater.

I always liked the design ideas of the Ultimax and have incorporated some of them into my design. I didn't quite get how the engine braking was supposed to work though. The excess heat generated from braking would have to either be stored as in regenerative or dumped to the condenser.

Best Regards, ----Bill G.

PS: Jeremy, our best wishes to Tom Cat. He'll be OK.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 04:43PM
Hi All,

Yes, Tomcat passed today around 12. I was asked if I would like to provide a sleeping/sedation shot, before. I said yes, He got real sleepy then about 10 minutes after it was done. I felt it was important to stay with him, till the end. Im glad that I did, but it was real tuff. You never know how such a thing will affect you, until you experience it.

I did opt. for private cremation, The next time were out in the boat im sure it will be important for my daughter, to close the chapter.

I really feel that Tomcat was one of a kind.


I did take your advice, usually when I take him to the vet, I put him in the 'cat-carrier'. I just got a new truck, an this time, I set him on the front passengers seat on the way there. He went down to the floor-mat to relieve-himself. As always he has been a good cat this way. It was tough holding him in the waiting room, but the nice folks there make things as easy as possible. He did not suffer thru the proceedure.


Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 04:49PM
My idea for superheat control is to have the superheater completely shielded from the radiant heat, using rectangular gass passage ways for the superheater and economizer sections, multi gas pass, doing a zig zag back and forth to increase the gas flow length and gas mass flow. Having the gas channel split after leaving the burner, one going into a superheater passage and the other going into the first section of economizers/air preheaters, then recombining after this split. Using a temperature expanded rod(simular to White or Johnson types) to control the amount of gas flow through the superheater section via a flapper/door, this would not work on off, but modulate the opening as to the burner output and steam usage. With a very easy and accesable adjustment for superheat temperatures from saturated to "whats that smell?". This is more for having the capacity to test an engine with different steam temperatures/pressures/cutoffs then to maintain a tight control of steam temperature range. To do this I am having to use many times the superheater surface area as I would if it were a radiant/convection superheater such as in Nutz's Lamont boiler. Don't know how well this will work, but will find out eventually.


Well, you know what they say, "Great minds fart alike!". . . errrr something like that.


Hum, V4 SA, unaflow, interesting. . . I hope that you can track it down, it would be great to know amoung other things what type of forced recirculation boiler they used, burner type etc.

In Stumpf's unaflow book there is an illustration of a steam traction engine, with two cylinders under the boiler, DA, it does not state the Make, but is likely English.

Peter Brow,

I can't believe that I forgot about the Pheonix design! I have an article from Popular Mechanics(or Science can't remember) SOMEWHERE around here, hey it made the front cover!

Also forgot that it was a compound unaflow. That project is yet another reason that the BIG 3 are not going to listen to anybody about steam cars, then again we Americans do have a VERY short memory about, well everything. . .

Caleb ummm. . oh yes, Ramsby
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 05:24PM
Hi Caleb:

Here are some drawings of the IH tractor.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 05:26PM
More pictures...

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 05:31PM
Hi Caleb:

The forced recirculation boiler used a jet pump, the feed pump pushes water through a heating coil until it gets near saturation temp, then it passes through a nozzle and drops maybe 150 psi. The fluid becomes mildly superheated steam and moves out at transsonic speeds, pulling the water from the bottom of the steam drum along with it and circulating through the generator coils.

They seem to have tested a number of burners, but the final configuration was fan driven with fuel/air mix coming up from the bottom into the center of a stack of hollow discs, the gap between the discs functioning as the flame holder.


Re: Williams ws. Rankin
December 02, 2008 05:57PM

Thanks for the drawings, great stuff.

Will have to study these for a while and try to see what they were up to.

That recirculation system they used is VERY simular to what Maxim used in his airplane, curious. A 150 psi pressure difference jet sure would move some water!

Really neat burner design, I bet that the discs got sort of hot and helped to vaporize the liquid fuel too.

Thanks again for the drawings.

Caleb Ramsby
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
March 22, 2009 09:25AM
HI Guys I am as surprised as you are. We got a 8.6 pound water rate. R.P.M 1000 tock 245 pounds staem1o2o P.S.i at 1ooo F. the tork is lo and we don’t know why it is we will keep working on it. The 316 is coming good and chips are flying. Howard
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
March 22, 2009 12:10PM

FYI, Howard and I talked on the phone about this test and I believe from what was said that something was wrong with the inlet valves on this engine. The low torque and HP output says that the inlet valves just are not opening correctly. I Think that this Williams uses a large valve with low lift and that could make for delicate adjustments.

Anyway the engine was not operating properly so the results don't mean much. I hope the problem gets solved and we see what this Williams design can really do. I see the Williams engine as a guide post as to what to shoot for in engine design, possibly something to compare future designs and engines to.

Best, ---- Bill G.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
March 24, 2009 06:19PM
HI Bill Peter is out of town tell next week. Then we will get in to it. If people will understand that lo temp maims a hi warder rate. I mean under a1000 F. the oil is not the problem the problem is the stupid ~~>>that designed it
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
March 24, 2009 08:16PM

I was wondering if the inlet valve stem and chest lengthens as it comes up to temperature and if that would have a large effect on the opening distance of the valve?

Best, --- Bill G.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
March 25, 2009 11:03AM
Hi Howard
Your cam timing is advansed to far. Hi compression engines do not perform well with advance as compressing the incoming charge is not very efficent. We have been doing a lot of experimenting on the valve timing on the Cyclone and it is adjustable.It is kind of sweet to watch the engine runing at 1000 rpm then shift to reverse. It in the blink of an eye and very smooth. call me I think I can help you with this.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
March 25, 2009 11:56AM
Hello Harry,

Lets hope the Williams engine problem is as simple as an adjustment in the cam timing. That would be an easy fix, I guess. I realize that the Cyclones are a different setup, but how much advance does the Cyclone engines use?

I wish I could get the compound design to reverse like that. Lack of reversing was one of those trade offs.

Best Regards, and every success, ---- Bill G.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
March 26, 2009 09:54AM
Hi Bill
It does depend on the rpm and clearance volume. Any valve leek is a killer. Hi compression uniflow needs little or no advance as the high compression is the advance which increases the inlet temperature and with short cut off gives a very low water rate and very low thermal losses. The Cyclone does alter its CV with rpm as hi compression at low rpm is negitive work. We operate at a constant temp and press and very cam timing duration and CV.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
March 26, 2009 01:43PM

That's a good point that the high compression is the advance in a HCU. Mine wouldn't (as in can't) alter the clearance volume but this can be controlled by the exhaust timing so re-compression pressure is controlled for both of the compounds stages.

The engine is designed to automatically go into long cutoff at low RPMs and use throttling. As RPMs pick up, control moves to changing cutoff. If boiler pressure starts to drop, cut off is shortened automatically. The first stage exhaust (unaflow) closing is directly related to cutoff so the two valve gears are linked to maintain the correct re-compression pressure.

The second stage exhaust (unaflow)is just throttled to control it's re-compression pressure.

Even though the advance timing is variable, I am wondering how much change the advance might need. Advance is really just to get the valve good and open and steam starting to flow, but if nothing is going to enter the cylinder of a HCU until after TDC is passed there isn't any advantage to opening the valve earlier than what it takes to get it open all the way at TDC.

Since with the engine stopped or just starting, I wouldn't want steam entering the cylinder before TDC and the amount of valve opening has little affect at very low RPMs anyway, then the inlet timing should go into retard instead of advance. IE start opening on or just after TDC. So inlet opening timing would depend on the cam/valve profile. On a single inlet valve engine this would work because we would want long cut off for starting anyway.

Best regards, ---- Bill G.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
March 27, 2009 07:42PM
HI bill and Hairy thanks for the help. Hairy I will call as sewn as I can. Bill I could find Andy. I am so bisaey making chips. Much time left
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