Saturday, May 14, 2016

Allis-Chalmers Francis Turbine and Freight Car

John W. Coke posted
I knew Allis-Chalmers made equipment other than tractors and construction equipment. This load is a Francis turbine runner riding on its side. This is the first time I have seen such a good view of the bottom of a Francis turbine. Note the trucks have three axles to help spread the weight on the tracks.

I recently saw an Impossible Engineering TV episode about the Three Gorges Dam. One of the history lessons was about Lowell, MA, the "cradle of the industrial revolution" in America. Textile mills were built along canals that went around a rapids in the Merrimack River. After a while, so many mills were built that the capacity of the canals was reached. James B. Francis was the engineer for the canals company and needed to figure out how to get more power from the drop and flow of the water available in the river.
The mills were probably using traditional overshot waterwheels. Francis invented a turbine that took advantage of water thrust forces around the entire circumference of the wheel and reactive forces as the water fell out of the bottom to achieve 90% efficiency. More details are available in how it works. By varying the height and radius of the runner, the turbine design can accommodate a wide range of heads (height of water surface over the turbine or water pressure) and flow-rates.
Public Domain
Generator Turbine Impeller; Francis Runner, Grand Coulee Dam - Rodete Francis, Presa Grand Coulee
[Some construction pictures include a scrollcase for the turbine that provides water thrust forces around the entire circumference of the runner.]

John W. Coke posted
I noticed the Allis name in this load as well. I suspect that this is the guts of a rotor. After the load is offloaded, it looks like three more spokes will be added to the top and three more to the bottom. I wish I could figure out what will be done next and what it is part of.
Engineering World posted
[Note the shaft laying on the front of the trailer.]
John W. Coke posted
Francis turbine
(new window)

(new window)

(new window)

Another turbine on a special-design rail car.

A comment on a biography of Edward Allis indicates Allis-Chalmers made the alternators that were installed in the Hoover Dam.


  1. Such a great information is available here. I am quite interested to know more about Francis Turbine

  2. If you like prime Mover Control history, check out the history site. The Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company worked with and purchased many hydraulic turbine governors from the Woodward Governor Company until the Allis-Chalmers Company closed their hydro division. There are several letters from A.C. to Woodward for purchase orders of governors and other documents on the site. History saved for the 21st. century!