Antique “Hit and Miss” Stationary Engines

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Before gasoline engines were used for automobiles, they were used as stationary engines to power other devices on farms and in factories, replacing steam engines. One of the reasons why Detroit became the Motor City is that machine shops like Leland & Faulconer and later those of the Dodge brothers and David Buick were already making motors for stationary applications and for the Great Lakes marine industry before inventors like Buick and Henry Ford decided to use combustion engines to power vehicles. One early internal combustion engine was known as the “hit and miss” engine. It’s a flywheel engine, where a large flywheel keeps the crankshaft spinning. Hit and miss describes the induction system. Instead of a power stroke every two or four strokes of the piston, a hit and miss engine only fires when a governor determines that the flywheel has slowed. Otherwise, the exhaust valve is kept open, which prevents the passive intake valve from being drawn open. The engines run slowly, about 300 rpm, and they fire even slower than that. You can count every time the engine fires. Most were water cooled, after a fashion. A water bath surrounds the cylinder and as the water heats and/or boils, that heat transfer cools the engine.

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