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Steam Engines (Large) Existing in the USA

Peter S

May 6, 2002
Auckland, New Zealand
Large Steam Engines Still Existing in the USA

I am particularly interested in large engines, the bigger the better!
I really know very little about big steam in the US, I just made notes as I read things over the years, so everything is up for correction. I am missing a lot of information about some of them, eg the Colonel Ward Pumping Station in Buffalo, the various engines in Boston, and quite a few others. Any info gladly accepted, or corrections and additions invited. I believe there are probably thousands of steam engines left in the USA, so have just listed the big ones, and a few others at the end typical of the many engines found at club museums etc.
I would one day like to visit some of the big pumping engines and rolling mill engines, so any info you can help with would be appreciated, and hopefully of use to all.
Peter Short


Youngstown, Ohio.
Tod engine, 1914-1979, cross-compound 34"x68"x60", 4,000hp @ 75 rpm, 300 tons, measures 47ft x 27ft. Drove six-stand 24" merchant mill at the Brier Hill Steel Company. Preserved by the Tod Engine Foundation.

Weirton Steel
United-Tod twin tandem compound, reversing, 42"x66"x60", weighs 687 tons, 150 rpm max. 28,000 hp. Blooming mill now gone. Built by United Engineering in former William Tod Plant. (19:3, ASME 25)

US Steel Homestead Works
48" plate mill engine (two cylinder simple, reversing). Mesta engine, preserved by Steel Industry Heritage Corporation.

Republic Steel (LTV) Plant, Cleveland, Ohio.
Mesta engine 1908, twin tandem compound, 46" & 76" x 5ft6" stroke, 200psi, 200 rpm max. drove a 44" blooming mill (35,000 hp). Out of service 1982. 65ft long by 30ft wide. Reversing engine (no flywheel). Spare crankshaft, pistons etc on-hand. This is the largest engine known in the USA, last article I read was a visit in 1989 for the ISSES bulletin. (11:3)

Bethlehem Steel
Tod? twin tandem compound (22,000 hp?) 48" Grey mill. Engine SCRAPPED recently, 2002?


Vertical blowing engine, Station Square, Pittsburgh
(shopping complex, an old station site of P&LE)

Sloss furnaces, Birmingham, Alabama.
Series of vertical engines (preserved blast furnaces )

Monterrey, Mexico
Two Tod blowing engines.

Bethlehem Steel
Bethlehem-built blowing engines.

All of the above are preserved except the Republic Mesta and Weirton engine.


Boston apparently has the largest collection of pumping engines. Several verticals in one building, two in another. I am not sure wether there are more than the three sites below. Can someone clarify this please?

East Boston sewage pumping station,
2x triple expansion, radial, corliss engines. Also Nordberg radial diesel? Video "A Corliss Legacy". Also PBS programme about pollution that featured these engines and PBS special historical feature.

Boston, Deer Island sewage pumping station.
EP Allis radial "Boston type" engines. Restoration proposed of one engine (15:3, 16:1)

Chestnut Hill Station, Boston (Brookline?), Mass.
Three engines remain on site
-Allis triple expansion, 30ft high. 1898
-Leavitt-Riedler "Engine No. 3" 1894, retired 1928. Inverted triple expansion, 13.7" HP, 24.375" IP & 39" LP x 6ft stroke. 575 hp, 20 mgd at 50 rpm, engine uses Krupp forgings. http://www.asme.org/history/roster/H002.html
-Worthington horizontal compound, 1921. (ASME 14)

Brillhart Pumping Station, York, Pa.
Worthington horizontal cross-compound, "Pump No. 2" 18.25" & 44" x 36" stroke. 1925, out of service 1982. Used during hurricanes in 1972 and 1975 when no electricity. (ASME 22) http://www.asme.org/history/roster/H077.html

Chapin Mine Pumping Engine, Iron Mountain, Michigan.
"The largest steam-driven pumping engine ever built in the United States" (ASME). Worked from 1892-1914. Vertical, steeple compound engine, 50" HP & 100" LP x 10ft stroke. 50ft tall, flywheel 40ft diameter. Weighs 600 tons. Designer Edwin Reynolds. 736 hp, 6.6 rpm, 1,922 gals/min against 1500ft head. Originally designed to run on steam or compressed air supplied from nearby water-powered plant. (25:4, ASME 12)

Chestnut Street Pumping Station, Erie, Pa.
Bethlhem Steel Company, 1913, triple expansion, 2x 20ft flywheels, 20 mgd, stopped 1951. 33"LP, 66"IP, 98"LP x 5 1/2ft stroke. 25 rpm, 600hp. (ASME 17)

Cincinnati Water Works, 5x triple expansion, each over 100ft tall, Corliss valves. Need permission from Water Commisioner in Louisville. http://www.fcrammond.clara.net/cincinnati_water_works.htm

Colonel Ward Pumping Station, Buffalo, NY.
5 engines.

Columbus, Ohio?

Hamilton, Ontario Waterworks.
2x Woolf compound beam engines, 1860, built by John Gartshore's Dundas Iron and Brass Foundry of Dundas, Canada West. Standby until 1938.


Louisville, KY
Vertical triple expansion. Need permission from Water Commisioner in Louisville

Main Street Pumping Station, Jacksonville, Florida.
Allis-Chalmers, horizontal Reynolds-Corliss engine, 1917, 5 mgd. (ASME 21)

New Orleans,
Spruce & Eagle Plant, 2x Allis Chalmers horizontal, 2 cylinder, 12" + 28" x 24" corliss, bucket-type pumps to pump seawater out of the city

McNeill Street Pumping Station, Shreveport, Louisiana.
No.1 High service pumping engine built 1900 by Worthington Hydraulic Works, direct acting, horizontal, triple expansion, 3-4 mgd
2x crank and flywheel high service engines, horizontal, 1921?
No.1 Low service engine, Worthington, vertical, triple expansion, 1898, 5 mgd.
No.3 low service engine, Worthington, vertical, 1920.
Worthington Snow horizontal, Allis Chalmers horizontal. Cross-compound, Corliss, flywheels, plunger pumps. (not sure were these fit into the picture)

McNichol Pumping Station, Madison, Wisconsin.
Allis-Chalmers, cross-compound engine. Now the lobby area for modern apartment block (21:2)

Phillipsburg, PA or New Jersey?
Allis Chalmers. Still exists?? Commercial video made of their last run around 1987? "Farewell to Big Allis".

Streetboro, OH.
Vertical triple expansion. Still there??

Wilmington, Delaware.
Holly triple expansion, corliss valves, 1907, stopped 1960's. With triplex pump. Can be seen. (25:3)

Van Buskirk Island, Oradell, New Jersey.
Allis-Chalmers, large vertical triple expansion, 1903 (or 1911?) (21:2)
http://www.hwwc.org/ http://davefrieder.com/html/other/allis.htm


Quincy Mining Company No.2 Mine Hoist, Hancock, Michigan.
Nordberg compound engine. 1921-1931. 2x 32" HP, 2x 60" LP x 66" stroke. Cylinders inclined at 45 deg. to crankshaft. Drives a cylindro-conical winding drum, 30ft dia. x 30ft long. Had 13,300ft of 1 5/8" wire rope in one length. Weighs 800 tons. A monster.

Also a "small" horizontal single cylinder (14" x 36") corliss engine to drive the vacuum, oil and water circulating pumps. (25:4, ASME 193)


Henry Ford Museum.

Chesapeake and Delaware Canal engines, Chesapeake City, Maryland.
2 x beam engines, Merrick & Sons, 36" x 7ft cylinders, 175 hp each, 15ft flywheel, 13rpm, 45 psi. Installed 1851 and 1854. Stopped 1927. Engines are connected to a massive cypress wood liftwheel, 38ft dia x 10ft wide. Lifts 20,000 gpm at 1 1/2 rpm, raises water 14ft from Chesapeake Bay up to the old summet level of the C&D canal. (16:2, ASME 8) http://www.nap.usace.army.mil/sb/c&d.htm

DoAll engine
The company's founder, Leighton A Wilkie established a "Hall of Progress" at the Chicago, Des Plaines headquarters in 1958-59. Along with an extensive collection of machine tools, the centrepiece of the display was a replica of Wilkinsons cylinder boring machine of 1775, and a beautifully preserved, working, Watt beam engine. Wilkie imported a very old engine from the UK for his display, it probably dates from around very early 1800's, maybe even pre-1800. Cylinder measures 22 3/16" bore x 52 5/8" stroke. Apparently DoALL used to run it on steam, and it still can run on compressed air. Unfortunately, the company is moving its headquarters, and they are not planning on taking the engine, so a new home must be found. There is quite a long article, with recent photos, about this engine in a recent ISSES bulletin. (25:3)


Henry Ford Museum.
Very large gas/steam engine driving generator. 5,888hp, drives 4,000 KW DC generator. 750 tons, 82ft long x 46ft wide. One of nine similar engines that generated power for the Highland Park Ford plant, 1915. Made by Hoovens, Owens, Rentschler Co. Hamilton, Ohio. One cylinder gas driven for efficiency, one cylinder steam driven for regulation and reliability. Beautiful condition, huge.

Nashville, Tenn. US Tabacco Co.
2x Westinghouse for standby power.


USS Texas, Houston, Texas.
Battleship, 1914. 2x 4 cylinder triple expansion engines. 14,000 ihp each. 122 rpm. 265 psi. 39" HP, 63" IP & 2x 83" LP x 48" stroke. 14 B&W water tube boilers.

USS Olympia. Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Cruiser, 1892. 2x 3 cylinder triple expansion engines. 8,425 ihp each at 139 rpm. 42" HP, 59" IP & 92" LP x 42" stroke. 160 psi. 6x scotch boilers. Machinery weight 1239 tons.

Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, Connecticut.
850 hp inverted compound, 1927, Staten Island Shipbuilding, ex tug Socony 5. Restored and running.


I would guess there are probably literally thousands of steam engines left in the United States, almost every issue of the ISSES bulletin seems to mention the recovery or restoration of an engine. Not the big stuff, but the engines that provided stand-by power etc through-out the country. I think listing engines of this size would be a huge job, but I am sure someone out there is trying! For example, here are a few examples I have selected from ISSES bulletins.

Adams, Tennessee,
"Big Corliss", under steam every July during Tenn.-KY. Threshermans.

Camillus Canal Society.
Rice & Sargent, 1913, Corliss, built by Providence Eng. Works, 450 hp, single cylinder, horizontal, 18" x 36", 150rpm. ex L.C Smith Typewriter Co. Syracuse. (22:3)http://www.eriecanalcamillus.com http://www.oldengine.org/members/rotigel/SE-List-Memb-Eng/Jim/index.htm

Dodge County Steam Show site, Burnett, Wisconsin,
Allis-Chalmers Corliss, 1923, 240 hp, ex Monarch Range factory, Wis.

Hawkeye Antique Acres, Waukee, Iowa.
Murray Iron Works, 1000 hp! 120 rpm, Corliss, 750 kva alternator, 3 phase, 450volts, 60 Hz, 1930's, ex Iowa State Penitentiary. Runs. (21:2, 23:4)

New England Museum of Wireless and Steam, East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
George H. Corliss engine, ex Stratton, Maine. (16:4)

Rock River Thresheree.
-Nordberg uniflow
-Cummer, 1897, 22" x 36", 30 tons
-Allis-Chalmers, 1923

Sycamore Show, Northern Illinois.
Vilter, Corliss Tandem Compound, 250hp, 12" & 22" x 3ft. Drives refrigeration compressor. ex US Glue Co., Carollville, Wis. (21:2)

Vista, California.
Allis Chalmers horizontal, single cylinder, runs. Other engines too.

17 September 2004

[ 09-17-2004, 06:14 AM: Message edited by: Peter S ]
Was a big Corliss in long idle old Houston Texas water works building. Long term Harris County property(?), do not know current status or even if it still exists. Building is there.

For Marine Steam Engines: The carferry "Badger" running out of Ludington, Michigan is powered with two (2) big Skinner Unaflow steeple compound steam engines, running on superheated steam. The "Badger" has coal fired boilers.

The oldest vessel on the Lakes is now known as "the Southdown Challenger", formerly the "Medusa Challenger". The "Southdown Challenger" is a cement carrier, powered by a SKinner Unaflow marine steam engine. I think she is oil fired. Her run includes getting into the canals in Chicago.

In Baltimore, there is a working steam tug, in preservation. I believe the name of this tug is "Baltimore" and the tug is put in steam a few times a year.

At San Francisco, CA, the "Jeremiah O'Brien" is preserved as a working vessel. The "Jeremiah O'Brien is the last of two Liberty Ships left intact in the USA. The "O'Brien" has her original plant with triple expansion main engine, smalle rupright steam auxiliary engines for the generators and draft fans, and original B & W watertube boilers. The "O'Brien" is put in steam a few times a year and taken out past the Golden Gate.

At Baltimore, MD, the "John W. Brown" is preserved. The "Brown" is the other Liberty ship. She is brought out in steam a few times as well.

Liberty ships had triple expansion engines of, I believe, 2500 IHP.

Stationary engines:
The Pratt Institute Power Plant at Brooklyn, NY is a living museum. I has three (3) Ames center-crank slide valve engines with GE generators of about 50 KW each as well as the original marble-front switchgear, and numerous old steam pumps and plant equipment.

Ethan Allen Furniture has a Skinner Unaflow with 500 Kw generator, a horizontal steam engine, It is running in one of their furniture plants up in New England. There was another Skinner Unaflow horizontal engine running at Bent Brothers Table Comapny in Gardner, Massachusetts as of a fe years ago.

Horizontal Unaflow engines are heavy duty engines with "rolling mill" style frames. They are one cylinder machines with large flywheels and open valve motion. Skinner delivered their last horizontal unaflow to the "Brillo" steel wool company in about 1952. By then, they were selling vertical unalfow engines for marine and stationary use. The vertical unaflows resembly a large marine diesel engine.

A Skinner vertical Unaflow steam engine with 600 Kw generator is in standby service at Cascade Laundry in Brooklyn, NY. Not far from Pratt Institute. Cascade had a variety of steam engines in their plant which sat un-used as they drove DC generators. These included an Ames vertical unaflow engine. The Skinner vertical engine was bought used from a hospital in Rhode Island in the 1970's and installed in the laundry in the late 1970's to supply AC power.
About 2 months ago, I saw a fairly complete triple expansion marine engine sitting on the government warf in Sault Ste Marie Ontario ( across the river fron the old Edison plant in SSM Michigan) I don't know anything about it except that it is BIG!

Peter S.:

The Lumberman's Museum in Patten, Maine has a horizontal steam engine coupled to an alternator on outdoor static display. The Alternator is an archaic type with open spool-like coils of cotton-insulated wire. The engine came from a local sawmill.

(Same museum also has a steam "Lombard Log Hauler" bearing an ASME "National Historic Engineering Landmark" plaque. Lombard is recognized as the originator of the tracked vehicle; his patent predates Holt or Caterpillar.)

The former Staten Island ferryboat "Mary Murray" lies derelict on the bank of the Raritan River near New Brunswick, New Jersey. She may or may not still contain her steam powerplant. (Skinner Unaflow, if I recall correctly.) S.I. Ferry Webpage for the Murray

The Shelburne Museum in Vermont has the steamer "Ticonderoga" with her 1-cylinder walking-beam powerplant 100% intact. The entire ship has been hauled out of the lake for display!

The Allaire State Park in Allaire NJ has the stripped remnants of a marine triple-expansion compound. Only the frame, the cylinders, the crankshaft and the thrust bearing remain. (No heads, pistons or con-rods.) There is no card or plaque announcing the history of this engine.

In San Francisco Maritime Museum will be found the former British sidewheel steam tug "Eppelton Hall" and a huge steam ferryboat (can't recall the name) with an engine whose cylinder rocks on trunnions as the engine turns. The "Eppleton Hall" made the long trip to S.F. under her own power. The ferryboat was taken out of service when some part of the engine broke. [I was last there circa 1985 - memory is a bit hazy] They also have a Steam Schooner ("Wampanna"?), but that might not count as a "large" engine.

Correct me on this if I'm wrong, but isn't the "Delta Queen" Mississippi River cruise ship a genuine steamer?

Alas, the greatest steamer of my youth, the Hudson River Day Line sidewheeler "Alexander Hamilton" SANK about 25 years ago, and was never raised. As a lad, I was quite impressed with the sight of one of her engineers tightening the grease cup on the large end of a connecting rod. He stood in a pulpit on a catwalk, and gave the tee-handle of the grease cup a half-turn each time the crank went by!

John Ruth, Age 49
Who would really like to hear the steam whistle of the Alexander Hamilton once again.
If you are keeping a list, here are a few more engines to add to it, all located at the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club, in Baraboo, WI.
The first is an engine of unknown manufacture, built in the mid-19th century and used near Anitgo, WI, to operate a sawmill until the 1940's. Here is a photo of the engine:

The engine was removed by its current owner, Paul Young, and moved to Baraboo in the mid-1970's. It has a one piece bandwheel (flywheel meant to carry a belt on its rim) 9 feet in diameter and weighing about 4500 pounds. the bore is 12 inches and the stroke is 30 inches. It is of slide valve, side crank construction. Full speed is around 75 rpm and at that speed it generates about 65 horsepower on 100 psig inlet pressure.
Next is a Hamilton Corliss, built in 1885 by Hoovens, Owen & Rentschler in Hamilton, Ohio. The engine is an outside admission, single eccentric bayonet frame corliss. It ran a lineshaft and lighting dynamo at the Reebs Malt plant in Port Washington, WI. It was removed in 1974 and was given by the demo contractor to Circus World Museum, a local organization that had the correct 501c3 tax exempt status. The engine was shipped to them knocked down and packed in a box car and they gave it to our club. The entire deal was orchestrated by a local attorney who was very active in our organization and also at Circus World. The engine has a two piece bandwheel ten feet in diameter and weighing about 6000 pounds. It has a 12" bore and 36 inch stroke. This engine is not intended for steam pressures over 100 to 120 psig. Rated speed is 85 rpm and it generates about 85 horsepower.Here is a photo of the Hamilton:

Next is an engine that I own and have been restoring (you are never really EVER done). It is a Reynolds Corliss, built June 24th, 1889 by Edward P. Allis & Co., at their Reliance Works in Milwaukee. The engine is the 118th of the 12 by 36 engines, and the 2474th engine that they built. It has a ten foot, one piece bandwheel weighing 8300 pounds. It is a girder frame, inside admission, single eccentric engine. Like the Hamilton next to it, it does not have a drop latch or safety stop on the governor. If the belt breaks, the inlet valves will not release and the engine will overspeed until either the valve linkage piles up or the flywheel explodes. The lack of this obviously desirable safety feature is pretty common on 1880's Corliss engines. They learned the hard way through numerous accidents and it became pretty standard on later engines.
My Corliss ran a sawmill for the Jenny Bull Falls Lumber Company in Merrill, WI, from 1889 until the mill went bankrupt in 1930. It was then moved to the Eugene Allard farm south of Tomahawk, WI, where it ran a large commercial sawmill until the boiler gave out, in 1968. The engine then laid idle until we hauled it home in 2001. The engine has been through three fires and two tornadoes. It ran around the clock through both world wars, sawing lumber for crates, boxes and coffins. It has an interesting history and I spent as much time learning about its history as I did repairing and polishing it. Here is a photo of the engine when we first went after it:

The governor and a few other parts had been removed and stored away before the building fell down.
Here is a photo of the engine, after we had run it for about 8 hours. Notice that there are a few little things not yet completed. We ran out of time to grout the dashpots, so they had a piece of 2x6 under them and pieces of cardboard wedged here and there to get them plumb! We now have them grouted and a few more details taken care of. Anyway, here is what it looks like:

I'm the good looking, nattily dressed fellow working on the lubricator in the photo. My beautifully polished Lunkenheimer had a little leak around the sight glass, and when I tried to tighten the packing the glass broke, so we went to plan "B", a ratty old Swift lubricator off an old duplex steam pump. Hydrostatic oilers look great, but they are fussy things.
Another engine that we have is an Ingersoll Rand double simple poppet valve engine with direct connected cross compound air compressor. There were 9 of these in the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, a few miles south of Baraboo. The plant is closed and they have been selling stuff off for scrap on sealed bids. We had been interested in getting one of these engines for a long time, but had to wait for their turn to come so we could bid on it. We finally got our chance and we outbid the scrapper by 49 cents a ton! The engine was to be torn out and then weighed as we removed it, then we would pay for, so much per ton. When all was said and done, we removed 41 tons of steam engine, in the middle of winter, in an unheated building with no electricity. It was challenging, but it really didn't take that long, about 300 man hours, and we did it without using grinders, saws or cutting torches. Lots of jacking, blocking, skating and hoisting with our home-made gantry crane and a five ton chainfall. I became intimately acquainted with a 3 1/8" slug wrench while splitting the flywheel, which was held together with 2" bolts. I swung sledghammer for a solid 8 hours to get the 10 bolts out holding the halves together. The worst of it was breaking the grout, which involved 2 of us taking turns with a 90# jckhammer for a day and a half.
Here is a photo of the engines when we were just getting started:

And here is Herbie Miller with one of the pistons out of the steam engine portion of the compressor:

We haven't gotten around to putting it back together yet, but hope to in the next few years.
A smaller engine, but with an interesting history, is this one:

This Troy-Enberg engine ran a lineshaft in the Nitro Mix House at Badger Army Ammunition Plant. At one time there were three identical engines located in three identical buildings, each of them surrounded by a timber and earth berm. Inside the berm was a small, three story wooden structure. On the third floor was a large vat in which the components were mixed to produce nitroglycerine. Since nitro is pretty touchy stuff, there was no electricity in the building, the lights were on the exterior and shone in through windows. Since they didn't want electricity in the building, they used this steam engine to turn a lineshaft to run the agitator. They had a pretty good set of brushes rigged up to run on the beltint to ensure there was no static electricity built up. Once the nitro was mixed up, it was delivered to other process area by gravity, flowing through wooden troughs, like eaves troughs, with a little wooden cover over them. To signal the end of one batch and the start of the next, they would set a small sponge in the trough to float along with the nitro. I would imagine that the sponges were NOT fished out and thrown on the floor by the recipient. Anyway, near the end of WWII, there was a little screw up in one of the nitro mix houses, someone got things out of whack with the mixture and they blew it up, killing the folks inside. This left two mix houses, and two engines and we have them both. I don't think these engines are very interesting by themselves, but they have a neat history. Removing them from the buildings, which were in bad shape and full of contamination, was an interesting story, but I will save that for another time.
Joe Prindle
Good stuff!
Thanks for all the interesting replies and additions.

I came across a note to say that the "Stationary Engine Society" in the USA printed an "Inventory of Stationary and Marine Steam Engines" in July 1988. I must try and get hold of a copy.

Joe Michaels,
Good to have some uniflow engines included. Have you seen this site? http://carferries.com/skinner/
It has a Skinner Compound Unaflow brochure. I printed out a copy in colour and bound it up, looks good. Impressive engines, but I am not sure if the compound uniflow was a great sucess or not?
Any other good Skinner or Ajax etc info on the web?

The Lombard is a facinating machine - I have some good photos of a Log Hauler made by Phoenix, they were made under the Lombard license. Apparently around 215 of these machines produced. The photos I have are in "Farm Tractors: A Living History" by Randy Leffingwell, he shows a Log Hauler in steam, in Wisconsin, I think. An impressive sight in action I would imagine, hauling 100,000 board feet on as many as 25 12ft wide sldges behind it.

Joe Prindle,
Excellent article and photos, great collection of engines you have there! Very nice!
That is an impressive line-up of compressors, any idea why they needed so much air?
The "Mary Murray" was one of three Staten Island Ferryboats of a class which, I think was called the "Gold Star Mother" class. There were a total of three ferries in this class: "Gold Star Mother" (for the Gold Star Mothers as a result of WWI), "Mary Murray" and "Miss New York". They were the first ferries on the Staten Island run to be oil fired. Each had four (4) Babcock and Wilcox water tube boilers, producing steam at something like 220 psig with some superheat. Main engines were fore-and-aft double compounds. The double compound was a NY Harbor favorite for ferry service. It has two HP and two LP cylinders, with the idea being it would be a good compromise between steam economy, manuverability and power. The engines in this class of ferries were totally "open" classic "up and down" engines, and were nominally rated at 4000 IHP. These ferries had Westinghouse steam turbo generators of about 50 or 75 Kw, producing DC power. They used surface condensers, and had a separate centrifugal circulator pump driven by an enclosed vertical engine ( probably a Troy engine), and had duplex steam pumps for feed and fuel oil service. The last of these ferries, the Miss New York, was withdrawn from service in 1974, I think. The next class of ferries ordered were the "Private Joseph Merrill" class, built about 1952. These had BIG Skinner Unaflow marine engines. The "merrill" class was the last class of ferries on the Staten ISland run to have steam power. The next classes of ferries were ordered with GM-EMD diesel electric propulsion. The last of the Unaflow powered boats was withdrawn from service in the 1980's I think. I rode the engine rooms of the ferries a number of times when I was a high school student and undergraduate in engineering school, so got to see the big double compounds as well as the unaflow engines in steam and manuvering. The engine rooms were supposedly "off limits", but if you caught the right engineer and let him know you were going to Brooklyn Technical HS or studying mechanical engineering, you generally were let into the engine room. Once it became apparent you knew how to keep out of the way of moving machinery and hot steam lines, the visit got extended to more than a quick look around. I can recall going below into the engine room on "the Miss New York" for the first time as a kid of perhaps 15. Walked down the ladders and there was the "double bar" links moving within a foot of me. There was nothing enclose don the old double compound engines, other than a splash shield at the crankshaft level. Everything was spit shined. I can recall being in the engine room when the ferry neared the slip. The S.I. boats ran on a schedule and they "made the turns" to hold to it. I think they ran at better than 12 knots, and there was a lot of harbor traffic in those days. Railroad tugs with car floats, other tugs and barges, as well as some merchant and cruise vessels. The skipper son the S.I. boats had to be prepared to manuver around or yeld the right of way to various shipping traffic, so the engineers kept busy manuvering. COming into the slips, the ferries always seemed to have a fair amount of way on them. All of a sudden, the bridge would ring down "Astern Full" and then the cowbell would jingle (meaning: give it all the extra turns you can). Those old steam engines would stop for a seeming split second, then the steam reverser would put the double bar links over. I can recall that instant when the engine would stop and the light would refelct ont he oil ont he machined parts of the valve motion and rods. Just as quick, the engine would start rolling astern and the whole vessel would shake. The engineers were good, stopping the engines with the HP crank ont he quarter and then trowhing the reverser and opening the throttle. I can also recall feeling, seeing and hearing the vibration of those double compound engines going "Full Astern". Simultaneously, you could feel the ferry kind of "hunker" into the water. After a short run in reverse to check the vessel's speed, the skipper might well ring down "All Stop" and the ferry would kind of coast neatly to the slip with a minum of bumping. Once in the slip, "Ahead Slow" was rung down and the engines were kept turning to hold the ferry in place during the time vehicles and passengers loaded/unloaded. It was quite an experience for a kid to see those big engine work. The skippers and engineers in those years were all good and you never heard of a problem on the Staten Island Ferry. No fancy cycloidal props or thrusters, no direct control from the pilot house, just old time machinery and good crews. I had one classmate at Brooklyn Tech whose dad was chief engineer on one of the Unaflow boats. About the time we were atarting HS, there was a big fire on Staten Island. Staten Island was still the most rural of the five boroughs of NY City. The Verazzano Bridge was under construction, so there was no direct road link from the rest of New York to Staten Island. The fire companies on Staten ISland could not control the fire, and more companies and equipment were needed. The only links were the Staten Island ferries running from Brooklyn (diesel electric with Cleveland diesels, smaller boats as well) and the big steam ferries running from the tip of the Battery in NY City. My classmate said the Department of marine & Aviation, which ran the ferries, called out every available crew member and put every available boat on the run. It was the last hurrah for an even older class of boats than the "Mary Murray"- these were the old two stackers like the "Dongan Hills" and "Knickerbocker". These were then kept as reserve boats. My classmate's dad took him along, and they got on the "Dongan Hills". My classmate told me his dad "took the cuts out" and ran the engines as fast as he could. He told me that old "Dongan Hills" was positively shaking down int he engine room, and the skipper told him they were making close to twenty knots with fire department trucks and firemen aboard. The last remnant of that class of ferries is the old "Knickerbocker"- she lays in a ship graveyard called "Witte's" in Staten ISland. I think the hulls of the "mary Murray" and the "Knickerbocker" have been tidal for years, so both vessels are probably well beyond any preservation. The Unaflow boats were used as floating prisons, and I think they eventually were also scrapped. I recall in college, taking girls on dates aboard the Staten ISland Ferry. A great view of the harbor, and the Statue of Liberty, lit up at night, was always a special sight to see. Whenever we would board one of the ferries, if I knew it was a steam vessel, I would tell my date to sit tight and go down to the engine room for a quick look and at least a sniff of the warm cylinder oil. Going out from NY towards Staten Island, the after end of the ferry gave the best view and was kind of sheltered from the wind. COming back into Manhattan, if you had a good date, you rode the for'd end and wound up cuddling your date to keep her warm. Never did take a date into the engine room of a Staten Island Ferry, though I did take my wife on the ferry on our first date ( a diesel boat).

Joe Michaels
Peter, I have a question about
Boston, Deer Island sewage pumping station.
EP Allis radial "Boston type" engines. Restoration proposed of one engine (15:3, 16:1)

The Deer Isle sewage deal is fairly new, no
more than 15 years or so old.
The last reference to the Deer Island engines is in a 1994 ISSES bulletin which talks "on the proposed restoration of one of the radial triple expansion engines at Deer Island, Boston". It follows with a large (old) photo of one of the E.P. Allis radial "Boston type" engines. These are certainly unusual and interesting engines.

I have a couple of excellent books (or Journals) - "Corliss: Man and Engine", volumes 1&2 by William D. Sawyer, published in 1995 by ISSES. They are packed with photos and info on engines using Corliss valves - there is some info on the Boston sewage pumping engines.

In 1895-96 there were three pumping stations built in the northern suburbs of Boston, Mass. for pumping sewage from the city.
The three stations were East Boston, Deer Island and Charlestown. At Deer Island the sewage was pumped into the sea.
There were originally two engines at each station, E.P. Allis horizontal radial triple expansion, Corliss type. These engines had a vertical crankshaft with three cylinders radially disposed around it, at 120 degrees to each other. (Sawyer says 60 degrees, but I don't think that is correct). The three connecting rods were coupled to a single crank. The vertical shaft continued down below floor level to drive a centrifugal pump. There was no flywheel as such, as the smooth-driving radial engine layout didn't require one, however, the huge pump impeller provided some flywheel effect.

Then more engines were added to each station. One engine from Charlestown was later moved to East Boston. This engine was on standby until 1991 - Sawyer suggests it was perhaps the last steam water/sewage pump in the USA still working.

There is also a photo of a similar engine built by Hooven-Owens-Rentschler, but I am not sure where this engine went.

I had overlooked the fact that Sawyer's 2nd book contains a long list of "Corliss Engines that may be visited" in the USA, and another list for the UK and Eire. It doesn't include the Boston sewage engines, I guess the reason is that they cannot be visited.

A quick count of Corliss engines in the USA that can be visited comes to approx. 120 in Sawyers list. Note, these are only engines with Corliss valve gear, not all the other steam engines that have also survived, eg uniflow, slide valve etc. etc.

He also has a bit more info about the engines at Boston's Chestnut Hill Pumping Station. This info is different from that which I showed above, so I am not sure exactly what engines remain there.
-E.P. Allis vertical triple expansion, Corliss and poppet valves, 30", 56" & 87" x 66". Built in 1897 (in high service building)
-Snow cross-compound Corliss pumping engine, 1921, 23", 54" x 36" (in high service building)
-Three Holly vertical triple expansion pumping engines. Corliss and poppet valves, 17", 31 1/4" & 48" x 60", built in 1900 (in low service building).
-E.D. Leavitt designed pumping engine, gridiron valves, built 1995, the only survivor of its type.

"The most important surviving steam pumping station in the US. Not run. All visitors must apply for permission in writing to the Director of Operations, Operations Department, Water Works Division, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Phone M.W.R.A at (617) 242-6000 for details.

Nb. This info was written in 1995, so may be out-dated, especially with current security fears at such water supply facilities.
I was under the impression that the Deer
Island plant in boston harbor was still
using the Nordberg flat radial engines to
lift sewage up for discharge.

And that those were run off of methane gas
that was generated on site.

I had also heard that the Smithsonian wanted
to get one when they were removed from service,
but the MDC said "we're still using them."


How about the Rollins Engine in the basement of the Boston Science Museam? I also have heard roumers of its bigger brother being in Mendon, Mass. Several years back a former coworker of mine and some friends decided to restore the old Rollins but ambition and money ran out. A friend died and it now sits in pieces on a peice of property in Mendon, MA. I knew a guy who had the money and was looking for such an engine so I brought it to the attention of my coworker. However something their wouldn't come out but all I got was a bitter, "No the engine is not forsale don't ask me about it again!"

AS for other engines how about this site http://users.ids.net/~newsm/

The Boston pumps at Chestnut Hill need volunteers. The pumps being saved consist of a two triples, one compound, and a turbine. One of the triples is the Leavit triple referred to in earlier posts. I visited this engine just a few days ago (Nov 23, 2004). The engine is a marvel to view, and has beautiful wood paneled jacketing. The condition is mechanically good but cosmetically rough. The building is not heated and 30 years of condensation have rusted all surfaces, but bearings still show oil in them.

There is an urgent need for volunteers to help with preservation. The ownership recently changed from city to a private developer. The arrangement calls for preservation in place.

The website is Chestnut Hill Waterworks

Steven Harrod
Maybe I can give you a bit more history on Boston pumping engines. At Chestnut Hill, there are two pump stations, the low service and the high service. The service contains 4 Reynolds-Corliss Vertical Triple Expansion engines. As I understand it, the plan is to remove those engines and turn the building into condos. The high service pump station contains the Leavit engine, which is an ASME engineering landmark, a hroizontal, cross compound engine built by the Holly works, and a large, EP Allis vertical triple epxansion engine. The roof leaked for many years, and there is a lot of superficial rust on the engines. Like many others, I am hopeful that the engines will be preserved, but the buildings have been sold to a developer. At this point I am not sure what is happening.

The reamains of one sewage pumping system are still around, and the rest have been replaced with other systems. The system on the North of Boston ran along the Mystic river, making deep excavation difficult. These high capacity, shallow head pumps were used in Charlstown, East Boston, and Deer Island. The engines are as sescribed on previous posts. I am not sure of the status of the individual plants. Charstown might have been in standby service, but I think it is gone. East Boston had one operable Allis Chalmers engine, and it was either this one, or Charlstown that appeared in Conrad Milster's video. East Boston also had a Horizontal Skinner Unaflow engine driving the vertical pump through a bevel gearbox. The original pump station on East Boston had a number of pumps still in place the last time I saw it, which was 15 years ago, but the engines were vandalized. The main pumping for the Boston sewers then was a number of radial Nordberg Diesel or gas engines. I do not think Deer Island had digesters, so there probably was no source of gas, and the engines probably ran on diesel oil.

Historic preservation collided with the EPA. Boston only had primary sewage treatment when all these steam pumps were capable of running. They had to meet court deadlines. While I am unsure of the details, I believe they had to put in new pump stations. I am not sure if anything has been preserved, except for some videos and photos.

I have more information, but not a lot of specific data on engines. If you would like a bit more, post a note, and I will try to put together a more organized history.

Thanks for the info, I would certainly enjoy reading any other history you can put together.
Hope to get there one day.

Can you give me any info on the video you mention by Conrad Milster?

I have been too busy lately to get to it, but will one day post some photos and details of an awesome pair of Triples I visited at Kempton Park, London recently. These are the two largest remaining waterworks engines in the UK, and they are beautiful!

These engines ran until the 1980's, then left derelict until recent times when both have been cleaned up, and one returned to steam in 2004. I went to the 2nd public steaming, unfortunately, one of the main bearings was damaged in the earlier run, so I didn't see her under steam. Nonethe less, worth seeing.

How do you repair a overheated, partially seized main bearing on an engine like this? Just the bearing cap alone weighs something like 2 tons, they had that lifted with a chain block. The crankshaft journal was slightly discolured, but felt smooth. The bearing surface needs some attention. The real problem is the lower half of the bearing, the crank with flywheels weighs around 100 tons from memory.
I hope to return this year to see it under steam, hopefully they sort out their 'big' problem.

Another big, living engine in the UK is the 12,000 HP River Don rolling mill engine at Kelham Island industrial museum, Sheffield. See www.simt.co.uk/ and follow link to 'Kelham Island Museum' - 'What is there to see' - 'River Don engine'.

Built in 1905, it originally drove an armour plate rolling mill. Because of the need to make haste while the steel was hot, the engine could go from full forward speed to full reverse in 2 seconds. The museum runs it on steam, and when I saw it a few years ago the rapid reversal feature was demonstrated, leaving me open-mouthed. I don't know whether they treat it quite so vigorously nowadays. It's been featured on one of the BBC TV programs presented by the late, great, Fred Dibnah.

Sheffield isn't a noted tourist trap, and 'Kelham Island' is in an ex-industrial area, but with its museum and adjacent micro-brewery pub, what more could a member of this forum ask?

The previous home of the engine, River Don steelworks, is still very much in business, now known as Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Limited (SFEL), making steel castings up to 500 tons, and big high quality forgings for turbines etc. I was lucky enough to visit on business a few weeks ago, and watched in admiration as a glowing 150 ton ingot was shaped under the 12000 ton press. One man was calmly operating the press, another was driving the manipulator, while another, standing close to this radiant lump of alloy steel, gave occasional minimalist hand signals. These unsung heroes probably don't get paid much, but their skill and experience are immeasurable. And probably irrelevant to our leaders, who tend to care nothing for the retention of such skills. I also watched huge lathes turning rough forgings into gleaming rolls for steelworks rolling mills, coils of blue swarf 30mm wide and 2mm thick quietly peeling off. The rolls were destined for China. Now there's a novelty.