| August/September 1995

  • Rotation of the dynamo

  • Rotation of the dynamo

34361 Schwartz Road, Awn, Ohio 44011

Do you know Lewis Cornell or his gas engine? Cornell applied for gas engine patents as early as 1886. He held patents on several early engines. This engine was pictured and described in the April 1899 issue of Power Magazine. Lewis Cornell and Thomas Kennedy jointly held the patent for the engine. Power Magazine's detailed information showed that the engine was manufactured by the Coal Handling Machinery Company, 176 West Superior Street, Chicago, Illinois.

What happened in the ninety-five years that have passed from the time these machines were built? The activities and history of these obscure men and machines have almost been lost. The engines they designed and their struggles to manufacture them have not been well documented. Yet, they are the foundation of our hobby's history. This is why I find it important for all of us to pass along these small parts of engine history. This is just one such story.

The Cornell engine of 1899 was of the four cycle design. The engine was advertised to burn gas, gasoline, natural gas or coal gas. Water-cooling was supplied by a full jacket around the piston cylinder. A hammer break igniter was standard equipment. Electric ignition of the fuel mixture occurred as the igniter points separated at the end of the compression stroke. Hit and miss governing controlled the engine's speed. As the engine attained normal working speed the exhaust valve was held open until the engine lost r.p.m. causing the governor to release and another charge of fuel to be brought into the cylinder. The igniter once again ignited the fuel mixture and the engine's r.p.m. would increase to the normal governed speed. Both exhaust and intake valves were of the direct acting poppet style.

Notice that the engine is bolted to a sub base and coupled to an early dynamo. Rotation of the dynamo produced electricity. The electricity produced from the unit could then be used to supply small businesses or farms with electrical power. Electric generating devices demanded a fairly constant speed to produce an even flow of electrical current. In 1899 much of America was without electricity. At least forty-five to fifty years would pass before homeowners and business had electricity supplied to them by a power company as we do today.

This obscure engine, and the endeavor of Mr. Cornell, is almost forgotten in the passing of time. The information you have just read on Cornell and his engine is the only mention of him that I have run across during the past four years of researching gas engines. Yet he and others like him deserve recognition for their contributions to the development of the internal combustion engine. Stories like Cornell's can broaden our overall knowledge and appreciation of engine history.


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