Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Making Acadia Gas Engines




THE MAKING OF THE ACADIA GAS ENGINES - from THE BUSY EAST magazine 1918

Adapted from http://www.oldmarineengine.com/history/Acadia/AcadiaBusyEast.htm

by Doug Frizzle June 2010.

One of the marvels of modern mechanism has been the development of the gas engine, and a few paragraphs can very profitably be devoted to the history of this machine, which occupies such an important place in the industrial life of the present day.

Soon after the discovery of the piston, attempts were made to employ it for other powers than steam. Huyghens (1629-1695) tried to utilize the explosive force of gunpowder as early as 1680. Illuminating gas was later tried by many inventors. In 1799 Le Bon, a clever French artisan, patented a gas engine, which employed a piston and cylinder, took illuminating gas from a reservoir, mixed it with atmospheric air and exploded it by means of an electric spark on alternate sides of its piston. His engine was automatic and theoretically all right but the high price of illuminating gas and the difficulties of generating electricity rendered his engine impractical from a financial standpoint, though considering the state of the general mechanic arts of that time, the Le Bon engine was an excellent one. In 1860, sixty years after Le Bon, a man named Le Noir obtained a French patent for practically the same engine, but it used one hundred cubic feet of gas per horse-power-hour. As gas for the test cost about $2 per thousand feet and coal $6 per ton, the fuel for the gas engine cost several times as much as the fuel to do the same work by steam. A Parisian inventor, Hugon, produced an engine which was slightly more economical than Le Noirs. In 1867 Otto and Langen, of Cologne, exhibited at the Paris Exhibition a gas engine which consumed thirty-eight cubic feet of gas per horse-power-hour. This was a great improvement over the LeNoir and Hugon type of engine but was intolerably noisy. The cost of fuel, too, was still too high. Brayton, in 1872, patented a gas engine or more strictly speaking a hot air, for he used largely the expansive force of hot air. The Brayton engine was eighteen per cent more economical than the Otto and Langen engine and worked without any of the distracting noise of the latter. In 1876 Otto brought out a new engine in which was embodied the famous Otto Cycle (a definite series of motions constantly, repeated) the method in general used today. It was found that if the gas and air were subjected to a heavy pressure and then exploded, the resulting force was much greater than under less pressure. The essential feature of the Otto Cycle is the application of this principle. It was advocated by Barnett in 1838, tried by several, and successfully applied by Otto in 1876. During the past thirty or forty years the development of the gas engine has been rapid. One by one have difficulties been overcome; step by step has progress been made nearer and yet nearer perfection has the engine been brought, until today gas or gasoline engines are simple and easy of operation, and are used widely for all purposes where power in moderate quantities is required.

It would he interesting to trace the development of stationary gas engines and of automobiles, but for the present we will confine our attention to marine engines operated on gasoline or kerosene. Not so many years ago the departure of a fishing fleet for the Banks of Newfoundland meant the unfurling of countless sails to the wind, the noiseless gliding of the graceful schooners with their fair sails set to catch the faintest breeze. In former days a fishing fleet presented an artistic picture of exceeding beauty. Today the beauty has given place to the modern boat, which goes rapidly to sea to the rhythmic chug, chug, of the efficient, up-to-date gas engine.

It was recently the pleasure and privilege of the writer to visit the plant of the Acadia Gas Engines, Limited, of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and to trace step by step the process which takes gray iron, brass, steel, bronze and copper, and converts them into a marine gas engine which provides cheap, efficient and reliable power at very moderate cost.

Of course the beginning of anything is the thought, the idea, which take shape in blue prints, plans, sketches, figures. Few things worth while happen by chance. The idea of making gas engines at Bridgewater, of building up a great industry on the banks of the La Have, had its birth in the mind of the present general manager and president of the company. Mr. W. T. Ritcey, who in 1908 established the business in Bridgewater.

It will be impossible to describe in detail each step in the process of making an Acadia gas engine. Such a task is quite beyond the writer to whom a gas engine has always been a thing of mystery. We will, however, touch upon a few of the more important things and will describe with some particularity the chief parts of that wonderful machine; which has done so much to make the fisherman's life pleasant and happy.

In an upper chamber in the Acadia plant, from plans and blue prints, the wooden, brass, and aluminum patterns of the various parts which compose the Acadia engine are manufactured. These patterns go to the foundry, a structure one hundred by forty six feet in size. To the casual observer this shop resembles an ordinary stove foundry, but closer inspection a number of important differences. Not only do we find an iron furnace, as in a stove foundry, but brass furnaces as well. There the molding of the parts for an engine offers greater difficulty than in the case of a stove, for the reason that an engine is much more complex. The mold of the outside of an engine cylinder, for instance, is fashioned in ordinary molding sand by the use of the wooden pattern. The molds for the bore and water jacket, are made by mixing sand, core oil and other ingredients together, molding the sand into the required shape in what are called core boxes, and then baking these cores for about twenty five minutes in an oven having a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. When it comes from the oven this core can be handled without breaking, provided care is exercised. The cores are placed in the flask or wooden case containing the molds. Everything is carefully prepared, the two parts of the flask are clamped together and all is readiness for the cast. In the top of the flask is an aperture through which the liquid metal runs, the casting being done as in the case of stoves and ranges. The heat of the molten metal burns up the oil used in making the core mold, and the sand falls away from the casting, the same as the green sand, which has been mixed with water. In the Acadia plant castings are made three times a week, an average of five and a half tons of gray iron being used each time. About seven hundred pounds of brass is cast each working day.

After being taken out of the flasks, the castings are carried to a machine known as a mill to be cleaned, later being taken to the machine shop, where very interesting work is done.

Upon entering the machine shop, one is attracted by a very large machine, which suggests a turret on a man-of-war. This is a Bullard vertical boring and reaming machine, specially designed for the purpose of boring gas engine cylinders. After being bored the outside surfaces or bosses of the cylinder are milled to make perfectly square and true joints, and they are then drilled by the use of a machine called a jig, which accurately places each hole and makes them strictly interchangeable. Various operations follow in quick succession, until finally the cylinder goes to the paint shop where it is cleaned and painted later going to the basement where the water jacket is tested. Eventually the cylinder finds itself in the erecting shop where the assemblers do their work. The water jacket of the Acadia cylinder has a large space completely encircling the combustion chamber, which ensures a cool piston, avoiding the possibility of over heating and making the oil more efficient.

The principle parts of the gas engine are of course the cylinder, crook cases, crank shaft, connecting rod, piston, igniter and carburetor. We have referred to the cylinder and now we will describe briefly the other parts of the Acadia engine.

The crank cases are made of cast iron and are surfaced on milling machines or by heavy shapers giving a true surface. They are designed for large bearings which are made of a high grade babbit metal, reamed to standard size and guaranteeing a perfect running bearing. The crank case of each Acadia engine has either one or two large hand holes which permit quick removal of the connection rod.

By referring to the cut of the crank case herewith the reader will note the design of the top and bottom crank cases, which gives a split bearing and which affords an opportunity of removing the liners and taking up the wear and having a tight bearing.

Acadia crank shafts are drop-forged from specially designed dies and made of open hearth steel by the largest drop-forging company in the country. The bearings are large and made to exact size; the cranks are guaranteed against breaking.

The connecting rods are of the I beam design and are made extra long to eliminate the lateral strain as much as possible. The rods are made of a high mixture of bronze, which is designed to withstand the severe shocks and stresses set up by the force of the explosions, and does not crystallize under such conditions. The wrist pin end is made to fasten the pin securely to the connecting rod and the crank pin end is fitted with bearings of the best quality of white metal, and so constructed that any wear occurring may be readily taken up or adjusted by the removal of liners.

Acadia pistons are the same high grade iron as the cylinders so that the expansion is the same. They are of the trunk pattern, being extra long and having a curved baffle plate to prevent the entering charge from mixing with the exploded gases. The rings are ground true and are eccentric, so that they will expand with equal pressure against the walls of the cylinder, making a perfect compression. The piston bushings in which the wrist pin turns are the best quality of Phospor bronze and are interchangeable.

The make and break igniter is a special feature of the Acadia engine on account of its simplicity. The number of parts used in its construction are reduced to a minimum and each part can be removed and replaced at little expense. The igniter in held in place on the motor by two steel studs and nuts, and is provided with a copper gasket so that a slight strain on these nuts will make a tight joint The spark points can be readily adjusted without removing the igniter and the electrical current cannot be short circuited by water, which has much to do with the superior operation of the engine.

All Acadia engines are designed to lubricate through the gasoline supply, which is the most reliable and accurate method. The heavy duty types are also fitted with sight feed oilers which oil the cylinder and wrist pin in piston, and the crank pin is lubricated by means of a centrifugal ring oiler which is a positive lubrication.

Acadia combined kerosene and gasoline injector carburetor has proved a great success because of its simplicity and efficiency, and its adaptability to any of the thousands of two cycle engines in use. This carburetor is attached to the engine by means of one connection only and will burn kerosene with equally an good results as any carburetor, either kerosene or gasoline in use at the present time.

The Acadia is of the two cycle or two stroke design, which eliminates gears, cams, valves, etc., thus affording the most simple construction. Nearly every part going into the construction of this excellent engine is manufactured in the Acadia plant, the only exceptions being the necessary electrical apparatus, and small parts such as screws and bolts, which are manufactured by specialists in that line of work.

After being assembled the engine is taken to the testing shop, where it undergoes a most rigid test lasting from one to five hours. Later the engine is painted, numbered, crated and made ready for shipment.

The growth of the business of the Acadia Company has been remarkable. Starting in a small way in 1908, only ten years ago, this concern today enjoys the distinction of being the largest manufacturer of two cycle gas engines in Canada. The corporation was originally called the Acadia Gas Engine Company, Limited, but upon re-organization in May, 1917, the name was changed to the Acadia Gas Engines, Limited. The authorized capital is $200,000 in common stock and $100,000 in bonds. So far $150,000 in common stock and $75,000 in bonds have been issued. The Company is incorporated under a Nova Scotia charter and is conducted in a way to merit the approval of its patrons and its shareholders. Nearly night thousand Acadia engines are now in use and that number is being increased yearly by about twenty four hundred. The company's turnover this year will be upwards of $700,000 and the day is not far distant when the output will reach the million mark. The most popular engines manufactured by them are the 1, 2 and 3 cylinder variety with make and break spark. Acadia engines are mostly found throughout the Maritime Provinces, the Gaspe coast of Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador. Three years ago a branch office was opened in St. John's. Newfoundland, with Mr. David 0. Neill, manager, and Mr. R. W. Ritcey. superintendent. The present officers and directors are as follows: President and general manager, Mr. W. T. Ritcey; secretary treasurer, Mr. M. S. Lohnes; R. W. Elliott, Halifax; Frank W. Elliott. Middleton. N. S.; C. A. Hubley; D. H. Ritcey, Bridgewater; William Duff, M. P.,Lunenburg. The company employ nearly a hundred men, on an average, and pay out upwards of one hundred thousand dollars per year in wages.

The plant of the company is conveniently located, the buildings are admirably adapted for their purpose, the machinery particularly well arranged and the system of work of undoubted excellence. In a word their facilities for manufacturing gas engines are splendid and one can well understand the reason that their business has grown seven thousand percent in a decade. A growth so wonderful, so phenomenal, must be the result of undoubted merit. The Acadia gas engine has assuredly "made good."

During the past summer a splendid garage, built of concrete blocks, has been erected. This building is 55 by 61 feet and two storeys in height. On the first floor is a well equipped garage, while on the second floor is stored "United" Stationary gas engines. American machines, of which the Acadia Company are Newfoundland and Eastern Canadian distributors and who sell large quantities. They are also selling agents for that excellent car the Chevrolet, selling seventy during the present year, with splendid prospects for large sales in the years to come. The company are also selling agents for the Maritime Provinces for the celebrated Ford-Smith Form-a-truck which solves delivery problems.

In addition to the manufacturing of internal combustion engines, Acadia Gas Engines Limited also manufacture vessels' heaving outfits, power hoists, winches, lobster pot hoists, etc.

This industry is one of the most important in Eastern Canada and without doubt has a bright future before it. With the development which must of necessity take place in the fishing industry the demand for reliable, efficient gas engines will increase rapidly. Having had ten years of unique and wonderful success and with the experience which this success has brought, the Acadia Company are in a particularly favorable position to supply the demand for high grade gas engines which will do the work that is expected of them. To increase from a turn over of $10,000, the sales of 1909, to an output of $700,000, ten years later, is surely progress rapid enough to satisfy the most ardent advocates of Maritime industrial progress, advancement and development. With so courteous, capable and energetic a president and general manager as Mr. W. T. Ritcey; with so reliable, painstaking and obliging a secretary treasurer as Mr. M. S. Lahnes; with an office force of undoubted ability, and a band of expert, faithful mechanics, Acadia Gas Engines Limited is to be heartily congratulated, for the future assuredly holds big things for the flourishing manufacturing industry on the banks of the beautiful La Have.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.