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 ( 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