AT LAST! A Carbide Generator! Parts Update #2

I previously posted back in October about one of two hard-to-find parts that I finally managed to come across for our truck. Now I’m here to talk about the other part I didn’t mention: the Carbide Gas generator!

Solar Brand early model Generator on FDM truck 1
Our newly acquired ‘Solar’ Carbide gas generator for the Liberty Truck. While not the same model as used on them originally, it is of a very close style and dimensions which will allow us to mount and potentially use it with some small modifications.

Now, for those of you not familiar with the gas/oil lighting system on second-series Liberty Trucks, check out my earlier post here: Liberty Truck Lighting Systems PART 2: Did We Say Electric? We Totally Meant Gas and Oil… I am now and will forever remain on the lookout for the correct generator, but for the time being this model I found is about as good as its gonna get. The Liberty was issued from the factory with a ‘Solar’ brand model 1012-B Calcium-carbide gas generator. Now the biggest issue with brass-era automobile lighting is that there isn’t a whole lot of technical data out there immediately available for you in terms of measurements and model years. I have been hunting for a 1012-B for several months but never found anything close. I had reached out to several restoration specialists in the field of brass-era gas lighting, but none responded to my inquiries. However, as I would see the truck every day the empty bracket on the firewall mocked me and began to haunt my dreams. “When will I find you?” I asked myself. As I continued to search, I began to fear that I may never be able to truly complete our truck…

Solar Brand early model Generator on FDM truck 2
Close up of the model number and maker marks on our ‘new’ generator

I got lucky one day, and noticed a generator which kept popping up on my search feed. The price wasn’t fantastic so I kept scrolling past it. But as days wore on and I continued to search it became evident to me that I may not find anything better for much less. It wasn’t a 1012-B, but the dimensions and design looked very similar- so I took a chance and it paid off. After some back and forth over tax-exemption (we are a 501c3 museum and the generator was coming from an estate sale which would’ve required us to pay state taxes), I settled on a price. It is in fact a Model 712 which is pre-dates the 1012-B by a few years, but works exactly the same: Water goes in the top, drips slowly onto Calcium carbide pellets which makes acetylene gas which powers the search light! At first glance all the parts are present on ours and appear to be functioning or capable of it, but we won’t be ale to tell for sure until we get it cleaned up and filled with some carbide pellets.

Solar Brand early model Generator on FDM truck 3
The generator is in fantastic condition. Note the two-headed gas feeder. The internals of the water reservoir appear to be fairly clean and free of too much build-up. With some cleaning and minor modifications it should be in working condition!

The 712 model has a few small features which differ from the correct 1012-B model. Most noticeable for us is the presence of mounting lugs molded into the generator body- these stick out in such a way that they make it impossible to mount on the truck. However, if ground-off, the dimensions are perfect for fitting to our truck ( the 1012-B had no mounts on it at all and is meant to ‘sit’ on a small lug mounted to the truck and is then secured to the firewall via a ring mount). The other major difference is the gas nozzle on the top of the reservoir- the 1012-B has only one whereas ours has two- intended to split the gas to be distributed to two headlamps. Ours only hooks to one main line which feeds the search light. If we simply plug or cover one of the two nozzles on ours, we should be good to go for functionality purposes or until we find a proper 1012-B to use. The other big difference appears to be the materials used; the older 712 is all brass construction whereas the 1012-B appears to have had a brass top reservoir and a steel or aluminum lower cannister which was painted black (prior to being painted drab to match the truck). However, I’ve been unable to confirm this as I haven’t been able to personally inspect an original.

All there is left to do now is remove the mounting points and round-out the reservoir rim, clean it up, paint it and mount it to the truck! Now if we could just find an original working fuel transfer pump….

3 thoughts on “AT LAST! A Carbide Generator! Parts Update #2

  1. IDRICHA,

    My first job was in a blacksmith/ welding shop. One of my duties was to fill and clean the carbide generator’s. One was truck mounted until you couldn’t get insurance to cover the truck anymore. So it was removed. When it came time to refill the carbide I was to let everyone in the shop know. Everyone would gather around and I would push the lever and the carbide would trickle into the water and the pressure gage would start climbing. It had an automatic pressure device that would stop the flow of carbide at 14 lbs. If the device got stuck and it didn’t stop at 14 lbs. I was told it would blow up. If the carbide didn’t start slowing down it’s feed at 10 lbs. it was time for everyone to run.
    I am curious how your generator meter’s the flow of carbide. Do you just add a measured amount? I assume that’s how the old head lamps worked.

    I found your site after reading a news article about Liberty trucks. My Great Uncle was in WW1 and I have a handful of pictures from him when he served. One of him driving a Liberty truck. When I was a kid he told me he was an Iron Man. He served in France and gave me his trench knife that I still have. He carried the picture of him and his buddies in the truck until the day he died.
    Restoring the Liberty truck is fantastic. I hope you find every missing part.

    Regards, Jeff Graham

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    • Hey Jeff! Thanks for checking us out and for the positive comments! From what I’ve read on the gas generators, they are certainly testy to say the least…my hope is to see our search light run on its own carbide power at least once, but given the danger of the regular use of them I don’t plan to use the gas generator very often. There is no good way to regulate the pressure within these older tanks save for bleeding it off. At this point its more of a cosmetic item. That being said, it is currently out being restored to (hopefully) working condition along with a mount for our horn which would finally complete our truck- save for a functional fuel transfer pump.

      If you have a scanned version of your great Uncle’s photo with a Liberty Truck I would love to see it as we in the community are constantly chasing down any and all photos of the truck in use- especially over seas given its very short combat service life (they didn’t make it to French shores until early October 1918). Feel free to send it to my email at iRichardson@fdmuseum.org and thanks again for checking us out!

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  2. Pingback: Carbide Generator Update: Well, at least it looks good… March 12th, 2019

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