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November 2014

The Lima Story

By Paul Harvey

Part 1: The History

Last month I chose to write about two of the more unusual engines at the museum;  the Swan and the Lima.  Soon I found that the information about the Swan and its designer, John W. Swan, would consume the entire article, and it would be best to do it in two parts.  So this month I will tell a most unusual story of the Lima and the many changes made in its short history.  It is a fascinating story of change that took place in a mere five years.  Next month will bring the third, and concluding, portion of this tale.  I hope you will enjoy reading the series as much as I've enjoyed researching and writing it.

Today, Lima, Ohio, is a city of 38,000 that is located in the northwestern part of the state.  Although the prosperity of the early 1900s has passed, it still supports two major industries.  First is the Ford Motor Company's engine plant, recently expanded, that makes all the engines for their F-150 pickup trucks.  Second is the Army Tank Plant that builds and maintains all the M1 Abrams tanks and their successors.

The town of Lima, Ohio, was established in 1831 and soon became the county seat of Allen County.  It was named in honor of Lima, Peru.  Located on the Ottawa River, it soon became the crossroads to five major railroads which spurred its industrial growth.  Probably best known was the Lima Locomotive Works which soon rose to be the third largest builder of locomotives in the nation.  Lima built all of the famous Shay gear drive locomotives, as well as an extensive line of main line locomotives.  Its major contribution was William Woodward's design of the "super-power" locomotive.  This entailed a huge fire box, suspended over a large rear truck assembly, to provide the heat needed to make steam for very large and fast locomotives.  These monsters found use pulling gigantic coal trains easily over the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.  The largest class was a 2-6-6-6 wheel configuration and weighed 389 tons, pulling a tender full of water and coal and weighing 251 tons.  They produced 7,900 horsepower!  They were the heaviest steam locomotives ever built and one is on display at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Oil was discovered near Lima in 1885, and for the next decade, the Lima field produced more crude oil than any other location in the world.  The demand for locomotive equipment, oil field equipment, and all sorts of supply houses and machine shops certainly painted the picture of the environment we find the Lima Gas Engine entrenched in.  So, this is the story of the short and hectic tale of that engine.

Picking up from where last month's, "The Swan Story" left off, we find the Lima Daily News of January 4, 1905, stating that the John Swan Company brought suit to have its name changed to the Lima Gas Engine Company.  There were new directors and John Swan was eliminated from the company.  His tale was told in last month's article.  The January 1905 issue of Gas Engine Magazine informs us that Lima Gas Engine Company was making engines from 2 1/2 hp to 100 hp in a four-cycle design with a cross head.  The 1906 edition of History of Allen County Ohio mentions that Lima was still building the Swan engine.  It does not give design details; there is no information to tell or explain the slight differences between the Swan and the Lima and when the change occurred.  These differences will be discussed later in this article.

The October 20, 1906 edition of the Lima Times-Democrat states that the name of the Lima Gas Engine Company has been changed to the Lima Engine & Manufacturing Company.  Four new investors have been added and now they would include making portable sawmills.  These would be sold from $300.00 to $1,000.00 each. Amos Herrold, formerly of the sawmill department of the Aultman Taylor Company in Mansfield, Ohio, would supervise the new venture.  The factory remains at its original location on Greenlawn Avenue and C&E Railroad corner.

On the lighter side, the Lima Daily News of September 1, 1908, mentions that a big Lima engine would be on display at the Labor Day celebration.  Entered in the parade, it won second prize in the float class.  After the event, it was shipped to a Wisconsin buyer.  

The March 23, 1908 edition of the Lima Daily News ran an article stating that P. J. Sult, an oil capitalist from Marietta, Ohio, bought the Lima Engine and Manufacturing Company, and has completely renovated the old plant.  It would now employ 46 men but many more are expected to be  hired soon.  He would build the Dempster oil-gas producer which promises to "revolutionize the world's lighting and heating."  This device apparently made gas from the abundant local crude oil.  The article concludes by noting that,  "Gas engines of every description are manufactured and the product goes all over the world."

Photo 1 is an ad from an early 1908 Gas Power magazine showing the new Lima Gas Engines.  Noted to be built by the Lima Engine and Manufacturing Company, they are a radical departure from the Swan-Lima engine.  It continues to say they are "semi-automatic" with no gears and few working parts.  This implies that the engine is four-cycle and the exhaust valve is operated by cylinder pressure.  This is the principal of the McVicker gas engine.  No further mention of these engines can be found.

Mr. Sult's new venture of the gas producer was short-lived as noted in the Lima Daily News of October 22, 1909.  A mere 13 months after the producer was introduced, the company was in receivership!  The Lima Trust Company filed suit for an unpaid note of $1,973.90, and placed F. B. Closser in charge of the concern.  The Lima Engine and Manufacturing Company was again for sale, and the producer portion was to be closed.

The April 23, 1911 issue of the Lima Daily News ran a large article entitled, "NEW INDUSTRY WITH FUTURE."  John M. Primm, owner of the Primm Oil Engine Company of Vanburen, Indiana, purchased the old Swan-Lima plant and established the Power Manufacturing Company to continue building oil engines of Primm's design.  Again the plant was remodeled and the machinery from Vanburen was moved to it.  Mr. Primm would be vice president and general manager.  Already, they have a carload of oil engines to be shipped to Texas.  They would  also do pattern, machine, and foundry work, as well as manufacture a line of oil field equipment.  The article ends, "No one heretofore connected with the old companies is now identified with the new company; all litigation is ended, and the concern is in strong hands."  And, indeed, that was true and the new concern had a very successful future and prospered.  This story will be the subject of next month's Flywheel Article.

Part Two: The Engine

The Lima and the Swan engines have many similarities and many differences.  The museum is very fortunate to display a 25 hp model of each.  Photo 2 is a photo of the Lima and Photo 3 is the Swan.  They are included together to make this comparison:

MAIN FRAME: Both engines have a long main frame with a cross head, with a few minor differences in the main bearing section. The Lima has no provision for the patented exhaust box in the frame as does the Swan. They both have side shafts. 

HEAD: Both engines share the typical "Western Ohio" "T" head design with the intake on the near side and the exhaust on the off side.  However, the Lima valves are mounted horizontally and the Swan valves are vertical. 

GOVERNOR: The Lima governor, mounted near the crankshaft,  is nicely machined and operates hit and miss, while the Swan governor, mounted near the cylinder, is somewhat crude and throttling. 

IGNITION: The Lima uses both ignitor and hot tube while the Swan is only hot tube. 

FUEL: The Lima has a combination mixer that can use either gas or gasoline while the Swan is only gas.  Our Lima still has a vestige of its fuel pump. 

FLYWHEELS: Both engines use identical wheels with unique, riveted on, counter weights.  The wheels bolt onto a hub that is tightly keyed to the crankshaft.  Presumably, the easy removal of the wheels facilitated transporting the engine.

There is one more similarity between the two engines which is the unique compression release to aid starting.  It has a movable lobe on the exhaust cam cluster, just opposite to the main exhaust cam.  This is screwed into place with the hand-wheel for starting, and then, as the engine comes up to speed, it is withdrawn easily just by holding the hand-wheel.  It functions quite nicely.  Photo 4 is John Swan's 1904 U.S. patent 750,318 of his device.  However, our Swan engine does not employ it, but our Lima does, as noted in Photo 5.

The museum's Lima resides in the Founder's Engine House, where it was originally installed when brought home.  It was found on an oil lease, just across the Allegheny River from Parker, Pennsylvania, where it drove a unique push-pull type of pumping power.  Local information revealed that the original lease owner had moved from Ohio and brought the equipment with him.   This was early Autumn, 1969.  Unfortunately, no photos of that location exist.   Photo 6 shows the Lima on my 1946 Reo truck when it arrived in Coolspring.  This was probably the Reo's biggest load so far, and it sported a fresh paint job.   As the Founder's Engine House was only 12 feet by 20 feet at that time, the engine was unloaded near its present location, as shown in Photo 7.  The next weekend, I made another trip back to the lease to retrieve the original supporting timbers, on which it is now mounted.

Photo 8  is the Lima's brass name plate.  Note that it is serial number 547.  The Swan does not have a brass plate but has the information cast into the surface of the head.  Its serial number is 151.  I wonder if the engines were numbered consecutively or if Lima started at one again?  From the information gathered, I am dating our Lima at 1905.

The cylinder detail of the Lima is shown in Photo 9.  Note the plunger of the gasoline pump is hanging from the side shaft, with mounting holes for the pump on the frame.  The small gasoline mixer can be seen just to the left of the gas pipe.  The governor detent is shown on the right hand side of the rock shaft operated by the exhaust cam.  Evident on the exhaust cam cluster is the patented compression release. The rock shaft extends through the frame to move an arm that opens the exhaust valve.  It governs with the exhaust open.  Also seen is the latch mechanism that keeps the intake valve closed while idling.  This is more complex and better machined that the Swan's mechanism.

Photo 10  shows the beautifully machined governor head as seen through the flywheel spokes.  Noted is the side shaft spiral bevel gear which also drives the governor.  The "T" head design, typical of so many engines built in Western Ohio, is very evident in Photo 11.  The exhaust chest is located on the left where the starting air pipe enters.  The intake chest is on the right and shows the original hot tube chimney as well as the electric ignitor.  Note the well-finished rim of the head and the two jacking screws to aid in its removal if needed.  This design is both improved and better finished than the similar parts on the Swan.  It displays the evolution of gas engine design!

The article concludes with Photo 12 taken from the April 29, 1911 issue of the Lima Daily News.  It announces a new life for an old plant and the prosperous future to come.  Power Manufacturing Company and the Primm Oil Engine Company have an interesting story to tell, and the tale will unfold in next month's issue of The Flywheel.

Coolspring Power Museum is now closed for the winter but special tours can still be arranged by advance notice.  Please call 814-849-6883 or see our web site at  Next year will be our special 30th Anniversary show featuring flame ignition engines.  See you then!

The Other Lima

Photo 1: Ad from an early 1908 Gas Power magazine
showing the new Lima Gas Engines

Lima Engine

Photo 2: Lima engine at the museum

Swan Engine at CPM

Photo 3: Swan engine at the museum

Compression Release Patent

Photo 4: U.S. Patent 750,318 for a compression release

Lima Compression Release

Photo 5: Compression release on the Lima

Moving the Lima in 1969

Photo 6: The Lima on the1946 Reo truck

Lima Unloaded in 1969

Photo 7: Unloading the engine at Coolspring

Lima Nameplate

Photo 8: Lima nameplate

Lima Cylinder Detail

Photo 9: Detail of the Lima cylinder

Lima Governor

Photo 10: Lima governor head

Lima T Head and Igniter

Photo 11: Detail of the Lima "T" head cylinder

Primm Purchase Ad

Photo 12: Announcement from the April 29, 1911 issue of the Lima Daily News


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