SHEFFIELD GAS ENGINE
Another view of the engine.
3286 Cramlington Drive, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania 15044.
As with most engine collectors, there seems to come a time when the collector needs to move into a larger engine, something in the 10 to 15 HP range. The club that I am a member of, the Northwest Pennsylvania Steam Engine and Old Equipment Association, located in Harmony, PA has a display of Pennsylvania made oil field engines that were unique to our state. I have had a longing to find one of these engines that was unique to the oil boom here in Pennsylvania at the turn of the century; this article is about such a find.
At our club, we have on permanent display a 15 HP Berry from Petrolia, a 15 HP Evans from Butler, a 15 HP Ball from Butler, a 20 HP Bessemer from Grove City, a 12 HP Price Brothers from Renfrew, a 15 HP Reid from Titusville, and my engine, a 12 HP Sheffield from Sheffield.
In the fall of 1987, while traveling over one of my favorite roads to go hunting north of Butler, I saw the find of a lifetime! From Route 38 near the small village of Hooker a large pair of flywheels could be seen coupled with an engine base. Over top of the engine was a leaning walking beam and ban wheel surrounded by small red maples and brush. I had passed by this engine for several years just chalking it up as another dead engine from a once great oil boom era. One day I decided to drive up the farmer's lane and meet the owner, Mr. Robert Saper, who gave me permission to look the engine over after I told him about our club and its functions. Well, I ran over to the engine, but found myself side stepping several electric cow fences and bramble thickets before getting to the engine site. The engine name, cast into the side of the bed plate, read SHEFFIELD, nothing else, just Sheffield.
The engine is a two cycle design with a cross head and hot tube ignition. The engine had a pair of mismatched flywheels, one with a counter weight about 40 degrees from the throw of the crank; the second wheel had the counter weight with the throw. The original builders plate was missing so, at this time, the actual horsepower could only be a guess, and yes, it was frozen. The cross head wrist pin brasses were intact with a partial brass half still connected to the connecting rod. The other half would be discovered during the removal of the engine. Some of the original paint was found under the grease that had leaked from the main bearings. It was a faded red, so I have painted it Regal Red with glossy black trim.
The only Sheffield that I knew about at this time was the village in England or a small village to the north of Butler, PA, approximately 100 miles. Sheffield, PA was made famous during the early white pine timber harvests followed by the early oil boom around 1890 to 1900.
After coming to a purchase price and getting the engine home, with all of those nightmares which accompany removing large engines, did the real fun begin: finding out about my new engine.
The engine was made in Sheffield, PA at the Sheffield Tool and Supply Company. This company was founded by Morgan Mainwaring in Barnes, PA circa 1880. Mainwaring moved his machine shop to West Main Street in Sheffield during 1882. Twenty years later David Mainwaring and Frank Havens bought the plant and moved it to the corner of Center Street and Horton Avenue. Mainwaring and Havens began to manufacture tractor hoisting devices such as winches and small rod pulling towers that could be attached to crawlers or steel wheeled tractors such as the Fordson. The company with its seven milling machines also outfitted steam engine bed plates with gas cylinders turning the engines of this time into 'half breeds.' Cast into the cylinders were the names of Barnes and Mainwaring. Later on this logo was to be changed to Sheffield. For some time visitors to our club would look at the Sheffield and try to decide if my engine was a half breed or a true natural gas engine. It has been determined that my engine is a true gas engine and not a half breed. In the company's last few years the larger engine companies, mentioned earlier, were putting half breed builders out of business. In a final attempt to stay with the competition, the Sheffield Tool and Supply Company did begin to build a few prototype natural gas engines with the heavier bed plates. My engine seems to be one of these.
In my many miles of traveling up and around the towns of Sheffield and Barnes, I have only been able to locate one other Sheffield engine. It is stripped down to only having the bed and cylinder left. It had a 12 inch bore and a 4 inch crank journal. It now sits along the lower side of Sheffield near the Tionesta Creek.
My engine appears to be approximately 12 HP with a 7.75 inch bore. This horsepower size is comparable to data found on the Ball Gas Engine Company of Butler, who lists a two cycle engine with a 7.50 inch bore as a 12 HP. The cross head babbitt on the bottom of the cross head had worn away many years ago, causing the piston to rub on the upper cylinder wall causing the cylinder to become egg shaped. Thanks to the efforts of Joe Sykes who was able to bore the cylinder true again and spray weld the piston to fit, the Sheffield was able to run once again.
Special thanks go out to Mr Tom Molnar of Saxonburg, PA for tackling all the other problems encountered in trying to get her going. Some of these were re-fitting the cross head with brass glide bars vs. babbitt. The top half of the babbitt was in mint condition so he fabricated brass slide bars and machine screwed them into the bottom of the head. Another problem was that on the bottom of the cylinder there was a missing air mixer plate. He fabricated one from aluminum and fitted it with a one inch pipe nipple and gas cock to regulate the air flow.
Another problem was the connecting rod bearing which had been babbitted once before in an attempt to make it fit the crank. This bearing was in very sad shape and knocked when the engine would run. Tom was able to use my bearing as a pattern and have a new one cast up, machined down and fit to the crank. The atmosphere valve had to be reseated to the valve seat and the packing gland that the piston rod slides through had to be bushed. We also had to remove both flywheels. By turning one around, we were able to position the counter weight in the correct position opposite the crank throw. On the site we found a third flywheel which had no counter weight in the casting so it was put on rather than having the expense of trying to re-broch a new key way in the oddball flywheel; that was one foot smaller in diameter anyway.
All in all you might think that the engine is turning out to be one of two ever known to exist. Perhaps someday the right flywheels will show up. If you are in western Pennsylvania the Sheffield along with all the other engines mentioned and some I might have missed are on display at our showgrounds in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Stop in and visit, we would all like to visit with you!