Columbus Start-up

By Staff
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The Columbus’ cylinder being bored at Corfu Machine.
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Stiles Bradley proudly standing beside his 25 HP Columbus.
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Matty oiling his scale Springfield prior to starting.
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Also attending the event was Stiles Bradley’s grandson Mathew (Matty). Here, Stiles and his grandson stand amongst (from back) a 5 HP, a 1 HP and a 1/2-scale Springfield engine. By the way, Matty is the proud owner of the scale model Springfield.
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Other treats at Stiles’ start up included this very original 5 HP Olin built in Buffalo, N.Y.,
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5 HP Pennsylvania-built Ajax sideshaft engine.

On an unseasonably warm Saturday in May, a group of western New
York engine collectors banded together to get the 2007 season off
on the right foot. Stiles Bradley, a well-known collector in the
East, had just finished the mechanical restoration on his 25 HP
Columbus “cam-stopper,” which he used as the perfect excuse to have
friends and family over for its first starting. Not only did the
day promise the excitement of running this fabulous engine, but
almost all of his other 15 or so engines were set up and ready to
be run at the drop of a hat. (Each of which are in perfect
mechanical condition, and so rare that most engine collectors would
only dream of owning one!)

His collection includes no less than five Springfields, three
Callahans, two Columbus and two Ajax engines, two Buffalo Olins, a
Field-Brundage, a Hamilton, a Buffalo-built Bogart and several
more. Stiles also has several on display at other locations. It was
truly amazing: Six cam-stoppers in one place. The only time I have
ever seen more was at the Coolspring Power Museum, Coolspring, Pa.,
when they were featured several years ago.

His latest engine, the 25 HP Columbus, was recently purchased
from a local collector and was in need of work. Although in very
good original condition, the cylinder bore and piston were badly
worn and needed repair. Corfu Machine (a Buffalo, N.Y., area shop)
set the 2,000-pound cylinder on a horizontal mill, and with some
clever ingenuity was able to re-machine the 11.2-inch diameter
bore. Cylinder boring is a routine operation for this shop, but the
extra-large size of this job required extra ingenuity.

After the cylinder was bored, the piston was metal-sprayed and
machined to the appropriate diameter. At that point, new custom
piston rings were ordered. Once all the necessary parts were
received, the engine was reassembled and set on a newly fabricated
full base. Other mechanical refinements were required on the
governing and fuel systems – all done by Stiles as the reassembly
process progressed.

Once these tasks were finished it was ready for its big day. All
that was needed now was for a team of eager collectors to crank
this 9,000-pound beast over. In western New York that did not prove
to be a problem. Invitations were sent for the special day.

People started arriving early in the morning and continued to
come and go all day. Around 10 a.m. Stiles decided it was time to
give the big Columbus a try. The propane tank was connected to the
fuel system, the hand trip igniter starting lever was set, the
battery and coil were set, and all critical surfaces were oiled.
Now was the big moment: The piston was brought to top dead center
(on the ignition stroke) and slowly rolled back as gasoline was
squirted through an open priming cup. Once at bottom dead center,
the priming cup was closed, the propane tank turned on and the
engine aggressively rocked counter rotation against compression.
Stiles then manually tripped the igniter starting lever. Wooooofff,
it was off running in an amazing cloud of smoke. With some careful
adjusting of the gas supply it was firing consistently.

Next, the governor needed a little fine-tuning, which was done
on the fly, maintaining a speed of 220 RPM. The engine continued
running for about 30 minutes until it was shut down for an
inspection of the bearings and a needed adjustment to reduce lost
motion in the governor. It was re-started and everyone enjoyed its
flawless operation at 65 RPM for the rest of the day. For those of
you who have not seen a cam-stopper in action it is quite
interesting to watch. At the slow speed this engine runs, every
mechanical detail can be appreciated.

One could not have asked for a more enjoyable day, as it was the
first time many collectors had seen each other since the previous
show season and the weather was spectacular. Collectors were able
to run many rare and unusual engines, and the 25 HP Columbus
exceeded everyone’s expectations. It was a good reminder of how
creative and crafty the engine builders from 100 years ago really
were. Thanks to Stiles and his family for this wonderful day!

Contact Wayne Grenning at: 175 E. Park Drive, P.O. Box 44,
Tonawanda, NY 14151-0044; Wayne_Grenning@praxair.com

Videos of the Columbus start-up are posted on the popular video
sharing website YouTube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZCJ25Yz_i8

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