Estevan Point Wireless Fairbanks-Morse Engine in the 1930's.

Fairbanks-Morse Model T

   The first stations required the engine be started only when a vessel was calling as the engine powered the transmitter. The operator would start the engine by manually spinning the flywheel. Getting the engine started took a bit of time. Station illumination was by oil lamp and the receivers required no power to operate.

   This four horse power fully operational Fairbanks-Morse "T" model gasoline engine is in the British ColumbiaFarm Machinery Museum. The engine is from the 1910 era and would be very similar to the early wireless station power equipment.    The engine would spin an electric generator via a wide leather belt and in turn the generator powered the spark transmitter. When a ship called a particular coast station, the operator would have run into the generator room and manually start the engine by spinning the flywheel.

    With reference to the photo on the left (click to enlarge), the piston is contained within the large vertical gray column behind the flywheel.
   Green barrel to the right contains engine coolant. Coolant is circulated from the bottom of the tank via a belt driven pump (round silver object visible next to the tank), up through the jacket and is returned to the top of the open tank via the diagonal black pipe. Black rectangular fuel tank is on the bottom left. Tank contains both a suction and return copper pipe. Black exhaust valve rocker is actuated via a cam. The intake valve is contained within the vertical silver tube next the exhaust rocker arm. There is no intake cam. Piston suction on the intake stroke forces the intake valve open against a light valve return spring.

    Combustion air enters via the green pipe pointing to the left. There are butterfly shutters to allow cold air to be drawn from the left or warmed air via a manifold wrapped around the exhaust pipe. Intake and exhaust systems are clearly visible here. Note the black exhaust push rod and rocker arm. Intake valve housing is the rounded off tube on top of engine.
    Airflow, and thus speed, of the engine is controlled via a manifold butterfly valves. Adjustment levers and brass indicator quadrants are mounted on both air intakes. One quadrant indicates the cool air butterfly valve position, and the other quadrant is for warm air. Apparently this arrangement was to compensate for different fuels. Green updraft carburetor is on the right.


   Lower crankcase area showing fuel tank. Brass fuel suction pipe is on the left. Priming press lever just above tank. Visible on the left is a small grey drive belt operating the coolant pump. Green updraft carburetor assembly uses a simple float system. To the right is the lubricating oil tank and manifold. This is the only form of lubrication as the crankcase is a dry sump. Brass distribution tubes dribble oil onto the main bearings. Right hand grey pipe returns the hot coolant water to the tank.
   Engine had no spark plug. Ignition of the compressed fuel charge was done within the cylinder by a spark made by the opening of a switch. Current was supplied by a small battery. This ignition system was prone to failure as the switch was subject to the full fury of the combustion process.


    Flywheel showing coolant pump drive belt. Copper pipes are for the lubricant distribution.


   Manufacturer's plate. Manufactured in 1913. Four horse power at 400 rpm.


   These, and similar models of engines, were used extensively on farms, factories, and mines before the introduction of commercial electric power.
   Museum staff will fire the beast up on request. Visit YouTube and do a search on "Fairbanks Morse" to see several thumping away in all their glory, lovingly maintained by enthusiasts.

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