The Allis-Chalmers Corliss Steam Engine

An Albert City stationary Corliss steam engine is a relic of the early industrial era.

| October 2017

  • Bob Reinhart with the Corliss engine a few years ago.
    Photo courtesy Bob Reinhart
  • This photo shows the crankshaft, with the throw and counterweight to the right of the main bearing and the valve operating eccentrics to the left of the bearing.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The black box houses the engine’s steam chamber, valves and steam cylinder. The main steam valve (ball-shaped with red handle) is shown above the steam chamber and below the water separator.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • To start the engine, this 10,000-pound flywheel has to be turned by hand.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Steam travels through the tank on the top and into the engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • This photo shows the enormity of the Corliss’ flywheel. When it ran a tile factory in South Dakota, the mammoth flywheel produced enough energy to power everything in the plant.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Albert City Corliss uses an intricate oiling system providing automatic oiling to the valve eccentrics and the connecting rod.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Side view of the Corliss steam engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Corliss engine was patented in 1849 by engineer George H. Corliss, Providence, Rhode Island.
    Photo by Farm Collectors archives

Manufacturer: Allis-Chalmers
Year: Circa 1920
Cylinder bore: 12in
Piston stroke: 36in
Engine speed: 100-120rpm
Power developed: 100-125 hp
Flywheel: 10ft diameter; 22in wide
Flywheel weight: 10,000lb
Valves: 5in diameter rotary
Governor: Enclosed flyweight type

Bob Reinhart’s earliest memories include an Associated gas engine. But most recently, the Pocahontas, Iowa, man traveled even further back in time, with a 1920 Allis-Chalmers Corliss 125 hp steam engine at the Albert City (Iowa) Threshermen and Collectors Show.

“I grew up on a farm, and have always been interested in mechanical things,” he says. “In fact, I remember my first engine, a 1925 Associated 2-1/2 hp engine my grandfather bought new. It was used in the house I grew up in. I remember it running in the basement, hooked to the air compressor, which filled the air tank, and that air in turn ran two water pumps, one from a shallow well, and one from the cistern – so we had both hard and soft water in the house.”

In the 1970s, Bob began collecting gas engines and tractors. He even restored that Associated engine. It all set the stage for his involvement with the Albert City Corliss.

Settling in as a permanent display

Karl Lind, a longtime member of the Albert City club, was involved with the engine from 1984, when it was brought to the Albert City grounds – in parts – from a tile factory in South Dakota. “By that time, Ed and Agnes Sundholm had given us the 15 acres that established a permanent home base for us,” Karl says. “Ed apparently had a connection and found out about this engine in South Dakota.”

After it was brought over on three fifth-wheel trailers, the engine required some attention. First, extensive concrete engineering was needed to mount the engine in one place “without falling apart,” Karl says. A blueprint of the engine’s previous installation was a big help. “But it still required some experimentation to get everything designed so it would work not only for one year,” Karl says, “but 25 years later.”


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