The Return Of A Giant

Tiffany & Pickett engine

After five hours of hard work, a satisfied crew stands by the completely reassembled Tiffany & Pickett engine.

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47 Clinton Avenue, Westport, Connecticut 06880.

A number of years ago, at a Connecticut company, an account was found in some old file about a man who had once worked for the firm for 70 years before being retired at age 90. Accompanying the article was a photo of a very stern-looking individual with a long black beard. This discovery caused a few of the younger engineers to speculate that anyone would feel that way after working there so long. Older tool-and-die makers disagreed. They said the reason the man seemed so mad was because the company had let him go!

Attitudes and viewpoints tend to be divergent with generation and background. But happily, no such gap seems to exist in regard to an historic preservation project being undertaken by the Connecticut Antique Machinery Society (CAMA) in Kent, Connecticut. Youngsters and adults, engineers, businessmen and mechanics just about everyone seems to have taken a liking to a giant steam engine currently being restored to running condition. Here is the story of how this star attraction is getting its new home.

The huge single-cylinder steam engine, which has a 16 inch bore and 33 inch stroke, was originally located at the Tiffany and Pickett Company in Winsted, Connecticut. While not quite up to the longevity of the worker mentioned previously, it powered the mill for almost 50 years. Mr. Tiffany, an MIT graduate, chose the engine himself and supervised its installation in 1904. It is of the Corliss type, with the modifications of Noble T. Greene, and appears to have been built by the Pacific Iron Works located just south of Artie Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Mr. Tiffany was quite proud of the engine and had it kept in immaculate condition. It was donated to CAMA in 1984 through the generosity of the Tiffany family, and the owners and officers of the Tiffany and Pickett Company.

The Giant's New Partners The Connecticut Antique Machinery Association is a non-profit organization structured along fairly standard lines. The principal officers (president, vice president, etc.) are elected by a Board of Directors who in turn are elected by the membership at an annual meeting. Business is carried on by the Board at monthly meetings. In 1989, a number of chairmen were also appointed by the Board to head up various committees. At the present time, there are no paid officers or employees. One main source of income has been an antique machinery show called the 'Fall Festival' which has now become an annual event. Usually held on the last Sunday in September, all of the proceeds from the show are applied toward major projects (such as the steam engine), improving and maintaining the Association's grounds, and essential operating costs (power, telephone, insurance, and other services). In regard to its grounds, the Association has been very fortunate. A few years ago, it was able to obtain a lease from the state on land at a very scenic spot in Kent, Connecticut. But more than simply luck was involved. Both initial and final approval of the lease took a considerable amount of work to come up with a suitable plan for the proposed use of the property.

To date, CAMA has already completed some very fine projects such as the restoration of a windmill, and the construction of a 5-bay shed used as a storage area for large exhibits and for maintenance equipment. The Fall Festival has been growing in popularity and size. Those who attended earlier festivals could probably recall the bumpy stump-filled exhibition space and upper parking lot. Because of improvements by the Association, these are now pleasant, grassy areas. Once progress in some of these areas was achieved, CAMA was able to get the steam engine project into high gear.

Getting Up Steam Before being dismantled, the engine and installation were documented in the Tiffany and Pickett Mill with the aid of measurements, drawings, and photos. After being dismantled, the pieces were stored at various locations throughout the state with one exception-the governor-which was displayed at the Association's Fall Festival. Along with the new concrete foundation for the engine and Industrial Hall, the governor served as sort of a midway attraction to lure the unwary into joining CAMA with the promotional incentive 'Maybe next year, we'll have the engine running!' Well, a few 'next years' have come and gone. But at the 1989 Festival, things were quite different.

At an engine show, when he saw a photo of the steam-engine's flywheel, which has a 12-foot diameter, the exhibitor of a very large gas engine himself jokingly asked, 'Are you guys going to haul that thing around from show to show?' The answer is obviously, 'No!' pointing out the need for a permanent site for such large equipment and exhibits. Also, as most readers probably realize, it takes a lot more than setting up a promotional exhibit at an event with a plea such as 'Save Our Steam Engine' if restoration projects of the size being discussed here are to be successful. It would be difficult to give credit to all who have donated both funds and services which have made the steam engine and other projects possible. Consequently, the following should only be considered as an incomplete account of the contributions by many which led up to an important milestone in the steam engine project.

The Beginnings of a 4th of July Weekend On Saturday, July 1, 1989, the first step of the milestone was achieved. During a regularly scheduled work session, volunteers came with their water, soda, coffee, sandwiches and gloves! Donating his services, John McGuinness, of the D.P. McGuinness Riggers and Movers, arrived with one of their cranes at 8:00 a.m. and the crew went about reassembling the steam engine from the Tiffany and Pickett woodworking plant. On a previous work day, Dudley Diebold brought in a steam cleaner and washed and cleaned all the parts. Helping him were Dick Greene, Tony Dorbuck, Tom Trenka, Dan Reeve, Todd Wheeler, and Steve and Marty Sidwell. Jim Hine also brought in a wrecker and the crew helped him move some of the pieces into place including the outboard bearing.

During the July 1st session, the original plan was to put the lower half of the flywheel on blocking and then put the cylinder, girder frame, main bearing, and crankshaft into place in that order. The next step would be to square up the engine during the rest of the day, and bring the crane back to assemble the two flywheel halves at a later date in the summer. However, things went better than expected.

The crew started work at 8:30 a.m. by putting the first half of the flywheel into the pit. They knew which side would face the central aisle in our building since the flywheel was only striped on one side (the side closest to the original engine-room wall never had stripes). This one sided striping also helped them match up the two halves of the flywheel in the correct way since it had been cast in one piece and then split. Next, the four long bolts to hold the cylinder were put in and then dropped below the level of the large cast bed so that the cylinder could be moved in. With the slings on the cylinder, it was then an easy job to put it in position with the crane.

The girder frame was moved in next along with the main bearing. The crew had to bar the cylinder, frame, and main-bearing assembly forward a bit so that the main bearing would be positioned over its mounting rods. The crankshaft was then put in place after the journals had been checked and polished. All of this work was completed by 11 a.m. so it was decided to plumb up the engine and assemble the flywheel. This would save another visit by the crane. The crew worked on truing up the engine, and after only a brief lunch break, they were ready to assemble the flywheel by 12:30.

The lower flywheel half was gently lifted into position against the crankshaft. This half was then held in place by constructing a cribwork of wooden blocks under it. The upper half was then picked up with the crane, slung into position over the crankshaft, and the two halves were then bolted together. Flywheel assembly was completed by 1:30 p.m. and the crew was finished with the crane. The cribbing was then taken out of the flywheel pit and it was then possible to turn the flywheel by hand. This accomplished, the session ended.

Along with John McGuinness, the work crew for the day included Frank Current, John Stauffer, Tony Dorbuck, Brad Ingram, Frank Oliva, Dan Reeve, Steve and Marty Sidwell, Bob Hungerford, and Fred, Eric, Raif and Bridget Phelan. Last but not least, 'Dutchess,' CAMA's ever vigilant mascot, served yeoman (or rather yeoperson) duty as watchdog for this stalwart crew as she has on other occasions!

Assembling the Engine-July 16 The day started early for Bob Hungerford, but with a truck heavily loaded with sand, concrete bags, tools, and forms for the grout coat, along with the cylindrical valve, eccentric strap and connecting rod for the engine, the trip to Kent took longer than expected. Fred Phelan and Dudley Diebold were already there when he arrived. The work session started by taking the wood splitter out of the 5-bay shed, and loading it onto a truck so it could be used for the Old Roxbury Days Festival coming up the next weekend. Paul, Pat, and Mike Leonard arrived and the crew unloaded the small electric-powered cement mixer from Dudley's truck. They then unloaded the forms, sand, and some engine pieces from Bob's pickup. When Dan Reeve arrived, they had enough help to unload the connecting rod.

In preparation for the assembly of the engine, Fred Phelan cleaned the wrist pin and Frank Current cleaned the inside of the cylinder. The piston was then pulled back, and after putting in the crosshead wedges, the connecting rod was attached to the crosshead with the wrist pin. The flywheel was then rotated and the other end of the connecting rod was attached to the crank pin. With everything cleaned and oiled, the flywheel could be rotated and the engine turned over quite freely (after checking that everything was square and level).

Next, the grout forms were put around the outboard bearing and the grout was poured in; a 3-to-l sand to potted cement mixture. The first batch was quite stiff. As successive batches were made, they were thinned out until the mixture was like heavy cream so that it would flow under the bed plates. By then, it was lunch time, and the crew was joined by Frank Oliva, Steve Sidwell, Bob Current, and Tony Dorbuck.

After lunch, work continued by setting the forms for the engine bed, but it started to rain so the crew mounted the governor on the engine, hoping the rain would stop. It didn't. But work went ahead anyway on setting the forms. As soon as enough forms were on to start pouring the grout (grout was 2' to 3' thick; a total of 28 cubic feet was needed on the engine), one group started pouring, others continued fitting forms, with a third group mixing cement. The crew managed to fill the whole engine bed up to the exhaust pit. It was then discovered that more forms were needed and that a 3' x 5' section under the front of the cylinder would have to wait until the next session. After the engine was covered, some measurements were taken for items needed at the next session, the tools were cleaned up, and the crew headed for home.

Work Continues-July 29

With the engine mostly assembled, things were a little more relaxed at this session. The day started out with Dick Greene and Bob Hungerford at the site. Dudley Diebold came by, returning the wood splitter used at the Old Roxbury Days Festival. The morning crew was rounded out with Dan Reeve, Frank Current, and Paul and Mike Leonard.

Work started by building the forms under the front part of the cylinder. Dick Greene and Paul Leonard poured in the grout while the rest of the crew checked and cleaned all of the valve-gear parts before fitting them to the engine. Although the day was sunny, there was a breeze that made it feel more like a Fall day rather than late July.

All the engine pieces were fitted in, and by lunchtime the concrete work was also finished. The crew then unloaded the woodsplitter. Foster Whitney arrived with his lawn tractor and spent part of the day with us mowing the grass around the grounds. Bob Andrews stopped by, followed by Tony Dorbuck. Tony and Bob helped with the cleanup of the foundation and the storage of parts and extra cement bags. By the end of the day, the crew felt confident that CAMA would be able to continue progress and have the engine finished by the Fall Festival.

Rain Continues-August 13 At the Lebanon State Fair on Saturday, August 12, a new record in a horse-draw contest was set for Eastern Connecticut. One favorable condition, perhaps, was that the drawing arena consisted mostly of mud. Rains, and predictions of more and heavier rains, caused several CAMA members to call back and forth to see if anyone was going to be in Kent on Sunday. But the weather turned out rather well with only a brief shower after lunch. The crew continued to work on the engine and for this session it consisted of Tom Trenka, Dan Reeve, Frank Oliva, Bob Hungerford, Dick Greene, Tony Dorbuck, Paul Leonard, and Bob Andrews.

The crew finished stripping the grout forms and tightened down all of the bolts holding the engine to the foundation. Rocks were then placed over the tunnel openings at the bottom of the foundation and dirt was shoveled over them in preparation to backfilling. The exhaust pipe (with an additional 24-inch section of pipe, donated by Bob Pitcher) was put on and the engine condensate drain system was laid out so parts could be ordered at the next session. The exhaust valves were cleaned up and lubricated but the intake valves and their mechanisms were removed. Tom Trenka planned to clean and rebuild them before the next session. At that time they would be put back into place and new packing would be added all the way around. The size of the governor belt was measured, and at the next session, it was felt that a test steam-up of the engine was possible with CAMA's 10-horsepower vertical boiler.

Saturday, August 26-The Giant Awakes! On the morning of the 26th, it might be quicker to list who wasn't at the work session. All of the officers of CAMA were there, along with directors, members, and various chairmen. The intake valves were assembled again on the engine and the dashpots were attached. Previously, in one of the dashpots, the piston had been stuck in the cylinder and had defied hydraulic presses and other means to free it. The job was then assigned to Frank Current who came up with an innovative solution. Fortunately, the piston was not at the bottom of the cylinder when it froze. Also, there was a wide rim on both the top of the piston and the top of the cylinder. This allowed Frank to insert nuts and short bolts between these rims. He then could free the dashpot by unscrewing the nuts and bolts thus forcing the piston upward in the cylinder.

In preparation for the upcoming festival, both Bob Hungerford and Tony Dorbuck had been busy with news releases and other means of publicity. Bob had contacted The New York Times, and reporter Carolyn Battista and photographer Steve Miller were there at the work session when the engine was fired up for the first time in 30 years with Steam Chairman Dan Reeve at the control levers. As it turned out, the steam engine proved too much for the vertical boiler. Instead, it was connected to the steam 'take-off' valve on a steamroller. After some initial prompting by hand, the giant flywheel began to turn itself to the delight of everyone present! The occasion was duly recorded in one of America's most prestigious newspapers. Carolyn's article and Steve's photos appeared as a half-page spread in the Connecticut Section (p. 33) of the Sunday edition of The New York Times on September 17, 1989a week before CAMA's Fall Festival.

Show Time-Sunday, September 24th

On previous weekends before the 24th, the engine was put through its shake-down trials and everything appeared to be in good shape for the show, at least as far as the engine and other exhibits were concerned. But on the weekend of the festival, although it was a sunny, hot and humid Saturday afternoon in Litchfield, Connecticut, just a few miles to the north in Kent a fast-moving cold front had dropped the temperature by almost 30 degrees. With a weather system like this to contend with, you can imagine the anxiety felt by the CAMA work crews as they prepared for the festival in the rain on the Friday and Saturday before the show on Sunday. But true to predictions, the rain ended abruptly Saturday night giving way to a brisk sunny day on Sunday.

Aside from the weather, turning a festival, a fair, or similar event into an enjoyable occasion for all who attend is a real challenge. And this challenge often gets bigger as the size of the show gets bigger; there are a lot more toes that can get stepped on. But although it was the largest to date, it would be safe to say that the 1989 Festival was also one of the most fun-filled ones, and that it will be remembered for a long time to come. While many events tend to fold up shortly before closing time, quite a few exhibitors and show-goers stayed around for almost an hour after the end and still seemed reluctant to leave. It's not too hard to discover the reason why.

A country-western hit tune called 'Convoy' a few years ago had a line that went, .. .'there were rigs of every shape and size!' which is as accurate a description as any of the festival, and especially of the afternoon parade. There were Model-T Ford cars, John Deere tractors, and a Russell steam-traction engine just to name a few. Not all vehicles were powered by steam or gas, however. Frank Oliva was there with his antique high-wheel bicycle. (On a previous weekend, Frank also rode the bike into the town of Kent with a sign on the back advertising the festival!)

Stationary engines of all makes and sizes were well-represented, including a large, nicely restored Fairbanks Morse Model 42 two-cylinder diesel. A blacksmith display, a display of old tools, a beautifully restored popcorn cart, a wood splitter, a band organ, and a safe display these and other exhibits should give you an idea of the color and variety of the show.

But along with many new exhibits, old friends were present again at the show as well, including a beautiful steam launch that has been to just about every festival since the first one. Speaking of steam, of course it is easy to guess which was one of the most popular exhibits. CAMA, exhibitors, and show-goers gave the giant steam engine perhaps one of the best homecoming parties, ever!

Harvest Time-October 21

New Englanders who enjoy out-door events such as festivals and fairs know they had better do so before the end of October the next performances won't be until Spring. The carousels, the food booths, and the generator trailers either get put into storage or are trailed south with their crews for the winter. CAMA's grounds reflected this quiet seasonal mood on Saturday, October 21. About the only tangible evidence of the Festival were a few remnants of the show's big tag sale near the border of the exhibition lot. However, the day marked a very special occasion.

Although it has taken a few 'next years' of planning and work before tangible results were achieved, at the 1989 Fall Festival there wasn't any need to plant the solitary governor next to the donation jar at the reception tent and point to an empty foundation. The governor was mounted on the engine where it belonged, and it was turning under steam for the first time in thirty years. However, the foundation was still empty but not for long! Because of the success of the 1989 Festival, and through the generosity of some CAMA members and their families, it was possible to begin construction of the Industrial Hall around the steam engine. This hall will also house other exhibits. By the end of the day, three frames of the building were completed and put into place on the foundation using the traditional 'barn-raising' method. At the next session, the crews were able to finish and install all the frames for the front and both sides of the hall.

We have since the Fall Festival framed the Industrial Hall, built the old style wooden trusses and on December 30th had a work party and set the trusses on the building frame.

A Past with a Future There's an old engine in a boatyard in Connecticut. It appears to have been used to haul boats up a railway for storage in the winter. During a recent visit to the yard, a member of CAMA noticed a windmill, in excellent shape, which was very similar to the one restored in Kent mentioned earlier. Later, he was surprised to learn that it was still used to pump water from a well to a reservoir at a home some distance away. He was less surprised to learn that the old engine was also still in use and was invited to examine it more closely. It was built by the Automatic Engine Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The engine didn't have a magneto, but used a battery and had what appeared to be an Atwater-Kent ignition system. However, in spite of the battery, the engine had no starter and had to be cranked by hand by putting a bar in its large flywheel. The grandson of the owner said he occasionally thought that the engine should be cleaned up and donated to a museum. But then he reflected, 'What would we use to haul out the boats?' In light of this statement, we might all agree that it's often difficult to decide when to put the past aside and let the future begin!

Like the account of the worker mentioned at the beginning of this article, we also enjoy hearing about an old windmill or engine still in use long after its 'colleagues' are in museums or where newer equipment might seem to make it totally obsolete. Unfortunately, we also know that old machinery most often meets a sad end at a scrap yard. Sadder still is the fact that an important segment of America's past is then lost forever to future generations. One of the best defenses against this trend is engine shows and other events, especially those with operating exhibits which inform the public about this industrial and agricultural legacy. From an educational point of view, there's perhaps an even more important factor here. It's one thing to be told in school to read about history in a book. It's an entirely different matter to experience it first hand in an enjoyable setting, with friends and family, such as at CAMA's Fall Festival or at similar events held by other organizations. Hopefully, as work progresses on CAMA facilities, it may be possible to cater to these educational needs in other ways as well.

In this regard, firms and individuals who have donated funds and services, CAMA officers and members, show-goers and exhibitors, and all who have contributed to this past with a future can feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.