The Restoration of a Sawyer-Massey Steam Engine

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Boiler upside down; Bob Oliver guiding new firebox in.
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New firebox ready to go in.
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Boring front wheels in radial drill.

1919 22-68 HP Sawyer-Massey
Built in: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Restored by: G.S. Tuck and W.M. Reid, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

With the help of Dave Hooten and John Calder, I found this engine near Hamilton, Ontario. It was sitting outside on a grassy knoll with the wheels sunk into the sand six to eight inches deep.

I had my D Meter handy, so I spent a half hour checking boiler thickness. The lightest spot I could find was 0.342 inches. I knew then this boiler had the potential to operate at 175 P.S.I. However, there were some serious inside firebox problems, some wasting at bottom of sheets, some unauthorized welding.

With this knowledge at hand, I made a deal. A few days later, we took our float, winched the engine out of the sand, loaded it and took it home to St. Thomas.

It was reasonably intact, with the exception of most all clutch parts. The rear platform and tanks were all missing, and the wheel cletes were worn down to the rivets.

Originally, this engine was owned by the Ontario Department of Highways (and still has the bronze plate on the smoke box). This probably accounts for the worn wheel cletes.

We also found the firebox door missing, all the rings broken in the Gould valve, and the valve cover needed machining and scraping. The valve and valve seat both needed scraping (about four days work). The valve rod was replaced with a stainless steel one.

The piston rod was sent out, chromed and ground. A new wood block was made from hard maple for the wood valve gear, a new curved gib was cast and machined for the valve gear.

Crosshead ways were scraped by hand (two days). New piston rings were installed. The crosshead and shoes had to be turned true in the lathe.

The complete engine was rebabbitted, including rear cannon bearings, main shaft, intermediate shaft and differential shaft.

It was fortunate for us that Ralph Henderson loaned us a large ball of babbitt putty. We babbitted bearings for about a week, and I don’t think we had one leak, and we reclaimed the whole ball for future use.

The differential was all seized up and had to be freed up and have new shafts made for the bevel pinion gears.

Rear wheel drive pinion had to be machined and a new bronze bushing pressed in.

Front wheels were bored and babbitted for the tapered axles. Both front wheels were respoked.

Patterns had to be made for rear wheel cletes. We made four RH and four LH patterns so we could cast eight cletes at a time. Ninty-six cletes were cast, drilled, fitted and hot riveted onto the wheels.

The rear platform and hitch etc., all had to be fabricated.

Below is a list of castings that had to be made:

1. Caps for all oil galleys.
2. Complete fire door.
3. Feed water heater end castings.
4. Clutch lever and quadrant.
5. Clutch shifter ring.
6. Clutch shifter collar.
7. Clutch shifter arm.
8. Four cast water tank brackets.
9. Ninety-six rear wheel cletes.
10. All new boiler hand holds.
11. New hand hold covers.
12. Dome cover.

Many thanks to Wells Foundry for these castings and their expertise.

We were fortunate to have John MacKay’s 25-76 Sawyer-Massey in the yard undergoing restoration at the same time. This was extremely helpful, as almost all the parts are the same and could be used for making patterns.

I was thankful we have our own machine and fabrication shops. Without it I think we would have been years longer.

It was found that the complete gear train must have been replaced, and never use dall the gearing was like brand new.

The original 2 Waters governors had to be completely rebuilt. It took many weeks of soaking in penetrating solution to free up governor parts.

All engine valve train, bushings etc. were found to be in excellent condition and took only minor scraping, to make almost perfect.

A new Sawyer-Massey stack top was constructed using two disc plates.

New steering chains were installed.

Then came the boiler!

First step, we cut out the fifty-four two-inch boiler tubes and removed six bushels of lime.

We had decided to replace the complete firebox because of the fireside deterioration and unauthorized welding. The rest of the boiler was in excellent condition.

Next, patterns were made of the firebox, locating each and every one of the 309 stay bolts. They were not always in straight lines. Approximately three days were spent completing patterns, but this really paid off later.

The old stay bolts were center punched and drilled out from the outside. This was mainly accomplished with a magnetic base drill wherever possible.

The firebox was then torched out in sections. The 2 by 2 mud ring was cut out staying approximately W away from the outside wrapper sheet. In order to preserve the bottom row of rivets for looks, we pried off the balance of the mud ring, ground the rivets flush and welded them on the inside.

By this time, everything had been stripped off the boiler and it was put on specially built rollers, so with the help of our jib crane we could turn the boiler in a 360 degree circle. This proved to be very beneficial when welding stays, etc.

Once we got inside the barrel and firebox, it was found the inside had no deterioration except for a few random pits in the bottom of the barrel. These were soon repaired and ground smooth by boiler specialist Bob Oliver. After the boiler inspector saw the inside, he stated the condition of the inside of the boiler gave him a whole new outlook on antique boilers.

With authorization from the boiler inspector, we proceeded to construct a complete new firebox. The new 3/8‘ wrapper sheet was cut to size, all stay bolt holes drilled and beveled to 35 degrees ready for welding stays. Next the wrapper was formed in rollers to conform to patterns made from the old firebox. Rear flue sheet was cut from 5/8‘ 285c boiler plate, edges were beveled ready for welding. The fifty-four tube holes were drilled and reamed in our radial arm drill press. Rear wall sheet was cut from 3/8‘ boiler plate. All stay bolt holes were laid out from the patterns, drilled and beveled. Stay bolt sizes were increased to 1’ diameter. After the parts were all made up, we pushed the boiler over our grease pit and dropped cables from our jib crane through the top crown stay holes. The new firebox was then pulled up inside and checked for fit and stay alignment. Everything fit excellently. The firebox was lowered into the pit and removed. The new W mud ring was then installed on the firebox, leaving it approximately one inch wider than required (in case of shrinkage from stress relieving).

The firebox was welded up completely by Bob Oliver of Oliver Boiler Works. Next, Bob took it to Cleaver Brooks Boiler Factory where it was placed in the oven for stress relieving. After it was returned, we had a masonite pattern already made of the outside of the firebox; this was placed on the mud ring and cut to size and beveled, ready for welding.

The boiler was turned upside down on rollers and the firebox dropped in with the jib crane. The crown sheet height was checked and all stay bolt holes were checked and found to be exactly the same as the old one. Several days were spent opening up the stay bolt holes and beveling the same in the outside wrapper, throat sheet and rear head ready for stays to be installed.

Welded boilers to me always look grotesque, with all the ends of the stays sticking out above the welds. Some are almost like a porcupine during mating season. As the ASME code only requires 1/8‘ above the weld, I decided to make a contour lathe tool and round the ends of the stay bolts. Result was a beautiful finished job.

The welding was then started in earnest. The welding took a good two to three weeks, as not every day was spent working at it. Sometimes, because of heavy snowfall on the roads, Bob couldn’t make it to our shop. Some days he came when the weather was so bad he should have stayed home.

The 309 stay bolts mean 618 stay welds plus door rings and mud ring welds. After all welding was completed, the last mud ring was stress relieved with torches and 1100 degree temp sticks.

Fifty-four new boiler tubes were cut, installed, rolled and beaded and rolled again. All steam valves were replaced with new 200 psi valves. All piping was replaced with approved schedule 80 pipe.

John and Jim Schrock of Mason, Michigan, sent the original 2 throttle away for me and had it remachined. They also found me a nice set of cylinder petcocks.

The boiler was finally filled with warm water and hydrostatically tested. A couple of pinholes in stay welds had to be gouged out and re-welded, and four or five tubes had to be re-rolled, otherwise the boiler was tight with 175 psi maximum allowable working pressure.

Because the welded firebox was a design change, the boiler inspection branch required:

1. Code Calculations (same as new boiler).
2. NDE tests of butt strap, dome and rivets.
3. Magnetic particle test on butt strap, front flue sheet and dome flange.

All these were performed one morning before noon by Ron McCann of Probe Test Testing. Everything checked out perfectly. The Code calculations confirmed the boiler was good forl78.6psi,sol75 psi (the maximum allowed for butt strap boilers) was agreed upon.

Once the boiler was done and government-approved, the long job remained to put all the parts back together and babbitt all shafts, etc. This took approximately four months steady work. Whenever I thought I would never get done, I always remembered Jack Beamish of Hamiota telling me, ‘If you get one thing done every day, you will eventually get finished.’ Thanks, Jack, it worked!

A new canopy and new round riveted side tanks had been fabricated by former owner Bill Watson. This saved a tremendous amount of time.

The many hours spent lining up engine and gear shafts, pouring and scraping bearings really paid off, as the engine ran well the first time it was steamed up. With a few minor adjustments, as bearing, etc., settled in, the engine ran almost silently. The gear train was also very smooth and quiet.

When it came time to do the painting, we had to come up with the maroon paint, so we consulted with Ben Seamen, a Sawyer-Massey connoisseur. He informed me he had been told by another gentleman, many years before, how he had mixed the paint.

Recipe was: Two quarts of dark maroon. One quart Ford Ferguson red orange. One inch black in a quart can. Stir well.

We were not sure how close this color would be to the original. Fortunately, when we were scraping paint off the engine mounts, we found what probably was the original maroon paint on the bottom coat. It was very close to the one we had mixed. So it just goes to show, when you need to know something, consult the experts. Thanks, Ben.

The wheels were painted with Fire Red tremclad.

The complete restoration took approximately one year.

The engine won the Johnson and Holt trophy at Milton Steam Era in 1995 for Best Restored Engine.

Rated at 68 HP engine, it turned out 96 HP on the dynamo at Blyth Show in 1996.

A lot of work and a lot of money went into this restoration, but it was well worth the cost and effort, once it was completed.

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