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Walking Beam Steam Engine

dave stevena

Registered
Hello everyone

i just joined the forum looking for help on a project i have undertaken.
This is the story of a lost steam engine that was once part of the propulsion system on board the civil war ironclad Cairo. My goal is to create the steam system first as a 3D animated video then once i have all the pieces and parts i will 3D print them and build a working model.
The problem at this point is the main auxiliary enging is "lost" and no one seems to know where or when it went missing.
so let me begin with the drawings.

the question i have is if the engine was lost what is the drawing based on if it was never seen? so what can the drawing be based on?

the main engine pumped water to the boilers from the river, it turned the capstan, it heated the vessel and drove the paddlewheel.

i have scant knowledge of these steam engines and the drawing lacks a lot of finer details. So if i can gather enough information i might be able to reconstruct the main engine.

At this point i have a lot of questions and few answers
 

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dave stevena

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Re: walking beam steam engine

As the story goes the Cairo was found intact in 1956 and local groups undertook the salvage operation. The problem was they did far more damage to the Cairo by ripping it apart. There are tales as they tried to lift reckage out of the Yazoo river parts fell back into the river. Maybe the main engine was one of those parts that fell back into the muddy bottom. OR maybe the main was salvaged and ended up in someones front lawn as yard art or it just fell off a truck and vanished. What was salvaged ended up in storage in a shipyard for 12 years, the engine could have been part of this stored wreckage. At this point the National Parks aquired the wreckage and built the Cairo museum without the main engine. My research process is to obtain as many photo collections as i can find and see if the main engine shows up in any photograph. If it does that is a starting point of a time and place to start the search. If the main engine does not show up in any photographs then it is quite possible it is still on the bottom of the Yazoo river. If this is the case then the next question is what didnt the National parks go get the engine? Why build an entire museum and leave out the main engine?

If searching through the history of the salvage operation from the start fails to find the original main engine then there is not other alternitive but to start with the posted drawing and build the engine from other historical examples.

it stands to reason photos were taken durning the early salvage operations and crowds gathered with cameras so someone has to know what happened to the missing maim engine.
 

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dave stevena

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sorry for the type errors in my posts. i thought there was an edit option but i seems there isn't so i will be more careful.
 

Lester Bowman

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Last Subscription Date
07/09/2019
I think from your pics that the MAIN engine is there. What seems to be missing is the little "DOCTOR" engine which ran the water feed pumps and auxiliaries. There are a number of these little "Doctors" in preservation.
 

dave stevena

Registered
I think from your pics that the MAIN engine is there. What seems to be missing is the little "DOCTOR" engine which ran the water feed pumps and auxiliaries. There are a number of these little "Doctors" in preservation



you are right about the "doctor" actually this engine did not run the paddlewheel i miss stated that in my post


oh boy a lead do you know of any of these that are in preservation?

i contacted the Henry Ford museum which has a huge collection of steam engines and archives and they do not have anything like it.

i did find out the engine is a Hartupee engine built in Pittsburg PA but the company disolved away into history.

In my research i did notice most all engines have the big flywheel to one side this one has it in center.
 

Lester Bowman

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
07/09/2019
The only pic I have not under copyright is this one..sent to me 40 years ago by Bob Johnson who had just finished restoring it. I have no details as to maker..

Should move this post over to the steam section. You'll get better input :)
 

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dave stevena

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after months of searching i am starting to wonder if these old walking beam engines were all one of a kind. There seems to be all sorts of configurations from the bean sitting on an A frame to the 6 column style. so far i have found no details on the Cairo engine, nothing not a single drawing, photograph orexample.
 

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Bill Hazzard

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Last Subscription Date
08/28/2008
According to the drawings, the main engine is not a walking beam engine. It is a horizontal engine with a cross head and connecting rod similar to the one in the photo.
 

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Andrew Mackey

Moderator
Last Subscription Date
05/14/2017
Not sure if it will do any good, but you might try to contact Clive Cussler. he writes semi historical novels and does marine research - finding lost ships. he has writen sevaral books about finding lost ships "the Sea Hunters being one of them. he might be able to tell you something about the engine.
 

Lester Bowman

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
07/09/2019
The "Doctor" engine does use a "Beam" arrangement but its fundamental arrangement was mainly a smaller secondary engine with built in water feed pump (s). I'm not familiar enough with them to know if some were fitted with air pumps as well if the engines were running with a condenser.

They were called "Doctor" engines because they supplied the necessary requirements to keep the engine "well".. water feed, ect.

The Cairo ( without me going deeper into it ) may very well have had TWO of the main engines of which one still exists as shown in your pictures. It would be a challenging and very interesting duplicating the Doctor engine in a smaller scale. Quite a project for sure but the builders always seemed to pretty up the Doctors with fluted columns and fancy turnings.

The Beam engines you posted do not seem to me to be secondary Doctor engines as supplied on these early steam boats. The Doctors are much smaller and compact. I am not being critical at all. These early marine engines are quite different from other steam practice of the time. Very long stroke and a different actuating valve gear and long wooden connecting rods set them apart from the norm.

It is important to understand how the main engines and boilers were supported by the Doctor engine thus making up a complete and reliable steam plant :)

Could it be possible the other "half" of the main engine still lies in a murky tomb with the Doctor never being recovered?
 

dave stevena

Registered
by looking at you tube videos the 2 main engines are there so are the boilers.
The doctor used to pump water to the boilers and power the capstan is missing along with all the piping. So there is no complete working system. i think the fire box to heat the water is also missing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlG2KTSpsAQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gseh5bAo2zc

This is what would make a scale working model interesting to see the entire system and how it works. To do that there is a lot of missing things to fill in.

As for the doctor the historical report does have a drawing but everyone involved in the salvage and the report are long gone or retired so there is no way to make contact to find out if pieces and parts are still in the river or if they just went missing durning the 12 years the vessel was in storage.

To locate information on these little doctor steam engines seems to be very rare.
 

Bill Hazzard

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Last Subscription Date
08/28/2008
The red column would support the pivot of the walking beam. It is not clear why there is a valve drawn in the red column. It is possible that steam could go through the column but it would not make much sense to build the engine that way.
 

Robt.

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
07/10/2019
after months of searching i am starting to wonder if these old walking beam engines were all one of a kind. There seems to be all sorts of configurations from the bean sitting on an A frame to the 6 column style. so far i have found no details on the Cairo engine, nothing not a single drawing, photograph orexample.
Where does a walking beam come into all this? The engine as previously stated is a horizontal with the bar from the conrod presumably reaching out to the crank on the paddlewheel axle shaft.

What an amazing condition that vessel was in and what a pity it was wrecked by those "people" back in 1956.:rolleyes:

There should be plenty of eye witnesses to that travesty still around if you ask. There would have been film coverage as well as still photography and of course coverage in local print media. Start with the local newspapers and archives?
 

dave stevena

Registered
Where does a walking beam come into all this? The engine as previously stated is a horizontal with the bar from the conrod presumably reaching out to the crank on the paddlewheel axle shaft.

What an amazing condition that vessel was in and what a pity it was wrecked by those "people" back in 1956.:rolleyes:

There should be plenty of eye witnesses to that travesty still around if you ask. There would have been film coverage as well as still photography and of course coverage in local print media. Start with the local newspapers and archives?
that was an error in the posts the walking beam engine was not actually the engine that powered the Cairo. The walking beam engine was actually a pump that pumped water from the river to the boilers and provided power to turn the capstan. These were called "doctors"

here is the actual engine
 

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dave stevena

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There should be plenty of eye witnesses to that travesty still around if you ask. There would have been film coverage as well as still photography and of course coverage in local print media. Start with the local newspapers and archives?

that is a mystery to me when I asked the Cairo museum what happened to the doctor steam pump the only answer is "it was lost" so where was it lost and where was it last seen? Did it fall back into the riverat the time of the salvage operation and still there to this day OR was it taken at some point during the 12 years the wreck was in storage.
My idea like you said there were thousands of people watching the salvage operation.
so if this engine was recovered it should show up in some photograph. finding that one picture is like finding 1 needle in 10,000 haystacks.

the National parks has a drawing of the doctor in its structure report so what is that drawing based on? If the original engine was never recovered or seen than how do they know what it looked like? Or perhaps it was recovered and the drawing is based on the original before it got lost.
 

Peter Short

Registered
Last Subscription Date
11/09/2017
Dave,

Thanks for the photos and info about this vessel, it is great to see so much has survived - especially the main engines and boilers.

It took me a while to realise the paddle wheel is like a stern wheel recessed between two hulls for protection.

I found the trailer for a DVD which apparently shows the salvage of the Cairo, maybe you will spot the missing engine:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Jbzt7F-SpM

Of all the machinery, I guess the "Doctor" would be the most sought after, perhaps it was salvaged in earlier years? An interesting puzzle.
 
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