Vintage Industrial Machinery Show, Part 1

A report on the September 2002 vintage industrial machinery show hosted by the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association.

vintage industrial machinery - giant flywheel

A popular exhibit at the CAMA vintage industrial machinery show is the Green engine, which is regulated by this 6-ton flywheel.

Photo: Farm Collector Magazine Staff

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Preparations for the 2002 Connecticut Antique Machinery Association's Fall Festival, held Sept. 28 and 29 near the village of Kent, went on in a steady rain, but opening day brought back the sunshine, which brought in the crowds. An estimated 300 exhibitors and more than 10,000 show-goers streamed into the park-like show grounds for what one long-time participant, Ed Jones of Williamstown, Mass., aptly describes as 'a good, old Yankee get-together.'

The focus of the gathering, and of the association that sponsors it, is on vintage industrial machinery that reflects Connecticut history. John Pawloski, president of the association, which is called 'CAMA' for short, says, 'In Connecticut, we were more of an industrial state, and the exhibits reflect that. Today, only a few working farms remain.'

To be shown at the festival, equipment must date to before 1950; to be located permanently on the grounds, it must be restored, too. Many large pieces have been installed there. Some are owned by the association itself, through purchase or donation; others are privately owned by individual members.

One of the group's founders, Bob Hungerford of Canaan, CT, says CAMA was formed in 1984 by 22 collectors, and has grown rapidly since the late 1990s.

According to John, there are more than 900 members now, most of whom live in or near New England.

Bob says they have tried to pull together a representative example of historic machines, which are housed in permanent buildings on the grounds. 'The easy part is saving them,' he notes. 'The hard part is taking them down, moving them and setting them up again.'

For the festival, many CAMA members volunteer to run the machines, and explain their history to visitors. Other members display and operate their own machines, stationary and mobile. Among long-time festival participants is Al Provenzano of Stamford, CT, who brought his elegant, 1890 1-hp, four-stroke Otto engine to Kent this year. It still has its original Otto magneto, which may be the only one of its kind in this country. 'I've only seen one other, and that was in Holland,' Al says.

The magneto, which looks like a small, black accordian, was the invention of Nicolaus Otto, who also invented the 'four-stroke principle' engine, called the Otto engine in his honor. Otto's magneto was the first magneto ignition system for low-voltage ignition, and it was invented in 1884.

Al's engine was made in Paris, under license from Otto's company, N.A. Otto & Cie., in Germany. From Paris, the engine went to Belgium, where it spent its working life. Al found out about it when he attended a show in the Netherlands. 'The owner wouldn't sell it,' he says, 'but I had a rare tractor he wanted, and we traded.' The seller's son lives in the United States, so the engine was shipped to the son's home; Al delivered the tractor there and picked up the engine at that time.

'It was frozen when I got it,' he says. 'It took about a year to restore.' The engine originally ran on a paraffin-based fuel, but Al has switched it to regular gasoline. All the parts and paint are original, and of special note is a pressurized glass oiler, filled with glycerin, with a mechanism inside that releases a drop of oil every 30 seconds. The tiny oil drop floats delicately up through the glycerin, and into the running machine. Al made a new oak trucks, on which the engine sits; in Belgium, he says, it was mounted on a permanent concrete pedestal.

Parked next to Al was his friend Vinny Cavaliere of Monroe, CT, who brought another rare engine to the show: a 1900 4-hp Canfield, made by the Canfield Gas Engine Co. at Binghamton, N.Y. Vinny says Canfield engines were made until 1904 and notes a grandson of one of the company's founders is still living. He says his is the only 1900 Canfield engine known to exist.

It came off of an Endicott, N.Y., farm, where it was used to grind grain and pump water, and it remains on its original trucks. 'It was very well taken care of,' Vinny says of the machine.

He purchased it 18 months ago from another collector, who bought it from the original owner. Vinny was attracted to the Canfield because of its design. 'It's a very unique design because it's so simplistic,' he explains. 'There's an outboard gear, sideshaft design and a flyball governor. It's a very 'light' design.' The cylinder's position to the front of the flywheels helps balance out the heavy wheels, he adds.

Originally the engine had a hot-tube ignition, which the company installed as standard equipment and marketed as 'superior to any other style,' but that has been modified to a more modern ignition style.

Equally as rare, but far bigger, are the stationary steam engines on permanent display inside a building called Industrial Hall. More than half a dozen of these stationary-steam behemoths are preserved there; all are operational, powered by steam from a brand-new York-Shipley boiler, housed in a specially built boiler room adjacent to the hall.

This engine weighs in at about 17,000 pounds, and with a belt off its 6-ton, 12-foot flywheel, it once powered all the machines in the Tiffany mill. In true Yankee style, the steam that ran it was produced by burning wood scraps generated by the mill, too; at 100 rpm, the engine is rated at 150 hp.

In the mid 1980s, the engine was donated to CAMA by Tiffany's three daughters. CAMA members who went to pick it up had to take out a wall and take off a roof, and then, put them back again; it was the group's first big project. 'It's lucky we saved it,' Bob says. 'It was already stripped of its "jewelry" and ready to be scrapped.'

Conrad made a new oiler for it, as the original was gone, and today, he runs it much more slowly than it had to run in its work life. That helps preserve the engine and gives visitors a better look at its action. Bob, watching Conrad run it, says, 'All these things, all these parts, they're all in our cars and trucks, but you can't see them. This takes it back to the basics.'

Another equally big stationary steam engine recently was installed just outside of Industrial Hall. Soon, the building will be expanded around it, and the engine will be restored to running condition, again. This one is called the 'Brown' engine - although it is painted red and blue. According to Bob, this engine was made about 1875 by C.H. Brown & Co. of Fitchburg, Mass., and spent its working life powering the Libby Sawmill in Gorham, N.H., in the White Mountains.

The engine was donated to CAMA by Edward Clark of Littleton, N.H., who had rescued it in the 1950s from Libby and displayed it statically for many years at his family's Clark's Trading Post (known locally as 'Clark's Bear Farm' because of the live bears kept there), in Lincoln, N.H.

The engine has a 17-inch bore and a 41-inch stroke; the flywheel, which has 10 spokes (an unusual number), measures 14 feet in diameter and separates down the middle, crosswise, like the Greene engine's flywheel; each half weighs 2 1/2 tons. There's also a 24-inch face on the flywheel for a flat belt drive. The governor on this engine also was designed and built by the Brown firm, Bob says, and was unique to that company's engines. At 80 pounds of steam pressure, and running at 80 rpm, this engine develops about 150 hp, too.

Half-a-dozen other buildings on the grounds shelter additional stationary exhibits; John says since 1984, eight buildings and two additions to existing buildings have been built. Construction money comes from foundations, private donations, and group fundraising. And the master plan calls for more: a blacksmith shop, a foundry, a farm power plant, and additional railroad tracks.

Pennsylvania oil field engines owned by CAMA member Ray DeZara of Brookfield Center, Conn., fill two smaller buildings. In one, a single engine is hooked to a 'central power' with a rod-line system on it that runs out to two false wells. These engines, called 'half-breeds,' originally were steam powered, but in the late 19th century, they were converted to run on natural gas, a byproduct of the oil wells. Ray invited Tom Miller, an independent oil producer and historian from Olean, N.Y., to attend the festival and explain the history behind these machines to the crowds.

John says his personal favorite area of emphasis is mining, and a mining museum has been established on the grounds also to help tell the story of Connecticut's mining and mineral heritage. Much of Bob's energy now goes into the vintage narrow-gauge railroad equipment on site, which includes an already restored and recently donated steam locomotive No. 5, from Hawaii, and a small, green Plymouth diesel locomotive, which came out of the Hutton Brick Works at Kingston, N.Y. There also are several 'new' vintage rail cars from Colorado and a 1917 caboose that ran on the Tionesta Valley Railway in Sheffield, Pa., now undergoing restoration. A new engine house and restoration shop are positioned along the tracks, which are flanked on the other side by the still-commercially operating Housatonic Railroad, a southwestern New England short line. FC


Part 2

The Connecticut Antique Machinery Association, Inc., (CAMA) showgrounds are on Route 7 north of Kent, Conn., and adjacent to the Sloane-Stanley Museum, which features early woodworking tools and implements, and author/illustrator Eric Sloane's recreated studio. The CAMA showgrounds are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, May through October.