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Comparisons Of Cross Head and Trunk Piston Engines
There are two basic ways of connecting a piston to a crankshaft;
Crosshead construction (used by all slow speed two stroke engine manufactures}
Trunk piston construction (used in smaller four stroke engines)
This handout is principally about the 2-Stroke design of diesel engines and some of the
areas of differences that are to be expected when viewing this type of engine.

Crosshead Engine Construction

The majority of 2-Stroke engines encountered at sea are of the "crosshead" type. In this
type of engine the combustion space (formed by the cylinder liner, piston and cylinder
head), and the scavenge space are separated from the crankcase by the diaphragm plate.
The piston rod is bolted to the piston and passes through a stuffing box mounted in the
diaphragm plate. The stuffing box provides a seal between the two spaces, stopping oil
from being carried up to the scavenge space, and scavenge air leaking into the
The foot of the piston rod is bolted to the crosshead pin. The top end of the connecting
rod swings about the crosshead pin, as the downward load from the expanding gas
applies a turning force to the crankshaft.
To ensure that the crosshead reciprocates in alignment with the piston in the cylinder,
guide shoes are attached either side of the crosshead pin. These shoes are lined with
white metal, a bearing material and they reciprocate against the crosshead guides, which
are bolted to the frame of the engine. The crosshead guides are located in-between each
Using the crosshead design of engine allows engines to be built with very long strokes which means the engine can burn a greater quantity of fuel per stroke and develops
more power. The fuel used can be of a lower grade than that used in a trunk piston
engine, with higher sulphur content, whilst high alkalinity cylinder oils with a different
specification to that of the crankcase oil are used to lubricate the cylinder liner and
piston rings and combat the effects of acid attack.

Fig. 1 Crosshead Design

The advantages of the crosshead design are:
1. Guide faces take side thrust; this is easily lubricated, wears little and takes
side forces off the piston and liner running surfaces.
2. Uniform clearance around piston allows for better lubricating oil
distribution reducing wear
3. Simplified piston construction designed for maximum strength and
cooling. Extended load bearing skirts found on trunk pistons unnecessary
4. Due to gland lubricating oil may be optimised for crankcase and cylinder.
High alkalinity oils used in cylinder allow poorer quality fuels to be burnt.

Trunk Engine Construction

The piston is directly attached to the connecting rod by a small end rotating bearing. Side
thrust is absorbed by extended skirts on piston.

The main advantage is reduced engine height

(See handouts Principal stationary and moving parts for more details)

The Entablature
The entablature is the name given to the cylinder block which incorporates the scavenge
air space and the cooling water spaces. It forms the housing to take the cylinder liner
and is made of cast iron.
The castings are either for individual cylinders which after machining on the mating
surfaces are bolted together to form the cylinder beam, or they may be cast in multi cylinder units, which are then bolted together. The underside of the cylinder beam is
machined and then it is aligned on the A frames and fastened in position using fitted
It is important to remember that the fitted bolts used to bolt the entablature, A frames
and Bedplate together are for alignment and location purposes only. They are not
designed to resist the firing forces which will tend to separate the three components.
This is the job of the tie bolts (discussed later in this handout).

Fig. 2 Entablature

The purpose of the crosshead is to translate reciprocating motion of the piston into the
semi rotary motion of the connecting rod and so bearings are required. It is also necessary
to provide guides in order to ensure that the side thrust due to the connecting rod is not
transmitted to the piston. This also ensures the piston remains central in the cylinder thus
limiting wear in the liner.
Two faces are required as the thrust acts in opposite directions during power and
compression stroke. Guide shoes positioned at the extreme ends of the crosshead pin
provided a large area and minimize risk of twisting.
The crosshead pin connects the piston rod to the connecting rod. On either side of the
crosshead pin are mounted the crosshead slippers. The slippers run up and down in the
crosshead guides as the piston and rod are reciprocating and prevent the top of the
connecting rod from moving sideways.

Fig. 3 Crosshead Design

Types of damage associated with the crosshead bearing
There are two possible types of damage which may be sustained;


This is where part of the white metal contact faces are wiped out so that machining marks
and oil grooves disappear, the material is displaced into the lubrication grooves where it
forms 'stubble' or may fill them completely. Providing adequate lubrication is present,
this may be caused by two high a degree of roughness of the crosshead journal. Possibly
due, if occurring after trouble free operation, to particles in the lubricating oil. Roughness
may also occur due to corrosion by weak acids forming in the lubricating oil. Water
content above 1% can attack the white metal and cause formation of SnO which has the
appearance of dark smudges on the surface. This must be removed whenever possible as
the tin oxide can become harder than the metal of the journal causing obvious destruction
of surface finish.



These may appear as individual cracks, hair line cracks, or densely cracked or crackled
areas. The latter may be so dense so as to give the appearance of segregated grains. This
can lead to scratching on the journal. The reasons for cracking may be insufficient
bonding of white metal to the steel. Densely nested networks of cracks is due to fatigue

Stuffing Box
Because the crankcases is separated from the cylinder and scavenge space by the
diaphragm plate on a 2- Stroke crosshead engine, provision must be made for the piston
rod to pass through the plate without oil from the crankcase being carried upwards, or
used cylinder oil contaminated from products of combustion being carried downwards.
It is also highly undesirable to allow the pressurized air in the scavenge space to leak
into the crankcase.
The Piston rod passes through a stuffing box which is bolted into the diaphragm plate.
The stuffing box casing which can be split vertically, as shown in figure 4, contains a
series of rings which are each made up of three or four segments. On the outside of each
set of segments is a garter spring which provides the tension to hold the ring segments
against the piston rod. There is a clearance between each segment to allow for wear. The
rings are either bronze or can comprise of replaceable cast iron lamella fitted into a steel
backing ring.
The stuffing box is mounted on a ring which is bolted onto the underside of the scavenge
air box. The stuffing box is taken out together with the piston rod during overhaul of the
piston, but also can be disassembled for inspection in the crankcase with the piston
remaining in position.
The stuffing box housing is in two parts, assembled by a flanged joint. In the housing five
ring grooves have been machined out of which the two uppermost ones accommodate
sealing rings that prevent scavenge air from blowing down along the piston rod. In the
lowermost grooves scraper rings are fitted which scrape the lubricating oil of the piston
rod. The oil is led through bores in the housing and back to the crankcase.

Fig. 4 Stuffing Box

stuffing box in engine

Fig. 5 Stuffing Box in Engine

Fig 6 Stuffing Box Arrangement

Between the two uppermost ring grooves, for the sealing rings, and the three lowermost
grooves, for the scraper rings, a cofferdam has been machined out which, through a bore
in the housing and a connecting pipe, communicates with a control cock on the outside of
the engine. It can be checked by opening this control cock that the scraper and sealing
rings are functioning correctly.

Tie Bolts
To understand the importance of the role played by the tie bolts or tie rods, it is
necessary to appreciate what is happening inside the cylinder of the engine.
When the piston is just after top dead centre the pressure inside the cylinder can rise as
high as 140 bar (14000kN/m2). This acts downwards through the piston rod and con-rod,
pushing the crankshaft down into the bearing pockets. At the same time, the pressure
acts upwards, trying to lift the cylinder cover. The cylinder head studs screwed into the
entablature prevent this happening and so this upward acting force tries to lift the
entablature from the frames and the frames from the bedplate, putting the fitted location
bolts into tension.
As the piston moves down the cylinder the pressure in the cylinder falls, and then rises
again as the piston changes direction and moves upwards on the compression stroke. This
means that the fitted bolts are under cyclic stress. Because they are not designed to
withstand such stresses they would soon fail with disastrous consequences.
To hold the bedplate, frames and entablature firmly together in compression, and to
transmit the firing forces back to the bedplate, long tie bolts are fitted through these three
components and then tightened hydraulically. To prevent excessive bending moments in
the transverse girders, the tie bolts are positioned as close to the centre of the
crankshaft as possible. Because the tie bolts are so close to the crankshaft, some engines
employ jack bolts to hold the crankshaft main bearing cap in position instead of
conventional studs and nuts.
Operating the engine with loose tie bolts will cause the fitted bolts holding the bedplate,
frame and entablature in alignment to stretch and break. The machined mating surfaces
will rub together, corrode and wear away (this is known as fretting). Once this has
happened the alignment of the engine running gear will be destroyed. Loose tie bolts will
also cause the transverse girders to bend which could lead to cracking, and main bearing
Once fretting between the mating surfaces has occurred, then tightening of the tie bolts
will pull the engine out of alignment. The crosshead guides, the cylinder liner, and the
stuffing box will no longer be in line and excessive wear will occur. Because the tie
bolts will no longer be pulled down squarely they will be subject to forces which may
lead to them breaking. If fretting has occurred, then the only solution is to remove the
entablature or/and frame and machine the fretted mating surfaces (a very costly
Tie bolts can break in service. To reduce the risk of this happening they must be checked
for tightness; not over tightened; and the engine not overloaded. If a breakage does
occur, this is not disastrous; as the engine can be operated with care for a limited period
(the load on the engine may have to be reduced). The position of the fracture will dictate

how the broken pieces are removed. However in the worst possible scenario where the
bolt is broken at mid length, then one solution is to lift out the top half, remove the
bottom nut, and then feed a loop of braided wire cable (about 7mm diameter) down the
tie bolt tube, down the side of the broken tie bolt and once it emerges at the bottom a
supporting piece can be fitted to the wire enabling the broken tie bolt to be withdrawn.

Fig. 7 Tie bolt Arrangement

Chain Drives


Rotation of camshafts in an engine may be by gears or by chain turned by the main crank.
The disadvantage of using gears is difficulty in alignment, lubrication and disadvantage
to wear from foreign materials as well as their increased cost. The disadvantage of chains
is the requirement for tensioning and their finite life. Although for large installations this
can be very long.
Wear on the chain pins, bushes as well as the chain sprockets can all lead to a slackening
off of the chain. This can lead to 'slap' and changing of cam timing. This alters the leads
of the fuel pumps and exhaust valves. The degree of angular displacement can be checked
using a manufacturer supplied poker gauge.
Chain damage occurs if the chain is too tight or too slack and the result is fatigue
cracking of the links. If the tension is too tight, then this adds to the working stress of the
chain. Insufficient tension leads to 'slap' with resultant damage to chain and rubbing
strips. Vertical misalignment of the sprockets means rubbing at the side plates resulting in
reduction of thickness and possible failure.
Recommended limit on stretch is about 1.5 to 2%, if maximum movement of the
tension is reached before the chain has reached its maximum stretch then a pair of links
may be removed. When maximum stretch is reached, or if the chain shows signs of
damage then the chain should be replaced.
The simplest method is to break the old chain and attach the new chain to it. The engine
is then turned and as the old chain is paid off, the new chain can be paid in. This
maintains approximately the correct timing; the tension of the chain can then be set.
Final adjustment of the timing can be made following manufacturers instructions; this
generally means turning the engine until No1 is at top dead, then checking by us of
pointer gauges the position of the cam.
The cam drive is adjustable and can be slackened off, by hydraulic means on large
modern engines, the section of cams can then be turned relative to the crankshaft angle
and the timing restored.
The chains are lubricated by the injection of a spray of oil between the chain wheels and
the chain rollers just before the rollers are about to engage the wheel. Thereby an oil
cushion is formed to dampen the impact


Fig. 8 Typical Chain Drive Arrangement

Chain stretch and hence reduction in tension can be accounted for by movement of a
tensioning wheel. The tension usually being checked by movement to and fro at the
centre of the longest free length

Fig. 9 Chain Construction