Restoring an Oil City Boiler Works/South Penn cross-breed engine, Part 3

Labor of Love

| February/March 2010

Editor’s note: The following is the unedited version of Part 3 of a multi-part series about the purchase, retrieval and restoration of an Oil City Boiler Works/South Penn cross-breed engine purchased by the North Jersey Antique Engine and Machinery Club in 2006. The edited version of this article ran in the February/March 2010 issue of Gas Engine Magazine; Part 2 can be found here.

Our engine club was now fast approaching our annual exhibiting event at the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show, which also happens to be the State Fair. We had a one week window, in which we had to get everything ready for the fair. This gave me the opportunity to work on the engine on a daily basis, instead of the usual monthly meeting visit. In the next week, a lot was accomplished. The first order of business was to try and remove the stuck piston. I decided to try and free the stuck piston with some ‘friendly’ persuasion. Again, more WD-40 and liquid wrench was added to the transfer ports, and again it disappeared! I must have loaded them at least 10 times, in the space of 2 weeks. I obtained several large pry-bars, and tried to move the stuck piston. It was stuck tight! A couple of the club members gave a hand, muscling the bars, but we only succeeded in bending one of them. I then decided that a more persuasive force was needed, and put off further work on the South Penn cylinder for the night. The rest of the evening was spent cleaning up our exhibits, and installing some new additions.

The next evening, I brought a few items to our meeting place.  Amongst them was a 1 ½” by 4”long brass hexagonal rod that I have had for years.  It weighs about 45 pounds.  Some of the older readers may recognize it, I used it to restore a Kohler 4 cylinder light plant, that I wrote an article about, for GEM many years ago!  Tonight it was going to be put to the same use as it was then - bopping a piston loose, or so I thought!   The first thing to do was again soak the piston, front and rear, with the WD-40 and Liquid Wrench mixture.  At this point I finally began to see where all the liquid I put in the transfer ports was going.   A tiny spot was forming below the intake port, under the engine.  I Thoroughly soaked the piston again, and then tried to budge the piston by gently hitting the  cross head, along the sides of the ways (guides).  This only imparted about an 1/8 of an inch of movement, side to side.  NOT GOOD!  As the cross head is firmly attached to the piston by means of a 1¾” diameter threaded section of the piston rod, this was inducing a lot of stress on the piston.

I then had the idea of using the brass rod as a ram, against the cross head, directly in line with the piston.  As  I assumed that it would be hard to hit the upper con rod bearing , square, and directly.  I left the connecting rod attached, and moved it to a vertical position.  This presented a large flat surface to impact with the brass rod, and effectively protected the  small journal on the crosshead from any impact damage.  I must have spent 2 hours, soaking the piston and hitting the crosshead, and the con rod, with no effect.  I then tried to use the rod directly on the piston itself.   I hit the center of the piston rod and its retaining nut with moderate force (about 18” of swing), and then hit the deflector, which was far more beefed up, with greater force (about 3 foot of swing), all to no avail.  The piston gave no appearance of moving in the least.  Again, we gave up for the night, and went to work on other projects.

On the third night, I brought some heavy persuasion:  My plumbers Acetylene ‘B’ tank, with a #7 Turbo Torch* tip.  For those who don’t know, a Turbo Torch* tip swirls and concentrates the heat from the flame into a small, concentrated area.  The heat generated is the next best thing to an Oxy-Acetylene set up, without the cost of the Oxygen.  The #7 tip is the biggest normally aspirated tip I have seen, and boy does it use up the Acetylene!  Anyways, I again soaked the piston, at both ends, and set up the torch. 

I now was going to thoroughly heat up the cylinder, before again trying to move the piston.  I figured that if I heat the cylinder thru the water jacket to head ports, the expansion may just be enough  to free the piston.  I opened the gas valve on the ‘B’ tank, and then after purging the gas hose, yelled “Fire in the hole!“,  and lit the Turbo Torch*.  There was a loud BOOM, as the highly reactive Acetylene lit, and then a steady roar, as it burned.  I think everyone in the building jumped when it lit off!  I first placed the tip in the cylinder drain hole, in the bottom of the water jacket.  After a few minutes, I then placed the torch in the lowest right hand head passage in the cylinder face.  The torch was kept there until I could not keep my hand on the outer water jacket for more than a few seconds, and then it was transferred to the left hand side.  There are 8 head supply passages, and the torch spent about 5 minutes in all of them, sometimes as far into the jacket as I could reach, other times, with the turbo end barely into the jacket at all.  The last 5 minutes, I placed the torch in the water outflow fitting, at the top of the cylinder. 


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