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Lifting and Loading Engines

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There are patches of snow in the grass and a layer of ice on the pond as I write, but the days are getting noticeably longer and thoughts of which engine shows we'll be attending are running through our heads. With that in mind, I thought this would be a good time to draw together several threads from the Stationary Engine List last year about lifting, loading and securing engines in preparation for the coming show season.

The question of the best way to lift an engine began with a discussion about an engine for sale on the Internet, and a photograph of the engine being lifted with a chain looped through the flywheels. It was generally agreed that lifting an engine that way would either break a flywheel or, more likely, bend the crank. While minds were musing on the worst way of lifting an engine, someone asked for constructive advice on a better way.

I have a question on lifting. I never hook onto the flywheels, because when I bought my first engine I was told NEVER to hook on the flywheels. I always use straps and go below the crank somewhere. But what if you made a spreader bar and hooked onto the flywheels so you could pull straight up on them - would that possibly bend the crank? We use these at work so we do not put a strain on the lifting eye-bolts.

On the smaller engines, I run a pipe or 2x4 through the spoke holes and hook my chains/nylon slings on the out side of the flywheels. I also hook one under the cylinder. All these go up to the lifting device to provide a three-point hookup. On larger engines I do the same thing; I hook my straps around the outsides of the crankshaft and up through the spokes to prevent them from pulling on the flywheel rims. This keeps pressure off the flywheel rims. This has worked for a number of years without ever bending anything.

I always use a double-T spreader bar hooked up to a chain hoist hanging in my portable derrick. At the engine base at each side I have a straight bar with hookup eyes bolted to the engine base. Between the spreader bar and the base bar chains I can lift the engine straight up. Using this method I can do it by myself without messing anything up, especially paint or any breakable parts. I put the engine down on the cart the same way with 1/16-inch accuracy. This portable derrick was one of the first things I made when starting my engine shed.

I pick up my engines by the hopper (but I DO know how good the studs, nuts, and castings are). I have a hardwood cross with a strong eye bolt going through it. I insert it folded so the two bits of wood are together (almost inline - kind of 'x' shaped), then turn one piece to make a cross once they're in the eye bolt receives the chain hook. It works really well - I've yet to have anything break. Note that all my hopper engines are verticals (okay, were verticals, now I have the Cooper/Stover KA so this method won't work with that one it will need another support to the rear of the crankcase somewhere). I customize my lifting cross for each engine.

Okay, you've safely picked up the engine. Easy when you've got the right equipment! But what about loading it when you don't have a handy hoist or you 're going to pick up your latest engine acquisition, sight unseen?

Does anyone have a good design and procedure for loading a stationary onto a flatbed truck with a bed about three feet above the ground? I won't have any kind of lifting device. I'm going to assume the engine I'm getting isn't on skids or trucks, so the worst-case scenario is in effect.

Any suggestions on ramp design and procedure would be greatly appreciated. I don't have a winch, but lots of come-a-longs and stuff. A buddy who is going to help me says we'll just put out ramp boards and pull it up with a come-along, but this sounds like it could leave a lot of room for disaster.

I've dragged a 5 HP Economy up onto a truck bed with a come-along. I didn't even use rollers in this case. I've got a pair of thick oak planks that are weathered and fairly smooth on the surface from years of use. I levered the leading end of the base up onto the planks and just winched it up, sliding along the planks. Of course, in my case I'm talking about a pickup truck. I pulled the tailgate off and put the planks directly on the step bumper. You may want to anchor the top end of the planks so they don't slide, but it won't take much once the weight of the engine is on them. Maybe just stand on them.

Pipe rollers aren't a bad idea, either. The key is to take your time and use your head. I've found it always seems harder when I think these things out ahead of time than when I actually get down to doing it. You do want to plan ahead, but when you actually do the lift, you will wonder what you were so worried about beforehand.

A 10-foot ramp will exhibit a good amount of flex with 800-1,000 pounds moving up it. Make sure you put something under the ramps to limit deflection. Steel tubing in mass quantities makes rolling up the ramps quite a bit easier. I don't recommend attaching the come-along to the front bedrail of the pickup, however. Bring as many floor jacks or scissors-style jacks as you can. Jack stands will help to stabilize things, too.

When we collected my 10 HP Bessemer half-breed, we had a flatbed that was three to four feet high. We used a winch and come-alongs to load and unload. The planks are oak, two to three inches thick. We put cribbing under the planks to reduce flex. The engine weighs around 3,000 pounds. Like others have said, just remember your simple levers, rollers and inclined planes. And work SLOWLY. You can move this engine safely.

In addition to the pipes, ramps, supports, etc., that the other folks have mentioned, I also carry a few other things that have proved helpful. One is a slide board I made out of two pieces of plywood nailed together and a couple 2x4s bolted on either side at the top, forming a tee to the ply board. This makes a great sled for pulling if the engine is not where you can load it. It is also a great tool for smaller engines where you can tilt them over and get the slide under them. I have pulled engines over banks from the inside of barns with this.

The other is a pulley block and strong, 1-inch diameter nylon rope. I hook the pulley to the front of the trailer frame with a chain and use the rope to pull the engine up ramps onto a trailer. You can use another vehicle as the tow vehicle. You can also use these to get an engine around a corner in a barn to get it to the door.

I also carry a couple 2x4s to use as temporary skids if needed. Along with a portable drill and some bolts, I tilt the engine over enough to get a predrilled board under the engine and bolt one on each side. This makes it easier to use pipe rollers. I carry extra chains, nylon slings and other lifting stuff just in case I have to call a wrecker (never have had to do that, yet). If I haven't had a chance to evaluate the situation before picking up an engine, my truck is usually loaded with enough stuff to overcome any obstacle that could get in the way - and that's why you have to have a trailer to put the engine on!

The only caution I would add is that a nylon rope stretches quite a bit, and if it breaks, the 'snap' back is just like a whip. That's why most people I've run across who use rope for a living use rope with natural fibers, like manila. It has very limited stretch, so if it breaks it basically just drops where it is and doesn't 'snap.'

I'm building a 5x8-foot trailer for hauling engines. It is rated for 1,500 pounds and has a plywood deck and wooden stake pocket sides. It has a tilt bed so I should be able to roll carts on without ramps. I'm thinking of adding a come-along to the front so I can pull stuff up. But I'm looking for suggestions on tie-downs. Any ideas?

I use nylon tie-down straps all the time. There are two keys to using these straps:

a) Use a strap rated to your load (note: cheap ones are NOT marked)

b) Buy straps with BIG ratchet handles.

You can tighten down these straps quite a bit with a big ratchet, but with a smaller one all you usually end up doing is having a loose load and cut fingers when you try to undo them.

Thanks for all the good info. The floor of the trailer I'm building is held in place with about a dozen self-tapping screws, which will hold the floor down but nothing else. I think I'm going to mount plates under the cross members, then use long-shank eye bolts, nuts and washers. If I put the tapped hole in the plate close to the cross member, this should be strong enough, and the cross member will be taking the load of the tie-down. Someone mentioned the weak point of the tilt bed could be the front locking device. Well, this unit has two locks. One is a spring-loaded release and the other is a plate on each side of the tongue with a draw pin through a hole.

Remember, if you haven't used your trailer all winter, it needs preparing for show season as much as your engines do. Omitted from this thread are various tales of broken ropes and sliding engines, causing widespread destruction. So please, take care with your loading, transporting and unloading this year.

Engine enthusiast Helen French lives in Leicester, England.

Contact her via e-mail at: Helen@insulate.co.uk

You can join the Stationary Engine List on the Internet at: www.atis.net