THE CORNELL GAS ENGINE

By Staff
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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.

We must continue to communicate these stories to preserve the
history of the internal combustion engine. Through communication,
whether it be written, verbal or on tape, we can pass on to new
generations the heritage of our great hobby. I would like to hear
from anyone that might have any literature or publications that
they are willing to share on early gas engines. Please call
(evenings 216-937-5630) or write to Mark Meincke, 34361 Schwartz
Road, Avon, Ohio 44011. I’d like to hear from you!

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