The Big Wheelock Engine

| May/June 1983

  • The big Wheelock engine
    Courtesy of the Lake Region Pioneer Threshermen's Association Dalton, Minnesota 56324
    Lake Region Pioneer Threshermen's Association
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  • The big Wheelock engine
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The big Wheelock engine is sitting in place on the Dalton, Minnesota threshing grounds awaiting the finishing touches to what has been a very big project. What else could you call a project that involved 6 semis hauling over 200,000 pounds of stationary steam engine 500 miles to its new home, but bigvery big.

The Wheelock was used in a zinc factory in La Salle, Illinois. It drove a series of rollers directly off the crankshaft. Unused for many years, the engine was donated to the Lake Region Pioneer Threshermen's Association by the plant's present owners, the Carus family of Perum, Illinois.

The engine was set in a pit a couple of feet below the level of the main floor. This allowed the outboard bearing to be set on the main floor level. The pit for the flywheel was about 14 feet deep and it always had a couple of feet of water in it. One of the problems that faced us on our several trips down to Illinois to work on the engine was the rainstorms that always seemed to show up about the same time we did. The rain was usually quite heavy and the roof did leak in places; mainly it seemed to be where we were trying to work.

The Wheelock is bolted together in three sections: the main frame, the crosshead frame, and the cylinder. The flywheel is bolted together in 12 sections. Each section consisting of a spoke and a portion of the flywheel rim. The spokes fit between two large disks on the crankshaft and are fastened to the disk by three large bolts. At the rim each spoke is fastened to the next by two bolts and eight dog bone-shaped keepers. There are 2 dog bones in each hole or four in all on each side of the connection.

The keepers had to be removed first. After steam cleaning the joint, the keepers were heated to stretch and loosen them for removal. Most of the outside keepers came easily but the inside ones were tough. We had to make special tongs and pries to get them loosened up and pulled out. Incidentally each keeper and each bolt had been marked at the factory with a mark that corresponded to one on the flywheel so they would be put in the right place when the engine was assembled. This must have been necessary because of the exactness of some of the fits. Ninety-six dog bones later we were ready to go on to the next step.

Next we had to tackle the bolts that held the spoke to the central disk and the bolts that held the spokes together at the rim. To loosen the nuts holding the spoke to the disk, we were able to use an overhead hoist that ran on tracks above the engine. We just fastened the hook on to the end of the wrench and pulled away. Fortunately we were able to find a wrench that fit most of the nuts on the engine somewhere or another around the factory if we kept looking long enough. Then the bolts were forced part way out of the disk by a hydraulic jack pushing against the wall of the flywheel pit. They couldn't be pushed too far out or they would hit when we had to rotate the wheel, but they were much easier to start moving when the spoke was pointing down and we had something solid to push against.


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