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Generators & Motors General Discussion Antique Generators, Light Plants and Old Electric Motors: Questions and answers about restoring and showing old power generation systems.

Generators & Motors General Discussion

Carbide Lighting System


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  #1  
Old 01-26-2001, 10:05 PM
Larry Kastens
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Default Carbide Lighting System

Can someone direct me to a site that deals with domestic carbide lighting systems? These were used in western Kansas in the 20's and 30's. Thanks.
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  #2  
Old 01-27-2001, 12:18 AM
Don C. Wiley
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

I live in southern Illinois and the local weekly newspaper had a picture of a guy who was digging in his back yard and ran into one of the old carbide generators. Those things are a bit dangerous if not handled properly.

I don't have any information where you can find help on that topic. I wanted you to know they were used here in southern Illionis as well.

My uncle had a carbide generator that he used with his cutting torch.

"DELCO DON"
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  #3  
Old 01-28-2001, 11:43 PM
Bill Hazzard
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

I have set up and successfully run an acetylene generator with acetylene lights in my shop. I might be able to answer any questions you might have about acetylene lighting.
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  #4  
Old 01-30-2001, 08:35 PM
Tommy Stojanov
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

Hello Bill, I have pondered about finding and trying to return an acetylene generator back to operating condition. I know of one half buried in the ground out in Pitsford, NY on and old farm which has been recently restored and renovated, but haven't asked the owners about it, I think they may want to keep it. My neighbor and I service their indoor pool. Do you know where I might find one or know of one for sale? What might I pay for one? I have been looking for the past 4 months. Can you help me? Thanks.
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  #5  
Old 01-30-2001, 10:39 PM
Bill Hazzard
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

Tommy, I don't know of any acetylene genereators for sale. I paid $2 for the one I have at an auction. You might have to pay $100 or $200 for a nice Colt generator. The one you know about in NY might be a gasoline vapor lighting system. The gasoline vaporizers were usualy burried in the ground. Good luck, Bill.
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  #6  
Old 02-11-2001, 10:11 PM
Randy
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

I have what you are asking about however mine is a coleman lighting system hydo carbon company and is about 3' talland 6" in dia. with the coleman gage and the wrighting is in very good condition. I will e-mail you some pics.
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  #7  
Old 05-19-2003, 08:35 PM
Robin DeLoria
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

I recently purchaced a 1920's boarding home in Upstate NY which was used to house employee's of a mill on the Hudson River. I have portions of the "carbide lighting system" here and I am interested in getting it working for historical purposes. Any information would be a great help.

thanks

Robin
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  #8  
Old 05-19-2003, 09:34 PM
Franz
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

I doubt if you really want to run it, but if you want to restore for a showpiece, check on the liquid light site; www.lampguild.org/ Of course, if you happen to find the acetelene generator, there's a young fellow named Tommy who will be more than happy to remove it for you.
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  #9  
Old 05-20-2003, 09:21 AM
Steve Wright
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

Well now that we got the subject of Carbide Lighting systems going, I have a question. I am an electrician by trade and run accross these gas piping systems in the ceilings and walls of old houses. The piping is all that is left usually, but several years ago I aquired a "tin type" gas utility meter hooked to this piping system. This is stuff that was put in at the turn of the other century. So this was city gas run to a few well to do people in town. Question is: Would this have been a central maybe city owned Carbide generator? Or would have it been a Propane/butane hookup to replace the carbide generators in individual homes? We didn't get Natural gas coming through our part of Nebraska till the 50's Just curious. Steve
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  #10  
Old 05-20-2003, 06:09 PM
Robin DeLoria
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

From what I have learned about the carbide generators here locally, the piping systems extended from 50 feet to about 500 feet and generated gas for a small store and hotel around the turn of the century and into the late 1800's.

What I would like to do it to get the generator working and hook up one gas light nearby as a HISTORICAL EXHIBIT. However I know nothing about the system and can't be sure if all the bells and whistles are still here.

I'll post some pictures soon. robin
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  #11  
Old 05-20-2003, 07:33 PM
David Reichert
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

My great grandfather installed several of them. He bought farms and fixed them up "modern" in the 1890-1920 period. Calcium carbide crystals and water make acetelyne gas for lighting. The generator applies water to the calcium on demand by virtue of gas pressure or resivoir fullness(some had a floating inverted bucket reservoir) Larger ones made a gas by reduceing coal in a closed retort under controlled conditions.These bigger ones were usually city size installations. Some areas had pipeline natural gas as early as mid 1890s.
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  #12  
Old 05-20-2003, 07:44 PM
Robin DeLoria
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

Photo of Generator


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  #13  
Old 05-20-2003, 07:45 PM
Robin DeLoria
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

Photo of Generator


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  #14  
Old 05-20-2003, 07:46 PM
Robin DeLoria
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

Photo of Light Fixture


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  #15  
Old 05-20-2003, 09:29 PM
Franz
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

Depending on geography, and availability, everything from gasoline to coal gas was used for lighting prior to electricity. A byproduct of converting coal to coke was coal gas, a/k/a manufactured gas, witch was either flared off or wasted to the atmousphere till somebody go tthe bright idea of running it thru pitch covered wooden pipes, and selling it for lighting and cooking, as well as converting home water heaters from coal to gas. Many homes, in areas where coal gas and natural gas were available, were built with gas lines and light fixtures. In areas where no coal or natural gas were available, gasoline systems were popular. These are easily definable by 1/8 or 1/4" copper tubing running to the fixtures. Carbide/acetelene systems were also used in areas without municipal gas systems. Carbide generators are a pain in the a$$ because they require cleaning to remove the residue of the gas generating process. Like gasoline systems, Carbide systems tended to be set up for a single user such as a house. Carbide generation is also a dangerous process, because the generator can easily go overpressure, and must vent off.
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  #16  
Old 05-21-2003, 11:59 AM
Jim H.
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Default Manufactured Gas

The oldest gas lines I know of still in use date back to 1840. Manufactured gas was used throughout the country for many years. I have an 1886 catalog of "gas appliances" that shows streetlights and such.

As to the tin case meter, they were sized by the number of lights that could be served off of it. For example, the smaller ones, about a foot high and 6-8 inches wide and deep, were 5 light meters. As the gas was distributed at low pressure, like 1 psi or lower, the mains were either very big (I have seen 6-foot diameter cast iron gas mains in NYC) or were not very long. The limiting factor as to the distance the gas could be delivered was simply pressure. If the gas was compressed, a smaller pipe could be used to deliver it further, but then pressure regulators had to be installed at every house-but if the gas was delivered at the pressure the appliance, i.e., light, stove, water heater, whatever, could use, then no regulator was necessary.

I have a 1927 book called "Natural Gas Operator's Handbook" that talks about one way to check for leaks is to tie a torch to the end of a long pole and hold it close to the ground as you walk along the pipeline. How would like that job?
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  #17  
Old 05-24-2003, 10:38 PM
John Ne
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

Long ago I worked in a shop using one of these generators, it corroded up terribly, was actually two tanks, one floating inside another on a cushion of water, had to be real sure it didn't run out of water, if it did, could go boom, and once I heard the upper tank had hit the ceiling. I was well cautioned against moving it when the torch was lit, it was on wheels, had a regular acetylene regulator on the side, and an oxygen bottle strapped to the stand. The Stuhr museum in Grand Island Nebraska has a Generator in a shed behind one of the historic houses there, I understand city regulations said it had to be at least 75 feet from the house, in case of difficulty. oh Yeah, the corrosion in the generator was white, chalky, and pretty hard to chip off. John in Ne.
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  #18  
Old 05-28-2003, 04:34 PM
Russ Hughes
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Default Re: Manufactured Gas

That must have been a little before OSHA came along.
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  #19  
Old 03-15-2004, 04:26 PM
helen white
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

i am slowly dismantling/restoring an old dogtrot log house in sw virginia with remnants of a carbide light system still in place. the generator is in the yard, is there any danger to be associated with it at this point?
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  #20  
Old 03-16-2004, 12:44 AM
Andrew
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Default Re: Carbide Lighting System

If the generater is still intact, make sure no moisture can get in it. Do not use power tools to cut the existing piping, in case there is any residual acetylene gas present. If the existing piping must be cut, use a manual hacksaw. make sure any open ends are capped. The interior piping should be made of brass.
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