Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #15 – Reversing Engines

 

plantproductofme00mest_0066

Good morning everyone.

Among the many types of engines that the Mesta Machine Company manufactured are steam reversing engines for rolling mills. As the name would suggest, they are engines that will run either in forward or reverse. The reversing operation was needed in the rolling mills to shuttle the slabs of steel back an forth through the rollers. The direction of the engines was changed, at least in these Mesta models, by pulling a lever that changed the valve timing and the engine would spin down to a halt and then reverse directions. This happened all in about a minutes time from what I can gather from reading about different types of these engines.

You would think, or I least I do, that it would be more efficient to have some sort of clutch and reversing gear mechanism, rather than halt the machine and its flywheel and start it up in the other direction. Evidently that wasn’t the case, because after doing a bit of reading it turns out that the cost of maintenance and breakage of the reverse gear mechanisms far outweighed the efficiency lost by reversing the entire engine. It wasn’t until the AEG Company of Germany came up with a mill stack that used a method call the Ilgner system which used electric motors that the steam reversing engines started to get phased out.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #15 – Reversing Engines

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #14 – Corliss Engines

plantproductofme00mest_0062Corliss engines are a type of steam engine that was a popular power source around the turn of the last century, and the variation that the Mesta Machine company built was used primarily in rolling mills and power plants. Corliss engines use rotary valves and have variable valve timing, and were the most efficient engines around until the Una-flow engines were produced.

792px-corliss_cylinder

Detail of a Corliss-type valve gear and cylinder cross section showing the path of high-pressure steam (in red) and low-pressure steam (in blue). With each stroke, the four valves alternate opening and closing, driving the piston back and forth. Image: Wikipedia

Continue reading Mesta Memories #14 – Corliss Engines

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #13 – Una-Flow Engines

plantproductofme00mest_0060The Mesta Machine Company manufactured Una-Flow (know today as “uniflow“) steam engines for use in rolling mills and power plants as an alternative to other engines that they produced. Una-flow engines use steam that flows through the engine’s cylinders in one direction, hence the name. This method of operation gains thermal efficiency by maintaining a thermal gradient along the length of the cylinder and uses less steam than other engines.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #13 – Una-Flow Engines

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.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #11 – Steam Blowing Engines

Atomic Awesome, Deconstructing Technology, Technostalgia

Regarding the Images in “Mesta Memories”

plantproductofme00mest_0027Good morning everyone.

When I started posting the Mesta Memories series, one of the first questions asked was how those striking pictures were made. Were they photographs or drawings? They resembled photographs at first glance, but the tonal scales were off in a way that was hard to put your finger on. They didn’t appear to be drawings either, especially when examined closely. My thought at the time was the effect was from the process used to transfer photographs to plates for printing and the printing process itself. I have seen many of these types of images from that period, the late 1800s to the early 1900s, and I wanted to know how they were made, so I started looking into it.

I did a lot of looking, too. I searched everywhere I could think of and I couldn’t find anything that answered my questions about how images like that were produced. So I decided to email my cute niece Holly, who has studied publishing at college (has a degree in it, I believe) and works for the audiobook publisher Blackstone Audio, and see if she could give me any references. She put the question to her graphics guy, James, who is knowledgeable about these sorts of things, and he looked at the images and had this to say:

Continue reading Regarding the Images in “Mesta Memories”

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #10 – Gas Blowing Engines

plantproductofme00mest_0044I’ve written about blowing engines before in Big, Complicated Machines #7, but the gas blowing engines produced by Mesta were quite different. The Mesta engines ran on the waste gasses produced by the blast furnaces that the blowing engines serviced, with little or no extra fuel required. I’m sure that there are some caveats to that statement however. The horizontal design of the engines made construction of the blowing houses much simpler and cheaper. In addition, each Mesta blowing engine also had a generator that produced electricity for the steel mill. They were a fairly elegant piece of engineering.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #10 – Gas Blowing Engines

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #9 – Gear Cutting Dept. and Product List

plantproductofme00mest_0040

Turning a big herringbone gear. Click on an image to enlarge.

The Mesta Machine Company could produce large gears of up to 30 feet in diameter with up to a 6 foot face. The gear making machinery was all designed and built in house. The herringbone, or double helical gears, are used in high-torque applications like power generation and marine engines. A single helical gear produces significant sideways thrust under load due to the angle of the gear teeth and requires a very strong mount for the gear and axle. A double helical gear eliminates this because the two halves of the gear push against each other, and a smaller mounting arrangement can be used.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #9 – Gear Cutting Dept. and Product List

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #8 – Erecting and Roll Turning Departments

plantproductofme00mest_0037

Mesta erecting department. Click on an image to enlarge.

The Mesta Machine Company’s erecting department is where all of the finished castings and machined parts were brought together and assembled into the product that the customer had ordered. Erecting department is a good name, as assembling some of the huge machines that Mesta produced must have been like constructing small, very heavy buildings or complicated statuary.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #8 – Erecting and Roll Turning Departments

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #7 – The Forge and Machine Shop

plantproductofme00mest_0027

A 2000 ton steam powered hydraulic press

The Mesta Machine Company had a large forge department, with one 1000 ton press, two 1500 ton presses, and one 2000 ton press. The presses sound small compared to the giant presses that we’ve looked at earlier, but these ‘little’ presses made most of those later giant presses, in addition to a large part of America’s heavy manufacturing infrastructure.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #7 – The Forge and Machine Shop

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #6 – Steel Foundry and Gear Molding

plantproductofme00mest_0021

The Mesta steel foundry. Click on the images to enlarge,

The Mesta steel foundry was the place where the huge, 250 ton castings for the 50,000 ton press, “The Fifty”, were made, as well as large castings for heavy industry all over America. The Mesta foundry had a special department for casting large, high quality gears that used their own patented machines for constructing the molds and producing the cast.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #6 – Steel Foundry and Gear Molding

-->