1882 McLauthlin Engine Runs Again

Skid engine

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360 Fairview Avenue West Essex, Ontario, Canada N8M 1Y6

Like an old workhorse called into service after having been put out to pasture, a 105 year old 25HP skid engine has been put to work again after sitting for nearly fifty years on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Acquired in the fall of 1986 by the Essex Region Conservation Authority in Southern Ontario, the engine now powers a nineteenth century sawmill at the historic John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area.

Originally designed by J.C. Hoadley, whose firm went bankrupt in 1877, the engine (serial #1355) was built in 1882 by the George T. McLauthlin Co. of Boston, Massachusetts, who continued making the Hoadley engine until about 1912. Operated by the Buckley & Dawley Co. from 1882 to 1906, the engine was then sold to the Independent Ice Co. of Lakeport, New Hampshire. In 1931 its fifty years of service seemed to come to an end when it was acquired by the Henry Ford Museum as part of its impressive steam collection.

However, its working days were not over. The Essex Region Conservation Authority, looking for an authentic stationary engine for its nineteenth century sawmill, purchased the engine from the Ford Museum in September, 1986, and transported it to Canada and its new home along the North shore of Lake Erie. Once it was safely lowered into place on a cement platform, the work of inspecting, restoring and certifying the engine began.

A rather unique machine, unlike any other known in Ontario, the engine has a number of features which gave it a good reputation in the nineteenth century for reliability and economy. These include a Hoadley patented automatic governor located in the flywheel, a steam-jacketed cylinder and valve chamber, stroke cut-off, a cross-head driven feed-pump and feed-water heater.

Conservation Authority staff were amazed to see how well preserved the boiler and engine were. X-ray and ultrasound tests of the lap seams revealed no corrosion in the rivets, and a stress test of the metal showed that it was still sound. With a few gaskets, a new oilier and pressure gauge, the engine was ready for its hydrostatic test and its first firing in over fifty years.

Over three hundred people attended a special event that featured the unveiling of the 'new' steam engine. Performing beautifully, the engine impressed every one, including the 'experts'. Taking a large step back in time, everyone was pleased to see steam power driving the old sawmill, just as it would have been done in the nineteenth century.

The John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area is located in Southwestern Ontario, about thirty miles from Detroit, Michigan. Anyone interested in seeing the 25HP skid engine can visit the museum Monday to Friday all year, on Sundays from May to October and seven days a week in July and August. For dates and time of public demonstrations, call the museum at (519) 738-2029. For further information write Essex Region Conservation Authority, 360 Fairview Avenue West, Essex, Ontario, Canada, N8M 1Y6.