Steam mechanical Lubricators

Tips on Repairing and Reconditioning Steam Lubricators

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I had the opportunity last winter to repair and recondition eight Madison-Kipp, Manzel and McCord steam mechanical lubricators. I had both blind and sight-feed types. During this endeavor I received a thorough education on these units, as at the time I had no troubleshooting information of any kind, and I kind of flew blind.

Prior to the 2005 Pawnee, Okla., Steam School, I contacted my friend Bruce Babcock, who had a manual for Madison-Kipp published in 1936. I borrowed it for making copies for the school students. Here, I am listing the many problems I discovered during the reconditioning process that are well covered in the manual Bruce provided.

1. Excess sediment in oil reservoir, from not being cleaned regularly.

2. Pump discharge valve missing parts, or had steel base and steel check that were rusted from the terminal check at the steam pipe ahead of throttle. I made new discharge checks of 360 brass with 316 stainless ball choice.

3. Broken part: I had two lubricators with the pump eccentric that swings through 54 degrees while moving the pump piston/plunger stroke from 0.285 to 0.310 depending on the type, blind versus sight feed. (The manual information tells you they are not interchangeable. I found this out prior to getting Bruce's help. I made new parts from 360 brass and this really tested my ability as it turned into a geometry and trigonometry chore.)

4. Tubular sight glass leakage/broken: These were replaced with new 1/2-inch Redline type, new rubber gaskets at bottom and leather at top.

5. Allowed to freeze up: Due to steam condensate leaking past both checks into the main pump cylinder. (It had to be cleaned after disassembly and brazed.)

6. Sight-feed-type had the hood deteriorated/missing: It was replaced with 0.050-inch thick, clear plastic obtained from a hobby shop.

7. Using 1/8- to 1/4-inch pipe, checked for the terminal check at the steam end. (Note: These were too big and could leak really bad if getting the smallest of contaminant in the oil. The manual addresses this as for steam usage; a special one was furnished.)

8. Filled the pump with oil, primed it by hand to remove the air, then installed a gauge directly to the discharge check valve with pipe nipple and coupling to size needed by gauge. The gauge needs to be at least 250 psi. I used a 600-psi gauge and pumped to 400-500 psi and left them pressurized overnight to verify the new discharge checks were acceptable and not leaking. This discharge check is of most importance, because if it does not hold, the pump will not prime and is rendered useless.

Contact steam enthusiast Harold Stark at: 3215 S. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46217.