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Odd Steam Engine Reversing System


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  #1  
Old 06-27-2019, 06:50:14 PM
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terrywerm terrywerm is offline
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Default Odd Steam Engine Reversing System

I just returned from a vacation in Colorado that included a visit to the old mining town of Leadville. While there we visited a local history museum that had some old mining equipment outside. One of the items there was a hoisting engine which was of a different design than anything I had seen before. There is a worm installed on the crankshaft and it engages a large gear on the drum. There is no way to release the gear from the worm, the only way to play out wire rope is to run the engine in the opposite way. If used in a mine with a vertical shaft, this is probably the best arrangement so that any skip used is lowered in a controlled fashion.

Okay, so engines with reversing gear are common, but this one is a bit different. It uses a reverse mechanism built into the valves for each cylinder. I've looked at quite a few steam engines over the years and have never seen anything like this. I am wondering if anyone here has encountered such an engine and is familiar with the mechanism used.

It appears that the engine has piston valves that are inside a rotating sleeve that controls the direction that the engine runs. These sleeves may also control steam flow completely so that one lever is all that is needed to control the hoisting drum. The eccentrics appear to be at 90° to the crank pins.

Please excuse the photos. Due to where this engine was sitting in relation to other equipment, I could not always get the best shots.

So, spit out your ideas, fellas. I find this thing to be quite interesting.

Terry
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Last edited by terrywerm; 06-28-2019 at 10:57:11 AM. Reason: Added labeled photos
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Old 06-27-2019, 06:51:50 PM
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Default Re: Odd steam engine reversing system

Here are a couple more photos of the engine.
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Old 06-27-2019, 10:04:17 PM
Ronald E. McClellan Ronald E. McClellan is offline
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Default Re: Odd steam engine reversing system

I bought this engine a long time ago. It wasn't running when I bought it. I spent many hours figuring out how it works and adjusting it to get it running. It is a two cylinder engine with the crank throws at 180 deg. It has piston valves inside of cylinder sleeves that are geared together to rotate. The slots in the sleeves are arranged to run the engine in one direction and when turned about 90 Deg. will give a different set of slots and run the engine in the reverse direction. I now have a handle on that little shaft sticking up on the top to turn the cylinders. Ron
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Old 06-28-2019, 06:35:13 PM
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Default Re: Odd steam engine reversing system

Ron, thank you so much for the photos of your engine, and especially of the piston valves and sleeves. Based on those pics I should be able to figure out the porting inside the steam chest(s).

I find it odd that your engine has the cranks set at 180° from each other, but it appears that this is entirely correct in your photos and also explains the presence of the handwheel on one end of the crankshaft.

The engine that I saw in Leadville is indeed a two cylinder engine, though it is not entirely obvious at first glance. Both cylinders are visible in photo 5 and their crankpins are 90° apart making the engine self starting no matter where it is stopped.

The two sleeves for the piston valves are connected by two rods, both of which are currently bent a bit, and visible in whole or in part in photos 1, 2, 3, and 5. The sleeves obviously had high pressure steam around them at the end or there would be no need for a packed gland where it exits the steam chest.

Photos 1 and 2 also show a rudimentary 'quadrant' for the control lever which happens to be attached directly to the sleeve on the one cylinder. The 'quadrant' is a simple piece of flat stock with two pins sticking out and used as lever stops. Sadly, this piece of flat stock got bent at some point due to some sort of rough handling, most likely prior to the engine coming to this museum. From the looks of it, I don't think that the control lever was allowed to travel a full 90° but probably somewhere in the neighborhood of only 60°.

Pictures 1 and 2 also show that the cylinder head is missing from one cylinder. Considering that the inside of the cylinder and the face of the piston were just as rusty as the rest of the machine, the head has been missing for a very long time. The inside of the cylinder did not appear to be scored or damaged, so I do not know why the head was ever removed in the first place. It is possible that it was blown off by water, as I saw no sign of any drain cocks, though they could be easily hidden by the gravel on which the hoist sits. When I peered into the end of the cylinder with the missing head, there was no port there for a drain cock either.

One last observation. Photos 4 and 6 show that the worm that drove the drum probably ran in oil or grease rather than being greased manually on an intermittent basis. There is an oil trough below the worm and I suspect it was used to hold oil or grease for constant lubrication of the worm and gear rather than as a catch basin. The drum has 1" wire rope on it, so it was designed to handle quite a bit of weight. Modern 1" wire rope is rated at 9.8 tons when used vertically, but I doubt that the wire rope of the late 1800's or early 1900's was up to that kind of load. According to one person I talked to, ten cubic feet of rock in that area weighs about 2000 pounds. So, allowing for the weight of the wire rope itself and the weight of the skip, they were probably hoisting about five tons of rock, requiring a skip of 50 cubic feet. Dimensions of 3 feet by 3 feet by 5.5 feet would give a skip that is in line with the size of the skips that were commonly seen around the mines in that area and of that time. The heat generated where the worm and gear interact would be considerable with that kind of weight, thus superb lubrication would be an absolute necessity.

Thought I would share this information based on some of the comments I saw in responses to my original query. Thanks again to all of those who responded.

Terry

Last edited by terrywerm; 06-28-2019 at 06:36:02 PM. Reason: Corrected a typographic error
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