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Skinner UnaFlow Steam Engine

 
 

 

I received a very interesting email a couple of days ago from a fellow who was tearing down an old mill in Massachusetts. It seems at the center of this turn-of-the-last-century brick building was a Skinner Unaflow steam engine.

Would I like to poke about in a 100+ old factory building and check out a steam engine?  Hell yeah!

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

This furniture company relocated some of their manufacturing away from New England and closed this facility sometime in 2007 or 2008.  Most of the wood working equipment has been auctioned off and the building stands mostly empty, housing now only the equipment that nobody wanted and the random detritus of a mothballed factory building.

The floors are littered with cut-ends of really nice cherry and coated with saw dust.  Bits and pieces of chairs that were in the process of being built hang from the walls.

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

Here and there are signs that this is indeed an old, old manufacturing floor. 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

Among the un-wanted items were these steam ovens used to soften the cherry before it was bent on a press for the backs of chairs. They are wrapped in asbestos and have the most amazing pressure doors! I think they'd make great decor features for a Steampunk themed night club, after a bit of remediation that is. 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

These are the bent rail chair backs made from the steam softened wood. 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

Two huge oil burning boilers provided steam to heat the plant, service the bending ovens, and run the Skinner UnaFlow steam engine/alternator set to make electricity.

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

I understand that these boilers consumed 2500 gallons of oil per week each when the factory was in full production.

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

And at the center of the building is the 26" bore Skinner UnaFlow steam engine and the alternator that provided electricity right up until 2000 when it was disconnected and it's function replaced with power from the grid.  This engine was apparently manufactured in the 1920's and installed in the factory in 1952 where was run until the year 2000.

Every part of this building is being meticulously dismantled. I was amazed at how much of it is being re-used and re-purposed. It's really a fascinating profession, requiring a broad knowledge of industrial processes (and dangers) and is really quite "green." 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

The moving parts are still wet with oil! 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

 The drive side of the alternator.

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

 The cylinder end. Alas the governor and some of oilers have been taken, but the rest of the engine is amazingly complete.

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

 The alternator windings. Imagine the work that went into building that, winding all of that cotton and asbestos insulated copper wire.

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

I believe that this is a  manual, oil-filled contactor, basically the switch that interrupted the power flow. 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

 Someone said that this unit could produce 275 kilowatts of electricity.

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

"Quality is not your boyfriend," and I guess it wasn't the future either.  I've been laid off several times in the past, and you could still feel the ghost of those last days haunting this place.

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

 

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA

More photos from my visit are available on Flickr

Skinner Unaflow Steam Engine at Nichols and Stone Factory in Gardner, MA