Steam-powered presses

The discussion about the unique water-powered press prompts me to ask if anyone knows of any steam-powered letterpresses still in operation in the United States.

At one time this was fairly common and many shops advertised with the phrase “steam printing.”

We have a working Babcock cylinder press at Printers’ Hall in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa that is powered by a steam engine and I am wondering if it might be the only operation steam-powered press in the country.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.


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Back in the mid 80’s there was a steam powered shop in Notasulga Alabama… but I’m not sure if it’s still there. The guy who ran it would be quite old by now.

We have a Babcock Optimus handfeed cylinder press in my shop, I don’t know if was ever steam powered but if the belt from our motor could go to steam power source it would work. We are looking for ahome for this press if you’re looking for another. We last ran it about 18 months ago.

I assume this is the one in California??? Thanks for the offer, but we are pretty much full-up on floor space for more big presses.

Right now we have the Babcock, a Miehle Pony, three Heidelberg Windmills, a Hoe Washington handpress, four Linotypes and one Intertype, and a smattering of C&Ps, Kluge, and proof presses, not to mention cutters type and galley cabinets, etc. etc. etc.

Yes, the Optimus, or any belt driven press, could run off of steam. What I am trying to find out is if there are any working presses out there that actually are hooked up to a live steam engine and can print under steam power.

We are in Richmond, VA, The only steam around this press is when the operator misfed sheets and had to change packing. Do you know of a way to date this press? All we have found is the counter says 1891, but we don’t know if it’s original to the press.

Counter were generally an additional attachment and did not come with the press.

Let’s start with what kind of press???? (Name, platen size, etc.)

Babcock Optimus Handfeed Cylinder
Chase size- 24x35
Last run in Jan 2005(Approximatly)
New motor and needed switches( big electrical box on wall) in 1990
4 forward speeds and 1 reverse(trolley style controller)
Gas attatchment for drying printed sheets

I work around the press every day if you want more specific info I can try to find answers.
Contact me directly if you like.

Walter Clement of Notasulga, Alabama retired from the Engineering School faculty of Auburn, Alabama and now lives in Belvidere, Tennessee where he is still very active with his steam engines, presses, and line-shaft and flat-belt driven, vintage machine and woodworking shop.