1917 600 HP Snow Engine Finds Home at Coolspring

It took 20 years, but this 1917 600 HP Snow engine finally calls Coolspring Power Museum home.


| August/September 2014



1917 Snow gas compression engine

The 1917 600 HP Snow gas compressing engine, all polished and oiled, waiting for its debut at the 2013 Coolspring Power Museum Summer Exposition.

Photo courtesy Paul Harvey

More than 45 years ago, I stumbled upon Roystone Station, which was located on US Route 6 between Sheffield and Ludlow, Pennsylvania. I was a young engine collector then, just beginning to explore the vast oil fields in northern Pennsylvania to search for old engines. Seeing the magnificent brick and steel structure, I was lured to stop for a visit and there I found many great gas engines in operation, including the Snow engine now displayed at the Coolspring Power Museum.

Roystone was the main station of the Pennsylvania Natural Gas Co. based in Warren, Pennsylvania, which is now part of the National Fuel Gas Corp. The old station is now gone and a modern one has been built. Presently it serves as a storage field in which the gas is pumped into the ground from western suppliers in the summer to be recovered and used in the winter. It originally pumped from the local fields, and this gas was then sent to the Buffalo and Rochester, New York, markets to be distributed for home and industrial use.

In the mid 1970s, and with no definite plans besides the desire to save one of the big Snows, I started a lasting relationship with the plant engineers and local administration, and was happy to find them receptive to the idea. Finally, in late 1992, I was invited to come to Roystone to witness the last working day of our Snow. Shortly thereafter, I met to sign the documents on behalf of the museum to make the Snow ours. We now had the winter to remove it: to disassemble and transport a 140-ton machine and place it in safe storage until it could be assembled again. This would turn out to be a 20-year project.

Disassembly

The volunteers from the museum took the task seriously. Six or eight of us would trek to Roystone over many weekends. The first step was disassembling the engine. The compressor cylinder was removed and transferred to the front crane and traveled to load onto our truck. This was a tedious and labor-intensive project that frequently required six people to pull the hand chain to lift the heavy parts since the hoists were entirely manual.

The next task was to remove the flywheel from the crankshaft. The wheel weighed 18 tons and split into two halves. It was held together at the hub by four huge bolts, 4 inches in diameter, and at the rim by four cast iron keys or “dogbones.” Removing the flywheel proved to be a challenge. We heated the keys red hot for expansion and then pulled them out with a manual chain puller. Each dogbone weighed about 150 pounds and had to be supported with the overhead crane. We then found that they were a bit different in length so they were carefully marked for reassembly.

The main frame for the engine was a huge project. We jacked the engine out of the foundation and placed it on rollers to get it out of the building. The crankcase bottom extended 1 foot below the base. This, in addition to 10 feet of unsupported floor between the engine foundation and building footer, required a huge amount of timber blocking to get out of the low, narrow doorway.