Reminiscences on Running Old Iron
Cooper-Bessemer engines, twin-tandems with cam actuaters. These are much like the engines John Heath worked on in a Medina, Ohio, gas pumping station.
Before retiring in 1992, I was maintenance mechanic for Columbia Gas Trans. We had a station in Medina, Ohio, with seven old Coopers that were installed in 1922. I had the pleasure of repairing and overhauling those wonderful old units. They were junked in 1999, but one was saved, and it went to Rough and Tumble of Kinzers, Pa. The rest were cut up for scrap.
They were very quiet running engines; you could converse with your helper without shouting when working on these units with other units running. In the engine rooms of the later high-speed engines, it was about impossible to hear anything, especially with other units running in the same engine room.
The units we had in Medina were double-acting tandem engines. There were two power cylinders connected end to end, with a 14-foot flywheel to one side. They were made as right hand or left hand engines. In other stations they had twin double-acting tandem units. These had power cylinders on both sides of the flywheel, and the ones found near you in Ottawa, Kan., will be the twin type. Our engines were double-acting tandem, 22 x 36-inch bore and stroke, with direct-connected gas compressors and rated at about 500 HP at 125 rpm. Most of the time they ran between 65 to 75 rpm.
The power pistons were designed like a steam engine. They fired from both ends, so the two power cylinders were the same as a four-cylinder engine. They were four-cycle design and burned natural gas fired by a spark plug and magneto. The original ignition was by igniter.
The power cylinder piston rods were hollow and water was pumped through them to keep the pistons cool. Where the piston rods exited from the cylinder head there were packing boxes with seal rings to hold the firing pressure. On occasion we had to remove the packing cages and clean out the
Some of the wrenches we used were so heavy we had to use a chain hoist to lift them into place. A 20-pound sledge was used to pound on the wrenches to loosen or tighten parts. There was no way to use hydraulic wrenches because there was no place to use for a backup that was solid enough to hold against. Six of the units had eccentrics to actuate the intake and exhaust valves. The seventh engine, which was installed later, had cams to actuate the valves. The eccentrics were quieter in operation, but gave more trouble with burnt exhaust valves as they were slow in closing. The cams let the valve close quickly.
Contact engine enthusiast John R. Heath at: 494 Twp. Road 232, Sullivan, OH 44880.