Armington & Sims Engine Co.

Armington & Sims produced high-speed piston valve steam engines. The Rites governor that was used on these engines responded to the changing speed of the engine as well as the rate of change in the speed. This caused to engine to have very accurate speed control, even with large load changes. Thomas Edison used these engines for his Pearl Street power plant because the excellent speed control would not let the lights flicker when the load changed.

Armington & Sims letterhead-late

In 1881 Armington & Sims built an engine for the research vessel Albatross to power an Edison dynamo for illumination. In an 1887 Navy report the
Trenton, Omaha, New Hampshire, Dolphin, Atlanta, and Boston were listed as illuminated by Armington & Sims engines.

Armington & Sims was chosen to light the first electric lights of the Houses of Parliament in London.

Armington & Sims donated an engine to Notre Dame in 1885 to power an Edison dynamo making it one of the first colleges to be illuminated with electricity.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey,  has a WWW searchable
file of Thomas Alva Edison papers. These include correspondence and other documents relating to Edison’s dealings with Armington and Sims.

Armington & Sims was originally located in Lawrence Massachusetts, moved to 546 High Street, Providence, Rhode Island in late 1881, was incorporporated in Rhode Island on May 31 1883[1], and then moved to the former Monohasset woolen mill on the corner of  Eagle Street and Kinsley Ave., Providence, Rhode Island in 1887. The company failed in August of 1896, probably due to the depression that followed the panic of 1893. The factory and equipment were purchased by Julius Palmer, F. M. Bushnell, and James M. Scott. The new company, which retained the same name, was sued by Armington and Sims who had not given permission for their name to be used[1]. The company’s name was changed to the Eastern Engine Company, which failed in 1903.

Starting in 1898 Charles E. Angell bought out the Armington & Sims Engine Company and Eastern Engine Company, and manufactured repair parts for the engines[5].

The people who incorporated the company are:
Henry Howard
Amos D. Lockwood
John W. Danielson
Henry C. Cranston
Royal C. Taft
Gardiner C. Sims
Pardon G. Armington
Rowland Hazard

The original officers of the company were[2]:
Henry Howard, President
Pardon Armington, Treasurer
Gardiner C. Sims, Superintendent
C.T. Howard, Secretary

Later letterhead shows the officers as:
Henry Howard, President
John W. Danielson, Vice President
Pardon Armington, Treasurer
H.C. Cranston, Assistant Treasurer
Gardiner C. Sims, General Manager
Theodore Andrews, Secretary

John W. Danielson was on the board of MERCHANTS NATIONAL BANK, No. 14 Westminster Street. Providence, RI.

The 1890 photograph above shows the south side of the Armington & Sims factory which was originally the Monohasset Woolen Mill. It is located on the south-east corner of the intersection of Eagle Street and Kinsley Street, Providence, RI. The buildings are still there. The smoke stack and the building to the far right are gone, the peaked roof on the small building in the front center is now flat, the peaked roof of the stair/elevator shaft is now flat, additional windows have been installed in the second floor of the building behind the smoke stack, and there is an addition on the left of the building in the foreground.

The overhead image above shows the factory buildings in 1995.

The New England Wireless and Steam Museum has two operating Armington & Sims engines.

From: A Manual of the Steam-Engine, Robert H. Thurston[3]
The Armington-Sims Valve-motion was one of the earliest of the single-valve variety to give satisfactory results in economy of steam and in regulation. The valve is a balanced piston-valve, which gives us a very quick admission of steam and small clearance. Such valves are more liable to leak than are flat valves, but they are sometimes in use for ten years or more, and remain perfectly tight; properly made and with good feed-water and good lubrication, they will keep tight for long periods of time. These valves may be renewed at very small cost.

The steam-chest and valve-seat are in one casting with the cylinder; the valve-chest is enclosed by a cover in the usual manner, which enables the boring of the valve-seat to be accurately done, and gives an opportunity to easily set the valve ” Live” steam here surrounds the valve, and, taking steam in the middle and exhausting at each end, the steam- ports can be made very direct, and the clearance small. In the cut the valve is shown taking steam into the cylinder at the back end: the valve at the other end is taking steam from the steam chest through the valve into the same cylinder-port, giving ample port-space and a high initial pressure. Steam is exhausted at each end by direct passages, which should be so large as to permit very low back-pressure. The piston-valve has the advantage of a perfect balance, which relieves the governor of all embarrassing load; and this form, in which the exhaust takes place at the ends, is less productive of waste by internal condensation than the more usual type.

The proportions of valve- and clearance-spaces should be such as to give, at the rated load and its appropriate expansion, compression up to the steam-chest pressure, or nearly so. The governor of this engine resembles the preceding in general construction.

From: Twenty Years with the Indicator, Thomas Pray[4]



The diagram Fig. 105, in this lesson was taken from an Armington & Sims engine, 8 1/2 inches diameter, ten inches stroke, running at 320 revolutions per minute, boiler pressure seventy, Thompson improved indicator, forty scale. The load in this case was given by a lever bearing upon the under side of the balance wheel, and in several instances the load varied by intention from the mere friction of the engine to 25 or 28 horse-power, within a quarter of a minute. At the particular instant when this diagram was taken, the load was constant for the sake of ascertaining the accuracy of the indicator, and this was only one of several diagrams in the series, and this particular diagram is chosen in order to show the largest range of variation recorded; in other words, the worst diagram of the set. The admission line at A will be seen to vary a little from the vertical line, whereas at B the impact given by the admission raises the pressure somewhat, and at the same time is a trifle late as compared with the movement of the piston. The oscillations, it will be seen, are confined, and the steam line, when fully drawn, stands at sixty pounds, maintaining fifty-seven to the point of cut-off at C. It is a curious fact that some makers of indicators are recently claiming that the expansion line must be without oscillations, similar to those shown in this diagram, in other words, their instruments draw in the hyperbolic curve perfectly. In this case we wish to call the attention of our readers to the fact that a number of elements are at work between the points C and D, in order to prepare them to reason out in their own minds as to whether our own ideas upon the subject will bear the application of reasoning from the stand-point of fact.

This engine is traveling very fast; at the point C the valve is closed or very nearly so; every thousandth of an inch that the piston moves forward on its stroke increases the volume of the cylinder; no more steam is being admitted; an increase of volume means a decrease of pressure; a decrease of pressure means a decrease of temperature, and a decrease of temperature means, when applied to steam, an increase of water present in the cylinder. Now the ratio of the volume of the cylinder is increasing all the while after

the valve closes; the volume increases, the pressure decreases, the water increases, etc. Now, is it possible for steam – supposing it was a perfectly dry steam at this point, which it is not – is it possible to make any instrument that will make any portion of a hyperbolic curve when these several elements are each one working negatively upon the other? Even after the release commences, which is at D, it will be found then that the variation of volume, temperature, etc., make a still further fluctuation in the line at E, by which time the exhaust port is fully open. We shall show, in a subsequent lesson, that it is not precisely the correct theory, if men are to make truthful indicators. Now, added to the elements that we have cited, there is another very important one, the expansion and contraction of the metal, the weight of the piston, change in the spring, the friction of the moving parts, which is but extremely little, yet it is something. Perhaps some one can tell us how it is possible to make an indicator tell an untruth, or in other words, make some portion of the hyperbolic curve from C to D, instead of the undulating line, which iswithout doubt caused by the various elements to which we have referred, and it is somewhat curious that when the exhaust valve closes near F, in the compression of the steam, the increase of density or pressure by shutting the steam up and compressing it brings back certain units of heat, and that the compression line has certainly, in the same ratio, given us the undulations in an inverse way, (showing compression) to what the expansion line from C to D is. Compare the lines F A and C D, and tell us why these changes should take place, one proving the other. It will be noticed that the undulations in the line are reversed in F A to what they are in C D, showing that the expansion with the indicator piston upon the steam is very correctly noted, while on the other side in compression the steam is driven up against the piston, showing the same effect precisely, but that the directions of the lines are reversed.

The diagram shows a very good use of steam; possibly the action of the steam valve should be quickened a trifle in its relation to the piston of the engine, that would make a somewhat sharper corner at the termination of release and commencement of exhaust, and would also carry the compression line into the steam line and would bring the point B nearer the vertical line shown. Taken all in all, it is a beautiful specimen of the highspeed engine diagram as well as of the indicator’s work. The three lines, as shown in the original, are carefully reproduced in all their variation, and the subject of the maintenance of pressure, quick expansion, almost locomotive release, as well as locomotive compression are well executed and illustrated, but with the full effect of boiler pressure to the point of cut-off, or a close approximation to it, and a fine exhaust, both showing that boiler pressure and free exhaust can be realized in this type of engine, and are accomplished in every-day work.

1) Armington & Sims v. Palmer, 21 R. I. 109-1898; 42 Atl. 308; 43 L. R. A. 95
2) Acts and Resolves passed by the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the May Session 1883.
3) A Manual of the Steam-Engine, Robert H. Thurston, 1891 (With help from Google)
4) Twenty Years with the Indicator, Thomas Pray, 1885 (With help from Google)
5) Who’s Who in New England, 1916
(With help from Google)