Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #16 – Air Compressors and Barometric Condensers



Most of us have and air compressor of some sort in our garages or have worked around the big compressors used in auto body and repair shops, but they pale in comparison to the ones made by the Mesta Machine Company in its heyday. Like most of the machines produced by Mesta, they’re huge and were intended to supply large factories and other industrial works. According to the information pamphlet, Mesta made compressors using up to 4 stages and produced pressures of 1000 psi. I haven’t been able to gather any data on the construction of the Mesta compressors, and I don’t know how they handled the cooling of the air between stages, or even exactly how their pumps worked. They’re impressive looking beasts though.




The barometric condensers made by Mesta were constructed rather differently from the modern ones from what I can gather. The pamphlet talks about there being no moving parts, sprayers or perforated plates inside, nor any bolts or braces used inside. They sound like very complicated castings and it would be great to see a diagram of their inner structure.

You can find out more about modern barometric condensers at the Schutte & Koerting site.

All 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

Mesta Memories #12 – Gas Power Engines

Mesta Memories #13 – Una-Flow Engines

Mesta Memories #14 – Corliss Engines

Mesta Memories #15 – Reversing Engines

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    Regarding the compressors, at a guess the two stage compressors in the first two plates appear to be straightforward piston type designs constructed very much like steam engines, and the large tubular structure connecting the two cylinders appears to function as an intercooler since it is way too big for a simple inter-connector.

    • The Professor

      I thought that the big tube was a pressure vessel for the output of the compressor, but that was just a guess. I wish I could locate an old diagram for these machines that showed how they were laid out.
      Would that big tube provide enough cooling between stages?

  • Deartháir

    There is a giant compressor on display at the Rossland Museum in my hometown that bears a striking resemblance to the one in your lead photo, although theirs is an Ingersoll/Rand amalgamation, before Ingersoll and Rand themselves amalgamated.

    • The Professor

      That picture is mighty teeny for my eyes. I'll take your word for it.

      • chrystlubitshi

        One must TRANE their eyes to see this clearly

  • BlackIce_GTS

    Found this modern compressor at a scrap metal place a few weeks ago:
    <img src="; width=600>
    I had to search to figure out what it was, and some similar looking ones were rated at 100hp. That sounds like a lot of air.
    Nothing compared to the Mesta compressors, but this one looks like it's portable with the help of a large forklift.

  • CaptianNemo2001

    The vacuum's though only went to 30 inches which is about 14.73 psi…