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Steam Engine Flywheel Made From A Picture
“My fully restored 1902 Robinson 14 hp. steam engine is the only one of its kind in the country with a left-hand flywheel,” says Scott Wiley of Marion, Iowa. “I had the new wheel made from a photograph and it matches the original specifications exactly, right down to the curved spindles. There are five other Robinsons in the country, but they all have right-hand wheels,” Wiley says.
He bought the rusted and broken-down Robinson 22 years ago and says, “When I got it home, the more I looked it over the more I found that needed to be done. Eventually, everything that could come apart did.”
A stickler for detail, Wiley spent 10 years looking for parts, finding Robinson catalogs with drawings and tracking down the machine’s original 1902 bill of sale and successive owners. Originally it sold for $2,080 plus shipping, minus a 40 percent discount for cash, bringing the total to $1,266. He even met the Missouri farmer who rescued the rusted machine from a fence line in 1976.
Wiley says any restoration of rusted steam engines is difficult. His was complicated because the boiler was broken beyond repair, gears and shafts were extremely worn, and parts had been scavenged for other uses. The flywheel was from a Nichols and Shepard machine, which wasn’t the correct design, and it had cracked spindles. Wiley was able to locate a vintage side view photograph of the correct Robinson flywheel and had a friend convert the picture into a two-dimension drawing. That was loaded into an AutoCAD system and scaled to the exact dimensions of the original flywheel: 40 in. in dia., with a 10-in. facing and a 2 7/8-in. hub. Friends of Wiley converted the AutoCAD drawing to 3D, which he sent to Kory Anderson at Dakota Foundry for stress analysis and casting. Wiley says he chose Anderson for the project because his equipment can 3D print sand molds rather than work from a traditional pattern.
Machining was done by Jim Briden, owner of Larson Welding in Fargo, who placed the wheel in a giant lathe, trimmed the face, created the proper angle for a wooden insert and bored the correct size hole for the mounting shaft.
Calvin Gingrich, an Ind. wheelwright, did the steam bending on two pieces of white ash. Those fit on the inside of the wheel rim, where the wood engages the clutch. Wiley secured the half circles with lag bolts, then tapered the rim 8 degrees so the clutch shoes slide over the rim and lock in place.
Wiley says he pushed hard to complete the restoration during the spring and summer of 2021. “My goal was to drive it in the Cavalcade at the Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Old Threshers Reunion. My dad took me to that show almost 50 years ago, and I’ve been going ever since.”
Wiley began operating steam engines as a teenager and eventually bought a 21-75 Baker. He bought the Robinson, number 2577 of about 3500 built in Richmond, Ind., because it’s a rare and unusual model. “The previous owners had done some restoration, but I basically started from zero and repaired, rebuilt or replaced everything. It was a long and expensive project, but I’d sooner have this Robinson than a shiny new pickup any day.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Scott Wiley, 3054 Jordans Grove Road, Marion, Iowa 52302.

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #2