I must come to the defense of the Woolf compound steam engine after reading the article 'Trivia' on page 16 of the May-June 1962 issue of IRON-MEN ALBUM.
Just last August at the Threshers Reunion near Hastings, Mich., I saw a late 26 hp Advance compound engine No. 14,598 working. It had 9' by 12' diameter cylinders with a 10' stroke, and is owned about 25 miles north of Battle Creek. The owner, also the former owner told me it was a poor excuse for power, and on the sawmill a 1965 hp Port Huron was much the best engine. The owner took the double ported valve out of the high pressure steam chest and was operating it as a l2'/10' simple engine with 150 lbs. W.P.
Merle Newkirk retired head of the power department of the big Dow Chemical Co. plant at Midland, Mich. says 'The Woolf compound valve and cylinders were the best designed and economical of any steam traction engine built. Also Henry Ford said the Port Huron was the best steam traction engine as he owned a number of them.
The Woolf balanced valve for both cylinders was cast in one piece and if it was set right for one cylinder, it was exactly right for the other.
That writer does not seem to know that the Port Huron Co. built only Woolf compounds the last eight years they were building engines. Previous to that they built a very good piston valve simple engine. They had four Prony brakes in the test house and tested all makes of engines and knew all of the wasteful ones.
If the Woolf compounds were no good, why did the J. I. Case Co. enter their 2580 Woolf compound engine No..30,666 in the Winnipeg Motor contest the last year it was held in 1913? Just because it showed greater economy than their simple engine of the same size used in previous years.
My Advance catalogue says a new Advance simple engine will use 34.5 lbs. of water per hp. hr. Compare this with my 40 year old 24-75 hp 'Longfellow' that averaged only 22.85 lbs. of water per hp. hr. on the 3 economy runs it has made with an average load of 58.97 hp.
There is no doubt that the Woolf Valve Gear Co. of Minneapolis, Minn., proved to the early manufacturers that there was economy in their compound engines. After paying $25.00 royalty, and an added $75.00 cost of building each engine, most manufacturers discontinued building them. I doubt if there was much economy in the early compounds with their low steam pressures of 120 to 130 lbs., and when running with a light load, they may have been wasteful.
The Port Huron Woolf compound was better than the J. I. Case Woolf compound because they carried higher working pressure and had a better valve gear.
I have had 60 years experience with steam and 46 years with steam traction engines, and have owned 7 simple engines and seven Woolf Compounds and worked on many other engines, and know the best ones.
In 1921, I had my 19-65 hp Port Huron 'Longfellow' Woolf compound on a road grading job for a road contractor all summer long. He told me he had all makes of engines pulling that grader-scarifier and my Port Huron was the best engine he ever had pulling it.
Due to a log rolling on my left ankle and injuring it last June, we were unable to conduct an economy run of steam engines at the National Threshers Reunion, but are planning to make it a big feature of the Reunion next year.