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The Engine
Profile view of the U.S. Lighthouse Service buoy tender Oak, showing the location of the engine room.

The Oak's 750-horsepower, triple-expansion steam engine was built by John W. Sullivan in New York in 1921. Its boiler, built in Detroit by John Brennan, was originally coal-fired, but was converted to an oil-burning system in 1934. This profile view of the ship shows the location of the engine room and the orientation of the engine.

After more than 40 years of service, the Oak was decommissioned in 1964 and taken to the U.S. Coast Guard’s facility at Curtis Bay, Maryland. In 1971 the original engine and auxiliaries were removed for the Smithsonian Institution’s transportation collections and in 1978 the engine room was first displayed to the public in the Hall of American Maritime Enterprise.

The Oak at Curtis Bay

The Oak at the U.S. Coast Guard facility, Curtis Bay, Baltimore, Maryland, 1971.

Collecting the engine

The Smithsonian’s John Stine in the Oak’s engine room prior to its removal from the ship, 1971.

Raising the Oak engine

The Oak’s engine in situ. An opening was cut in the ship’s deck to remove the engine, 1971.

The Oak engine sees daylight
The Oak engine sees daylight.
Lifting the Oak engine
The engine is lifted out of the hull.
Oak engine clears the ship
Oak engine clears the ship
Wrenches in the engine room were also collected.
Wrenches in the engine room were also collected and installed in the Museum's engine room setting.
Oak coffee urn
Even the Oak's coffee urn was collected.
The Oak's engine room in America On the Move
The Oak's engine room in America On the Move

In addition to the engine, the Smithsonian collected the pumps, condenser, steam pipes, steam whistle, engine room telegraph, speaking tubes, tools, and architectural fabric from the ship. The engine room setting in America on the Move includes these artifacts, as well as a sound track of a triple-expansion steam engine under way, layered with the sounds of fog horns, steam whistles, and bell buoys evoking harbor traffic in 1920s New York.

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