Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #11 – Steam Blowing Engines

plantproductofme00mest_0053The Mesta Machine Company also made steam blowing engines that were less expensive and of generally a lower output than the Mesta gas blowing engines. They were still very formidable devices as you can see from the image above.

I am somewhat puzzled by the designations that Mesta gave to their blowing engines. For example, in the image above, the engines are described as [44″ and 84″ x 60″] engines. The 84″ x 60″ refers to the bore and stroke of the piston, but I don’t know what the 44″ dimension refers to. Even more puzzling is the designation of the engines on page 45 described as [Three 34″ and 66″ and 84″ and 84″ x 48″] engines. Except for the bore and stroke, I have no idea what the other dimensions refer to. If I ever figure it out, I’ll let you know.

plantproductofme00mest_0048plantproductofme00mest_0049plantproductofme00mest_0050plantproductofme00mest_0051plantproductofme00mest_0052The next two pages describe the automatic valve plates that Mesta built and installed in the air heads of their blowing engines (that could really be taken the wrong way in certain circumstances). If you’ve ever wondered about the valving used in blowing engines, and I know that I have, this is one solution.

plantproductofme00mest_0054plantproductofme00mest_0055All images are from the 1919 edition of “Plant and product of the Mesta Machine Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania“.

Other articles in this series:

Mesta Memories #10 – Gas Blowing Engines

Regarding the Images in “Mesta Memories”


  • Just a guess, but could the increasing bore sizes refer to double- and triple-expansion setups? Where the steam is run through cylinders of increasing volume until returns diminish.

    • CaptianNemo2001

      That is what I was thinking.

      As for [Three 34" and 66" and 84" and 84" x 48"] look at page 44 as it shows an engine SET head on with 4 different piston sizes. Thus on page 45 what we have is 3 installations of these engine Sets. Inner right piston (34") is the high-pressure, inner left (66") is medium pressure and the outer right (84") and outer left (84") pistons are the 84 inch low pressure. And if they are running 225 psi like they say they are, then its doable.


      • The Professor

        I think that you're confusing the blowing cylinders with steam cylinders.

        • CaptianNemo2001

          Maybe. The large outer pistons are the air pumps and the inner ones are the steam pistons. According to pg 46. At least that's how it sounds. I need to locate my cyclopedia of mechanics… 1910 edition to be sure.

    • The Professor

      As far as I've been able to determine, the double and triple expansion type of steam pistons like those used on railroad locomotives weren't used on blowing engines.

  • spatula6554

    I work as a Project Development Engineer for a company that manufactures slow speed, process reciprocating compressors. If I were to apply that same nomenclature (Three 34" and 66" and 84" and 84" x 48") to one of our compressors, it would most likely be three (3) units with a 34.0" + 66.0" + 84.0" + 84.0" x 48"…Stage 1 + Stage 2 + Stage 3 + Stage 4…or with steam in this case…Expansion 1 + Expansion 2 + Expansion 3 + Compressor Cylinder x Stroke.

    I think it is interesting that the valves from Mesta look almost identical to some older style PF or Plate valves that we still use today. Some of our compressor designs formerly used valves-in-head (similar to Mesta) as well as valves-in-piston. The stuff I work on is simply barrel cylinders with gas passages and valve ports in the inner diameter.

    • The Professor

      How interesting. That makes a lot of sense, although I don't see the plumbing for it. But, just because I can't see it doesn't mean that it's not there. One of the reasons I've been reluctant to consider steam expansion/recycling is because a later Mesta Memories will look at the Corliss engines that they made, which were sold along with blowing engines, at least sometimes.
      I wish I had (free) access to the old Mesta engineering drawings for all of their stuff.

      • CaptianNemo2001

        Have you tried asking the company/current owner of the company.

        • The Professor

          The Mesta Machine Company no longer exists, it went under in the late 70s or 80s, I can't recall exactly when. I haven't been able to trace down what happened to all of their records and plans, but I imagine that they are in a university library somewhere, probably Pittsburgh, with no online access. Hopefully they'll crop up someday.

        • The Professor

          I went back through my notes and I see that Mesta went under in 1983, and was bought by the Park Corporation out of Cleveland, OH. They sold some of the equipment but kept the rest and made a new company, West Homestead Engineering and Machine Co., that still does some of the type of work that Mesta used to do. I'll have to see if I can find their information office.

  • CaptianNemo2001

    Well if its anything like Chrysler the records are in boxes somewhere. When Chrysler bought out AMC they kept all of the records, I think.

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  • sam harris sr

    we had two mesta engines at republic steel cleveland ohio , they were sent to a museum, i think the smithsonian inst, thats what i was told , i talked to engineers and oilers that ran them ,blowing wind to the blast furnace,im a steam engineer, .had many years at the power station where they sat, they were a beautiful pair,good memories