Phoebe's Power Plant…
boiler (a Roberts type) is 5 feet long, 4 feet wide,
and 5 feet tall. The drum is 11 inches in diameter,
and made of 5/8 inch plate. Circulating pipes are
1inch and the water legs are 3 inch - all extra heavy
wrought iron. With all its original piping, the boiler
is still allowed 180 pounds per square inch (psi)
working pressure. Its weight is estimated at 1 ½ tons.
water is drawn directly from the lake and pumped into
the boiler with a two-cylinder steam pump, or with
pressure up, an injector. To keep scale from forming,
the water is treated with compound. Exhaust steam
is quenched by a spray of lake water in a jet condenser,
creating 18 inches of vacuum which contributes nicely
to the smooth running of the engine. It is a beautifully
free-steaming boiler with an astonishing ability to
raise steam quickly.*
The boiler feeds
a 65 HP Davis compound steam engine with a single
4 ½ inch high-pressure cylinder and a single 8 inch
low-pressure cylinder, with a common stroke of 6 inches.
The combination turns a 36-in. three-bladed propeller
with a 48-in. pitch at 190 RPM, giving the boat a
top speed of 10 MPH. The engine's weight is estimated
at about ¾ ton.
The boiler feed
pump, injector, air pump, and other peripheral equipment
are housed in the 15-ft.-long engine room. Drop side-curtains
protect the engine room in bad weather, but when fired
up and under way, "It is a blessing to the engineer
to have it all wide open!" according to Warren Weiant,
onetime owner of the boat.
"Steaming-up takes about 20 minutes,* then off we
go -- no dirt, no noise, no vibration, and practically
no bills. The only problem is to get enough wood to
burn, so we have a stipulation that guests are expected
to bring along a nice piece of firewood, preferably
four feet long. One guest turned up with a table leg
that raised the steam pressure twenty pounds!"
* By later accounts,
it took up to an hour to generate enough steam to
After John Brashear
died, Phoebe was apparently tied up in his estate
until 1939. It then moved through a series of owners:
D. Cameron Peck, an American collector residing in
the Muskokas, had the boat as part of one of the largest
fleets of antique boats on the continent -- 50 steam
launches and gas-powered boats. He kept Phoebe in
immaculate condition, but in 1948, he had to sell
the boat when declining health and maintenance of
his expensive hobby became a financial burden.
Frank Miller and Warren Weiant bought Phoebe and hauled
it overland to Leamington, Ohio and Lake Erie - a
400 mile journey. They installed a Poulson steam engine
and stored the original Davis engine.
Herman Black of Mentor Harbor, Ohio replaced the lighter
Poulson engine with the original Davis engine
Phoebe in Put in Bay, on Lake Erie, Ohio, when it
was owned by Warren Weiant, Jr. and Frank Miller in
the early 1950's.
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