Peterson Boiler


Petersen Boiler Petersen Boiler

The photos accompanying this posting all come from Kelly R. Williams out of Pennsylvania where he hangs out with the Tom Marshall Museum people of FAHP in Delaware.  Kelly has a Stanley Register Online called and it has 802 listings of Stanleys from all over the world.  Some may be duplicates.  It is not easy collecting all of this information and getting it accurate.  Over the years some vehicles have been put together from bits and pieces and some have been completely fabricated.  Wooden frames, leather upholstery, and sheet

metal bodies tend to deteriorate in the nearly 120 years that some of these vehicles have been made.  Anyone with more Stanley information is encouraged to contact Kelly.  He has tried to be as accurate as possible.

Harry Peterson was an ex-Detroit policeman who retired to Illinois and during the 1950’s and 1960’s made replacement boilers for Stanleys.  At the present time there are several very good Stanley boiler makers who put out a quality product that is nearly identical to the original Stanley boiler.  Historically this has not been the situation.

(Note: Click on a picture to see a larger view and then use your browser to enlarge it further.)

Pertersen Boiler (boiler tubes)  

In the 1930’s the main option when a Stanley boiler or burner rusted or burned out was to replace it with a Derr boiler.  We do not know how many Peterson boilers were made although I heard the number 200 once.  I have not seen any, which is strange, and have heard of one being in the weeds behind the New England Wireless & Steam Museum in East Greenwich, Rhode Island and another up at Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, New Hampshire.  I have received no response to my several letters to both parties.

The rumor is that half of the heat went up the chimney in a Peterson boiler.  One person told me that where a downdraft Peterson boiler was firing up there was always a large circle of burned grass left in the lawn directly underneath the car.  It appears that these rumors are true as there is not that much heating surface in these boilers.

As can be seen from the photos the boilers are basically a two-drum Babcock & Wilcox design.  The lower drum is a ring of larger diameter than the upcomers.  The top drum is a short cylinder with nice convex end caps all welded together.  Some effort with sieves and screens went into the top drum to prevent priming.  There are always three down-comers assuring very good natural circulation.
1958 Petersen Boiler Economizer   1958 Petersen Boiler

Economizer coils peciled in above tubes


1 1/4" tubes all the way around.
1 1/4" tube inside the 2 1/2” tube adds
          11 sq. FT of heating surface
Steam up from cold to 500 lbs. in five minutes.


The Peterson boiler and original gun burner as it came to the shop in a 10 hp. Stanley from Kalamazoo. Tubes show some scaling from over-heating. Hydro testing to 3,000 psi was successful.

  The Harry Petersen Boiler in the Kimmel Collection

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1958 Harry Petersen Boiler   The burner was always a gun burner, often made with war surplus 24 volt motors.  It is because of the gun burner that a large yellow flame combustion chamber was needed—much larger than was needed for the Stanley vaporizing blue flame burner.  That fact limited the heat exchange surface area.

Harry Peterson working on the boiler



All in all the boiler accomplished what it was supposed to do.  It replaced a Stanley original boiler and fit in the same place.  It could be fabricated by conventional welding.  The burner was either off the shelf or simply fabricated from available parts—kerosene pump, sparker, squirrel cage fan.  It did not scorch like a Stanley boiler will do.  By burning a few more gallons of kerosene per hour one could make steam and go places. 


Harry O. Petersen with his boiler



Harry O. Peterson and the boiler for a condenser Stanley.

Harry Waber with Petersen boiler in his Stanley   The reason for my interest in Peterson boilers is because we worked on a 1909 Stanley that the original restorer, H. W. Waber of Kalamazoo, Michigan, had installed a Peterson boiler into.  It was good fun to work with a water level boiler after all of these years attempting to control a monotube.  We installed a modern gun burner with permanent magnet electric motor and it fired up from cold in five minutes.  For controls we had an electric pressure transducer and  water level sensor.  I know it was cheating compared to operating an original Stanley but it was so easy and fun. 

H. W. Waber, Kalamazoo, Michigan and his 1909 Stanley


Note: Harry Peterson (we believe) is working on Bob Lyon's Locomobile that was restored about 1950 by Richard French.

  Harry Petersen (we believe) working on Bob Lyon's Lovomobile restored about 1950 by Richard Smith

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