Friday, April 30, 2010


It looks like a cross between a castle and a mechanical spider; if I had been shown an uncaptioned picture, I would have been convinced it was a movie prop.

But it's real: Cruquius, the largest single-cylinder steam engine ever built, a Cornish Engine far from Cornwall. And it's big: the primary piston is 144" in diameter. On the official site, there's a page with a video that follows a reporter inside the main cylinder.

Restored but not under steam (the boilers are long gone), nowadays, the engine is moved by hydraulics; but move it does and it's an image you're not likely to forget.

What did it do for a living? Why, it helped drain the Netherlands!

Friday, April 23, 2010


It's next weekend! The IHRS Spring Meet: April 30 - May 1, 2010 at the Kokomo Event Center, located at 1500 North Reed Road (US 31) in (where else) Kokomo, IN. Friday April 30 - 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm; Saturday May 1 - 7:00 am to 2:00 pm. Plenty of indoor Radio Swap and Sell space. Vintage radio contests. Radio operation and repair seminars.

Fees -- General admission is free. One Swap N Sell space for the sale and trade of vintage radio equipment is $15.00 for IHRS members, $20.00 for non-members, good for both days (the space includes one eight foot table.)

I have missed the last couple of IHRS meetings. The Winter one was cancelled by a snowstorm! So I'm really hoping to get to this one.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


It's not a baseball report. It's something that staggers the imagination. Let's say you needed a prime mover for a waterworks -- a really large waterworks, 19 million gallons a day -- and let's say it's 1926 and you live in a country with a lot of coal and a strong engineering tradition. And let's say you wanted it utterly reliable.

Of course you'd build a matched pair of 62-foot tall, 1000-bhp, triple-expansion steam engines atop directly-driven piston pumps, wouldn't you? The Brits did -- and at the time, the mammoth installation really was the best choice.*

But it is stunning. Staggering. All the more when you consider the pair of engines remained in service until 1980! And why not; they worked.

Best of all, after the engines were honorably retired, steam enthusiasts adopted them! It took a new boiler and an enormous effort, but one of the engines runs again, under steam -- and yes, they have public demonstrations.

I have been a big admirer of steam enthusiasts ever since I met the crew who rescued the old locomotive from Broad Ripple Park; but this effort is on a truly heroic scale.

...And in a few days, I'll link to another engine, earlier but just as ambitious and built, in its unique way, in a similar scale.
*This was to change, soon after -- and they followed the technology, as you'll see.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


No, it's not the title of a fanciful novel; it's a real thing, a sort of 3-D Wankel engine and if the site describing it didn't have a cutaway animation, I would still be puzzling over the drawings. How about 2.5 bhp at 500 RPM from a four-inch sphere? Inside, two quarter-spheres and a disc, assembled in a sort of universal joint and driven by steam -- we should not be surprised that the same man who conceived it was the first to puzzle out hydrodynamic lubrication (and not the hard way like most of us did, on bad tires in the rain).

Long ago, these little engines were used (per my sources, especially on British merchant ships) to spin dynamos, since they didn't need gearing. Turbines eventually took over that job, leaving Beauchamp Tower's fascinating engine an historical footnote. But what a footnote!

Another link, good in August, 2010: External view and description.