The Little Engines That Could


These were on display at the Maritime Museum in Astoria Oregon a couple of years ago when we stopped in while on vacation.


They are actual working auxiliary steam engines off of ships from way back in the day.

Little dinky ones.

I fell in love with them at first sight.

10 thoughts on “The Little Engines That Could

    • Some small engines like this were used for helping in pulling lines and sheets. Think powered winches. The last of the sailing merchant ships were surprisingly sparcely crewed, compared to their ancestors. All sorts of mechanical assists were created, either man powered or machine powered.


      • ALL the winches on the loading booms for the S.S. Lane Victory (and most other “Victory” ships) were steam powered.

        Really flipped me out the first time I saw them.


  1. The L.A. Maritime Museum in San Pedro has a complete, working model of one of the triple-expansion steam engines they used before turbines.

    It’s a work of art, and amazing to see the little guy huffing and chuffing along as it runs.


    • I grew up there, drjim!
      John M. Olguin’s ‘magnum opus’.
      My clearest memory of the place involves ‘Leuricthys tenuis’, the California grunion.
      I liked the older building better, though.


        • My first wife was a Pedro native. She’d tell me stories of going on “Grunion Runs” when she was a little girl, and that most of Palos Verdes was dairy farms, and you could see herds of cows wandering the hillsides.

          Which ‘older building’ are you talking about? The LAMM has been in the “Old Municipal Ferry Building” since 1979. I didn’t move to SoCal until 1982, so I’m lacking in details prior to then….


  2. This brought back a memory. I was a part of a crew that removed a double acting steam
    driven reciprocating boiler feed pump aboard the USS Racine at the Long Beach Naval
    Shipyard. Since they could not find anyone larger than me, I ended up in the Bilge
    backing up the base bolts. Once we fastened this two-ton beast to a cart, the fun began!

    They had I-beam rails all over the place. Every time we came to a bulkhead, we had to
    set up two beam clamps and “walk” it over the knee-knockers using two come-along
    hoists. It got better: The three-story vertical lift involved a manual chain fall. Back at the
    shop, I got the job of extracting a broken bolt on the top one of the two pistons. I so precisely nailed the center that after using successively larger drills, I managed to extract
    what looked a perfectly formed spring. I never touched the root diameter so all I had to
    do was chase the threads. I got a few pats on the back for that one.

    About a week ago, I saw an Internet video of the funeral of the USS Racine. Instead of
    recycling who knows how many hundreds of tons of steel, she was sacrificed to the goddess
    Ghia. She was sunk after being used as target practice in order to create an “artificial reef.”
    I have never seen such a waste of money!


    • All these idiots crying about how much co2 is release in the process of making steel and then they go and sink hundreds of ships worth how many hundreds of millions of tons of high grade steel.
      All to appease their “I’m an Earth lover” feelings.
      Makes me sick.


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