Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #12 – Gas Power Engines


Click on the image to enlarge

The Mesta Machine Company made large four-stroke engines that were used primarily in the production of electric power. These engines would operate on just about any flammable gas: natural gas, blast furnace gas, producer gas, or by-product coke oven gas. Waste not, want not.

One of the features of the engines that the brochure emphasizes is the use of a “butterfly governor gear” for regulating engine power under various loads. It sounds like some kind of automatic throttle, but I haven’t had the chance to run down the specific mechanism that Mesta used as of yet. It sounds like a cool gadget though.

plantproductofme00mest_0057plantproductofme00mest_0058plantproductofme00mest_0059All 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”

Mesta Memories #11 – Steam Blowing Engines

  • CaptianNemo2001

    "butterfly governor gear"

    I've heard of it but I might have to dig through my books to remember what exactly it is.

  • Tiller188

    I'm rather intrigued by that…."butterfly valve" I know, "governor" I know, "gear" I know, but my brain is not doing a very good job of cobbling them together into something coherent…

    • The Professor

      While searching, I came across several butterfly valves operated by a handwheel and a worm gear that were referred to as governors. I didn't delve any further into them because they obviously weren't what I was looking for, but they looked like things that you'd find on a pipeline for regulating flow.
      That's one of the problems when trying to research technology that was new nearly 100 years ago – so many newer things fit into the description of the original device that it becomes kind of a homeopathic search, i.e., very diluted.

  • Found a Mesta Lathe for sale in Tennessee!

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    Not easy to find much other info or pics from Mesta. There's the article in The Atlantic about The Fifty, and one on boingboing about Very Large Machines, including the other 50,000 ton press. Both by Tim Heffernan (articles, not presses!)

    Also, evidently not all the bull gear machinists were missing an arm.

    <img src="; width="600/">

    • The Professor

      Well done! Maybe I should just turn over all of this Mesta research and posting to you….

      • Naw… I'm only on the interwebs for, like, 2 hours a day. I'm gonna be near the other 50,000 ton press (called Major) in Grafton, MA in a couple of months. Maybe they'll let me in to see it? I'll take pics.

        • The Professor

          That'd be great if you get the chance. Let me know how it goes and we'll work up an article on it.

    • CaptianNemo2001

      Its SOO BIG. And in only 2 parts… Bolted at the hub with 4 massive bolts and then a single bolt it looks like on each side of the wheel.. Looks wicked.

  • Could the butterfly governor be similar to a flyball governor?
    This were used on steam engines to keep the speed constant. Their output was connected to the throttle and thus formed an early type of PID control loop.
    Here is a good illustration: