Centennial Corliss Engine

The Centennial Corliss Engine.

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125-13th Avenue North, St. Cloud, Minnesota 56301

Last year on October 4 and 5, I went to see Vouk's Steam Show in the village of St. Stephen, near St. Cloud.

Besides the steam engines and gas tractors running, there were grain threshing, corn shredding and lumber sawing demonstrations, operated mostly by big Case steam engines and Minneapolis and Twin City gas tractors.

The show is mostly owned and run by William Vouk Sr., and his sons and neighbors. It started in 1965 partly because William Vouk's brother-in-law urged him to put on a grain threshing demonstration. It has grown a lot since and attendance is growing, too.

Besides the events mentioned, there are antique cars, a blacksmith shop, music and eats.

Vouk and sons furnish and run one 80 H.P. Case and one 65 H.P. Case steam engine and one 35-70 Minneapolis and one 40-65 Twin City gas tractor and three grain separators.

Henry Lahr of nearby St. Joseph was in charge of grain threshing demonstrations and he furnished a 40 H.P. Case steamer and one hand feed grain separator.

Harley Eberhart of nearby St. Cloud showed his 45 H.P. steamer.

Oscar Anderson of St. Cloud operated the old-time blacksmith shop and the Legatt brothers were in charge of corn shredding demonstrations.

Fred Fiedler of St. Cloud was the expert in charge of log and lumber sawing with the big 80 H.P. Case steamer.

There were 11 steamers and 10 gas tractors in operation, along with three grain threshers threshing grain bundles from 10 stacks.

The grain stack threshing demonstration went O.K. here for the first setting of four grain stacks. Then the operators reset the engine and grain separator for the next stack setting. It was a sunny warm day here and the wind was from the south. The operators set their separator between the grain stacks as usual and then set the engine directly south of it and belted them up. But the steam engine used, had no screen spark collector on top of its smoke stack as required in olden days.

Soon after the engine started to thresh and puff, I saw a small flame start on the outside of one of the stacks. I knew right away what was happening. The flames on the grain stack soon spread and covered it and then spread to the second stack. Nearby men tried to beat the fire out, but it spread too fast over the outside of the stacks.

Soon the local fire department truck was called and came and sprayed water over the stacks. Then the men had to tear down the stacks and spray the grain bundles with more water to stop the fire.

That grain stack threshing demonstration was then stopped for the rest of this first day. But the next day, the grain bundles having dried out, the stack remains were threshed out. But the steam engine was not set again straight with the wind and the grain thresher. This lesson, old threshers knew, even if they had screened spark collectors on their engine.

However, this grain stack threshing fire drew a crowd and some folks got some good and unusual camera pictures of it. I would guess that about a couple thousand people were there to see it.

It was a good thing that there was a good firemen crew and truck nearby.

Recently three new metal buildings have been built to house the antique autos and trucks, other antiques and farm machinery exhibits.

Last year Vouk and sons bought and moved to their grounds a 100-year old pioneer log cabin. An old country schoolhouse has also been added recently.

Some day there will be a hall of fame for our pioneer grain threshermen therein, at the University of Minnesota agricultural school. We have a hall of fame there now for famous farmers.

The Centennial Corliss Engines were beam-engines of the Corliss type, with all the latest improvements, and nominally of 700 horsepower each, or 1400 horsepower together. The cylinders were 40' in diameter, with 10 stroke. They were provided with air-pumps and condensers, consequently they would be worked either condensing or non-condensing, and were intended to work with 25 to 80 lbs. of steam pressure, according to the requirements of the exhibition. The gear flywheel was 30' in diameter, 2' face, and weighed 56 tons; it was undoubtedly the largest gear-wheel ever made. The pinion that was driven by this large flywheel was a solid casting 10' in diameter, weighing 17,000 lbs., and was the largest ever made. The main frame was A shaped, having the journals for the beam-centres on the top, and the legs bolted to the bottom of the cylinder on one side, and to the main crank-shaft journals on the other.

The walking-beams were of the web-beam pattern, and made of cast iron, and, in consequence of their peculiar shape, detracted very much from the general appearance of the engine. They were 9' wide at the centre, and 27' long, each weighing 22,000 lbs. The cross-head guides extended from the upper cylinder-heads to the top gallery, and were provided with screws by which they, as piston-rods, which were made of steel, were 6' in diameter. The cranks were highly finished, and weighed 10,000 lbs. each. The connecting rods were 24' long. The



Enclosed is a picture of the Centennial Corliss steam engine. Some time ago in the Iron-Men Album, appeared a picture of the engine, but not many details. I've been going through some old Engineer's Handbooks of my uncle. He was a Marine Chief Engineer before the turn of the century. Andrew MacGilluary, my uncle, was killed in Duluth, Minnesota in 1902 by a cylinder head that let go on another ship that he was asked to go aboard to find the trouble.

If this information was in the Iron-Men Album, it might solve a lot of arguments and enlighten people today to the wonderful brains in operation in 1876.

(We thank W. Currie, Findly Drive, R. R. 1, Collingwood, Ontario, Canada for sending us this information.) steam valves received their motion from a wrist plate and a system of levers similar to those employed in the ordinary Corliss engine, and the releasing gear for them was entirely original, and very ingenious, though the exhaust valves ended their vibrations by an abrupt kick or jerk.

The height of the engines, from the floor to the top of the walking beams, was 39', and their weight, with all their adjuncts and attachments was over 700 tons. The engines were supplied with steam by 20 upright Corliss boilers, of 70 horsepower each. The main steam pipe was 18' in diameter and 320' long. The engines rested on a platform 55' in diameter, and 3' above the floor of the building. The top of the frame was surrounded by a circular gallery, which afforded access to the beams and all the upper works; this gallery was reached by a semi-circular stairway on each side. These engines were objects of general interest and curiosity, and served to illustrate the wonderful development of the steam engine in this country, and the amount of inventive genius that must have been devoted to its improvement.

After the close of the Centennial they were taken down and removed to the builder's establishment, Providence, Rhode Island, where they remained until recently, when they were sold to the Pullman Palace Car Company for the purpose of furnishing the motive power for their works, near Chicago, and also the power of the Allen Paper Car Wheel Works adjoining.