HEAT ENGINES AND REFRIGERATORS. NONFLAMMABLE GAS USED AS A REFRIGERANT. FRENCH DOOR BOTTOM FREEZER BLACK
Engine (Power producing equipment) | Generator
Gas-Steam Engine, 1916, Used to Generate Electricity at Highland Park Plant
Designed by Ford Motor Company, made by Hooven, Owens, Rentschler Company of Hamilton, Ohio,
generator made by Crocker Wheeler Electric Motor Company of Ampere, New Jersey.
Crocker Wheeler Electric Motor Company | Ford Motor Company | Hooven, Owens, Rentschler Company
This hybrid engine was one of nine such units that provided DC power to the Ford Motor Company's
Highland Park; each was rated at 6000 horsepower.
Each of the Highland Park machines consisted of two complete engines
direct-connected to a
centrally-mounted direct current generator. Each engine was two-cylinder, arranged in tandem. The
gas engine is a two cylinder, double-acting, four cycle producer gas machine with water cooled 42 inch
bore cylinders. The stroke is 72 inches. The engine is equipped with breaker-point low tension
ignition. The steam engine is a tandem compound 72" stroke machine with "composite" valvegear:
poppet valves for the 36" bore high pressure cylinder and corliss valves for the 72" bore low pressure
cylinder. A centrally-mounted governor was used to regulate the speed. This controlled the cut-off on
the steam engine side. If speed exceeded the rated 80 RPM, the governor was arranged so that it
would cut off the supply of gas to the gas engine side. Under that rated maximum speed, the speed of
the entire machine was regulated by the steam engine.
The original intention had been to operate the gas engine side at full rated power as much as possible
(in fact the first engine to be installed at the plant was a plain producer gas engine) This was because it
was the more efficient of the two. However, the speed regulation and the reliability of the steam side
was better than the gas side, so this side was designed to control the speed and, should the gas side
fail, carry the full load. This it could do, provided the cut-off was set very late.
The basic idea of these machines was to build an enormously efficient power source that utilized every
possible BTU in the fuel being burned. Thomas Wilson stated in his 1916 article the rationale that led
to the building of these unique hybrid machines:
"In many ways Detroit is a remarkable city. It has a number of the largest institutions of their kind in
the country, and of these the plant of the Ford Motor Co. is preeminent. Here initiative is encouraged,
and when standard methods fail to meet requirements, there is no hesitency in deviating from the
beaten path to solve the problems at hand. It is not surprising then, that the power-generating
equipment of this great company is novel and that it differs in arrangement and in methods used to
recover waste heat from any other installation in the country. An inadequate supply of water made
impossible the high vacuums essential to the economy of a turbo-generator. Direct current could be
used to the best advantage in the shops, and to drive large direct-current generators without
intermediate gearing required a prime mover that would operate efficiently at relatively low speed "
Dimensions: W: 45.625 ft, D: 82.083 ft, H: 21.5 ft
Used at Ford Motor Company's Highland Park Plant, Highland Park, Michigan
intermediate gearing required a prime mover that would operate efficiently at relatively low speed.
Although these engines
caused a flurry of interest in the engineering community when they were built,
and despite the fact that they operated with great efficiency, this design was never adopted elsewhere,
outside of the Ford Motor Company. This was probably because these machines were enormous in size
relative to their power output and because the maintenance costs associated with large, open, complex
machinery are always high. Also, although Wilson also stated that "direct-current could be used to the
best advantage in the shops..." this was not necessarily so. By the 1920's, if not earlier, the polyphase
alternating current induction motor had become the power source of choice. When the new Ford Plant
was built at the River Rouge, the new power house was equipped with steam turbines. By 1930, this
engine was considered obsolete and was transferred to this museum.
One of the side benefits of having this engine in the collection is that it has a great many highly
significant auxilliery components associated with it. These include the Wheeler vacuum pump and
condenser, the Bundy return steam trap and several pumps and valves. Very little of this ancillary
material has been preserved in museum collections.
This machine is a remarkable testament to Henry Ford's interest in unusual engines
and his almost
missionary zeal that waste be kept to a minimum. While its significance relative to the overall
evolution of heat engines remains minimal the insight it offers into Ford's methodology--particularly the
degree to which reciprocating steam technology was in effec