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 April 2013

Smoke in the Valley

By Paul Harvey

It is now April and hopefully the winter is behind us.  With spring here, it means the awakening of Coolspring Power Museum and all its engines.  Our first open weekend will be April 20 and 21 and we look forward to hearing some engines bark and echo back through our valley.

Our featured group of engines for this year will be "Oil Engines" and by this we mean any engine that uses compression ignition.  This group also injects or takes in a fuel that is heavier than gasoline or natural gas and is sprayed into the cylinder.  The heat of compression then causes the explosion or power stroke of the engine.  Hence the name of "Oil Engines."    

Oil engines have one thing in common and that is they usually produce a lot of smoke when they run.  Most everyone can recall seeing an older diesel truck bellowing out clouds of black smoke when working hard on the hills.  So as our year unfolds, we anticipate producing a lot of smoke in the valley.  This issue will discuss some of the various types of oil engines that reside at our museum. 

Before proceeding to the various types, we shall take a closer look at how these engines operate and how they differ from gas engines.  They can be either two-cycle or four-cycle but the basic principles are the same.  Gas engines, such as in your car or lawn mower, use a gaseous fuel;  either vaporizing gasoline or using natural gas or propane.  They are typically lower in compression and require an external source of ignition;  either spark plug, make-and-break ignitor, or hot tube.  On the other hand, oil engines use a heavier liquid fuel such as kerosene, diesel, or crude oil and have a higher compression.  As the compression rises on the combustion stroke of the engine the air in the cylinder is heated.  At a predetermined time, the oil is sprayed into the cylinder and the heated air causes combustion and produces the power stroke of the engine.  Some require a pre-heating device to get started, such as a glow plug in a modern diesel, but all use the heat of compression to operate. 

The first group to be discussed are the Hvid injection oil engines.  These were built by many different manufacturers in the USA and Canada under the license of R. M. Hvid's patent.  They all used a small pre-combustion cup that received oil during the intake stroke of the engine and the first explosion in the cup during compression injected the oil into the cylinder.  They were usually smaller, hopper cooled engines that were extremely hard to start in cold weather.  A complete discussion of this type can be found in The Flywheel, October, 2012, When a Diesel Isn't a Diesel The museum displays both a 7 horsepower Thermoil,  see Photo 1, and a 9 horsepower Thermoil,  see Photo 2.  The Thermoil was the most common Hvid engine and was built by Hercules of Evansville, Indiana.  Photo 3 shows an elaborate Parmaco built by Parkersburg (WV) Machine and so similar to the Thermoil.  Photo 4 shows a little four horsepower St. Marys HO and Photo 5 shows its big brother.  Both were built in St. Marys, Ohio and both use the Hvid principle.  When the weather is warm, these somewhat cantankerous beasts run just beautifully.     

The second group to be considered are the "hot start" four-cycle oil engines.  These engines require heating a bulb or plate with an external torch to start and then will run without the external heat when operating under load.  The first "hot start" oil engine actually preceded the Diesel and was produced in 1894 by Herbert Akroyd Stuart in England.  See Photo 6.  This is the museum's 35 horsepower Horsby-Akroyd built by DeLaVergne in New York City.  It sprays oil into the heated chamber on the head during the intake stroke and compression causes the ignition.  For a complete discussion of these engines please refer to The Flywheel, March, 2012, The Man Who Changed the World DeLaVergne improved on this design and offered the Model DH in 1912.  See Photo 7.  These engines were moderate compression at about 250 psi., but still needed external heat to start.   A complete article about DeLaVergne can be found in The Flywheel,  May, 2011,  DeLaVergne: The Story of a Giant.  England was also building hot start, four-cycle oil engines as is shown in Photo 8.  This is a 9 horsepower Blackstone oil engine built in England and requires an external torch to heat the bulb on the head to start.

The third class are the true Diesels as designed by Dr. Rudolph Diesel of Germany.  Per Diesel's design, these engines used a blast of high pressure air to spray the oil into the cylinder at the desired time for ignition.  There was no external heat and the engine used compression pressures of over 500 psi.  We are fortunate to have a 12 hp Augsburg (Germany) Diesel on display.  This engine, built in 1903, was somewhat experimental and Dr. Diesel might have actually worked on it.  During that year, Augsburg produced over 200 such engines to generate electricity. See Photo 9.  Dr. Friedrich Busch of Germany has kindly provided some history about our engine.  It was located on the island of  Helgoland in the North Sea and direct coupled to a Siemens DC dynamo to power a lift (elevator) to  transport tourists from the sea level portion of the island to the plateau about 150 feet higher.  Photo 9a shows the lift and one can see the exhaust stack on the engine house at the lower level.  Helgoland was a popular tourist escape at the turn of the last century and Photo 9b shows how it appeared at that time.  Upon close inspection, the lift can be seen.  Being in an important shipping channel, Helgoland was bombed extensively by England in World War II so nothing of the old installation remains.  Thankfully, Henry Ford acquired the engine for his museum in 1928 where it lived for many years. 

The fourth category is the "modern diesels."  These are engines that evolved from Dr. Diesel's design but are significantly different in that they directly inject the fuel from a high pressure liquid fuel pump and do not use the compressed air blast.  The true Diesels described in class three use a capital "D" on Diesel, but these evolved engines are not capitalized.  Hence a big truck has a diesel engine and not a Diesel.  Photo 10 shows a 12 horsepower Witte diesel light plant made in the 1930s.  These are great running engines using a high pressure liquid pump to inject the fuel.  Witte was made in Kansas City, MO.  A bit earlier, Otto of Philadelphia built this 50 horsepower model in 1929 to power the Ice House of Lewisburg, PA by driving it's alternator and ammonia compressor.  See Photo 11.  The Benz is a small vertical diesel that once pumped crude oil near Lodi, Ohio.  See Photo 12. It was made in Germany.

The fifth class is the hot start two-cycle oil engines.  They all had a device on the head that needed external heat to start but not to run.  During their evolution, the heating device became smaller and the engines became more efficient.  The museum's Mietz and Weiss oil engine, built in New York City, is a very early example of this type.  A ball in the head has to be heated to near glowing to start.  Oil is injected during the compression stroke, vaporized by the heated ball, and explodes producing the power stroke.  Photo 13 shows this engine.  These were very successful but notoriously smoky when they ran.  About 25 years later, Primm, of Lima, Ohio, produced a very successful and efficient engine as shown in Photo 14.  These engines had both a primitive electric glow plug and small chamber for external heat to start.  They were higher compression and ran very well.  The same principle was also used in marine design as displayed by this Kahlenberg, built in Two Rivers, WI.  See Photo 15.  Like the Primm, this engine had both external torches and electric glow plugs. 

It is hoped that the reader has enjoyed  this brief tour into the world of Oil Engines.  The author chose the five classes listed above for simplification in this article.  However, the array of oil engine designs is almost endless.  Some were built in large numbers while others probably never left the drawing boards.  It will be interesting to view what our Exhibitors bring for the June Show!  

The museum will be open for the first time in 2013 on April 20 and 21.  Only select items will be running as the cooling water system will not be filled until May.  However, we will enjoy conducting a personal tour for you.  Our event dates for 2013 will be: 

Open Weekend  April 20 & 21
Open Weekend   May 18 & 19
June Show  June 13, 14, & 15
History Day & Truck Show July 20
Open Weekend July 20 & 21
Open Weekend   August 17 & 18
Open Weekend   September  21 &  22
Fall Show  October 17, 18, &  19

Just a reminder that the back issues of The Flywheel are available from the links to the left.  Also, be sure to visit our Publications page to find literature for sale.  This portion of our site will continue to grow.

We are looking forward to a wonderful but smoky season.  Hope you can attend!  See you then!

7 hp Thermoil Type U 

Photo 1: 7 hp Thermoil Type U engine

9 hp Thermoil Type U 

Photo 2: 9 hp Thermoil Type U engine

9 hp Parmaco 

Photo 3: 9 hp Parmaco engine

4 hp St. Marys HO 

Photo 4: 4 hp St. Marys HO engine

30 hp St. Marys Hvid 

Photo 5: 30 hp St. Marys Hvid engine

35 hp Hornsby-Akroyd 

Photo 6: 35 hp Hornsby-Akroyd engine

65 hp DeLaVergne DH 

Photo 7: 65 hp DeLaVergne DH engine

9 hp Blackstone Oil Engine 

Photo 8: 9 hp Blackstone Oil Engine

12 hp Augsburg Diesel 

Photo 9: 12 hp Augsburg Diesel engine

Augsburg in Helgoland 

Photo 9a: The lift at Helgoland


Photo 9b: Illustration of Helgoland

  Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons

12 hp Witte Dieselectric 

Photo 10: 12 hp Witte Dieselectric engine and generator set

50 hp Otto diesel 

Photo 11: 50 hp Otto diesel engine

8 hp Benz diesel 

Photo 12: 8 hp Benz diesel engine

6 hp Mietz and Weiss 

Photo 13: 6 hp Mietz and Weiss engine

45 hp Primm 

Photo 14: 45 hp Primm engine

25 hp Kahlenberg 

Photo 15: 25 hp Kahlenberg engine


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