Half-breed

By Staff
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The half-breed being shown at the 2004 Allegheny Mountain Engine and Implement Assn. Show, Port Allegheny, Pa.
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The half-breed as found, Dec. 31, 2001
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A custom-made 4-inch boring bar being used to turn down the piston sleeve
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The piston sleeve with step.
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The crankshaft after submerged arc welding, a process in which new material is welded to the surface in a continuous draw, then machined down to specification.
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Bearings before scraping and oil grooving.

My son Will and I found this half-breed engine
in late 2001, sitting next to its collapsed power house near
Bradford, Pa. We were both captivated by the beautiful 60-inch
curved-spoke flywheel and the component-type construction of the
cast iron tray. We are fans of the half-breed engines that some
times can be found in this old oil area, and we enjoy the concept
of an engine with one foot in the steam era and one foot in the gas
engine age.

This engine has a Knight, Sisson & Co. box-type steam tray
made in Buffalo, N.Y., and was converted from steam to an Oil Well
Supply piston and cylinder kit. Oil Well Supply’s main office was
located in Pittsburgh, Pa., but the parts were cast in Bradford. In
their day, Oil Well Supply was like the J.C. Whitney of oil field
supplies.

After sitting out in the elements for many years, this engine
was in rough shape, but fairly complete. Since we both like this
old iron, and Will is a machinist, we decided to rescue it and
attempt a restoration. After asking around, we found the owner and
made an offer. By spring of 2002 it was ours, and we recovered it
shortly thereafter.

Getting to Work

The most obvious problem was that the bed was broken just behind
the conversion gas head. It had long ago been “field repaired” with
two long rods running the length of the bed into plates to pull the
frame together. The fix also included plates bolted on either side
over the crack in the bed. We considered welding the bed, but
decided to leave this rather strong repair as a testament to the
cleverness of the previous owners.

The crankshaft was deeply worn, so we sent it to Northeast
Machine, a specialty shop in Buffalo, to be submerged arc welded.
In this process, the crankshaft is mounted to a lathe, and as it is
turning, a machine-operated MIG welder runs over the surface,
leaving material that is turned down later. The advantage to doing
it this way is simply better heat dissipation. After machining it
back to original size, we re-poured the babbitt and began repairs
on the cylinder and piston.

The cylinder was badly pitted on the bottom from water sitting
in it. Friends and local oil men Tom Ross and his son, also Tom,
graciously allowed us to use their machine shop, which includes a
large, lineshaft-driven lathe that can handle the large cylinder.
Will built a 4-inch boring bar and cut the cylinder out until we
hit good material. The end result (a 1/8-inch overbore) effectively
resized the cylinder to 7-5/8-inches.

We decided to sleeve the piston to fit the new bore. We had
Williamsport Foundry Co., Williamsport, Pa., rough cast a sleeve,
and Will turned the piston, removing the original ring lands and
stepping up at the skirt. This left lots of material on the piston
and he machined the sleeve with the corresponding “step,” and we
shrink-fitted it to the piston. Then, we cut new ring lands and
fitted a custom set of rings from Niagara Piston Works. After that
we built a new connecting rod from turned, ground and polished
4140HT shafting, and assembled everything. For the crosshead end of
the connecting rod, we fabricated a new brass bearing and installed
new packing in the gland. That completed all the power head
repairs.

The original ignition was probably by hot tube, but considering
the tray repair, we opted to use a buzz coil because of its
predictable accuracy. The crosshead had a bolt hole in the side of
it, so we machined a bolt to fit and touch a grounding spring at
just the right moment to provide a good, precise spark. To get that
spark, we built a custom spark plug with long-reach electrodes to
place the spark at just the right spot. Our friend and fellow
half-breed enthusiast Howard Weaver from Jamestown, N.Y., provided
us with a beautifully reproduced brass Oil Well Supply engine plate
to accent the restoration.

We mounted the oilers, a governor, propane supply and a
thermo-siphon cooling loop before we made a new skid mount for the
engine to put her up “high and proud.” With some experimentation,
we adjusted the Oil Well Supply to run along at 90 to 100 RPM with
a satisfying “pop” and great smoothness helped by the large, heavy
flywheel “carrying her through.”

We showed this engine for the first time in 2004 at our home
show, the Allegheny Mountain Engine and Implement Assn. Show and
Demonstration, July 24-26, in Port Allegheny, Pa. Many folks
enjoyed it and we had a great time.

Many people helped with this restoration and we would like to
thank Julie, wife and mom, for great patience, our good friend Jim
McKenyon for his frequent help and ideas, Mike Fuoco for his wealth
of knowledge and information, and many others – thanks to all!

Contact engine enthusiasts William F. Frick and William J. Frick
at: 24 Pine Trail, Westline, PA 16740; (814) 778-5789;
jbfrick@pennswoods.net

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