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Delco and other Low Voltage DC Light Plants Antique Generators, Light Plants, Typically 24, 32 or 48 volt although some are 110 volt. DC Lamps, Motors and appliances.

Delco and other Low Voltage DC Light Plants

Delco-Light Plant needs serious love


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  #1  
Old 08-18-2016, 11:13:24 AM
jdbjicase jdbjicase is offline
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Default Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

Hello everyone. I've been a lurker on the site for awhile now, and I try to answer my questions before posting. This one is really getting me down, though. I hope someone out there can help.

I have inherited a Delco-Light Plant from my great-grandfather's blacksmith shop. I've done a small amount of research, and from what I can tell it was built in the first half of 1923. That's about all I know about it. Here are a few pictures so you can see what I have to work with.









As you can see, I am missing a few parts. I'd like to say they are around the shop somewhere, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Does anyone out there have any words of wisdom for me?
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Old 08-18-2016, 11:26:52 AM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

DO NOT attempt ti turn the engine until you have freed the valves! Otherwise, you will have broken rockers. First I would remove the head and see what the cylinder looks like inside. If heavily rusted, and pitted, then I would just part it out. if the cylinder only has slight or no rust, then see if the engine turns over. If it does, you have a chance at getting it going.

Looks like you are missing all the engine shrouding, the head cover, the carb, the exhaust, fuel tank, and possibly more. if you cannot find these items around the property, it will be hard and expensive to replace, unless you can buy a donor unit for a good price. If the piston is stuck, or the cylinder badly pitted and rusted, then I would not bother to try and rebuild, unless you have all the other parts. Even if you get the engine running, then you have to worry about the generating section - a whole another story.

Sorry for the bad news.
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Old 08-19-2016, 11:00:39 AM
jdbjicase jdbjicase is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

That's kind of what I figured, but I thought I'd throw it up here and see if anybody could help me locate parts. I think I found the exhaust but I'll have to look at it to make sure. Does anyone have a parts book or some kind of diagram to show what I'm missing? It would be easier to locate the missing parts if I knew exactly what I'm looking for.
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Old 08-19-2016, 01:08:13 PM
George Andreasen George Andreasen is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

Here's a photo identification guide: http://delcolight.com/12.html Go to the identification page and select "Photo identification".

Check out the picture of the 850...it'll give you an idea of what's mounted on the carburetor side of the unit. The exhaust side is nothing more than a 1" pipe opening. The "carburetor" is actually a simple cast iron mixer with 1" pipe threads also. It's about six inches long and has a shutter or vane type control.....like an old gas stove valve....that regulates the air. In turn, it has a cast iron piece on the end that fits over a tube that goes down to the crankcase valve below. If you spot anything with green paint, it probably goes with the unit.

The flywheel looks like an earlier one......the vanes are closer together than the later generators from the twenties, but that's just my personal observation and it's probably wrong. Perhaps the flywheel was replaced at one time? No matter as it should work fine.

The engines on these Delco Lights are very simple and you can probably get it going as a project. If the starting switch coil, ignition coil and generator wiring are shot at least you can get a nifty upright air cooled engine out of the deal. Note that the engine draws air DOWN past the cylinder and blows it out through the flywheel, so that shrouding around the cylinder is vital.

I agree with Andrew though. That generator is missing a LOT of parts and if you can't locate them in the shed it might get pretty expensive to find replacements. Again, don't crank it over until you've verified everything is loose!

Last edited by George Andreasen; 08-19-2016 at 01:30:32 PM.
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Old 08-19-2016, 01:54:01 PM
joebiodiesel joebiodiesel is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

The first old engines I ever messed with were Delcos. I have a running 1250 and a running 850. They are fun to fool with, but they aren't worth much. In my opinion, you have a nice parts engine there. The only reason to restore it would be sentimental value. (That sounds harsh when I re-read it. I don't mean it that way.)
I've never seen a Delco Light Plant with a generator that wasn't easily repaired. They are nearly bullet proof. If it wasn't for mice chewing the windings, they'd never need attention. They are over-built, so that if they are overloaded, the engine will stall before the generator is hurt. So if you get it running, there is a great chance the generator will work just fine.

If that was mine, and I wanted to save it, I'd make my own parts to keep the costs down. It certainly won't hurt the collector value of it. Mixers, manifolds and shrouds can be fabricated by most every engine guy I've ever met.

Joe
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Old 08-20-2016, 11:29:58 AM
jdbjicase jdbjicase is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

Thank you all. Judging by the pictures on delcolight.com, I have a 1200 series. The front cover on the generator side looks the same. There is a small tag on the exhaust side of the generator that has what I assume to be a serial number. It says "DELCO-LIGHT 182188". According to delcolight.com's serial numbers list, that would make it a 1923, unless I'm reading the charts wrong. I will do some more digging to see if I can locate the missing parts. This part of the shop is a mess, and we will probably have to tear it out soon. The town is cracking down on what they call "dilapidated structures", so I'm trying to clean up what I can.
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Old 08-21-2016, 09:29:06 AM
jdbjicase jdbjicase is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

Here's a little update on my progress. I took the head off so I could see what the cylinder looks like. It came off with minimal effort. It looks pretty good inside. the valves and rockers are even free. Here's what the cylinder head looks like inside.



The cylinder is a bit rougher shape. I'm guessing that because of the lack of roof on the lean-to, rainwater dripped into the intake side, seeped past the valve, and settled on top of the piston.



I sprayed Free All into the cylinder, then covered it with plastic bags to protect it until I can get back. The engine is stuck, as you can imagine. I'm still digging around for the missing parts, but I'm not liking my odds. I found what I'm pretty sure is the exhaust pipe. I also have a couple parts that may or may not go with it, but it's hard to tell. Basically anything in the general vicinity of the plant that looks potentially to go with it, I'm saving. I will post pictures when I have more to show.

Any suggestions on where to go from here?
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Old 08-21-2016, 05:35:55 PM
George Andreasen George Andreasen is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

Just a suggestion.......cover your cylinder with a piece of cloth instead. Plastic has a bad tendency to condense water in the air. The cloth will let everything "breathe" while it soaks.

That bore looks salvageable to me. Just let it soak so as to not break the rings when you start "convincing" it to move. The rings will have to be replaced and if it's a 2" bore, rings from a Maytag 92 should fit.

There should be an oil level indicator on the lower side of the crank case, with an arm inside and a cork float on the end. If you drain any oil then remove the two bolts holding the indicator, you can pull the whole assembly out and get a good peek inside the crank case. That will give you an idea of it's condition.

Edit: I forgot to mention earlier, Delcos rely on the batteries to keep the engine speed regulated. If you decide the generator is shot and just want to use the engine, you should fit a float type carburetor like something off a Briggs and Stratton. Since there's no governor you could simply lock the throttle at one rpm and run it that way.

Last edited by George Andreasen; 08-21-2016 at 09:53:06 PM.
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Old 08-21-2016, 10:24:02 PM
jdbjicase jdbjicase is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

The only reason I put plastic over it is because it's still living in a partially collapsed lean-to. If it was indoors I probably would have left it alone.

Is there a way to determine which model you have when there isn't an identifier on the serial number tag? If my plant is a 1200 series it could run 32 volts or 110 volts. I have found Edison batteries in the shop as well, but there are enough cells to make 48 volts. I'm not sure if I have too many or not enough.
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Old 08-22-2016, 09:03:48 PM
joebiodiesel joebiodiesel is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

32V units are WAY more common than 110V, so I'm betting it is the former. Once the engine is spinning, connect three 12V batteries in series to see if the gen section will spin it. If it does, the generator will charge as well.
Don't worry that you're putting more than 32V into it. They aren't regulated like a modern generator and will put out 40+ volts if the load drops. The old batteries with lots of electrolyte weren't harmed by this, but you'll boil the water right out of a modern battery with a Delco if you don't keep an eye on your loads and charge voltage.

If you plan to run it at shows, plan on putting a good muffler on it, because the noise coming out of them is worse than a Briggs!

Joe
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Old 08-23-2016, 04:46:21 PM
George Andreasen George Andreasen is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

If those are actual Edison cells in that shed, do NOT try to add electrolyte until you do some research. Edisons did not use acid/water. I only know enough about them to be dangerous, but I know enough to know that I'd sure like to have a full set! They're supposed to be almost indestructible even after sitting many years.

If they are Edison nickle/iron cells you are a very lucky man!
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Old 08-25-2016, 06:52:28 AM
cammer cammer is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

check out youtube restored delco light plant by bgnagie
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Old 08-26-2016, 09:49:38 AM
jdbjicase jdbjicase is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

I've seen bgnagie's videos. The one where he has two running at the same time seems to be more useful to me,as the one unrestored on the bench more closely resembles mine.

The batteries say "Edison Standard" on the caps. They are buried in the shop, and I haven't done anything more than simply located them. I will attempt to get pictures the next time I am in there.

I'm becoming concerned about finding the mixing valve. I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for. Can anybody point me in the direction of some information about the mixing valve assembly?
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Old 09-30-2016, 11:17:11 AM
FDChief FDChief is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

I have reprint parts and electrical service manuals for sale if you are interested.
I also have some parts if you get to the point where you need that.

I have a set of Thomas Edison Nickle-iron / alkaline batteries that I use in my display trailer.
If they are low on fluid just add distilled water, the potassium hydroxide chemical is still in there it does not evaporate; it just dries up and turns into powder.
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Old 10-10-2016, 12:59:46 AM
jdbjicase jdbjicase is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

Thanks for the info, FDChief. I haven't had a chance to dig the batteries out yet, but I'm thinking I will have to give it a try after we finish with harvest. Haven't figured out how to charge them without the Delco put together, but I'll burn that bridge when I get there.
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Old 10-10-2016, 10:22:40 AM
joebiodiesel joebiodiesel is offline
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Default Re: Delco-Light Plant needs serious love

Quote:
Originally Posted by jdbjicase View Post
Thanks for the info, FDChief. I haven't had a chance to dig the batteries out yet, but I'm thinking I will have to give it a try after we finish with harvest. Haven't figured out how to charge them without the Delco put together, but I'll burn that bridge when I get there.
Get three 12V batteries and charge them with a normal battery charger. No need to have 32V exactly. A delco will easily produce enough voltage to charge them. In my experience, the 32V bulbs survive continuous use at almost 50V.
They do burn a bit brighter though!
Joe
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