Stirling-Cycle Engine!


| April/May 1995



Rider-Ericsson Hot-Air Pumping Engine

2855 San Fernando Road, Atascadero, California 93422-7706

After showing this 1895 Rider-Ericsson hot-air pumping engine at a few of our local shows and getting the reactions that I did, I thought some of you might be interested in seeing a Stirling-Cycle engine. As most other people, I had only heard of Stirling engines and only recently seen a handful of the scale models, including that of an Ericsson. In no way did I ever imagine that I would end up with an actual engine, especially out here on the west coast!

I came across this engine quite by chance, while 'horse trading' some other iron with a long time friend of my dad's. He had been a collector and restorer of the old lungers for quite some time and was peddling off most of them in order to get back into the Model T iron. I admit, I was probably like a kid in a candy shop!

Having already acquired a bit of engine savvy in the short time that I had been in the hobby, I locked onto the sight of a particular curved spoke flywheel off in the corner of this gentleman's barn. I knew it was old, but was dumbfounded when I was told what it actually was. He mentioned that he intended to also sell the Ericsson, but of course at a price somewhat higher than your average Fairbanks or John Deere. It so happened I was still in possession of a near-complete Model T racing engine that he had his eyes on. Needless to say the rest is history. Both of us went home grinning ear to ear with our new toys.

Restoration of this engine was a whole new ballgame compared to the gas engines. The burner (for wood or coal) needed to be relined and the transfer (displacer) piston, a 22 inch long sealed sheet-metal slug, needed to be completely refabricated. Not being real familiar with fire brick and not being fully set up to do heavy sheet-metal work, I hesitated for almost a year to start the restoration. Attending the EDGE&TA National Meet in Grass Valley, California, in '93 and seeing two Ericssons there and running was all it took to get me started with the tools and paint.

The original burner was lined with a very unique set of fire brick, each being a different shape and size complete with their own cast in part numbers. Once the cast iron burner shells were cleaned up, and after making several attempts of pouring a solid liner in each shell, I finally ended up with a good clay mix and good usable burner. The transfer piston was formed by a local sheet-metal shop, after which I heliarced the pieces together. The original piston had been filled with a wood pulp type of insulation which I replaced with fiberglass in the new piston. The piston is capped on top by a bronze casting that is riveted and soldered into place to form an airtight unit.