Circa-1912 8 HP Samson

One of the two known Samson mine hoist engines

samson 8hp 1

Kim Kestler's circa-1912 8 HP Samson mine hoist engine.

Photo by Christian Williams

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It’s great when you own an engine that’s just one of two known. It’s even better when your uncle owns the other one. Such is the case for Kim Kestler, Reno, Nev., and his uncle Dave Kestler, Herald, Calif., who own the only two Samson mine hoist engines known.

Kim’s engine is 8 HP with an estimated date of 1912, and it originally worked in a mine in Virginia City, Nev., hoisting out ore. The hoist was made by Fulton Iron Works, Los Angeles, Calif. “I bought this from Charlie Parrish, who runs an agriculture museum in Merced, Calif., and he originally bought it in an auction” says Kim. “It’s kind of been in my backyard this whole time.”

Despite being outside its entire life uncovered, all Kim needed to do to get his Samson running was replace the carburetor, oil it and fire it up.

Dave’s engine is 25 HP and dates to the early 1900s. It has a 10-inch bore with a 20-inch stroke, flywheels 60 inches in diameter and 3 inches in width, and a 24-carat history.

“This engine ran a stamp mill in Black Prince Mine on Hwy. 49, on the Mother Lode,” says Dave. “It ran a flat belt off the crankshaft to crush quartz.” Interestingly, the hoist on Dave’s engine is different than Kim’s, showing a Stockton stamp. 

The engine has only seen a few owners in its time as Dave bought it from the man who bought it from the owner of the mine it worked in. Dave has owned it for 30 years.

Like Kim’s engine, Dave’s Samson was just as cooperative. “I just oiled it, fueled it up and it was ready to go,” says Dave.

Shown at California Gold V, Davenport, CA, May 16-18, 2008