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Locomobile Steam Gathering Place


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Good Morning Ron,

Your thoughts are good and correct on the subject of knowledge, when it comes to antique automobiles (and in particular Locomobile steamers).  Yes, sometimes the truth is a bit heavy handed as received but none the less important.  Next idea comes in the thought of communicating what is known to be the correct description or just throwing something out as bate to sell a car or parts.  I can see why a well documented antique car, that has been left original and unmolested, is probably going to out sell anything else, even an over restored car, for the reasons you discussed above.  That said, I and a bunch of us realize that there simply is not an abundance of great all original cars so we end up with cars that are built and refurbished the best we can.  I am glad that you have a working and practical knowledge of these fine little Locomobile steamers and are willing to share  that knowledge with the rest of us.

Al

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Hello Ron,

Thanks for chatting with me about Steam.  Do you have any comparison charts that would provide details on how Locomobile compared/marketed with many of the other makes of the time?  Also, do you have a handle on who provided aftermarket parts widely among the seat industry?

Alan

 

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Al,

 

It was nice talking with you as well.

 

Comparison of marketing share between companies. Locomobile was obviously the leader in production with around 5000 vehicles in a four year period. They had the most aggressive ad campaign as well. And they held the patents for the design. 1900 to late 1901 was their period of highest production. By 1902, there were serious contenders in the Internal combustion market, probably their biggest competitor at that time was the newly introduced Oldsmobile, Also Winton, Packard and several others. The gig was up for steam about that point, their last ditch effort was to go after the other steam companies building on their patent for royalties and or shut them down to consolidate the market, Mobile, Stanley, Millwaukee and likely others, but it was futile, the new internal combustion vehicles were simply easier to use, not faster nor quieter or smoother, but much simpler to drive. Could start it up and drive it immediately, not waiting to build steam pressure, didn't have to worry about running out of water and the biggie, didn't have to worry about it freezing up in the winter time.

 

The seats were made from steambent lumber, there were small concerns that did only that. The coach maker for Locomobile was Currier and Cameron in Ames. It's likely they did their own steam bending. They built bodies for several companies, it was a very large company. They even have a historic vehicle meet there every year commemorating the "Ames" bodied cars.

 

There were about 70 different known concerns building steam cars at that time. Majority of them operated the same way. Buy all of the parts on the outside and assemble it and put their name on it. That is why so many of the cars resemble one another, they were essentially being built by the same people. Order bodies from Currier and Cameron, order engines from Mason regulator, chassis and running gear from another place, Bendix sold brake Assembly. Valves were made by various companies in and around Detroit incidentally, Detroit was once best known for making brass valves of all types, and iron cookstoves, before Henry came along. The only one that I'm aware of that did most everything in-house was Conrad, as I mentioned on the phone, they were in Buffalo, NY and 500 miles away from the epicenter of the car industry at that time which was around the Boston area. Conrad sold their own assembled vehicles and also sold parts thereof to other builders as well, and even the do it yourselfers in their garage. Neff Steamer in Canada bought most of their vehicle from Conrad, the only change they made was the design of the front axle.

 

-Ron

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The average weight on a steam carriage with water tanks full was around a thousand pounds. The larger cars were heavier of course, the big Doble touring cars weighed around 6000 pounds and could run 70 mph all day long. The Doble roadster E-20? would outrun a Deusenberg. Steam cars were very fast.

 

I drove my Locomobile off and on all day today. Polishing and tweaking it for the shows. I had a thing last year where I got some bad Kerosene and it was making a lot of carbon in the vaporizer, someone said it was probably heating oil and not kerosene. Anyways, I finally got all that flushed out and it's running perfect now. Nice burner operation and no carbon. beautiful sunny day for a steam car ride. It's nice just cruising along and listening to the engine count em off. 117 years old and still doing what it's supposed to do. I pulled the valve cover yesterday, the slide valves and faces still look as good as they did the day I put it back together about five years ago, so my oiling regiment is adequate. No rust just a fine black film. Green Velvet Sapon 680w oil, I use that in the tug too, same result, no issues.

 

-Ron

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Hello Ron,

I would have guessed just a bit more that 1000 lbs. for even a small car.  Did you happen to take an short video clips with yoru phone to share here?  You would really get me "steamed up" if you did that.

Al

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Hi Al,

 

No I haven't done that yet, it's sort of difficult to do with a cellphone. I really need a GoPro or something similar and I cannot justify the +/- $300 cost. I do have a tripod, maybe I'll try that.

 

-Ron

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Hello Ron,

Do you have a good image that shows a Locomobile Steamer on a precipice overlooking Yosemite?  If you can please post a copy of that picture here?  I have posted several pictures, of the four cylinder cars that Locomobile used for publicity on the Locomobile Four cylinder gathering place.  Those pictures are from the 1911 Locomobile Book.

Al

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Hello Ron,

That is the exact picture I have seen before but have never owned it so I could post.  Thanks for posting it!  If you look carefully at the picture one of the crowd of high minded and daring participants you can just see one guy assigned to security.  He is the one holding back on the rear tire.  I bet, while they were staging themselves for this picture, there was some very tense tissue involved among that group as they all proved their manhood!  The sitting woman was also proving her Womanhood!  Does anyone else have "publicity" pictures of the early Locomobile steam cars.  I have seen several others as well as tours with Locomobile steam cars that were publicity driven adventures.  Everyone, please post pictures or links if you have or know of any additional publicity stunts, tours, stories or just pictures.

Al

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Publicity pictures?

 

The picture of the constable on a Locomobile is notable. These little steamers were the first police and fire department vehicles. They were the fastest thing on four wheels at that time.

 

The one picture shows the quality of the finish which was very high.

 

 

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Hello Ron,

Your posted picture number 4 appears to be a bit later in that maybe my 1909 Locomobile Toy Tonneau may be on the floor being assembled and prepped for sale.  Picture number 2, what type or model is that Locomobile?  Picture number 5 is a conventional surrey?  Nice pictures!

Al

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Al,

Pic 2  That is some sort of prototype, that is the only picture I've ever seen of that car.

Pic 4 yes that is later, I thought you might like to see that.,

Pic 5 I'm not 100% certain that is a Locomobile. That is one or very very similar to it.

 

Pics attached: Locomobile apparently played around with other body styles or this one could be a body created later on, far different than everything else. Reported to be an 1899.

 

The name "Locomobile" is sort of like the name "Chris Craft", where every old wood speed boat is labeled a Chris Craft if it has no name on it, when in fact, there were hundreds of companies building wood speedboats. With the steam carriages, it is a very complex web to unravel.

 

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Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)
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They have those pictures above labelled 1899 Locomobile, but I don't think it is one. I'm guessing it's a one-off of some kind.

 

The #2 pic exhausting? I have no idea, looks like the folks in the back would have had hot knees. :)

 

-Ron

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It's to bad that you do not have a picture of the car shown in the number two picture from the back.  I actually like that body style.  In fact, I may consider that body style should I decide to get after and build a steam car.  I also had a thought that the car mentioned could have been a factory shop car used to haul big shots around.  I recognize the factory from a few factory photos I have.  I would like to enlarge the later Locomobile factory picture that shows gasoline cars.  The incomplete cars, being built, have the firewall configuration that is the same as my Toy Tonneau.

Al

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Al,

 

The way the exhaust systems worked for flue gas, there was two different "modes". The T-pipe that you see on the back was really just for firing up and there was a duct that ran from that to the top of the boiler. If you look close at these pictures above and even the #2 car, there is a pipe that extends down near the differential, that is the actual flue gas exhaust. How it worked: There is a tube that goes down through the water tank about 3" diameter, it actually tapers toward the bottom. The engine exhaust was piped in to the this tube with an elbow downward. When the engine was running it would pull the exhaust gases down through that tube. It would dispense with some of steam cloud (which people complained about, as it also startled horses) by condensing and also heat the water tank a little bit. The #2 car may have had openings along side the seat for firing up. The White steamer and others had similar opening under the seat. They look like a row of port holes.

 

The #2 car likely had saddle tanks for water under the seats, with one of those tanks having an flue gas exhaust as I'm describing.

 

The very early 1899 Locos had no provision to vent the exhaust gas during firing up and relied on the downward tube only.

 

Matter of fact that short T-pipe with a panel back seat will not work at all at high speeds. I found that out the hard way. I put one on mine and had to take it back off, it was shoving the fire out the bottom of the burner. I don't have that tube in the water tank, I chose to omit it and it has a brass tailpipe for exhaust (pic attached). It works just fine without it, but I cannot run a T-pipe on it, as the wind comes around the seat on both sides and pushes on the ends of the pipe and it won't draw. That T-pipe was a bone of contention for these cars and many people offered aftermarket solutions to solve the issues.

 

Included pics of the muffler with feedwater heater coil in it. And these modern day auto engineers think exhaust heat recovery is something new :)

 

-Ron

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First question where I one get access to a good set of Ofeldt Boiler plans for a 20" boiler?  Second question, where can you get access to a good set of Ottoway burner plans that can be adaptable to a 20" boiler?  Third question, I am still trying to get my mind around the function and equipment needed for a fuel delivery system.  Anyone that can help, thanks in advance.

Al

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Good Morning Terry,

Thanks for the references and an alert.  I probably should not even look down the "rabbit hole" you referred to!  I have plenty to keep me busy without one more iron in the fire!

Al

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Hi Al,

 

It is true that there are several folks that endeavor in to steam cars and seem to experiment for many years, but I think that is their intention, to build something better. That is why it is referred to as a "tinkerer's hobby".

 

As long as a person stays with known fuel system and boiler type and control designs, the success rate is much higher.

 

There are a few different common fuel system types.

- Air pressure over liquid to deliver fuel to the burner (what I use), this is the earliest and most common method, White used this method as well throughout production. As I understand it, Stanley had a patent on their superior system.

- Fuel pressure delivered by a pump to a small accumulator, i.e. Later Stanleys and apparently Mason too. The drawback is the accumulator is small and the pumps only run when the engine does, so at fire up which can be a considerable amount of time, the operator must use a handpump to keep the fuel pressure up, and results in considerable labor. Some use an electric fuel pump to resolve this issue. Once the vehicle is moving, it works great and the main fuel tank is at atmospheric pressure which is inherently safer.

- Fuel atomized with a Beckett style gun burner adapted to run at vehicle voltages. This is by far the easiest, safest and controllable of all three, it's drawback is that is uses considerable current to run the burner, which the vehicle must generate and results in a negative to overall horsepower. Abner Doble used this system on all of his later steamers. There were others that used a gun burner as well. The gun burners are loud. Doble overcame the losses, by simply going bigger, his burners were putting out over a million BTU. My burner is around 300k which is a bit large for Stanhope.

 

Plans for the Ofeldt like in my car don't really exist, I have some work drawings I made up attached here.

 

Burners...

 

The most common is the fuel vaporizing type burner. If you've ever operated a Coleman Stove, they operate the same way. Fuel is boiled to a gas in a vaporizer and delivered to the mixing tube, where it is mixed with air and burnt.

Vaporizing burners come in all different types of configuration, from simply Whitney/Stanley types to those that resemble the combustion chamber of a jet engine. Emitting fuel in a cyclonic flow. Incidentally the Ottoway burner was designed by Herb Ottoway, he was an engineer for the Coleman company - small world.

-The gun burner as mentioned above

-Several different experimental types, from spinning cup type to fuel injectors from modern cars and many more.

They all have their advantages and disadvantages.

 

My opinion, but for a small hobby steamer, the Whitney/Stanley/Locomobile/Baker/Ofeldt/Ottoway and others type burners are the most convenient to use. And too in keeping in credo with 1901 steam car technology, it would be sacrilegious to hang a big old 12 volt battery on to run the burner. I have no electric anything on my car. it is the anti-tesla :)

The air over liquid fuel system is also very easy and reliable for all day operation if set up properly.

Steam Automobile Club of America has plans for the Ottoway in their store.

-Ron

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Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)
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Hello Ron,

Should I decide to dive into a steam powered automobile project, I would like to stay with proven convention and appreciate your taking the time to post your above notes.  I did download the very basic plans for the Ottoway burner.  I think it is doable project ........man a thousand little holes to drill, makes my hands tired at the thought.  I think I would set up on a milling machine!  Have you seen the plans posted for sale on the Ofeldt design boiler on the Reliable Steam Engine Co. website?  It is listed to power a steam engine size of 4 to 7 HP.  It is 24" OD and about 24" tall, is that staying in convention?  That should make lots of steam at 200-250 PSI?  The simple drawings for the Ottoway burner gives reference to a Pilot burner made by Ken Maxwell.  Are you familiar with that design?  I suspect that the drawings are very "old" as they still reference using asbestos and not a modern carbon fiber now used in modern boilers.  Thanks again for your time....

Al

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Al, The Ottoway is probably teh best route to go and it looks pretty simple to build, except all those tiny holes in the burner grate which is 321? stainless, I'm thinking they do those with a laser. Don Bourdon, sells these burners ready to go and they work very well. For a first project and lots of unknown territory that is a probably good option. Burners can be very troublesome.

 

The Maxwell pilot works very well and is used by a bunch of people. Cruban is another type. I think the late John Packard had a version of vaporizing pilot also. All work well.

 

I have those plans for the Ofeldt boiler from Reliable. it would be difficult to build and it's tall. That is an issue with these steamers, has to be short enough to fit in the body under the seat and still have chain clearance. I think it uses 3/4" pipe for coils too, very difficult to form up. The body height is only like 17" and there needs to room for an exhaust plenum with insulation, so that limits the boiler height to about 14". Speaking of coils , there is a guy in Southern Minnesota that has a coil winder. he's a real nice guy and he would probably wind them for you. When you're sure you want to do this, I will get you his contact info and you can ask him. Also, the vice President of Steam car club in Western Michigan can wind coils also.

 

Attached is a picture of my Ofeldt

-Ron

 

 

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Hello Ron,

Thanks for the thoughts and information relevant to your Ofeldt boiler.  The picture is deceiving.  It appear to be larger dimensionally than what the outside measurements would infer.  I am guessing that your boiler is a 20" boiler?  I am making an assumption, the coiled boiler tubes are not supposed to be in contact with each other?  (Or if they touch, it is not a big issue)?  I certainly am also guessing that you have a copy of all the materials cert's. used in this fabrication?  Does the Michigan boiler code, for this type of boiler, suggest any hold points for inspection during the fabrication process?  Or are you just required to complete the end testing?  I need to check with the State of Utah and see what boiler code I need to follow, should I get into the boiler building business.

Al

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Al,

 

It must be the picture? It is 19" diameter, same as the burner and the center drum is 14" long. The drawing dimensions are near exact for the coils, and exact for the center drum. I had the coils wound before I did the layout and I took measurements right off of them.

 

The coils can touch, it would be better if they didn't as you know as an abrading precaution. The coils don't move much at all with thermal expansion, and there is no shock as there would be with a pump.

 

I have a certification on the center drum, it is ASTM A106 schedule 80 seamless pipe, but it doesn't really have to be. since the drum is small and the hoop stresses are low, most people simply use A53 welded seam pipe. My coils are A53 1/4" welded seam. I've never had any issue with them, going on year six?.  A dirty little secret about pipe is the majority of 1/4" pipe is still made in the USA. 1/2" ans 3/4" sch 40 is all Chinese. People freak out about the coils and the material, a total failure of a coil, clean break is extremely unlikely, even if it did, it would simply be like opening a steam valve. It's all inside of an enclosure, startling, yes, catastrophic, no. With 250 psi on and considering the cross sectional area of the pipe, there is only about 40 pounds of force trying to push it out of the shell, and it's welded in. You've worked in the industry, how many times have you seen pipes just break for no reason?

All the components mentioned above are being used at about 1/10 of the suggested working pressures.

The Ofeldt boiler is very safe. My opinion, with all things considered, the Ofeldt is the best boiler design anyone ever came up with.

 

-Ron

 

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Hello Ron,

Thanks again for your good responses!  They give me information needed to make a good decision about whether to dive into a steam project of hold off.   Having worked as a boiler welder on a huge B & W  coal fired boiler with a power output of 950 Meg.  I do understand some of the theory of a small system like we are speaking about here.  I am most interested in giving a try to building an Ofeldt boiler and also the Ottoway burner.  Your explanation of the fuel delivery system being similar to a Coleman camp stove was also very helpful.  Do you use a hand pump in order to pressurize your fuel tank prior to starting?  Once running, I assume the air pump, that is on a Mason steam engine, provides the air pressure to keep the fuel system under pressure and running.  The use of an "automatic" would be the component that would keep a timely supply of fuel to the burner?

Al

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Al,

 

Here is a diagram of the fuel system we are discussing. No pumping required. just fill the fuel tanks and pop a hundred er so psi in the air tank and it's good until it needs to be refueled. Yes the steam automatic controls the burner and works off the steam pressure. I carry a 12 volt motorcycle battery and 12 volt compressor that will make 100 psi with me in a gym bag to the shows. it's a very easy way of doing the fuel system.

 

The early cars didn't use the regulator, so the fuel pressure was continually dropping. I'm not quite sure how they handled the pilot fuel pressure, they may have just ran it off of the same pressure as the main fuel, the first Locomobiles had no pilot light, it was just high and low burner. The burners are a bit sensitive to fuel pressure, this method keeps the fuel pressure constant until the tank is empty. On 3 gallons of fuel, I can go about 50 miles. So plenty of fuel for all day running around at a show etc. I just fuel up every morning.

 

The pilot is situated under the vaporizer for starting up and igniting the burner. Once going the burner which is also under the vaporizer, heats it as well. The pilot has it's own J-tube shaped vaporizer and must be heated with a propane torch to get it going, only takes a few minutes though.

 

-Ron

 

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Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)
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White fuel burns much cleaner. The reason they use it in Coleman stoves. The burner has a larger jet and can operate with a fuel that may make carbon. And of course at 11 dollars a gallon t would be expensive to burn only white gas as a main fuel.

 

-Ron

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Hello Ron,  According to your sketch of the fuel delivery systems, what is the optimum diameter for the Pilot tank and for the main fuel tank?  To stand up to the pressures that you suggest, I am guessing that you must use some form of air receiver tank for each?  Also, does modern unleaded gasoline work in the pilot system?  I use unleadeed gas in my Coleman camp stove with no bad side effects.

Al

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Hi Al,

 

In the drawing, that is all there is to the fuel system. A few shut off valves and jet/orifice on the end of the delivery tube are not shown, but that is essentially the complete fuel system. It is air over liquid delivery. Study it a bit and it will make sense.

 

The fuel tanks can be any size as long as they can withstand the pressure. On a small carriage, 3 gallons for main fuel, half gallon for pilot fuel. It is very simple to do hydrostatic testing of the tanks with a small hand piston pump.

 

Yeah, standard pump gas will work in a pilot light, but white fuel works better, it has no ethanol, no dyes, no additives etc.

 

Took the Locomobile to a car show today and won a trophy. Headed out to another one tomorrow.

 

-Ron

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Good Morning Ron,

I hope you have a good time at the show.  Post a picture or two of your Locomobile and back drop of the car show.  It will be nice to see what is going on in your neck of the woods.  Do you plumb your fuel system with 1/4" copper?

Al

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Al,

 

I do not use any copper fuel lines. I use only 1/4" high pressure stainless steel braided lines. Copper fuel lines are illegal per the DOT, and for good reason, copper can work harden and fracture quite easily.

 

-Ron

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Hello Ron or any other steam smart soul,

What is the best and most suitable sized boiler to work with a Model "C" Mason engine.  I suppose that the Mason "C" has been used as a replacement  for the original Locomobile steam engine.

Al

 

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