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Steam Stationary Engines, Traction Engines

Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?


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  #1  
Old 12-31-2012, 09:22:43 PM
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Default Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

Did a search on the forum but did not really turn up the complete answer I am looking for, so apologies if this has been asked before.


I have a Stationary steam engine of around the 4 hp or better size, and would like to run it for display at shows on compressed air.

I'm not looking to run any thing with the engine, just have it turning over and every thing moving for the spectators to look at.


My question(s) are as follows.

1- Is this a good idea ? I know it would be nice to run it on steam (have had it running on steam before with a friends boiler) but can't afford to go that root right now. Will compressed air work for this and are their any issues with air vs steam that might harm the engine.

2-lubrication. Would the same lubrication as well as lubricators run on it when under live steam work just as well with air ? or should a different oil and or means of lubrication (on the cylinder etc) be used ? what would you recommend ?

As far as I know it's not a very common engine so would not want to cause any harm to it trying this so seeking advice first before proceeding.

Thanks for your time.
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:42:47 PM
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Default Re: Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

Air will not harm the engine, but it's a good thing you don't expect any power from it as air will not produce the power of steam, even with a bigger compressor.
If you have a mechanical lubricator it will work, many of those for steam rely on condensed steam to push the oil up to steam line level. What I did was just stop the air once in a while and squirt some oil into the feedline, not the best way of doing it, but works for occasional useage. Somewhere there are drip type oilers available I'm sure that would be for pressure.
I use 30 weight regular oil, steam oil needs the heat and water to help it carry and lube better and I don't think it is as effective cold, I don't think it will hurt anything but is more money and not as effective and is harder on cleaning up when you're done playing with it.
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Old 01-01-2013, 09:10:45 AM
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Default Re: Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

If you just want it to turn it over, a more economical solution is to use a small electric motor to drive it. I would think you should still lubricate it like you are going to run on steam.
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Old 01-01-2013, 09:45:33 AM
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Default Re: Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

IMHO, it is much better to have an air line lubricator, a.k.a. air tool lubricator. This will give a constant mist and continuous lubrication.

The lubricator needs to be sized for the air flow to get good performance. Too large will not draw and mist. Too small will cause excessive pressure drop.

Also, I would use a light viscosity lube. There are SAE 5 air tool lubricants that perform well and avoid gumming, as some heavier bodied motor oils will in this application.

https://www.google.com/search?q=air+tool+lubricato
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Old 01-01-2013, 03:34:18 PM
Jim Mackessy Jim Mackessy is offline
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Default Re: Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

One other thing you need to know, your governor settings will change. It will not run the same speed on air as it will on steam, at least that has been my experience with my 4 HP vertical. I ran it for a couple of years on air, the first time I had it going on steam it took off and I had to stop and change the governor settings. The most likely reason for this is the volume of air available from the smaller line from the compressor versus the larger steam line, but I'm pretty sure the expansive powers of the steam are coming into play too. Thinking about just the governor, it doesn't sound logical that the speed should change, but it did on my engine. I dripped 10 wt oil into the inlet line, but an air line lubricator is better for long display periods. - Jim Mackessy
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Old 01-01-2013, 05:57:14 PM
Pete Deets Pete Deets is offline
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Default Re: Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

To echo others, a light (air tool) oil misted into the supply is necessary because you're oiling the governor, valve body, valve seat, valve stem packing, piston & rings and piston rod packing. A lot of things when you stop to consider it. Steam cylinder oil won't do it cold because it uses the heat in the steam to help atomize the oil.

Another thing to consider is do you have enough air? Take the volume of the cylinder (in cu. ft.) X 2 X rpm to figure the cubic feet per minute. Will your compressor deliver that?

I hope you have fun showing off your prize & Happy New Year!.....PD
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Old 01-01-2013, 06:24:52 PM
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Default Re: Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

I'd say it is a good idea if you don't have a boiler. We do it the same way with our stationary engine. I had also thought of installing an electric engine to turn it over but on compressed air it sounds more like running on steam. I use a 1" adjustable air regulator which does the job fine.

http://www.smokstak.com/forum/showth...french+corliss

Marcel
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:47:45 AM
Fred Cooper Fred Cooper is offline
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Default Re: Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

Hi,
As people have said, provided you make sure it gets enough oil, it will be ok.

Not as good as running it on steam, but a 100 times better than rotting away unseen, in the back of a shed.

Best of luck,
Fred
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Old 01-06-2013, 08:55:25 PM
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Default Re: Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

A big thank you to everyone that replied to this post. Thanks so much, will be making an attempt with this info to run the engine on compressed air.

Thanks Again.
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Old 01-06-2013, 11:47:35 PM
Pete LaBelle Pete LaBelle is offline
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Default Re: Running A stationary steam engine on compressed air. Good idea or Bad idea ?

If you will be running the engine on air and not see steam too much, you might want to slide the eccentric forward a few degrees. Steam engines only get steam for around 2/3 to 3/4 of the stroke. With the normal lead incorporated in the valve setting, the engine gets a pulse of non-expanding air, and at the later portion of the stroke, really slows the revolutions till it gets past center some.

I have done this to some of my air-only engines and they idle for demonstration purposes far smoother than when timed for steam.

Pete
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