Reviving Our Corliss Engine Cylinder

Volunteers keep Museums moving and getting things done. It’s no different here at the Charles River Museum where a great many of our artifacts are machines, or machine sub-assemblies, that deteriorate when neglected.

The fix for neglect of a machine is, of course, skilled maintenance. We’re very fortunate to count a number of experienced engineers and machinists in our family of volunteers who have the skills and the desire to work on our mechanical artifacts and keep them running — or sometimes get them running again.

In the short video below, the mostly retired professional engineer Bob Timmerman is explaining what he’s doing with our Corliss Engine Cylinder, along with a bit of how it works, and also some background on its historic significance. - Corliss steam engines are legendary for their efficiency in the days of steam-powered factories and were used to power both the Boston Manufacturing Company (our site, now known as the Francis Cabot Lowell Mill) and the Waltham Watch Company.

For some years, this Corliss steam engine cylinder had been languishing in our deep storage, visible to no one. It was Bob Timmerman who lobbied hard for us to dust it off and put it on display, arguing that it is one of the stand-out artifacts in our collection, one that strongly supports our narrative as a Museum of the American Industrial Revolution.

Bob has quite a challenge ahead of him that includes machining some replacement parts, because some essentials of the assembly are missing.

You can meet Bob, and many of our other talented and generous hands-on volunteers, most Thursdays.

This video was produced by Isaiah Plovnick, a member of our staff, who has been creating our ongoing Video Docent Series on our YouTube channel, a way for visitors to the Museum in person or online to learn about our artifacts. — This video is a Waltham Film Factory project.