ASME-Landmark:Fairbanks-Morse Y-VA Engine Diesel


The 1924 75 horsepower type Y, style VA engine at the Useppa Island Historical Society, which was used to power electrical generating machinery, is an outstanding example of early high-compression, cold-start, full-diesel engines developed in the United States. It is a descendant of the first successful diesel engine produced in 1897 by German mechanical engineer Rudolf Diesel.

The Y-VA's design boats simplicity, overall economy of operation, and dependability, with its 2-cycle and airless injection principle and its few moving parts, all enclosed and automatically lubricated. The crankcase, equipped with automatic annular ring valves, acts as a pump for the scavenging air, common to type Y engines since 1914. Other design features include long-skirt pistons, differential-type needle valves operating automatically with fuel pump pressure providing direct injection, and the primary advancement of not requiring a precombustion chamber.

This installation is an excellent example of early full diesel engine technology of the times. By the mid-1920s, steam engine driven electric power plants were being replaced by diesel engine driven machinery in many communities. It was used for lighting, refrigerating, etc., especially in isolated areas like Useppa Island, at a time in which electrification was spreading and becoming a dependable, economic, and efficient power supply. The parent company of Fairbanks-Morse began producing engines (naphtha-burning) in 1893. These evolved to engines burning kerosene in 1900 and coal gas in 1905, then to semi-diesel engines in 1913 and to full diesel engines in 1924, with compression being raised (from 80 horsepower in 1894) to about 500 psi. See ASME website for more information