Time To Heat Things Up


With the engine cleaned and lubricated, I turned my attention to the Type “A” boiler that we had on hand. Unfortunately, we don’t have much information about its beginnings but our records indicate that this type of boiler would have been used with our type engine. The following shows how the boiler might have been installed:



Here is a picture of our boiler as we received it:



As you can see, lots of ancillary items are missing but you can get a feeling for how it looked. Water would flow in through the bottom pipes and filled up to the top tube. A coal fire was built under the middle that would boil the water to steam that would then be taken off the top of the upper tube and used to power the engine. The steam coming out would have an oil mist introduced to lubricate the engine. Once the steam was used, it would be condensed then reused in the boiler.

The following shows the stand under construction that was built out of wood but finished to look like metal.


The round rods would hold the coal fire and the area below would act as the ash pit. The boiler sits on top of the rods:


The completed boiler and engine have now been moved to the Herreshoff display:


Next up is exciting news about our display!

Cleaning Things Up – Getting Cranky


With the engine tucked away in Building 28 at the Museum, the cleaning process began. Where to start? We discussed the options and decided that the best route was to work on getting the engine to rotate if possible and do a comprehensive cleaning without disassembling major components.

I decided to start at the bottom primarily because that area (crankshaft, camshaft, connecting rods etc.) was the dirtiest and key to getting it to rotate.


The engine was “wet lubricated” (my term) which means that it had oil in the bottom and the rotation of the engine caused oil to be splashed up into the area of moving parts. If you look at the red arrow in the picture above, you will see a small hole. These are in every rotating piece that needs lubrication and basically allows oil to drop into the bearings. Obviously, the bottom of the engine would have to be enclosed to keep the oil from giving the on-board steam engineer a hot oil bath! Some engines didn’t use the “splash” technique and had oil systems that included a reservoir with a small tube out the bottom that then dripped oil onto the rotating parts (sometimes into holes similar to the above).

In this engine, someone had put little wooden plugs (much like the end of a chopstick) into most of the lubrication holes. What a great idea that was! It helped keep out nastiness! Unfortunately, the engine had sat so long (after all, she was built in late 1890’s) that it wouldn’t turn. So, I pulled out all the plugs and squirted into the holes a little mystery oil over the period of a few weeks. Then I switched to chain saw oil which has a chemical that sticks to metal better. Lo and behold, after a few more weeks I got the engine to spin a little by putting a long bar across the flywheel connector on the crankshaft! The red arrow in the picture below shows where the flywheel attaches.


You can also see the little wooden pegs in the bearings. The white paper towel in the small square area just above the flywheel (at the black arrow) is a larger oil container that lubricated the large bearing under it. With continued lubricating and increasingly more rotating effort, I was finally able to get the engine to turn! Success!

While working to get the engine to rotate, I started the cleaning process. I had to be careful not to introduce any foreign objects like metal into the engine so I relied on liquid agents like carburetor cleaner and WD-40 to help clean. I also used 3M Black and Red pads to help with surface rust and dirt. The cleaning was difficult and time consuming with all the tiny areas of the engine. It would have been nice to steam clean the whole engine but that was not even possible since it would potentially harm the engine. So all cleaning was done by hand. But what a beautiful engine!


The following picture shows the bottom section of the engine after some cleaning. The red arrow shows the “knuckles” (my term) that connect the crankshaft journals to the pistons above (not in the picture). You can see how nicely the brass cleaned up!


Stay tuned for more news!


Triple Expansion Engine Restoration

In the beginning, there was water. Its primary use was survival of all living creatures. Then, someone discovered fire – how that occurred is open for debate but obviously it happened! Now that fire was available, early humans (they had to have an opposing thumb to lift up a pot!) heated up the water to make coffee (well, that sounds good!). At some point the pot being used (I have no idea who discovered the utensil to hold water over a fire) was covered to speed up the heating of the water. Perhaps by accident, a cover was left on too long and pressure built up and then we had steam!

Now, what to do with this hot, high pressure water vapor? Cooking lobsters leaps to mind but that’s a different discussion. Here’s one possibility – in the first century A.D., Hero of Alexandria invented the aeolipile, or primitive steam turbine:


Skipping ahead a few years to 1878, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff formed Herreshoff Manufacturing Company. One of his projects was the motor launch “Vapor” built around 1898 which was powered by the triple expansion steam engine.

Leaping ahead to the spring of 2015, a project began that is the “restoration” of a Herreshoff triple expansion steam engine with cylinder bores of 3-1/2”, 5” and 8” and sporting a 4–1/2” stroke.

SteamEngine StartClean

The engine had been residing in the main museum building hidden in the dark recesses near the upcoming Steam Engine display area. While a fairly complete circa 1898 engine, it was in need of some TLC. It was brought up to the building where the Reliance Project (www.therelianceproject.com) is underway. While the steam engine was not part of the original Reliance (she had no power and was perhaps a little heavy for this engine) she is from the same heritage.

SteamEngine 077

SteamEngine 076

Thus, the restoration began to clean up the” little engine that could”. The concept is to bring it to a level that can show the imaginative engineering of Capt. Nat and bring to the public eye the major achievements of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in steam engine technology.

Herreshoff Steam Project

Herreshoff Marine Museum

Steam Exhibit Blog Site


The MIT trained and skilled designer of steam power plants, Nathanael Green Herreshoff, reluctantly resigned from Corliss Steam Engine Company in December 1877. In January of 1878 he joined in partnership with his older brother John Brown Herreshoff to form the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.

Until 1890 the output of Herreshoff Manufacturing Co. was almost exclusively steam driven craft. In fact only three small sail boats were built for customers other than the family during this time.

This Blog is intended to build interest and contributions to construct a dynamic exhibit of this Era of Steam. Our focus will be on the six steam engines and one boiler that are in our collection, and any archival material that can tell the story of invention and innovation which was a hall mark of the Herreshoff brothers.

We seek content and volunteers to build this exhibit, its educational content and make it the first dynamic exhibition of the museum. Our first project is to design our dedicated space for the exhibit. Next (we are already working on this) is to restore a circa 1898 triple Steeple engine.

We are particularly interested in persons familiar with A type boilers of the 43-37 variety.

Herreshoff Steam engine fronm
Herreshoff Steam engine from”Truant” owned by Henry Ford, presently at The Henry Ford