A Conversation About Steam Engines Versus Gas Powered Engines

By Staff
article image
Gas engine photo from John P. Wilcox.

Gas Engine Magazine reader Laurence Graves of Suisun, California starts a conversation about steam engines versus gas powered engines. He seems to think steam power is tame and gentle gas power seems wild and uncontrolled.

Enclosed find subscription for the Gas Engine Magazine. Although
I’m a Steam buff, and it appears my loyalty is slipping, I
think a gas magazine is a of a good idea! I used to have a 4 cy.
Fageol tractor and used it many years from ’34 to ’62. A
neighbor called it a man killer. The big grousers on the drive
wheels were big 6 foot long spikes and gave little slippage and at
same time acted like a soil tamper. I think they made a swell layer
of hardpan all over our place. Finally gave it to Cal Tinkham over
at Reno who will display it at their future National Nevada
Heritage Museum.

Steam power is tame and gentle gas power seems wild and
uncontrolled. Modern multi-cylindered tractors, with self-starters
have overcome these problems, but some large Diesel jobs are still
hard work. They don’t call them cat-skinners for nothing.

I would appreciate reading any articles on hot air engines. I
read a very interesting write-up in May 1960 Popular Science. This
data tells the development of modern hot-air engines in Holland.
General Motors Allison Div. experimented with them and also their
research department at Warren, Michigan.

I sent for the plans to build a model from Mr. Walter Huff over
at Cinncinnati. I’m building an engine and although I realize
it won’t have performance of General Motors experiments, it is
head and shoulders above steam power in thermal efficiency. Perhaps
some of your overseas readers can tell us about hot-air over there.
The article I read said they are used to run home lighting plants,
refrigeration, and in liquifying air. They are extremely simple and
burn any fuel. Thermal efficiency is a whopping 36%. Higher than
Diesels, but less than fuel cells.

Thus the quiet, unnoticed struggle of survival of the fittest
continues in the mechanized world. Some farmers in California are
switching from Diesel back to Butane (liquid petroleum) gas. Repair
bills on Diesels are too high. I know of a Diesel tractor that
recently had a $4000 repair job on it.

I have a few acres, too small to farm and too big for just a
home. If I planted orchard trees, taxes would go up.

This model was built by the Columbus Machine Co., Columbus, Ohio
from 1901 until 1913. It is a No. 6300, the first digit of the
number denoting the horsepower. This engine is a four cycle and
operates on gasoline with make-and-break ignition and hit-and-miss
governors holding the exhaust open. This governor is particularly
interesting in that it declutches the cam cluster from the side
shaft so that it stops rotating. The clutch is contained in the
large drum just in front of the side shaft bearing and is of a pawl
type so as to re-engage with the came in proper time. It can fall
in after any type so as to re-engage with the cams half revolution
of the side shaft so that the engine can cut out for only one
revolution of the crank. The brake band around the outside of the
drum keeps the cams in place with the exhaust held open while the
clutch is disengaged.

I have the Columbus in a 35 horsepower, natural gas size as
well, and that one makes a dandy crack when the port opens up.

That’s an 18 HP Reeves upright behind the Columbus. No
connection with the Reeves Steam Engines this one was built by the
Hope Forge & Machine Co., Mt. Vernon, Ohio.

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