1996Best Show Yet for Connecticut Antique Machinery Association

Skinner engine

Skinner engine. Greene engine across the aisle, and below.

Content Tools

Vice President sent to us by Robert, Hungerford 47 Clinton Avenue Westport, Connecticut 06880

The main event of the year was the running of the Skinner Universal Uniflow engine. The Uniflow is the ultimate in steam valve construction and the most efficient of steam engines. The Uniflow valve design means the steam enters not just one side of the piston and then the other, but both sides at once! How can the engine run, you say? The trick is an imbalance in the pressure. A little more on one side so the piston travels toward one end, and then runs into the lesser pressure at the other end, rather than no pressure, and uses compression to slow the inertia and help to push the piston back when the valve changes direction and the piston reaches the end of travel. After the valve changes the steam pressure, the piston is pushed back, according to the high speed design. The flywheel has a governor balance system on it that regulates the eccentrics, and consequently the steam inlet, faster than the main valve can take effect. This is required to maintain the generating speed.

This engine was originally in the Rocky Hill, Connecticut, Veteran's Hospital and was an auxiliary generator. It was donated to CAMA two years ago and we have spent a great deal of time on it, from getting it disassembled and ready for trucking, to the first running of the engine in Kent, which was on the first day of the '96 show! (phew!) How momentous an occasion! This was the moment we got all steamed up about! The crowd stood watching as the final adjustments were completed and the steam valve was opened. The engine ran for the first time at CAMA. Bob Hungerford was the key to operation and I think he did a great job of organizing it and making it come together so well. 'We ran it at slow speed to see if things were right, and we heard a thud in the connecting rod bearing. After some more adjustments we tried again. The floor still shook a little, but we gained on it and finally got the knocks out. When we were sure, the covers were put on and the engineers gradually opened the throttle to full blast and the engine only went about 100 rpm, the maximum boiler output, but a fraction of the 225 rpm normal operating speed. Then they shut it down and congratulated each other, for the engine had run and the whole project had come to a wonderful close. Now all that is needed is to shine it up and make it generate once again, maybe next year.

The other engines in the Industrial Hall include the Tiffany and Pickett engine, which is another large engine like the Skinner, but instead of a generator, this one drove an entire factory with lineshafts and belts. The engine is based on the designs of Noble T. Green and is more efficient than others before it. This engine with a 12 foot diameter flywheel, had the inertia to power all the machines in the factory, and it only ran at 150 rpm. Due to the size of the flywheel, the speed up of the lineshaft was a multiple of the diameter and it might have turned six hundred to one thousand rpm.

The newest addition to CAMA is the Oil Field Pump Engine Building. This building was put up in late summer, and the engines were in and on display before the show. What an accomplishment! When Ray DeZara starts a project, he carries it through and finishes it quickly! Quite an asset to the Association, I might add. The engines in the barn are single cylinder hot tube and spark ignition. The first engine next to the side door is a big red Oil City Boiler works engine built in 1905 and has a 9 inch bore and 16 inch stroke, which is 300 cubic inches. It also has a really neat governor on it called a pendulum governor. This is simply a weight fastened to the exhaust pushrod that opens the exhaust valve only below a certain speed. This one is four stroke and water cooled. However, when engines of this type were in operation, they pumped crude oil and used some of it for cooling. By pumping it through the jacket that surrounds the cylinder and running off the natural gas that is on top of the oil in the well, it made for an efficient setup. Now these run on propane, which has a lot more BTUs than natural gas and so while starting the engines they tend to flood easily, but have more power. The second is a 1906 Oil Well Supply Simplex engine, which is very similar to the first, and has a centrifugal governor and dual ignition. The third big engine was built by Pattin Brothers before 1910 and is two stroke and hot tube ignition. It was used for drilling and is 15 HP. Flywheels are four to five feet in diameter on all of them, and they did not have a throttle, but were hit and miss.

The hot tube, made from nickel, is different from spark ignition. It is similar to a glow plug, but not quite. The tube is heated by a burner that surrounds it. To start the engine, you heat the tube until it glows red hot, then you turn on gas to the intake and crank the engine. The compression stroke pushes the gas into the head and the tube, which being red hot fires the charge of gas and drives the piston back. Getting the tube and the head hot enough is the key to easy starts, especially in cold weather! Timing of the engine is accomplished by changing the length of the tube, shorter tube fires later. The two stroke engines can backfire through the porting in the cylinder. If the gas leaks by the piston, it builds up behind it and could fire the wrong way. These were really an attraction and definitely benefited the event. There are more engines in the future to be installed in this building and I hope to write about these as well.

Ray also had two large single cylinder engines running outside at the show. The sheer size of these engines is fascinating, hearing and seeing them run is the whole experience! The flywheels are five to six feet in diameter and the twelve inch piston in a big cylinder really belts out the power and the sound! What an exhibit to be seen! This represents many hours and in fact, weeks of work to make this come together behind the scenes and we thank all involved for making it happen at CAMA.

The newest thing on the railroad is the renovated Plymouth locomotive. The Plymouth was badly in need of repair and sat around until a new old-stock Hercules diesel engine was found by John Daudelin. He took an interest in the project and completed it by putting in the engine and redoing the rest to make a fully operational locomotive to operate on the new track. Now this machine can really pull! While we are waiting for the steam locomotives to be restored, we can use what we have to great advantage. The eight-ton Plymouth engine was originally designed as a switch engine to change cars and freight from different tracks and trains. Today we use it for pulling the dump cars with crushed stone for the new track and for its original use, switching cars. The track is really progressing fast and getting closer to our goal of making it to the lower parking lot for rides.

On the tractor side, another new and running piece is a 1930 Bay City 10-20 McCormick swing shovel. This was hauled out of the trees (literally) by Ray DeZara and brought to the grounds for restoration two years ago for Roger Nelson. Ray and Roger have worked on it steadily since, tackling one thing after the other until it was ready. I was involved in most of its progress and was thrilled to see the old rusty piece of iron change into a working piece of equipment! Work started with taking everything off and cleaning and restoring each piece to working condition. The tracks came off, the engine came out, and boom came off. Then restoration began. Connecting the boom and the bucket sliding arm was easier than anticipated, though the brake adjustments and figuring out how the cables were supposed to hook up was a little more challenging. The problem was getting the drums to turn and the brakes to grab or release when we needed them to, but those are the breaks! After a bit of working in, they became easier to move and turn. The brakes wore in to where the whole machine worked as it should and it was a sight to see come together! It was very rewarding when Roger drove it off the blocks under its own power for the first time in thirty years!

All the effort and work by all involved really paid off to make a good contribution to the association and a usable Bay City shovel. Thanks everyone! Demonstrating those days when shovels like that were new is what we at CAMA do, allowing you to see the past in the present.

One of the bigger items on display was a 10-ton Buffalo Springfield roller. Karcher Reynolds worked on the engine with Trevor Marshall to restore it. The valves were ground and new piston rings were installed. Now the engine runs well and has its old power back. I have been restoring the clutch assembly, which has proved to be a big job. The old clutch only partially worked, meaning it went backwards just fine, however, forward was stuck. Dudley Diebold found another roller with a good clutch, which I managed to acquire and move with the help of several people, including the trucker! Now I am working on making one good one out of two and will be fully operational by next year. This has also been a big undertaking or perhaps overtaking, but I like the challenge of restoring old tractors and this roller has been no less interesting. Meanwhile the project is rolling on and I know it will be of great use on the grounds as well as a piece of history.

While we are on the subject of big tractors, I think the steam tractors are a big draw. This year we had the 1910 New Huber running and chuffing along. These are so big that the driver cannot see much of what is in front, so to avoid problems, they are driven backwards to facilitate visibility and safety while moving at the show. The main thing is safety here, and it must always be practiced by all.

The steam tractors are most impressive, not just for their size, but because only one cylinder is used to move a 14 ton machine quietly and efficiently; well, as quietly as the big gears and drive train will allow. The piercing steam whistle is the loudest thing there, audible over just about everything else in the whole area. The Huber's boiler is quite big, and in fact the whole tractor is built around it. This tractor is unique at CAMA, because it has a return flue path. This means that the heat from the firebox goes all the way to the front to the smokebox, and then turns around and goes back through the top half of the boiler to heat the water more, before leaving through the stack, mounted above the firebox in front of the driver. This differs from the locomotive style, where the smoke and heat go from the firebox through the boiler to the smokebox only once to exit out the front stack. The difference is the amount of heat the boiler can produce, and the amount of wood you have to burn to keep it hot. Naturally, the single pass boiler will be less efficient and require more wood to keep it going than the return path boiler. One reason we find the show so interesting every year is the diverse nature of the machinery on display and the fact that it actually works and runs!

The other 14 ton tractor we have is the Fairbanks-Morse two-cylinder gasoline tractor. This behemoth is something else indeed when you see it and witness its motion and lumbering quality. It's something you would rather give a lot of room! In front of the driver are the giant rocker arms and valve springs right there out in the open. The heads are giant too, about 10 inches in diameter and its huge wheels stand seven feet high and two feet wide! This is a monster! Yet, it really doesn't make that much noise, kind of a big chuffing sound, although occasionally if the timing isn't right, it will backfire and that's loud. The big steel wheels on it, rolling along like the steam tractor's, put the roof way above the crowd and make an impressive spectacle. This big black bug bleeds black smoke when it's under load of driving and pulling itself along. It came from Canada and it is one of two known to run.

The shingle mill is always a good sight and demonstration for how they used to be made. The sawdust flying around and the piercing sound of the saw took you back to a time when that was the way of building. You made it yourself, if you wanted it done, and you took pride in your work. Quite a different story now, and that's why coming here once a year and seeing what it was like to be in the world of your great grandfather, what he did for a living and how he might have done it, is so interesting. These old machines may be way out of date now and not be of much use by comparison, but that's all they had! If you wanted a shingle, this is how it was made, and if you wanted your backyard leveled, you had a shovel like the Bay City come in and dig the dirt, and a solid tire Mack truck to haul it. This is the goal of our association, to educate the public and preserve the past, so our children can see what machines were like more than 60 years ago.

This is the fun and thrill of a show like this, the sound of the steam and the engines and tractors and the people, creating a whole atmosphere that can only be felt here.

The food! The best soup in the northwest corner of the state is made fresh with the steam heated soup kettle, a 50 gallon cauldron of fantastic concoction that is so good you won't want to eat any other. The cook of this fine recipe is Nonie Diebold, who really knows how to make good food and should be formally thanked for her generous contribution to the show and to CAMA.

The Kent Lions Club and the Tired Iron Engine Club are much appreciated in their efforts making this a traditional event and not just hockey-puck-and-tube-steak-fast food. You could get roast beef and bacon-egg and cheese sandwiches that were of good quality and taste.

Overall I think the show went very well. I know I have said that, but I mean it. This year we went to a lot of trouble to make things as good as we could get them for all the people involved and the public coming to see the grounds during the show. The newest, but not the prettiest utility vehicle, is our International forklift, which I have taken to and was the real reason behind the group's ability to accomplish as much as we did in a short time. We could not have done much of it as easily, or at all, without it. We don't know how we got along without it before. It has been a real back-saver for everyone!

The buildings are the last thing to talk about, but not the least. They represent a lot of work, especially for the school! The Cream Hill Agricultural School started out in Cornwall (of course on Cream Hill) in the early 1800s. This building has now been moved to the CAMA grounds and has been restored as a museum to the past and show the environment in which the students learned. It was an agricultural school and they learned about modern plants and new farming techniques. That's where the tie is to our Association, antique machinery, and the origins date back to that time when the school was in operation and the farming community of Cornwall grew up. It now really adds a lot to the grounds' overall layout, in the architecture and beauty of the federal style building. The classroom is the main exhibit area and to see this room is to go back in time about a hundred years to when it was in use. It takes you back to when the world was different, and is part of the history that lead to the agricultural developments of the present.

The Diebold Agricultural Hall is an exhibit in itself, being so large inside. The tractors it holds are even more impressive. The show is not necessarily the best time to see the barn, because it's just about emptied of its tractors, all of which are outstanding in their field. However, when they are all assembled in the barn the rest of the year, they are impressive to see, all lined up and looking their best (relatively speaking). Though they aren't actually running as they are during the show, they offer a glimpse into the past of farming and agricultural tools of yesteryear.

The spring plowing event is fast becoming a tractor show of its own for plowing fans and you can see the tractors in action as they originally plowed (and got stuck) in the field. The spring event is usually the end of April or beginning of May.

I would like to thank all those who came to, and participated in, the fall show this year and I hope you will come again next year rain or shine on September 27-28, 1997. The show is in Kent, Connecticut, one mile north of the village on Route 7. For more information, contact Bob Hungerford at 203-227-1697 or Josh Reynolds 860-868-0283.