Bruce Babcock
uses one of his "steam indicators"
to check the efficiency of the
Belle of Lousiville
18 May, 2005

Looking forward, along the outboard side of the engine. Jim McCoy, the engineer, is opening a valve to clear condensate from the steam line that will carry pressure from the engine to the indicator. Some of the water is visible, falling just below the 3-way valve. The engine did not originally have provisions for attaching an indicator, so Jim and Joe Kramer attached these lines especially for this trip. This photo shows the indicator attached to the 3-way valve in the steam line. The 3-way valve allows taking diagrams from both ends of the cylinder. You can also see the cord running from the indicator drum back to the motion-reducing mechanism.

Here is the wooden bracket Bruce made for attaching the cord to the piston rod (left) and the motion-reducing mechanism. The Rees engine has a stroke over six feet long, but the indicator drum rotates stop-to-stop with a pull of only about 8 inches, hence the need for the motion reducer. Bruce is taking the first diagram as Captain Alan Bates observes. Captain Bates is a veteran river boat Captain, and a respected author on steam. This was the first time he had seen a diagram taken on a riverboat. As you can tell from Bruce's smile, he was thoroughly enjoying the work.

Another view of Bruce taking a diagram, with Joe Kramer watching. Joe saved the program from potential disaster when he noticed motion in a compression fitting and shored up the steam line, to prevent an accidental break in the line. A wooden block and two C-clamps comprised the shoring, visible in front of Joe here, and also in the first and second photos. This photo shows some of the gang analyzing data collected during the trip to Louisville. From left to right, Bob Rhode - author, artist, and educator, is working on an article about the trip; Keith Baylor - whose focus and commitment in keeping accurate, detailed records of the entire trip was remarkable and essential; Bruce - who supplied the instruments and energy to get things done; and Jim - who kindly let these strangers into his engine room.

This is a copy of one of the data sheets that Keith used to record the data for each diagram taken. The actual indicator card is attached at the top; Keith's notations and observations fill the rest of the page. (To better appreciate Keith's steadfast attention to detail, you should know that there is no tachometer in the engine room - Keith counted revolutions of the wheel while timing with his wrist watch.) The diagram shows two traces, one for each end of the cylinder on the double-acting Rees engine. Each trace records the pressure in the cylinder (vertical axis) versus the displacement of the piston (horizontal axis). From the data recorded on these sheets one can determine engine horse power, amount of steam consumed by the engine, how well the valves are operating, and the overall efficiency of the engine.
Copyright © MMVIII by William K. Brummett. All rights reserved.