3286 Cramlington Drive Gibsonia, Pennsylvania 15044
This natural gas engine was found sitting in a flower garden near the city of Butler, Pennsylvania. I have not been able to find it in C. H. Wendel's book. I have seen many similarities to the design of the engine's base, but nothing that matches the cylinder design. The engine has been shown at the Coolspring Power Museum summer show, the Rough and Tumble Show in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the Drake's Oil Well Museum in Titusville. During all three appearances, nobody could identify the engine. Could you please shed some light as to who might have built it?
Until someone can positively identify the engine, I will take the liberty and call it a prototype. There is no serial number and only one casting number on the crank's throw, C-412. Other than this one casting number, the engine is devoid of any markings. The base is similar to early steam engine bed plates, the typical 1920s Victorian curve is absent. It has a cross head shoe with a five inch stroke. The piston has only one ring land with two rings present in the same land. An expander ring is under the rings, this could have done it at a later point in time, I don't know.
The Coolspring staff commented that the studs were 12-thread, which could possibly date it some time around 1905 to 1910. When did manufacturers start using 12-thread bolts and studs? The connecting rod is hollow and looks to be made of steam pipe, the wall thickness inside is at least inch-plus. One central grease cup supplies grease to both the cross head wrist pin and the connecting rod bearing. The cross head bearing is bronze and is one-piece with a split at the top to tighten a bolt to close the bearing around the wrist pin.
The connecting rod bearing is of a two-piece design but is threaded vs. the typical smooth hole commonly found on connecting rod bearings. The valve chests are removable, although I have not taken them out. They appear to be threaded into the cylinder head. The engine utilizes hot tube ignition. The hot tube screws into a bronze ignitor plug, which screws into the back of the cylinder. This ignitor plug is located above the cylinder and is a common chamber with the atmospheric intake valve for natural gas. Access to the valves is gained by removing one or both screwed in plugs. Each plug has a six sided nut machined onto the plug for easier removal.
The flywheels do not have a counter balance section. Each wheel has only five spokes. One wheel has a crowned surface, possibly to hold a governor belt or operate a small lathe. One side of the crank shaft has been made to accept a starting crank that is placed inside the shaft, not on the outside where it would grab a piece of key stock.
The inventor was thinking when he mounted the intake and exhaust valves above the piston. Should a valve spring break and the valve be sucked into the gas chamber, the engine coasts to stop. The valves appear to be tapered, not flat sheets like on an Able Auto Power. A small reservoir surrounds the cylinder and holds approximately one-half gallon of water. The engine is tank cooled. The engine utilizes a crude, possibly homemade, mixer. When I got the engine, a one-inch nipple threaded into a one-inch pipe Tee was the mixer. On top of the Tee, air is regulated by reducing the one-inch down to ? inch pipe. The bottom of the Tee has been reduced down to inch pipe where my propane is regulated by a ball valve. Yes, when you turn on the natural gas, gas free-flows out the air side of the Tee. And yes, it has caught fire from the hot tube burning. I am speculating that this engine could have had a small two-ball Gardener governor mounted where the one-inch nipple enters the engine. This is the same side in which the flywheel is tapered. I am searching for a inch Gardener steam governor to try on the engine.
I am currently operating the engine with propane, and since propane is a heavy fuel, starting can be 'iffy.' Does anybody offer natural gas bottled? Pro pane is just too violent for this engine. Would you recommend using hydrogen like some of the early Crossly used?
If any of the readers have any ideas as to who built this one-of-a-kind, please drop me a line or send a letter to me at the above address.