Locked In

By Staff
1 / 3
The 1909 50 HP General Electric rescued by members of the Hudson Valley Old Time Power Association. It's now in working condition.
2 / 3
Ralph DeAngles (foreground) explains the engines' workings to Don Clark and James Dukett.
3 / 3

In May 2001, Arthur Beckert, an employee of the city of New
York’s water supply station at Ashokan, N.Y., told the Hudson
Valley Old Time Power Association (HVOTPA) about an engine
generator set sitting in a corner of a building at the station.
Nobody currently employed at the Ashokan Dam had ever seen it in
operation.

We were told to contact Joseph Boek, chief engineer at Ashokan
Reservoir. Mr. Boek was aware of the engine and invited us to
inspect the unit. The engine turned out to be a four-cylinder,
gasoline-burning 1909 50 HP General Electric driving a 25-kilowatt
DC generator. I informed Mr. Boek we were very much interested in
the unit.

Mr. Boek notified his home office about possibly disposing of
the engine, and a short time later he was notified that the city of
New York was willing to dispose of the generator. Two days after
9/11 we were notified that the generator was ours.

Our committee of Donald Clarke, Frank Pflegl, Dale Barkman and
Clyde Snook wanted to act quickly, so we hired a roll back truck
and went and picked up the unit.

After getting the engine home we found that the exhaust valves
had rusted in the guides. Unfortunately, when we lifted the engine
the flywheel was accidentally turned and the camshaft bent.

We removed the valves and guides and refurbished them, and we
took the camshaft to Haberek’s Machine Shop in Amsterdam, N.Y.
The camshaft was straightened perfectly.

In June of 2001 we found out that the New York Canal System
(which is operated by the New York Thruway System) had some of
these engines at the locks on the canal, and still in operating
condition. The generator sets on the canal were installed as
standby units to supply DC current to the DC motors that open and
close the lock gates. At Lock 15, Fort Plain, N.Y., the engines are
run at regular intervals.

A friend of mine at the Toll Division of the Thruway, John
Roberts, contacted John King, engineer of the canal system, and
John Sweeney, Albany division canal director, and a date was set
for us to go to Lock 15 to inspect the engines. At Lock 15 we met
Ralph DeAngles, chief lock operator at the site.

Members of HVOTPA group included James Dukett, Donald Clarke,
Dale Barkman, Carl Specht, Willard Doyle, William Rogers and Clyde
Snook. We discussed the history of the generators and were shown
how the engines were started and worked, followed by a tour of the
lock itself. We were fortunate enough to watch some boats going
through the canal and the locks, and it was certainly an
interesting trip.

Dale Barkman (left) and James Dukett admire the two 50 HP
General Electric engine/generator sets at Lock 15 in Fort Plain, N.
Y. Still working for a living, these engines were probably built
between 1910-1920. A 220-volt motor sitting between the two engines
powers a DC generator for every day operation of the lock’s
gates. The General Electric engines are maintained in case of power
failure.

It was a great deal or pleasure seeing that these engines,
generators and buildings are maintained and cared for, since in so
many cases things of this age and nature are destroyed and traded
for more modern pieces of equipment.

Thanks to Roger Kriebel of Rough & Tumble, we have a
photocopy of a military book printed in 1909 covering this engine,
stating that the U.S. government had these generators set up on the
East and West Coast to supply power to coastal stations in case of
hostilities. Rough & Tumble has one of these units in their
engine building.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of all those involved in
saving this unit, and seeing those still in operation.

Contact engine enthusiast Clyde Shook at: 434 Millbrook
Road, Hudson, NY 12534.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines