1914 Advance Tandem-Compound Engine

| November/December 1997

Robson, 2 Bleasdale Avenue, Hill Top Knottingley, West Yorks, WF11 8EZ, England

Early in 1995, I went to see the 1795 New comen type atmospheric beam engine at Elsecar Heritage in South Yorkshire, thought to be the only New comen type engine in the world that is still where it was originally erected for the Lords Fitzwilliam coal mining enterprises to pump out the water flooding the family's Wentworth estates coal mines. After I had a look at this early and very simple rocking beam steam engine, a member of the staff at Else car said to me, 'Have you seen our American traction engine?' Replying that I had not, I was escorted to a large warehouse in another part of the extensive site. Here standing in the gloom of this big shed was a large traction engine but not of the type that I was used to seeing at rallies or road runs in Britain. For a start, there was a low slung step up man stand platform across the rear of the firebox. British engine practice is to have a coal bunker and under slung water tank at the rear of the engine, forming a strong attachment point for a towing bracket. Access to footplates normally is a cutaway in the thick metal side plate leading to the coal bunker with perhaps one or two steps set into this side sheet for the crew to climb up to the controls from ground level to the footplate or working platform. This American engine did not have this arrangement. Instead there was what looked like a fifty gallon oil drum standing on end at one side of the wooden floored shelf man stand; the other side had a cube like toolbox with a tractor like seat above it. The floor projected out on arms on the rear of the engine's firebox sides. Further differences were obvious as my eyes became used to the gloom no boiler cladding, just a rolled barrel with an exposed lapped riveted joint running from the rear of the smoke box to the front of the firebox. This lateral joint with its row of large domed exposed rivets was a major visual difference to what I was used to. The engine's cylinder layout was another two pistons set in tandem with the smaller high-pressure cylinder immediately in front of the larger low pressure cylinder placed behind, with both cylinders riveted to the upper left side of the boiler barrel. I would later learn that this engine was advertised as suitable for ploughing, but I find it difficult to believe that the company which built it designed this engine for heavy direct traction (towing). It looks more suited for driving a belt off its flywheel, perhaps only using its road wheels to move its own weight from one working location to another when required.

1914 Advance 21 HP tandem compound engine, built to a pure Advance design at the Battle Creek Works in Michigan, but part of the Rumely Company. Engine now on display at Elsecar Heritage Museum in England.

Smoke box door of Advance with the puzzling Advance trademark beneath the words 'M. Rumely Co.' It was this smoke box door which set Andy Robson digging up the history of this transatlantic engine.

Steam dome of the Advance engine at Elsecar Heritage Museum. The 'pop off' safety valve is stamped 150 pounds and is locked, as legally required in the U.S.A.

Flywheel with maple wood friction clutch. Engine has only one set of gears and was suitable only for moving itself with a water cart, not for heavy towing.