1895 Rider-Ericsson Hot-Air Pumping Engine

Collector stumbles upon rare century-old Sterling cycle engine designed to pump water

| August 1999

In its day, the Stirling cycle engine must have seemed the wave of the future.

Dating to 1816, the Stirling design offered a safe, steady source of power. But by the turn of the century, the hot-air engine’s days were numbered.

“I’m guessing there were 30,000 to 40,000 built originally,” says collector Steve Gray, who lives in California. “Actually, for a short time, say 1880 to 1900, they were fairly popular. By 1900, though, gas engines were becoming more popular because they had a lot more horsepower.”

Steve’s engine collection includes a rare Stirling cycle, Rider-Ericsson hot-air pumping engine dating from about 1895. Designed strictly to pump water, the engine was built to be placed next to a well or a cistern with the pump suction pipe hanging down into the water. During operation, the water the engine is pumping is also used to cool the engine: Before water is discharged from the engine, it passes through a water jacket at the upper end of the cylinder.

“The Rider-Ericsson had very little usable horsepower,” Steve says. “As I understand it, they were originally designed to compete against the steam engine, but it took an immense engine to produce usable horsepower.”

His Rider-Ericsson (made in New York; serial number 12704) has a 6-inch bore, 3-inch stroke, and generates approximately one-eighth to one-quarter horsepower at 100 rpm. The engine weighs about 625 pounds.

Steve was visiting a collector friend of his father’s, trading engines, when he saw a curve spoke flywheel in a corner of the garage. He didn’t know much about Stirling cycle engines at the time, but he knew enough – even as a novice collector – to know he was looking at something special.

“This was in 1993 or ’94, but I knew enough by then to know that a curve spoke flywheel was an early engine, pre-1900,” he says. “He told me what it was, and I was familiar with the name, but I’d never seen a full-size, original engine: I’d only seen models.”


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $29.95.

Facebook Pinterest YouTube


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265