PFM Logo Fokker Triplane Model T Curtiss Canuck

First Saturday in January

January 7, 2006

Our first First Saturday event was a success - if not a roaring success, then a puttering success. We had several volunteers on hand, since it was also a Team Fokker work weekend. For the Museum event, we brought out the Signal Corps Model T, and had a seminar on basic naintenance and operation.

Roger Freeman showed the volunteers how to check and replenish the fluid levels, including the coolant and oil. The coolant is pretty straightforward, being both checked and refilled through the radiator cap. The oil, however, is quite different from modern cars. On the T, the transmission and engine share a single case. To check the oil, you have to crawl under the car and open the lower of a pair of valves mounted to the back of the case. If oil drips out, it has enough. If not, then oil can be added through a filler on the lower right front of the engine. When adding oil, the maximum amount has been added when oil drips out of the upper valve on the back of the case.

Once we had learned how to do this basic maintenance, it was time to learn how to drive the Model T. All of the people present who were interested got a chance to learn and try it for themselves, with Roger Ritter and Roger Freeman teaching the others. Driving a Model T is a unique experience, since the three pedals don't work like the three in a modern car. Also, the T has a hand throttle instead of a foot throttle, which adds its own complications.

The foot pedals, from left to right, are the gearshift, reverse, and brake. The parking brake lever also serves to hold the gearshift in neutral. This is especially useful when hand-cranking; however, this T has an electric starter so we didn't have to risk a broken arm. To drive the T, first start it with the left pedal in the middle of its travel - neither all the way up nor down. This middle position is neutral. Once the motor is running, add power with the hand throttle while pushing the left pedal to the floor. This will get you moving in low gear. Once you've attained some speed, let the pedal out all the way into high gear. You should also work the hand throttle as needed as the pedal passes through neutral to avoid overspeeding the engine.

To stop, hold the left pedal in the central, neutral, position, back off the hand throttle, and press the right pedal for braking. Once stopped, to back up, hold the left pedal in neutral, press the central pedal, and add throttle as needed. It takes a bit of practice to find the right neutral position, and even more work (if you are used to driving a modern standard transmission) to avoid pushing the left pedal to the floor when stopping or reversing.

Here's a download (7.60 MB) in AVI format of the Signal Corp Model T being driven and put away in the flight hangar. Roger Ritter is driving, and thanks to Ron Marcotte for the video.