'Helen and Jim French with “Tillie” at the 2001 Portland engine show. Helen wrote about the engine, which was a birthday gift from Helen to Jim, in the December 2001 issue of GEM. '

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Although the old-iron community occupies itself with engines and machinery that's been obsolete for generations, our little corner of the universe was quick to embrace the Internet, recognizing it as a tool for sharing information about our hobby, regardless of one's location.

Starting with the October 1999 issue of Gas Engine Magazine, British old-engine enthusiast Helen French began sending in regular reports of conversations shared by members of the Stationary Engine List (SEL), one of the many bulletin boards that make up the Antique Tractor Internet Services (www.atis.net).

For the past six years, Helen has studiously poured through postings on SEL, picking out threads she felt GEM readers would be interested in and putting them together in a coherent, digestable manner.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Helen also used her column to express opinions - both hers and others - making general comments about the hobby and expressing particular opinions on engines and issues she felt important to the old-iron community.

Well, nothing lasts forever, and Helen has decided it's time to hang up her virtual pen. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Helen's found she just doesn't have the time anymore for the column, so she's bidding her post here on GEM a fond farewell.

So thanks, Helen, for your gracious, funny and interesting input in these pages. And just in case anyone's worried, you'll still be able to catch up with Helen from time to time. Just log on to SEL - which is as active as ever - or better yet, head to the 40th annual engine show in Portland, Ind., this coming August, where Helen's likely to turn up. Oh, and a tip: She likes good beer.


It'd been some time since I'd last heard from noted engine historian and author C.H. Wendel, so I was pleased to hear his voice on the other end of the phone when I answered it the other day.

Wendel, who's probably written and documented more about the engines and tractors that dominate our hobby than any other person, has been fairly quiet since a stroke in 2002 forced him into early retirement.

The good news is that Wendel's getting back to work, starting on what he hopes to be a short string of 100-page updates to his important book, American Gasoline Engines Since 1872. He's still working toward a reprint of the title, as well.

Additionally, Wendel's coming out of retirement to lead another of his famous engine and tractor tours, this time traveling to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany and possibly Holland. The final itinerary hasn't been set, but if you're interested in what's sure to be an epic trip, contact Wendel by writing him at: P.O. Box 257, Amana, IA 52203, or e-mail at: pchazman@hotmail.com

Richard Backus


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