BARN FIND CUMMINS

A 1943 Military Generator With 69 hours

Barn finds are the big thing these days and rare muscle cars or exotics usually get the hoopla. Why can’t old diesels share in the joy? Why not indeed… so here’s an extremely low-hour 1943 military generator that was hardly used by the army, sold surplus around 1950 and never used by the civilian buyer. It’s the diesel equivalent to the old jeep-in-a-crate story.

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BARN FIND CUMMINS

The equipment used by a wartime army is staggering in both volume and variety. From pencils to bombers! And, of course, generators. The unit shown here is a 1943 PE245A Signal Corps set that was commonly packaged with a portable microwave radar set, used in World War II, the SCR-615, which had a range of up to 50 miles. It was mainly used for ground controlled interception but anti-aircraft artillery could also use it for height finding to set their fuses.

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The Cummins H-Series diesel debuted in 1931 and it’s derivatives are still produced today in some parts of the world. The Model H was inarguably the foundation of Cummins’ success. This is an HI industrial series engine with direct electric starting. It used a Cummins designed and built single disc injection pump. The oil pan holds 12 gallons of oil and combined with a 24 gallon cooling system, plus a huge oil cooler, this unit was designed to run for days or weeks at a stretch at a full load. Your 1943 tax dollars at work! Mike has the covers off the back of the generator head and exciter for inspection and cleaning.

The PE245A was assembled by Rogers Diesel & Aircraft Company of New York. Rogers began in 1934 as a licensed distributor of Cummins engines. In 1942, after several acquisitions including Hill Diesel and an aircraft parts company, it expanded to include manufacturing generator assemblies for the war effort.

“THE EQUIPMENT USED BY A WARTIME ARMY IS STAGGERING IN BOTH VOLUME AND VARIETY. FROM PENCILS TO BOMBERS!”

The PE245A generator head, Model S-110, was rated at 25 KW at 120/208 volts, 60 cycles and an 80 percent power factor. It was powered by a Cummins HI-600, six-cylinder diesel operating at 1,200 rpm in this application and making 93 horsepower at that speed. It was direct injected and displaced 672 cubic inches with a 4.875 inch bore and a 6-inch stroke using wet sleeves. The government rated them with a fuel consumption of three gallons per hour at a full load.

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The engine control panel is fully operational, though Mike has not yet figured out how to use the “Flame Thrower” (see lower right). This was a cold starting device to heat up the intake manifold for cold weather starting.

From the Cummins Engine Building Order, we know the engine was completed by Cummins on 4.12.1943 and that would have included at least a 30 minute hot test. It was shipped to Rogers sometime after that for completion as a generator set and would have acquired some hours being tested again. There is no documentation after that but most likely the military would have run it some hours but when Mike bought the unit from the family who originally bought it around 1950, it was showing only 69 hours. That’s the 1940s equivalent of about 3,500 miles. It was bought to be a backup generator for a chicken/egg farm in Southwest Ohio but Mike was told it was never been wired into the facility and hadn’t been run in any living person’s memory until just before it was sold. Mike later found it still had the break-in oil in it.

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From the 1945 operator’s manual, here’s is what the PR245A looked like new. All 5,900 pounds of it. Below the exciter head is the integral 10 gallon day tank between the skid rails. The unit was designed to be operated from either a fuel trailer or 55 gallon drums.

Mike Schrieber has a knack for finding diesel gold. He is mainly known as a Cat guy (see the “Hot Rod Lincoln” story in the January 2020 issue) but he fell in love with this Cummins powered genny. Fortunately the Cat diesels in his collection forgive his ongoing “affair” with a Cummins and continue to operate for him.

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On the right side of the generator set are the dual oil bath air filters. That box towards the front with a speaker-like grill is an alarm system, which will sound a very raucous alarm with a drop of oil pressure or an increase in coolant temp. Mike moved the batteries over from the other side.

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It’s a Bakelite Bonanza! The main control panel shows the vintage electronics, including the hour meter (top right), and the neat sliding field voltage rheostat. All the old cloth-insulated wiring and controls needs careful inspection before Mike puts a load to it, but he plans on putting the old genny to work at some point.

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