History of a C.H. Brown Stationary Steam Engine
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In 1881 Edison was still using the Brown engine when a visiting reporter from the Mew York Herald remarked: "The 80 HP Brown engine is throbbing away there, turning its great flywheel that runs a 24-inch belt, which in turn drives the dynamo in the room hard by. 'It's a very good engine,' says the Professor (Edison), laying his hand affectionately on the cylinder." During his lifetime Edison bought three Brown engines.
Edison so liked the Brown engines that in later years, while visiting Fitchburg, he told a Sentinel reporter "... that he was much interested in this section of the country, for it was at the Brown Machine Co.'s shop about 26 years ago that he purchased an engine that proved remarkably efficient in developing electric power and which has been in his factory every since, running day and night, and is now as good as ever."
At the same time Thomas A. Edison was developing the electric light, timber men in the White Mountains of New Hampshire were positioning themselves to obtain large tracts of virgin spruce and fir forests, planning the large-scale harvesting of New Hampshire's forest bounty to meet the needs of an expanding nation. By the 1870s the invasion into the mountains had begun. Lumber production in New Hampshire trebled from the 1860s to 1900, reaching an all-time high of 650 million board feet in 1907. The growth of the paper and wood industry in New Hampshire between 1890 and 1900 eclipsed that of any state in the union, and in just a few decades the timber barons turned much of the lush White Mountain landscape into a wasteland with clear-cut logging practices.
A great many companies operated in the state, including Libby's Mills based in Glen, N.H., the original owner of our engine. The Libby company logged the north end of the Pinkham Notch and teams hauled the timber to its Gorham, N.H., mill. Around 1875 Libby's purchased the C.H. Brown steam engine now in our collection to power its mill, a job which it conducted reliably for almost 75 years, continuing at its task right up until just after World War II when the mill shut down.
Our C.H. Brown engine was designed and built some time around 1875. It has a bore and stroke of approximately 17 by 41 inches and a two-piece flywheel 14 feet in diameter with a 24-inch face for a flat belt drive. Built as a slow-speed engine, the flywheel is unusual in that it has 10 spokes. C.H. Brown & Co. also built their own governor, unique to their engines, featuring valve gear driven by a set of straight and bevel gears from a gear affixed to the crankshaft. At 80 pounds steam pressure and running at 80 revolutions per minute, this engine would develop around 150 HP.
In the early 1950s a young Ed Clark was working the family business, Clark's Sled Dog Ranch. Founded in 1929 by Ed's parents, Clark's Sled Dog Ranch was a seasonal tourist operation in Lincoln, N.H., on the road leading into Franconia Notch. As a young man, Ed felt the history of the north woods was rapidly disappearing, and he thought that if he could save machinery and artifacts of the area they could be used in the development of a logging museum at his family's tourist operation.