Saving An Old

Fairbanks Morse Power Station

This power plant was built in the early 1930's to power the offshore Georgia island estate of a tobacco magnate.  It was used until sometime in the 1960's when commercial power became available.  For at least a few years after the coming of commercial power, it was more or less cared for but for about the last 30 years has been allowed to sit idle and deteriorate.

Summer, 2006:

It was decided that the building was needed for another purpose and the present owners needed to remove the generators and auxillary equipment.  The junk man was considered until my friend Frank and I discovered it.  At this date, we are in the process of finding new homes for the pieces.  The plan is to donate each of the three generator sets and corresponding auxillaries to bona fide non-profit organizations where they will be restored and put back into operation.

The good news is that everything was virtually untouched.  The bad news is that it's going to be problematical getting the machinery out and to the mainland where it can be trucked away to it's new home.  A barge and crane as well as moving gear is going to be needed along with some strong and experienced backs.  Plans for that are ongoing at this time.

With the exception of all the junk that has accumulated over the years, the machinery was in pretty good condition.

There are two of the original three Fairbanks-Morse model 32 E 12 two cylinder 2 cycle Diesels remaining, each rated at 88 kVA at 80% power factor, giving an actual 70 kW at 2200 Volts, 60 cycle 3 phase.  They run at 360 RPM.

Most likely in the 1950's, this 5 cylinder Fairbanks-Morse model 38F5-1/4 300 horsepower opposed piston 2 cycle Diesel genset running at 900 RPM replaced one of the old 2 cylinder units.  This one puts out 250 kVA at 80% power factor, giving an actual 200 kW at 2200 Volts, 60 cycle 3 phase.  This is  an example of probably one of the smallest OP engines Fairbanks-Morse made.

These opposed piston engines have been manufactured by Fairbanks-Morse in various sizes for a long time and are considered to be very reliable.  They have two crankshafts. One crankshaft is located in the usual position in line with the alternator.  The other crankshaft is located on top of the cylinders.  There are ten pistons, two per cylinder.  The top crankshafts were driven from the bottom crankshafts by either a vertical shafts and spur gears or silent chains, depending on when they were built.  Scavenging is done by a Rootes supercharger driven from the end of the top crankshaft.  You can see the supercharger and the four air cleaners just above the alternator.  

The top row of rectangular covers give access to the inlet ports.  The horizontal open area running along at about the mid-line of the engine give access to the outside of the combustion chambers.  This is where the injectors are located.  Below them are the circular plates that give access to the exhaust ports.  Thermocouples for measuring exhaust temperature are mounted on these plates.

The crankshafts are driven slightly out of phase so the bottom set of pistons uncover the exhaust ports a little before the top set of pistons uncover the inlet ports.  Doing this gives better scavenging of the combustion gases because it allows the exhaust overpressure to be relieved before scavenging air enters the cylinders.  Due to the timing difference and the fact that the blower takes it's power from the upper crankshaft, the majority of the power of the engine is developed in the lower crankshaft. 

As a note, in addition to generating duties these engines are used in railroad locomotives, submarines and surface ships.

The control panels.

The left hand panel is the synchronizing panel that is used to bring an additional generator into synchronization with the others before being cut into the load. 

The second and third panels are for the old 2 cylinder generator sets and have a main switch for applying them to the load as well as exciter Volt meters and Ammeters, an alternator Voltmeter and rheostats for controlling the output Voltage.

The third panel from the left is the control panel for the 5 cylinder OP genset.

On the right is the main load metering and disconnect panel.

This is a view of the rear of the control panel, showing the main 2200 Volt to 220 Volt transformers, the control transformers and other controls.  The panel that was removed from where the OP panel is now in place is still there, leaning against a wall.

It looks like most of the original tools are still there.  They will be divided up and kept with their respective engines.

The plan, if all goes well, is to have the equipment moved by the end of 2006.  Stay tuned.

October 13, 2006 Update: 

It now looks like we've got homes for the machinery.  There are still some arrangements to be made but we're very hopeful.

November 25, 2006 Update: 

Frank has been working hard to save these gensets and the plan as of this date is to meet on the island on or around December 1st for the dismantling/moving.  The O.P. genset has been spoken for and the necessary paperwork is being completed.  This unit will be going directly to it's new home.  The other two gensets haven't been definitely spoken for yet so they will be moved to a sheltered storage area in Georgia until arrangements have been finalized.  We are trying to save everything that's remotely useable including the control panels, pumps, compressors, etc.  Unfortunately, some of the transformers, capacitors and contactors contain a PCB oil which is considered to be hazardous waste so they will have to be properly disposed of.  

Interested and knowledgeable volunteers will do the work of removal.  Frank and the owners of the power station have arranged for dormatory-style  accomodations on the island.  There is a kitchen but no cook so groceries will be hauled to the island and everyone will be doing the chow hall work.

Transportation from the island to the mainland for the machinery will be via the vehicle in the picture above.  I've been told that, once the machinery is ready to move, one trip should be sufficient to move everything.  

If you can't make it out, the name on the bow of the tug is "BARELY MADE IT".   I wonder if there's any history behind it.


Here are a couple of photos of the dock at the island.  

Since these islands are in tidal mudflats, timing is critical.  At low tide (photo on left), you may be able to get a flat bottom rowboat in.  At high tide (photo on right), the barge can easily be moved to the dock.  In the right hand side of the right hand photo is the railing to the front steps of the power house.   Once gotten to the door, the engines have a short trip to the dock.

I had really hoped to be able to help and was looking forward to the trip but I will not be able to make it.  Frank has promised to take a bunch of photos of the operation so as soon as I have them, I will update the page again.

December 24, 2006 Update:

GOOD NEWS!  It looks like Frank's matchmaking has paid off!  Coolspring Museum is taking the O.P. genset, a club from East Tennessee has spoken for one of the 2-bangers and an Ohio club wants the other 2-banger.  

The crew, consisting of Frank and guys from Coolspring and the East Tennessee engine club met on the island on the first of December.  The job was to get the O.P. genset ready to move and survey the work to get the other two out plus whatever auxillary equipment can be used. 


After doing most of the work on the evening of their first day there, Coolspring's crew had their genset disconnected, up, on pipes and ready to move.  That will most likely happen sometime in January 2007.  As a matter of interest, the hour meter on this genset only shows some 4,000+ hours.  Almost new!

February 18, 2007 Update:

It's been another month or so and progress has been made.  The crews met again at the island in January, 2007 and had another rust-fest.  Now, the machinery is almost ready to be moved out of the building and loaded to the barge for the trip to the mainland.  That will come soon.

Engine number two blocked up to clear the flywheel from the pit

Outboard bearing and oil distributing rings.  Note that the oil rings capture the shaft to the base of the outboard bearing assembly and are held together with pins that have to be removed to allow the rings to open and be taken off.  

It is required that the punch be dropped into the oil reservoir in order to appease the hungry oil gods.  There was a great mechanical engineering breakthrough when it was discovered that kitchen tongs beat a pair of screwdrivers to recover the wayward punch.  At dinner, everyone remarked about the exotic flavor of the food until someone realized that the tongs used in the above procedure were sitting in the skillet!


 Frank somehow got the East Tennessee Group to pose for their photo.  In the lefthand picture back row far left - Jeff Hutchings, next is Darrell Simmons, Fred Milner and last is Jon Garbisch.   Jon is with the University of Georgia and his official title is "Program Coordinator".  This means that he manages education, public outreach and development for the Marine Institute.  The front row from the left is Drew Talbert and next is Don Moorehouse.  Everyone in the picture (except Jon) are members of the ETAEA Inc.  Missing from the group picture is Robert Oaks who went off somewhere while the picture was being made made.  Nobody knows where he went off to.  Maybe he had to heed the call of nature or was fishin' for the punch.  Anyway, their club secretary, Melissa Milner emailed me the photo of him on the right, above.)


The Ashtabula County Antique Engine Club must be harder working.   They are the grubbier bunch!  Left photo, front row from the left, Don Burkholder, Larry Lipps (club President), Ken Kepiro (in his Sunday bibs), Wayne Johnson club Vice-President) and Ed Wharton (Former President - the one really responsible for getting our Club the Fairbanks).   Middle row from left, Bob Sergeff (the bearded one who actually started the ball rolling by contacting Ed) and Tom Boos.   In the back row on the left is Jon Garbisch again (must be a publicity hound!) and on the right is Ladimir Kubichek.

March 19, 2007 Update:

A professional crew was assembled to get the machinery out of the building, across the island and to the mainland.  I'd like to thank Jon Garbisch for taking the following photos of the work that occured on March 17.  Jon says that they started about 9 am and finished up about 7 pm.  The contractor is Alan  Drury, a local guy who does mostly marine construction.  It looks like they've decided to truck it to the regular ferry dock to load it onto the barge.  This will be done in the next few days.

Here are the photos of the work that was done on the 17th.


The crew arrived with their equipment at 9am after the trip from the mainland.  The photo on the right shows the steel plates they are going to use as a turntable to rotate the O.P. genset to get it out of the door.


In order to get the I beams (right) and the turntable underneath the genset, they had to jack it up a bit higher.


In the photo on the left, the I beams have been slid under the genset.  In the photo on the right, the guys are barring the turntable in under it.


On the left, they are positioning the turntable and preparing to lower the genset to it.  On the right, the genset is being turned so it will fit the doorway.


A crane and block were used to slide it outside.  On the right, it is being lifted so it can be set on the trailer.

It's being eased onto the trailer.


On the 18th, the crew spent another 5 hours getting the 2-bangers up in the air enough to get the I beams under them and ready to move.   The flywheels were removed  preparatory to their being taken outside.  They palletized the rack gear and other items.   Note that, in order to make the machines move easier, they greased the I beams.

More to come!



Here Are Some More Photos of The Island



Ashtabula County Antique Engine Club Set-up



East Tennessee Set-up



Coolspring Set-up



Remodeling of The Power Station Building


Boy!  This is fun!

Elden DuRand

[email protected]

Visits Since 8 February 2010

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