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Edison Batteries and Delco light plant info wanted


Hello everyone,

I found this site doing a search on Delco light plants and have enjoyed reading some of the posts and am glad to see there is alot of knowledge here from like minded collectors.

First a little background is in order. I am from upstate New York and interested in pretty much anything old and mechanical. I am into Ford flathead engines and Dad is a collector of hit and miss engines. Dad and I belong to a hunting club that has a camp in the Adirondack Mountains on 50 acres of private owned land that is surrounded by state owned "Forever Wild" forest.

The original members logged and hunted the area in the late forties and was incorporated as a club in 1950. A camp was constructed from the salvaged lumber from a house that was torn down and hauled back into the woods with teams of horses. Access to the camp today is via a Jeep trail that winds through the woods.

Power for the camp lights is provided by a Delco light plant 32 volt system that was installed when the camp was built in 1950. It was more than likely used on one of the original member's farms in the twenties and thirties until electricity became available. We also have a 32 volt water pump that pumps water from the creek up into a holding tank over the sink. The light plant is housed in a little shack called the "powerhouse"

For many years we have enjoyed the distinct sound of the old Delco popping away as we hiked back over the ridge and got close enough to hear the old generator. The familiar sound has guided many a hunter back to camp at near dusk.

We have two banks of the old rectangular storage batteries and run off one bank and recharge the other bank. Years ago one of our older members took the batteries apart and rejuvenated them with I believe caustic. Another member has access to some newer storage batteries used in electric company substations and we have replaced one of the banks of original batteries with these. The system works well and serves our needs.

One of the problems we are experiencing as a club is that our knowledge base of the older guys who knew the Delco inside and out have either passed away or are now no longer active in the club for aging health reasons and the younger guys like myself are left to try to keep the old thing going. We collectively feel that there is no reason to stop using the Delco as it is one of the things about the camp that makes it "camp". There is a respect for the past that would be lost with a modern Honda generator in it's place.

If anyone has any advice for keeping the old plant going or where we can source parts. We do have a manual that was photocopied from the original. The other thing is that we have about 3 dozen of the original rectangular metal storage batteries that we have replaced with the newer batteries. They are in good shape and not leaking and we would like to see if anyone is interested in them. All the clamps that connect the batteries are there and we would like to see these go to someone who could use them. If anyone has interest in finding a new home for them and wants to discuss them let me know.

Sorry for the long winded post. Thanks for reading!




Sounds like you may need to contact "Delco" Don. If he doesnt see this posting and he may ;) He will be in the members list.

K D Redd

In Memory Of
There is also a thread of a guy in England who has been working on a Delco with Edison Batteries. This may be in the Delco sub-forum.


Don C. Wiley

In Memory Of
Last Subscription Date
Jeep Guy;

It would be difficult to explain every thing that you really need to know about that generator, but I can point out some common problems. I'm assuming you have a Model-850 Delco-Light generator. It would be nice to have a picture posted here so I could tell you for sure what model unit you are talking about.

1: Be sure to keep the valve clearance adjusted. If the intake valve gets too much clearance they tended to run a bit slower and caused the start relay to "drop" out.

2: keep oil in it. They tended to leak oil, so you need to check it on a regular bases. Propably every time you fill it with fuel.

3. Be sure to keep the fuel very clean. The "jet" in the mixer has a VERY small hole in it and even the smallest chunk of rust or dirt will stop the engine from running. I take a short piece of the "B" string from my guitar and epoxy it in a small wood handle to keep the jet clear.

4: The Model-850 generators were made to run on kerosene, but preform better on gasoline.

5: I would clean and polish the points once a year.

6: The Delco-Light generators were pretty much foolproof, so it won't need much maintance. Parts could be a problem, but you shouldn't need any parts any way.

If you have a problem, just let me know and I should be able to help you with almost any trouble you might have.



Don, I was hoping you would reply- Thanks for the advice on the generator. I will pass the info on to the rest of the club members at the next meeting. Good to know there is a place to find the answers!

Do you think there is a demand for these old batteries that we have? They look to be in good shape-probably just need some cleaning and recharging as they were not keeping our lights going as long as they used to before we swapped in the newer ones I would think if someone wanted to set up a bank for a vintage display they would be just the ticket.

If anyone could advise as to if there is a value/demand and if I should post them up in the classifieds?

K D Redd

In Memory Of
Keep using the Edison Batteries as from what I have read they last for DECADES with a little maintenance.

Just a note for you on the Edison battery... some of those (i'll try to post a picture tommorrow of mine) are NiCad ..the electrolyte is KOH or potasium hydroxide. If you have that type and add only water your ok if your thinking of adding sulfuric(the acid electrolyte) to one be sure what it is by doing a litmus test or just extract a couple of drops and put them on common cement the acid battery will foam rapidly . the caustic potash KOH will not.....Do not add acid to NiCad it will very rapidly blow the liquid out into your face... Oh yes, by the way the proper solution is a 30% solution of distilled water and KOH ..Thats molar concentration not by weight.. mix the KOH in a seperate container slowly it gets hot when it hits the water ..wear gloves and goggles, long sleeves..etc..have some extra water on hand to wash yourself off...stir with a plastic spoon. then funnel into your battery... discharge completly then chage @ 5 amps for 24 hours or untill you see it get a foam on top then trickle out a 1.5 ...My cells are grouped in 4 cell packs and are rated at 100ah ..I have two sizes 100 and 150ah..I'll do my best to figure out the picture post thing tomorrow ..they were all purchased surplus and still retain 95% of their capacity well into their 10th year...HEARTOFTEXAS
I have taken a couple of pictures of the "type" of NiCad I was speaking about in another post. If the shorting bars were removed they would look very similar to the battery you have. Wish you the best of luck with the system. HEARTOFTEXAS:wave:



Are you still looking to get rid of the edison batteries? If so, I am interested, please PM me.



Thanks to all that have replied on this thread. I haven't been on here in a while but here is an update.

Glad to hear you are starting to recover, Delco Don!

We have found a party earlier in the Summer that was interested in the batteries. They do research and testing on DC storage systems and were interested in obtaining the batteries to see if they could revive them and test them out.

The light plant is working well with our newer VRLA batteries although I am sure we will not see anywhere the life span as we would with the Edisons.