Rollag Minnesota WMSTR 2012 – Big Engines

There are several very large engines on display at the show, so it is hard for me to choose a favorite.

The De La Vergne is believed to be the largest single cylinder, open crankshaft (you can see the crankshaft, rod, and rear of the piston), two flywheel, internal combustion engine still running in the world.

The 1903 De La Vergne at Rollag is rated at 125 hp, it was on exhibit at the Worlds Fair in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904, and was then installed in the WF Norman sheet metal works in Nevada, Missouri. There it was belted to a line shaft and used to power sheet metal forming machines for about 50 years.

Volunteers from the WMSTR removed it from that location and directed it to the show grounds in 1976. The eight sided roof was built in 1977 to provide some protection for the engine, and the walls were added in 1999.  The engine has a 26 inch bore (3 inches larger than 55 gallon barrel).  It’s too identical flywheels are over 9 feet in diameter, and 12 1/2 inches wide.  The two flywheels and the crankshaft have a combined weight of 15 tons, the base and cylinder weigh 20 tons, and each main bearing cap weighs 700 pounds.  The total weight of the unit is 40 tons.

The engine has a vertical flyball governor, starting the engine requires heating with a propane torch, and the use of mechanical force to turn the engine until it will fire on it’s own.  This is has been accomplished by belting the flywheel to a tractor, but in 1999 a new starter engine was added to turn the engine over.  Getting the “Big One” going is always an exciting time at the show.

The De La Vergne was purchased from the Norman company for $4000, with removal to be accomplished by the purchaser.  This was not easy as the only exit door was 6′ x 6′.


The 600 HP Snow Engine Works pumping engine is an impressive sight to see, here are some details:

  • In use from 1915 to 1970 in the oil fields of Northwest PA to compress natural gas
  • 67 feet long, including the compressor
  • Operating speed – 80-90 RPM
  • Main frame casting – 37 tons
  • 18′ diameter flywheel – 24 tons
  • 16″ diameter crankshaft – 12 tons
  • 140 tons total weight
  • 24″ bore, 48″ stroke = 30,600 cubic inch displacement
  • 2 cylinders inline, ignition at both ends (every stroke is a power stroke)
  • Original fuel – natural gas (what is was pumping)
  • Current fuel – propane burning 17 gallons/hr at non working speeds
  • 237 tons of cement in the pad it rests on

Seven semi loads were removed over 10 days in 1991 to haul the engine from PA to Rollag.  There are only 2 engines of this size in existence, the other is at the Cool Spring Power Museum in PA.  The following video shows the engine being started using air pressure.  It is hard to get this engine in a video frame due to the size.


This is the second post in this series:

Check out our first post – Kids Activities –HERE to get a general overview of the WMSTR show.

Check out our third post in this series – Steam Train Ride, Baker Fan, & Gas Engine Buildings – HERE

Check out our fourth post in this series – Steam Log Crane & Steam Sawmill Operation – HERE

Check out our fifth and final post in this series – Steam Tractor Plowing, Steam Shovels, & Spark Show – HERE

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4 responses to “Rollag Minnesota WMSTR 2012 – Big Engines”

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