Second Wind for 1912 Frick Eclipse

Volunteers coax a century-plus Frick Eclipse steam engine back to life.

| October 2015

  • Howard Horne
    Howard Horne inside the firebox. The opening on the firebox door measures all of 13 inches.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Belfield Pressure Gauge
    The Eclipse’s H. Belfield pressure gauge.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Engine Piston
    A bird’s eye view of the engine’s piston and valve rods and crankshaft.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  •  Firetube
    The leaking firetube.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Frick Eclipse 2004
    The Frick Eclipse in 2004.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Frick Eclipse Beginning
    The project at the outset in 2014. Burton Marsh is at left; Charlie Wilson is at right front.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Frick Moving
    The Frick on the move.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Frick Steam Dome
    The Frick’s steam dome and instrumentation.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Fusible Plug
    The original fusible plug on the Eclipse.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Left Wheel Hub
    The left wheel hub after repairs were made.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • McCullough Lubricator
    The engine’s McCullough lubricator.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Rear Engine
    The engine seen from the rear. Current owner Tom Drake is shown at right.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Reverser Eccentric
    The engine’s reverser eccentric.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Safety Valve
    The engine’s safety valve was manufactured by American Steam Gauge & Valve Mfg. Co.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Smokebox
    The engine’s original Frick smokebox door before it was broken off.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Steam Injector
    The Frick’s steam injector.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Steering Wheel
    All four spokes on the engine’s original steering wheel were broken, so a new wheel was cast.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Throttle Valve
    Burton Marsh (left) and Bill Friday at work on the Eclipse’s throttle valve.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Tom Drake
    Tom Drake (foreground) watches as his grandson takes a turn at the wheel.
    Photo by Bill Friday
  • Ultrasound Test
    Joe Graziana performed an ultrasound test to measure wall thickness.
    Photo by Bill Friday

  • Howard Horne
  • Belfield Pressure Gauge
  • Engine Piston
  •  Firetube
  • Frick Eclipse 2004
  • Frick Eclipse Beginning
  • Frick Moving
  • Frick Steam Dome
  • Fusible Plug
  • Left Wheel Hub
  • McCullough Lubricator
  • Rear Engine
  • Reverser Eccentric
  • Safety Valve
  • Smokebox
  • Steam Injector
  • Steering Wheel
  • Throttle Valve
  • Tom Drake
  • Ultrasound Test

More than a century after it was built, and decades since it had last run, a 1912 Frick Eclipse recently got a second wind, coaxed back to life by a crew of volunteers. The history of the 7-inch x 10-inch double-cylinder engine (serial no. 16043) is unknown. The Eclipse predates the time when the Frick Co., Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, began to maintain records; no records exist for it at the Frick Engine Club repository in Julian, North Carolina.

After Bill Drake bought the Eclipse, in about 1970, he took it to his farm near Huntsville, Alabama. He made some initial efforts to restore it, but soon gave up. The Eclipse needed an enormous amount of work. The crankshaft, valvetrain, clutch, reverser, cross shaft and axle were rusted solid. The engine’s background is unknown. If Bill – since deceased – told anyone where he got the engine, we’ve yet to hear of it.

Bill’s brother, Tom Drake, is the current owner of the Eclipse. In October 2014, he gave the green light for restoration. Tom has faithfully supported the effort with his presence, encouragement and footing bills for replacement parts. Burton Marsh, Greenbriar, Alabama, directed the project, and I became an assistant. Maurice Thompson, Somerville, Alabama, joined the crew as a regular co-worker. Ray Ferguson, Harvest, Alabama, and Walter Clement, Old Salem, Tennessee, worked as our machinists, and Walter has been our main steam technical advisor. Others (including Mike Rodgers and Brad Jennings, both of Huntsville, Alabama) have contributed to this dirty and often difficult job. Most of us have declared it a highlight of our lives, outshining many other projects involving antique equipment.

First step: Start the chainsaws

The initial goal was to free the engine and run it using a smaller, separate boiler. Chainsaws were used to remove maple trees from under the front axle (the wood was later burned in the boiler). All of the peripherals were removed: the original Frick/H. Belfield Bourdon tube pressure gauge, 2-inch Pickering governor, 1-1/2-inch American Steam  Gauge & Valve Mfg. Co. pressure relief valve, McCullough steam lubricator, water level sight glass and Penberthy steam injector. Connecting rods and valve linkages were disconnected and removed, as were the cylinder heads.



With lots of penetrating oil and a 10-pound hammer applied to the crossheads, the pistons were finally dislodged. Rings on the right side were worn thin and broken. Those on the left were hardly worn at all, but a complete new set was purchased from David Reed at Otto Gas Engines in Elkton, Maryland – except that in each of the four 5/8-inch ring grooves now rest a pair of 3/8-inch and 1/4-inch rings, since the wider ones were much less available and these serve very well. In the past, wood sliders were crafted and placed under the cross heads, possibly from the factory. A new set was cut from maple blocks.

The crankshaft and flywheel finally yielded to a long pry pole chained to the spokes and, with lots of penetrating oil, eventually spun freely. The valve eccentric also came free, and its linkages were exercised (both valves use the one eccentric). The steam chests were opened and the D-valves examined. The valves were worn, but completely intact and serviceable, though leaky, as we later learned.



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