RUINS OF A VERY OLD ENGINE


| March/April 1955



Hub of the flywheel

The Hub of the flywheel and eccentric. Note the fastener between the flywheel sections.

Robert L. Johnson

164 S. Crest Rd., Chattanooga 4, Tennessee

I'm enclosing a few pictures for your files of an engine, that I took last summer. The oldest stationary engine I have yet come across, a 1793 English slide-valve mill engine, which I ran across in Florida, near Port Orange, last year.

The old stationary has a rather interesting history. The Spanish built a mission in the early 1600's, in fact, they built a great number of missions over Florida, before the Seminole Indians pushed them out, burned their towns, and raided their trading posts. Then when the English came over in 1770, they took over many of these old missions, removed roofs, and built elaborate furnaces under them, and converted them into sugar and indigo mills. The engine in the picture was manufactured in 1793, and ran a pump in Leeds, England until 1799 when it was dissembled and shipped to the new colonies in America, where it was installed on a foundation of bricks from the roof of the old mission where it remains today.

The engine itself is 10' bore x 40' stroke, made of pure cast iron. The flywheel is made in 6 sections and weighs 3 tons you can see in one of the photos I am enclosing, the link between two sections of it. The sugar cane rollers are 42' long and 13' in diameter and 24' long. It had no feed pump and held 1200 gallons of water. After steam had been raised to full 25 lbs. working pressure, the flywheel was turned about fifty times to properly heat all moving parts and free the joints and bearings, and only then could the engine work up sufficient power to turn the mill. The boiler was fired by dried bamboo and husks. The wood timbering under the engine and rollers is the original timber put there in 1804 when the engine was set up for operation. In 1843 the accident occurred which reduced the mill to its present state while cleaning the boiling pans in the mill building, with alcohol, fumes from the furnaces set the alcohol vapors off and the explosion removed parts of the walls, knocked the boiler over, and stripped down the engine. The cylinder head, bolts and nuts, piston, piston rod, slide valve, slide valve cover plate, and a bearing are missing, and although I searched around the area, they probably have been buried over the 111 years since the explosion, somewhere very nearby.