Farm Collector

STEAM ELECTRIC PLANT IN INDIANA

R. R. 1, New Paris, Indiana 46553.

Most IRON MAN ALBUM stories concern steam operations that used
to be, or ‘once a year’ steam shows. I would like to tell
you about an ‘is now’, five day a week, working for a
living, 200 KVA steam electric generating plant here in New Paris,
Indiana.

Our product line includes boat oars and canoe paddles, and it is
our wood working that we will talk about here. Our oar production
got underway in 1932. We purchased a used steam plant at about the
same time. We pioneered in mass production of oars with 100% of
shaping done with power equipment, eliminating the hand draw-knife,
and achieving a much more uniform product.

I share this background because you need to see that our steam
plant does double duty as a power source and a very clean burning
incinerator. We have the usual slabs and sawdust of any sawmill,
plus band saw scrap, shaper shavings, and finally sanding dust. We
operate our own dry kiln in addition to the generator and also heat
about one half of our buildings with exhaust steam. With this
set-up we are still unable to use all our fuel.

I’ll start describing the steam plant by introducing Old
Red, Raymond Tarman, our engineer. You would never call him Red to
see him now because his hair has since turned gray, but some of us
with good memories recall when it was red. Well, Red checks in at
6:00 A. M. every morning, but firing-up starts long before that by
the night man.

By 6:55, the oilers are checked, the engine is moved off dead
center if it had stopped that way, and everything is hot and ready
to go. The five minute whistle is one long blast, then Red starts
his show.

He cracks the throttle to start the engine rolling, switches on
the ‘buzz-box’ excitor, (the original D. C. excitor wore
out years ago), and gives the engine more steam. We pick up full
speed at 215 rpm. Now he cuts her over; a three-blade, open,
hand-operated switch. We are making juice!

Red ‘switching over’. Pictures credited to Paul
Allebach, New Paris, Indiana 46553.

Got to get those sawdust feed pipes into boiler quick, now close
those cylinder drains, change over steam heat valve to work from
exhaust. Just made it in time to blow a long and short on the
whistle. It’s time to go to work.

This engine is a Buckeye, made in Salem, Ohio. It has an 18 inch
bore and 24 inch strokes. There are six patents listed on the
cylinder, the earliest is 1891, the latest: 1899.

The valve is a compound piston type operated from two eccentrics
on the crankshaft. The outside one works from a fixed eccentric.
The inside one, the eccentric is rotated on the shaft by two large
spring loaded governor weights. This one controls the cut-off time
according to load. It is just a shade fast. Our electric clock
gains about five minutes in a working day.

We have two side by side boilers with a large six-foot deep
water pit under both. This provides a good water reserve if our
electric pump on the well should fail to operate. Water in the pit
is kept near boiling temperature by a small steam line running down
to it. A duplex steam pump is our first line boiler feed pump with
a single cylinder steam pump for a back-up system. There is a
drinking fountain in back between the boilers. This makes a hot
place to get a wonderfully cool drink.

We are indebted to many highly skilled and dedicated people who
have kept us going over the years: machinists, electrical
engineers, boiler men and others. These stories would require more
room to tell than we have, so I’ll mention only the most recent
event, March 1971.

Years upon years of running wore a bad flat on the crank pin,
and we had to do something. After much fruitless telephoning, I
said, ‘I know a steam man who can help us, Glen Hamilton of
Indianapolis’. He agreed to come and have a ‘looksee’
at our problem.

That crankshaft with flywheel and generator wheel, plus governor
weights, etc. weighed an estimated ten tons. We really didn’t
want to pull it out, and you don’t find a lathe on every ditch
bank that would handle it anyway, although, I guess there is one in
Indiana.

Glen is a steam man’s steam man. He said it could be trued
up in the engine, but no one makes a machine that would do it. The
obvious answer, make our own, which we did in his machine shop. He
made an extension guide from the threaded center of the crank pin.
We trued this with the shaft, then made a rotating adjustable guide
jig for a Dun-more electric grinder.

Well, that pin was 51/4 in. diameter by 6
in. face, or about 90 sq. in. surface to machine. Kind of like
attacking an elephant with a fly swatter, but forty hours later, we
had a pin with a very nice surface and no flat! Also had saddle
sores from the stool we used!

Glen refitted the bearing blocks to the connecting rod after
truing inside surfaces on his milling machine. Boy, that connecting
rod makes a pickup ride like a Caddy. Our local machinist poured
the most beautiful babbit bearings you could ever hope for, and we
put it back together.

The first week was marked by frequent checks: just a little
scraping on the bearing and a couple shim changes. The bearing ran
from March to November, then we took out a .003 shim. That’s it
until now. Runs every work day!

I’m indebted to the ‘Album’ for the article, Steam
Machine Shop in Indiana, otherwise I wouldn’t have known Glen.
Together we got her going again.

When Red blows one long blast for 4:00 o’clock quitting
time, I often shut off the sawmill and go over to the power house
to watch the Buckeye stop. Stopping requires about three minutes,
and the last half minute everything moves quite slowly, so you can
easily watch the motion of all the moving parts.

The performance of the compound valve linkage at slow speed is
poetry in motion, and beauty to those who care about this sort of
thing. I am truly amazed at the ingenuity of the men who designed
this equipment three quarters of a century ago, and that it should
still be running today.

  • Published on Sep 1, 1972
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