Discovering Columbus

By Staff
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'Right and opposite page: The head end of the engine. Note the propane tanks and the massive proportions, which allowed the engine to run day in and day out with no rest. '
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'Top: The running engine illustrates the cam-stopper action of the Columbus. Note the governor, crank and flywheels are all in motion, yet the end of the camshaft is still. This is what makes this engine so unique. '
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Above: The lovely cast-brass nametag.

Sometime last summer, I stopped by Craig
Prucha’s place in Pavilion, N.Y., to see his latest project, a very
beautiful Columbus engine. He had just picked it up in May 2005,
and was beginning the work that was needed to get it running.

The 25 HP Columbus (serial no. 25161) ran a machine shop in
Chillicothe, Ohio, called the Tip Top Machine Shop. This Columbus
was manufactured around 1903. It ran a line shaft that powered the
entire shop. During the Second World War, the engine was run 24
hours a day, seven days a week for the duration, to support the war
effort. It was run on natural gas during its working life. The
engine was removed from the machine shop by the late Nate
Lillibridge in the early-1980s.

This engine is one of five makes of engines that featured
“cam-stopper” technology. (These include Columbus, where the
ignition, intake and exhaust cam is stopped; the Field, where the
ignition and the intake cam are stopped; the Callahan, where the
entire sideshaft is uncoupled; and the One Minute, a Novo
look-alike that stopped the exhaust cam. There is also an Orr &
Sembower hopper-cooled engine with an operation similar to the
Columbus.) The basic principle is that the cam is decoupled from
the camshaft when the engine overspeeds, a very interesting
derivation of the hit-and-miss governing, intended to minimize wear
on the cams and ignition system. With very little persuasion, I was
able to get Craig to disassemble the end of the sideshaft to
examine the cam decoupling mechanism. It was interesting to see the
lengths the old time engineers went to in order to accomplish a
given goal.

The Columbus was mostly apart when Craig got it from Nate’s
estate. Once the engine was home in New York, his goal was to have
it assembled and running for the Christmas get-together at his
shop. Well, on Oct. 22, 2005, the 25 HP Columbus came to life. For
the get-together it ran great all day, in spite of the below
freezing weather. As usual, Craig did a wonderful job in getting
the engine running, taking over where Nate left off. Instead of
natural gas, Craig converted it to propane in its retirement.

Contact engine enthusiast Woody Sins at: 3 Edna Terrace,
New Hartford, NY 13413; Hitnmiss1@juno.com

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