Mike Anderson's Pico Canyon Steam Engine Restoration Project


Mike Anderson owns a Farrar and Trefts steam engine from Pico Canyon that he intends to restore. His engine came from Bob and John Hughes. Bob (the son, around the same age as Greg Johnson, one of the salvagers in Pico Canyon) and John (his father) helped out in Pico and Wiley Canyons removing iron in 1974-75. The engine was owned by Bob originally but ended up at his fathers place. After John passed away 2-3 years ago, Ron Haskell ended up with it. Ron had no interest in the engine so he sold it to Mike.

On this webpage, we will follow the progress of Mikes's restoration project from unloading at his house to (hopefully) a running steam engine. This project will take months and months, depending on how much time he has to work on it, so I will be adding images a little at a time. All the images and captions were provided by Mike (although I may clarify some of the captions). I appreciate the time and effort to do this. Thanks Mike.


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: All these images are owned by Mike Anderson and are used with his permission. They are not in the public domain.



11/24/2012 - Unloading the engine at my house


Here is my engine just after I brought it home. The Stephenson's valve linkage and crank rod are disconnected.


Old Farrar & Trefts advertisement. The engine shown above is similar, but not quite the same as my engine.


Another view, with the linkage in place.


Crank end of the F&T engine. The eccentric cams for the Stephenson linkage are between the flywheel and the right hand crank main bearings. The crank main bearings are poured in place babbitt, adjusted for wear with the double nuts on the bearing journals. The rod bearing at this end and at the cross slide end are bronze or brass and, like the previous photo, you can see the wedge used to tighten the bearing as it wore. I'm sure there was once a brass drip oiler on the bronze bearings threaded into the hole you can see, like these. You can see on the far side of the left main bearing, beyond the double nuts, the rectangular cups with hinged lids that were used to hold a reservoir of oil for the main bearings. There are similar cups, but without lids on the valve eccentrics. There was probably a felt pad in all of those reservoirs to hold the oil and/or keep dirt and rain out of the bearings.


Close up of the valve end of the Stephenson linkage used for determining direction of engine rotation. The video here explains the operation on a sliding valve whereas the F&T uses a semi-rotating valve. The principle is the same. The one closest view of an engine on your website shows a wooden overhead boom with what looks like a small winch with chain that was probably used for lifting the link and holding it in the up position. Some of the engines and parts in Pico Canyon at the school house had an extension on the cylinder casting to accommodate a lever system for changing the linkage position. The Pico Canyon engine at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum (see here) has that mechanism. The wedge shaped pieces held in place by the square headed set screws are used to tighten the bushings at the pivot points when they become worn. You can also see a similar wedge on the big end of the rod bearing in the photo above. The crack on the slotted section will need to be welded.


Packing gland at the bottom of the cylinder and piston rod on the left. The crank rod, cross slide end, was detached from the cylindrical section on the right when I got the engine. The flywheel and crank would turn, but the cross slide and piston were stuck, as was the semi-rotating valve. The Stephenson linkage with the broken piece at the valve end was probably cracked when the crank was rotated after the rod was dropped. The flywheel may have been forced to move, with the eccentrics putting huge forces on that casting, cracking it. According to Greg Johnson, valve linkage damage to a lot of old engines that have been rusted and stuck is quite common. Somewhere along the line someone tries to rotate the flywheel, cracking parts that weren't designed for such loads. The end of the cylinder rod is threaded and the nut you see would have locked it into position on the cross slide.


Looking towards the cylinder, with the cross slide and guides. The crank rod has been dropped and is resting on the bottom of the main body casting. The slot is where the bearing wedges should go, they were missing. The bronze bearing and it's keeper had been removed and was laying on the bottom. The cross slide would have had babbitt where it makes contact with the main frame and the guides, but most of that was melted out from fires in Pico Canyon. The cylindrical part where the crank bearing would be attached is part of the cross slide casting... I have no idea how this could have been machined round! The countersunk (beveled) holes on either side of the guides would have been for oiling the cross slide wear surfaces. You'd think they would have had oil drippers there, but I don't see any threading to mount them. The lateral forces on the cross slide would be pretty minimal so maybe they didn't wipe the oil off too quickly and drippers were unnecessary.


Close up of the semi-rotary valve; it just rocks back and forth to direct both exhaust and high pressure steam into and out of one end of the cylinder or the other. The large part of the casting hanging below the valve chamber is the exhaust steam collector and would have had another casting to bolt on the left side that would have allowed a pipe to be attached. That piece was missing from the engine. The valve was quite stuck, as you will see in the next photos. The small brass petcock would have been used to drain water from the valve chamber and cylinder if necessary. It's not obvious in this photo, but the outboard valve bearing, where you can see the small oil hole, is a bronze bearing and replaceable if worn. The raised "bulge" around the cylinder is where the inlet steam at the top main inlet valve, just out of sight in the photo, would go around the cylinder from above and into the valve chamber below. There is a "dead air" space on either side of that central bulge as there is a hollow space between the exterior of the cylinder, the part you see, and the inner part of the casting where the bore is. The small screw visible near the top of the cylinder would have held one of two name badges that also covered the holes that would have supported the core "print"; the print is the part of the sand core that would have been outside the cavity to support the sand core as it was suspended in the void which would be filled with the molten metal to make the part. "Freeze plugs" on an automobile engine are actually holes that would have been part of the print to hold the sand cores that make all the hollow parts of the engine block where the coolant flows, among other things. Here, that dead air space probably functioned as insulation to help keep the cylinder hot so the steam would condense less when it was introduced. Some early steam engines have wood insulation on the outside of the cylinder to serve the same purpose. Greg Johnson has at least one engine with wood on the outside.


The cap or cover on the far side of the valve (away from the linkage) has been removed, and some of the mouse crap/debris removed to show the parts. The cover also supports the outboard end of the shaft. The vertical rectangular section visible above and below the protruding round bearing surface is part of the shaft and was a loose fit in the slot milled into the valve. Steam pressure in the cavity surrounding the valve would have forced the valve against the round bore in the cylinder casting. The small crank arm on the opposite side would rotate this assembly a few degrees in both directions as the valve cam eccentrics would push and pull on that crank arm, exposing ports seen in the photo below. It happens to have been "parked" in an almost neutral position, blocking both input and exhaust ports. This no doubt kept a lot of debris, and mice, from entering the main cylinder, but as you'll see, didn't keep moisture out.


Valve parts have all been removed and the bore cleaned up a bit here, showing the ports. The central slotted port goes directly into the large exhaust chamber below. The oval opening below with the two outboard holes is where a missing casting with a large pipe thread would have been bolted to carry the spent steam back to the boiler. The two slotted ports on either side of exhaust port go directly to the far ends of the main cylinder to introduce high pressure steam into the main cylinder via passages cast into the cylinder during the power stroke and bring back the exhaust steam on the opposite end of the main cylinder. This action or direction, of course, then reverses as the piston reaches the end of a stroke and the valve timing rotates the valve in the opposite direction. When the valve is at maximum rotation one entire side port is exposed allowing the high pressure steam to flow directly into one end of the main cylinder while sealing the opposite port against the high pressure steam while positioning the groove in the valve (shown in photos to come) to allow exhaust from the opposite side main piston to be directed into the central exhaust port. There appears to be another set of ports beyond the cylinder ports, but they are dead ends, going nowhere and just part of the main casting and probably only there to keep wall thicknesses consistent, which would aid in the casting process. You can only see one of these, on the right side, in this photo. The main bore here will need to be bored oversize to get rid of the deep pitting and the valve will need to be machined to fit the new radius.


Valve parts. Main parts named (minus bolts/small parts) starting from the crank arm on the left then the top row first and back to the crank: Crank arm, cap and outboard bearing support, end cap and bearing support opposite side, packing compressing sleeve, Stephensons's link attachment pin, valve, and below that the main valve shaft. There may be "trade" names of some of these parts that I don't know... Greg may. The small rectangular part to the right of the crank arm is a bronze bushing that fits into the outboard bearing support and is adjusted with the set screw to the right of it to compensate for wear. The main shaft will need to be thrown out and a new one made due to severe corrosion at the bearing surfaces and also where the packing gland was positioned. It must have collected and held moisture due to the amount of the shaft reduction there. I'll need to make a new link pin because this one is bent... hmmm... I'm guessing that whatever force bent this also cracked the link part mentioned in previous photos.


Depth of field is pretty nasty, but this is the semi-rotary valve after much heat to break things loose. The valve is supposed to slide up and down in the rectangular section of the shaft a small amount. Steam pressure would then keep it tight against the seat of the main cylinder/valve housing casting, even if the oscillating shaft isn't perfectly centered. This would also make it self adjust for wear.


These pieces are pretty severely rusted, as you can see. I believe I'll be able to salvage the valve, but will need to machine a new arced surface to match the new bore on the seat. If necessary, I'll mill the slot smooth then make the mating flat surfaces on shaft sized to be a nice slip fit, since that part will be all new anyway. You can also see how water reacts with steel vs cast iron on these pieces. The valve and mount are cast iron, the shaft is steel and much more severely rusted. I'm not quite sure what the reason is, but steel usually rusts more readily than cast iron does.


This is the area that will need to be arced to match the new bore for the valve seat. It's in rough shape, but the material thickness is heavy enough that it should be salvageable without too much trouble. The depressed area in the middle of this surface is where exhaust steam is redirected from the main cylinder, through the slots in valve housing and into the exhaust manifold on the underside of the main cylinder casting.


Heating the cross slide casting and the end of the piston rod. The lock nut on the left was very tight and also took a lot of heat to finally loosen. To the left of the nut is the packing gland, where the rod was severely reduced in size due to rust. The crank rod is laying in the bottom of the frame casting on the right. Fires in Pico Canyon had apparently been hot enough to melt almost all of the babbitt that would have been between the cross slide and the frame, and also been on the surface where you see the three holes on either side of the slide. The upper bars that guided the cross slide were fastened in place with nuts on the large bolts near each end of the flat machined surface to capture the slide. The arm part of the cross slide casting, near the top of the photo and extending past the frame, was used to provide motion to a boiler water injection pump. Since the boilers were remote, this feature wasn't used on this engine. The barrel of the pump would have been fastened to flats on the sides of the main cylinder.


Piston and rod. Here the reduced part of the rod where the packing gland was is quiet obvious. A new rod will need to be made. The top end of the rod is tapered with a nut on the end to hold the piston onto the rod.


The piston is a one piece hollow casting with two cast iron rings. Here you can see the ring gap, spread open since it's out of the cylinder. I'm not sure yet if I'll need to make a new piston or have the diameter built up with metal spray; the amount removed after boring the cylinder will determine how I'll approach making everything fit as it should. It took a lot of soaking with penetrating oil, then lots of heat and finally rigging a hydraulic jack to the end of the cylinder to push the piston loose. I had to work it back and forth many times in order to get it free enough to slide out of the cylinder.


This is the gunk that I found after removing the cylinder head.... not too bad for laying around for 120-130 years, depending on when it was shut down. The piston was pretty happy about it's position and took a lot of heat, plus a hydraulic jack get it to move. You can see two of three brass pipe plugs on the piston to block holes for a core print to hold the sand core that made the piston casting hollow. The center nut tightens the piston onto the tapered end of the piston rod.


Cylinder with piston out and cylinder removed from the frame. I've needle scaled the worst rust to prep the cylinder for machining. The groove on the perimeter of the flange would have been for clearance of the boiler injector pump rod had one been used. The flat machined bosses on the side of the cylinder would have been for mounting the body of an injector pump.


End view of the main cylinder bore after needle scaling. The slot in the foreground and also at the other end of the cylinder is where inlet/exhaust is introduced/removed into the cylinder. A cast in place passage leads from these into the slots in the valve chamber underneath the main cylinder. The cylinder will be re-bored oversize to clean up the rust pitting. Original bore was 9 inches in diameter with a piston stroke of 12 inches.


This big cylinder looks small compared to the giant faceplate. The bore was originally 9; the operator had a couple more passes to make to clean up the rust and pitting. The screw driven clamps both center the casting and grip the perimeter for driving it and the toe clamps hold the casting tight to the faceplate. The machinist said that the squareness of the faces to the bore was within .002 before turning. Boring took place on November 11, 2013.


The cylinder is bolted to the other side of the large faceplate/four jaw chuck you see here. I do NOT have a lathe this big at home!

Here is a video taken by Mike of the cylinder being bored.



TO BE CONTINUED...