178 Emerson Place Brooklyn, New York 11205
There are two items in recent issues I would like to call your
attention to–in the May-June 68 IMA, you show a picture on page 12
of Mr. Weisel proudly posing with his Corliss engine. The model is
of course of an European style stationary beam engine.
And in the July-August 68 IMA issue, Joe Hamilton in talking
about the Troy, Ohio engine calls it a 715 KW machine. I would
guess this to be a typographical error for 71.5 KW. as this appears
to be about the size of the engine. For a 715 KW generator
you’d need an engine of about 950-1000 hp and that would be a
In connection with this same article, I must make a comment on
the chair shown in the picture on Page 9 which is captioned to the
effect that it is chained down to keep sleepy help from tipping
over. I think that if this were my plant, I’d cut the chain and
‘Let ’em go’. Sleeping and engine rooms don’t go
together. (Besides, most old timers can prop themselves in the
darndest positions that they don’t fall over).
Speaking of engines, I have three in my plant. They are 75 KW
each, driven by horizontal ‘Ames’ piston valve engines.
They were installed in 1900 and still average about 60 hours per
week a piece. We supply light and power to a college campus here in
Brooklyn, Pratt Institute by name.
Even though 2/3 of the campus is on Edison service, the plant
load is still about 2/3 of what it was when the whole school was on
the plant. This is a good example of how electrical consumption is
increasing today. We normally run two engines, but on some days,
especially near the ends of the semesters, we often have to put on
a third one.
Our engine room was built in 1887 and the present engines
replaced the original plant 68 years ago. These are the oldest
operating generators I know of so far. Do any readers of IMA know
of any older ones? The oldest engines I’ve found so far are
still in use in New York City driving two freight and one sidewalk
elevators. These three date back to about 1870, possibly a year or
two older. They are almost totally silent in operation.
If any readers of IMA are in New York, they are more than
welcome at our Museum at Pratt. Our address is 200 Grand Ave.,
The last few New Year’s Eves, we’ve added a new touch to
the celebrations. I can bring a 2′ steam line up through a
hatch in the boiler room ceiling to the plant and we hook up a
couple of whistles. Last year we had five steam whistles (Included
a 4′ steamship chime locomotive and British Railways
‘Hooter’) and a manifold with 7 air whistles from trolleys
and electric locomotives.
It was snowing and cold and damp when we started
‘Tootline’ and the big steamship whistle threw a plume of
steam up as high as our six story building. What a sight! What a
sound! Needless to say, we taped it.
Living in New York City (and not having a car) I don’t get a
chance to see too much in the way of traction engines, although I
did get down to Pennsylvania for one day this year.
I saw some things at the meet which I’d like to mention as
they are in line with a subject you’ve been writing about
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m an old
fuddy-duddy, I’m not, and I dare say I’ve done as many wild
things as anyone else, but not when the public is around.
As one example, I can cite the threshing demonstrations which
were held several times a day. The people were allowed to get right
up to the thresher and engine although both were running full tilt
with all their open belts and wheels. Now I know that farming
people or anyone who has been around machinery knows enough not to
stick their finger into the works, but it should be borne in mind
that many people who come to the meets today are from the cities.
Being an engineer myself, I’m involved with safety to some
extent and it is obvious that in an effort to make life today
‘idiot proof’, things have become so safe the average city
dweller has no conception of danger anymore. If anyone doubts this,
just watch the way they throw lighted cigarette butts around.
Another instance I noted was in a back corner of the field where
the meet was held. An engine had been left on a hill in charge of a
lad of about ten years of age. He was running the engine up and
down the hill about fifty feet each way with several smaller kids
riding on it. At one point, he stopped and had one of the little
kids poke a bar into the ashpan through the spokes of the rear
wheel while he kept the engine from moving by cracking the throttle
to balance her on the hill. It doesn’t take too much
imagination to picture what could have happened if he had
misjudged. I realize that the engineers of tomorrow have to start
somewhere but can you imagine the field day a lawyer would have
with a case like this?
Another important point is that people are much more inclined to
institute law suits today for the most minor things.
For five years, I worked on the passenger boats running on the
Hudson River and the things people would sue about (and win!) are
Incidentally, I wonder how many clubs have covered themselves
with insurance. But enough of sermons! I’ll close with an item
than may be of interest to your readers.
There is an excursion steamer running in New York called
‘City of Keansburg’, built in 1927. Her engines consist of
two 750 Hp. triple expansion engines which were originally built in
1914 as part of the War Shipping Board building program and were
used to power west coast lumber ships.
Her boilers are oil fired, water tube and built by, of all
firms, The Advance Rumely Company at Battle Creek, Michigan. Does
anyone know of any other traction engine firm that built heavy
machinery for other industries?