An Oldie, But a Goodie

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Engine Forward
Monitor’s main steam engine is perched on its treatment rig within the 35,000-gallon treatment tank. The valve chests are visible on the lower left and lower right, reversing gear eccentrics are positioned dead center and top, and the engine’s cast iron support bed spans the entire top portion of this picture.

This week we’ve been very fortunate to spend some quality time with one of our oldest and dearest friends: USS Monitor‘s vibrating side lever steam engine. Much like our favorite ironclad, this salty lady is over 150 years old but keeps looking better every year.

We took the following pictures on Monday. Please remember that the engine currently sits upside down in the treatment tank.   Read more

Worthington Pump Packing Seal – Part 2

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After removal from the port Worthington pump steam chest, the packing material mentioned in the last post was largely complete and retained the shape of the cavity it was pressed into.   Examination under a microscope at 100x magnification revealed that the individual fibers are translucent and have a twist or ‘convolution’.  There is also an absence of the scales present on animal derived fibers such as wool.  Quite a bit of dirt or other particulate matter can also be seen.  Our first conclusion is that the packing material is a type of cotton fiber, possibly with additives to improve its sealant properties.   Stay tuned for more details soon!

Worthington Pump Packing Seal

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Last week Will and Eric were preparing to photograph the steam chest from Monitor’s port Worthington Pump.  This component houses the slide valve which fed steam from the boilers to drive the pump’s steam piston.  Noticing that the valve rod packing seal fitting appeared to have loosened up during treatment, they were able to remove it intact and discovered that the fibrous packing material was still inside.  The organic packing material, which resembles a tightly twisted rope, was wound around the wrought iron valve rod and packed tightly into a packing chamber.  It may have been treated with lead or some type of natural oil or tallow to improve the sealing properties.  When the pump was functioning on the Monitor, this material would have kept the steam sealed inside where it could do the most work, and prevented waste of valuable boiler pressure.  This find is exciting! Although we know there were a number of packing seals used on the Monitor, this is the first one we have found intact! Look for more on the packing material soon!