A.W. Wheaton Brass Works – the tank truck equipment

I recently contacted Emco Wheaton in the hope that I could find out some information on the A.W. Wheaton Brass Works tank truck equipment. I was extremely fortunate to have my enquiry end up on the desk of Keith Taylor, International Sales Manager, Tank Truck Equipment SME in Margate, U.K.

Keith has been with Emco Wheaton for 44 years so his knowledge and understanding of tank truck equipment goes without saying.

After receiving some photos, Keith researched old catalogues and early U.S. patents to try to find the exact components that are in the Texaco tank truck. Although the catalogues didn’t quite date back to the era in which the tank truck was manufactured, Keith has identified each piece. He has sent detailed explanations on how the Wheaton Brass Works equipment was operated and some industry terminology. Keith has also provided me with some background information and history on the two companies that came together and formed Emco Wheaton.

 

The History

 

A.W. Wheaton Brass Works was originally founded in Newark, NJ in 1892 by Abram Wheaton. Abram had a very inventive mind and, he along with his engineers, filed many U.S. patents assigned to A.W. Wheaton Brass Works. These patents related to the valves and equipment that the company manufactured for the petroleum industry.

In 1906, the Empire Manufacturing Company Limited was established in London, Ontario, Canada. The company manufactured plumbing fittings and later became Empire Brass Manufacturing Co and then Emco Ltd.

An agreement was made between these two companies in 1927 to increase the product offering of Emco and grow.

A.W. Wheaton Brass Works later became Wheaton Inc. and remained in Newark until 1951 when it moved to a new and larger facility in Union, NJ. At this time, it was still being run by the Wheaton family.

The agreement that had been made in 1927, continued through until 1966 when Emco fully bought out Wheaton Inc. From this, Emco Wheaton was formed and still continues to trade today under the Emco Wheaton brand.

Although in a modernised form, the company still manufactures mostly the same products that were originally invented by Abram Wheaton / Wheaton Brass Works. These products and additional ones, are designed and manufactured at four plants across the globe – Houston, Texas, USA                                                                                                               – Oakville, Ontario, Canada                                                                                                        – Kirchhain, Germany                                                                                                                 – Margate, UK

 

The Tank Truck Equipment

 

The valves that are positioned below each of the tank compartments are referred to as emergency valves.

 

They are a 2″ nominal bore valve and are probably made from brass and gunmetal. As a comparison, valves today are almost entirely produced as 4″ nominal bore valves and are manufactured from aluminium.

 

These Wheaton valves, manufactured 80 years ago, were designed to break in an emergency. They are still used today in a modernised form so it is fascinating that this technology was thought of and produced in the early years of the transportation of petroleum products.

Emergency valves are the primary stop valve. As a regulatory requirement, they double up as a sacrificial device. In the event of an impact to the run off pipes, a shear groove is incorporated in the valve that is designed to break off at that point and leave the closed valve intact. This safeguards the tank compartment load and reduces the chances of any associated danger or environmental damage that a cargo spillage might cause.

 

Wheaton Brass Works Emergency Valve Type 200 – 1938

Emco Wheaton Emergency Valve – 2018


 

The emergency valves are operated remotely by the lever type operator that is mounted in the right rear compartment. It is referred to in the industry as a bottom operator. This differentiates it from a similar device that can be mounted on the top of tank trucks.

 

Each emergency valve is connected to the valve leaver by Bowden cable. These were cut to remove the bottom operator from the tank body but will be rejoined when all the tank truck equipment is reinstalled in the Texaco tanker.

 

Pulling the lever rotates a cam that pushes the valve poppet open. It is spring-loaded and that is what closes the valve after the lever is set back to its rest position.

 

The four handles, which are numbered to reference each tank compartment, are positioned at the front of the bottom operator. These images show the open and closed positions of all four handles.

 

Wheaton Brass Works Bottom Operator – Type 510

 


Keith was unable to find this product in any of the old catalogues but he did find a Wheaton Brass Works patent, invented by Abram Wheaton, that details this piece. The patent, US2142543A, describes a multiple valve selector.

 

US2142543A – Filed 29th March 1938

“This invention relates to a novel selective multiple faucet or like valve; and the invention has reference, more particularly, to a faucet or discharge valve, the intakes of which are respectively adapted to be connected in communication with a plurality of tanks or tank compartments, such, for example, as the several compartments of tank trucks used for transporting various kinds of petroleum products.

This invention has for an object to provide a novel multiple faucet or like valve which is provided with a plurality of intakes, each having its own spring closed valve, and a single outlet or discharge spout, together with a valve actuating means which is selectively movable into operative relation between any given intake valve and the single external lever means by which said actuating means is operated…..”

The written patent description is very detailed and is almost four pages long. For anyone wanting to understand the internal workings in depth, a PDF can be downloaded at https://patents.google.com/patent/US2142543A/en?inventor=Abram+W+Wheaton&page=1

 

The four run off pipes connect each tank compartment emergency valve to the common discharge chamber. These were not easily visible when the valve selector was still mounted in the rear right compartment.

A comparable piece of equipment used today that provides a similar function to this is known as a manifold valve assembly. But rather than channelling all the run off pipes into one outlet, most tankers today deliver with a separate run off pipe to a separate valve.

 

What appears to be missing from the multiple valve selector is an external hand lever. This hand lever is used to rotate the mechanism to allow the opening, and delivery of product, from a particular tank compartment. Using the patent drawings, Steve will reproduce a hand lever to carry out this function.

 

These markers identify which tank compartment is delivering product into the discharge chamber. The precise number of gallons per compartment is engraved on each marker. The patent refers to this marker system as an “index” or “dial plate”.

 

Wheaton Brass Works Multiple Valve Selector – Type 530


 

Mounted on top of each of the tank truck compartments, is a Wheaton Brass Works venting device to allow the liquid in the tank to breathe. Today a pressure and vacuum vent valve is used with a rain cap sometimes above it. Normally, it is incorporated in the manhole cover which provides the protection from the elements.

 

Wheaton Brass Works Venting Device – Type 196


 

The final piece in the Texaco tanker that relates to the Wheaton Brass Works tank truck equipment is a remote emergency release handle. It is mounted under the step at the front of the tank body on the left-hand side near the truck cab.

 

The release handle is connected to the bottom operator at the rear of the tank body by Bowden cable.  A protective casting has been made by the Heil Co to cover where the Bowden cable is joined to the handle shaft. In an emergency, the handle when pulled out brings the cable forward. This in turn pulls the lever on the bottom operator back to the rest position and shuts off any emergency valves that are open at the time.

 

The Heil casting is stamped 6B187 with a “METAL” logo above.

 

Inside the casting, the hole in the shaft is visible where the Bowden cable gets attached to.

The industry term for this mechanism is a front end release or FER due to its forward location.

Most valves today are pneumatically opened so instead of the front end release handle, there are pneumatic emergency shut down buttons that serve the same purpose.


I am so grateful to Keith Taylor for coming onboard the project, for spending time on researching these old products and for explaining their functions in a simplified manner so that I could get a basic understanding. Keith has been exceptionally obliging with his time and knowledge so my sincerest thanks to him for helping with this post.

In regard to the Wheaton Brass Works equipment, it is Steve’s intention to not only restore the exterior housing of each piece but to also recondition all the internal workings and make everything fully functional again.

Once completed, the Texaco tankers equipment will represent a great piece of Emco Wheaton’s early history and will be a testament to the workmanship and ingenuity of one of its founders.

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14 Comments

  1. Graham Rollo

    well done on the research, thats brillant

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks Rolls. We are really grateful that Keith took the time to help with this.

  2. Justin

    Amazing work you guys. It’s really great to see all of Sue’s research and info being recorded and preserved here for the benefit of others, where it doesn’t seem to have ever been done before. Hats off to you both, and thanks for sharing!

  3. Very interesting!
    Keep up the good work.

  4. Gary Watson

    Great work you guys, anyone interested in old stuff let alone old petrol bowsers and stuff this is a history lesson.
    But Steve said at the shed raid he probably wont fill the tanker with petroleum, seems a real waste once it’s refurbished.

  5. Great read, thank you for your time to show all that to us. I need more frequent updates with more photos 🙂

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks so much Marcin. Not sure that we can oblige with more frequency though 🙂

  6. Great read and Graeme will be able to help Steve with some tips to casting a new handle.

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks Ian. We are lucky to have those patent drawings to work from.

  7. ERN LEVENS

    GOOD INFO INTERESTING READ THANKS SUE BIG UNDER TAKEING KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK REGARDS ERN

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